"Falconry is not a hobby or an amusement: it is a rage. You eat it and drink it, sleep it and think it. You tremble to write of it, even in recollection. It is, as King James the First remarked, an extreme stirrer of passions." T.H. White

The Godstone and Blackymor, 1959 (First American Edition) Van Rees Press, New York, page 18.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Feb 19 – Back to Back Doubles

Sunday morning came with cooler temperatures but a bright almost cloudless sky.  The cabin we were in was awesome and the kids were laughing and having a blast.  I left them to shower and get ready and took Rebel outside for a look around.  There was a squirrel moving right by the house but he scuttled off before I could get Rebel out. 

Rebel was in good spirits after yesterdays’ successes.  She had spent the whole day out on her weathering perch with four other Red Tails around after her successful hunts.  I was in a hurry to get her out and I forgot to weigh her, which was a bummer.  I would have loved to see if there was a change at all after two chicks and a ton of exercise yesterday. 

The squirrels that I had been watching play on the ground and in the trees through the window had disappeared once they caught sight of Rebel.  We walked around for quite a bit before we finally got our first squirrel moving.  She was a gorgeous tawny-red squirrel that I found myself almost hoping would get away.  She was really that pretty.  She led Rebel on a merry chase through several trees before trying to duck into a knothole, only to find it occupied by an gnarly old grey male with a bent tail who promptly chased her out of the knothole and around the tree, chittering away like an angry shopkeeper speaking in Chinese.  This spectacle proved too much for my one track mind Rebel who swooped in once and then promptly forgot how to pick only one squirrel to target.

The distraction proved to be just the right thing for Red, who made it to the top of the tree and a nice hiding place.  The buck made it back to his knothole and Rebel sat perched trying to figure out what had just happened.

After a few minutes, we slipped on down the path looking to drum up more squirrels as these two were clearly doing excellent impersonations of statues.  Just down the hill, Rebel pitched up into a large pine just out of my line of sight and I heard a familiar and disturbing cry.  I looked up to see a hag female stooping down into the tree where Rebel had perched.  I ran over as fast as I could.

A male Red Tail wheeling above the pine tree quickly joined the female.  As I got there, I saw why.  Rebel was sitting in the middle of a nest, high in the top of a large pine tree.  This nesting pair was already working on their nest for the coming breeding season, and Rebel was perched in their living room.  My presence quickly drove the two hags away, and Rebel came almost instantly down to the glove.  Whether Rebel was hungry for the tidbit or just thankful for the protection, I wasn’t sure, but it was definitely her best fist response of the day.  We decided that it was probably best to head to another area for further hunting. 

We headed back to Al’s house where my friend Rich was flying a huge female.  She had already killed one squirrel and was chasing another when I arrived.  After the chase, Rich put her up and I was hoping to see his apprentice’s bird fly, but the bird was overweight.

Laura and the kids had arrived and Al was putting a bridle on one of his horses for them to take a walk when someone spotted a flock of turkeys making in from the hardwoods.  I decided, “what the heck?”, and pulled Rebel out to make a flight.  Rich decided to circle the turkeys and drive them to us.  Rebel, Dave, Maddox and I got into position.

The turkeys proved a little too smart for us but Rebel quickly saw a captured a small grey in a live oak overhead.  He carried it off a good ways but was looking for the trade off, which was becoming increasingly consistent.  We were still pretty close to the house and Al, Laura, and the kids rode / walked up.  Rebel hopped up into a tree and I went to chat with them, knowing that Maddox was about to leave for his soccer game in Sumpter.

Laura made the comment that Al was a good friend for taking my daughters riding instead of going with me to watch my bird chase a turkey.  He replied, “Nah, I just knew what I would have really watched was three turkeys chasing a turkey!”   Classic.

Some other falconers came up and I decided to pull Rebel down so that they could hunt the area.  She would not come to the fist very well so I went in after her.  When she finally left the perch to fly down to me, she zipped right over my head to take another squirrel out of the tree!  I hadn’t even seen the thing.  No wonder she didn’t want to come to the glove!

A second trade off and we had our second double of the meet.  I was proud, but felt a little guilty at our success.

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