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Apollo, Haggard Tiercel Kestrel
Trapped south of Texarkana,AR on 1/21/2005
Updates Start With Most Recently Published
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Well, we got our first kill on a sparrow at the industrial park Monday
night. But he flew off with the sparrow and munched on it until dark.
The next morning (yesterday) I found him there and was enticing him with
a live sparrow on a string. He suddenly flies off and returns with prey, which made me
really anxious. I went home and got my hawk trap, conscripted "Greg"
the zebra finch, and returned. I set the trap out, expecting it to be a
while before he would attack the trap. Unfortunately he was on it
before I got to the car, but was already getting skittish and wild.
Rather than going after the finch he was caught by sitting on the trap
only (i.e. not very well). He realized he was caught, and managed to
get loose. He is unlikely to attack the trap again. If he had waited
20 seconds longer to attack the trap, I would have him in the mews right
now. That hurts! I believe he left the area about 1:30 yesterday
afternoon. Mark R has suggested another type of trap, believing like me,
that he will not attack a bal-chatri trap again.
I went out there tonight, but I believe he has gone. I set the trap out in the open,
but saw no sign. Yesterday afternoon he flew over the building, and that was the last
I saw of him. It is fortunate that he hates jesses so much. He will have them off very soon.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
I took the bird out today for the first time in weeks. A couple of weeks ago he
had some swelling on his left leg from abrasion, so I took the jesses off. He has
been inside getting fat, though he did kill two sparrows that were dumb enough to escape
from their cage inside the mews. The swelling went down but the dark mark is still there
so I will continue to free-loft him.
I took him quite high in weight - he had a nice chase from
the car window on a sparrow that took off from the grass. Picturesque,
but he didn't go nuts on on it, he's pretty fat still. I had two
prospective falconers with me, who were impressed by the whole thing. I
had a little trouble getting him back so I put him up. I'll take a gram or
two off and fly him tomorrow after work. There are lots of house
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
He has been free lofting for a couple of days, since Friday. Leg is about the same, maybe a little better, it's hard to
tell. Somehow a sparrow got out of its covered cage in the mews. So I came home to a hawk house full of sparrow feathers
and an even fatter bird. After a meal he has been as heavy as 123 grams. I didn't need to feed him today. A tubby little guy.
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
I took him out to attack the blackbird. He swooped at it, but wouldn't attack. He was at 88 net grams
when we left the house, so still maybe slightly heavy. He was well composed on the ground. Perfect
while he was eating. I was there with him and realized I had no tidbits (what am I doing?!? idiot!!), and had to go to
the car. He was completely relaxed, just eating away on the bird. I made in a second time, no problem at all.
He was looking strong while flying - the jump-ups may be helping.
Monday, April 4, 2005
Yesterday he killed two sparrows. I made in OK after the initial approach. He's jumpy
in general right now, rather than by my approach. He was very high in weight yesterday because I fattened
him up after his being low, and having the cotton rat fur. I think when he gets closer to a reasonable weight
he will settle in on the sparrow itself with more intensity, and won't be so jumpy. He did a bunch of jump-ups
in the yard tonight. After getting a pigeon from Jim Ince, I got a shipment of mice, then three sparrows and a
blackbird in the trap, and now four more house sparrows today. Yesterday on the way back from flying Apollo
on the sparrow, Randy Kocurek spotted a great-tail grackle with a broken wing by the road. He's now in the freezer.
The grackle that is. 200 grams. I do not see how any kestrel could take one of these.
Apollo blasted out the car window after those two sparrows which is good. A slow drive by, he spotted them and went.
He could have killed a shrike, because one came down and attacked the sparrow. Lots of wing whipping which might
have made him go. Unfortunately Apollo was still in the hawk box at that point.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
He's AOK. Just a large amount of cotton rat fur, which looked like a distended liver.
He cast four huge pellets, and is now fat and happy. Life is good.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
I (and Apollo) ended up at the emergency vet today. The bird cast up a small pellet
which I thought was good. He hadn't cast for a couple of days. But
when I offered him the tiniest tidbit he wouldn't eat. He then cast up a
slimy pellet, stuck to the wall. So I got on the Internet and found an
emergency clinic nearby. They have an exotic animal vet on call, Dr.
Cole, who has treated everything from kestrels to bald eagles. She did
a visual, x-ray, examined the mute, and took some blood. The blood
tests will be complete by Tuesday. The x-ray shows that Apollo has
enlarged liver. Some time between when I left the house and was at the
vets, he cast the mother of all kestrel pellets. Dr. Cole found it in
the hawk box. Looked to me like a bunch of cotton rat fur. This thing
was huge. A horned owl would brag to his friends about it. He now has
to take Baytril and another anti-biotic for a couple of weeks. The
liver situation is worrisome.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Took him out this morning. Not much happening. Not much game. This afternoon I took him out at a little
lower weight. Just over 85 grams, he normally goes out at 86. Well, I drive by and toss him over three feeding starlings, he ignores
them while flying 20 feet over them. So then I find this place with a bunch of sparrows living there. I pull the car across
the street from about eight sparrows feeding, real relaxed. Apollo slicks down, glazed look on him. He sees the sparrows, but
will not attack, so I am just about to give him a nudge when he takes off out the car window, drops real low to the ground and
attacks a sparrow I didn't even see. It was behind a tiny little mound on this grassy knoll they were on. Apollo missed that rascal by
half an inch - just about had it. For a second I thought he had grabbed it. He launched some other attacks on sparrows but not like this.
He is really hunting now. When he is up on a building, he is watching the bushes.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Early this morning, I took the bird to an industrial park about four miles from the house. Apollo actually swooped at a sparrow,
but he didn't follow through on the pursuit. I had put him on a building, so he had the advantage of height, and used it pretty
well, except he didn't chase. He flew around a lot so got some exercise. The car hawking will take more tethered sparrows I
think. He doesn't know to look out the window for birds.
This afternoon, there was a good setup on a male English sparrow, but Apollo was not looking. I pitched him out the window,
the sparrow flew off and Apollo flew to a building. More exercise. That's about it.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Attempted to get him after starlings and sparrows today. Lots of good starling slips that he refused, and no
ready sparrow slips. I did find some good hawking near here. At some industrial park area the other
side of 290. No woods so the accipiters should be less of a problem. Lots of good slips for a bird that hunts.
I think I will quit trying until I get some bagged game it's a waste of time right now.
Update Thursday March 3, 2005
Nothing new to report. I have been free-lofting him for a couple of days. Seems to be OK. His weight this
morning was 89 grams I think, but tonight at 2100 was only 85. I fed him up pretty well, 7 grams of quail.
We'll see where is tomorrow morning. This ought to be his hunting weight. Planning an outing with Jim Ince
and famous kestrel guru, Matt Mullenix on Saturday morning. Matt's bringing his Harris hawk from
Louisiana to hunt sparrows in Houston. Seems like a HH is a big bird to hunt sparrows. Like having
a kestrel that's immune from Cooper's and sharpie attacks, I guess. Apollo will have his chance to shine in front
of the best known kestrel falconer in history. I'll polish his shoes (Apollo's, not Matt's).
Update Tuesday, March 1, 2005
I got home tonight, opened the door to the mews, and all looked normal. I decided to cut
up a mouse while Apollo was still in his denim shroud/hawk box. I cut a chunk of mouse up,
put it on the scale. I heard a rustle and looked up to see him popping his head over the
top of his enclosure. Some time today he decided he wanted to be free-lofted and burrowed
his way out of his denim enclosure. I had to laugh. He's a rascal. Weight 88.3 grams, quite
a low weight which means he was flying around a lot today. His cere looked better tonight
than it has in three weeks. All healed up.
Update Sunday, February 27, 2005
I had a perfect starling slip for Apollo yesterday (Saturday). Unfortunately, he
had already been fed a large chunk of sparrow. As we are sitting in
the car, window open, bird on fist, two starlings landed straight out
the car window maybe 40 feet away at most. He took off out the
window, scared the starlings into the next decade, but just flew to a
tree. He's still overweight but today is a gram or two lighter than
yesterday. I'll give him another shot at it this afternoon. It's a
park in west Houston, a good ways from here. RT rather than accipiter
country. I hope that there are not people out there today. It was
pretty quiet yesterday.
I reduced his weight a little more, down to 90 grams this morning, I think.
I took him to the same park this afternoon and showed him some birds. He
wasn't interested. Today there were lots of people at this park (George Bush Park),
but they were mostly a distance off. Then I found a little industrial office
park just north of the Katy Freeway on the Sam Houston Tollway. I gave him two
excellent starling setups (feeding on ground right out the window), but he wasn't
interested. Then I gambled - thought I'd let him chase some sparrows. I put
him up on a power wire and flushed three or four sparrows out of the bush. He
watched them fly off. Oh well. I'm actually glad he did not catch one.
He may still be a little high in weight. Matthew Mullenix's tiercel "Tycho" trapped at
the same weight as Apollo, flew at 86 grams, so there's still room to move down. Apollo
is not low by any stretch - he's active and likes to fly.
A devious little bugger also. Today he outsmarted me again. I have been putting him in
the hawk box with moderate difficulty. Mark Reindel once suggested baiting the box a
little, so when I was having trouble late in the day, I put a little meat on the built-in
perch in the hawk box. Apollo spotted the meat, dove in after it, and by the time I closed
the door he was up in a tree munching on it. I swear I heard him snicker.
All in all he is doing AOK. I guess I'll have to serve him some bagged game. So I'm back to
the problem of getting live starlings. He is getting extremely tame, tolerating dogs and
cats running around, and is very responsive when he's up in a tree, comes back really well.
Also he is starting to attack the lure like it's an animal.
West Houston is the place to hunt. More open country. I got some good set ups, and didn't see
an accipiter (hooray!)
Web Page Disaster! 2/27/2005
Unfortunately I managed to wipe out all previous updates tonight while adding today's update.
The updates I had are replaced with parts of emails related to the bird and his progress
He was very wild and slow to respond initially, but is now flying free and we will
learn to hunt together soon. A few short creance flights in the yard with a lot of veering off.
So I slowed down and each morning increased the distance just a little. He settled right in and last Friday
I let him loose in the park. He is now responding well, returning instantly to the fist from
tree or wires from any distance, though I hate it when he drops out of sight.
Most of below was pulled from emails I had written to Jim Ince, Cody Fields, and Mark Reindel. Plus
email updates sent to friends and family.
Thursday, February 17, 2005 8:23 AM
To: Jim Ince
Subject: Another (same?) sharpie
This morning I was flying Apollo in the yard on the creance. Flew quickly a couple of times, 20í to 25í or so. Heís sitting there on my
fist looks over my shoulder and ducks down. I look back and a *&%$#% sharp-shinned flies over us about 20í in the
air. The thing was just cruising along, maybe that same pest thatís been around and drove Alex off. Iíve seen that
or its clone about a dozen times by my house.
To: Matt Mullenix
Tuesday, February 15,2005
I was checking my yahoo mail, which I don't use much, and saw this from you. I responded before, but thought I'd update.
My bird is coming along v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. Turns out to be a haggard tiercel, that I misidentified as a passager. This
is the one that I trapped in Arkansas, 1/21, after the Texas season ended. But a young haggard, I'm sure. He is just now
flying short distances on the creance, but I don't mind the effort. Most of it has been weight control, and my not
aggressively cutting him down. The slowest responding bird (but smart) that have worked with ever. Jim is ribbing me saying
it will be summer before he's trained. I could say that this bird was more tame right off the trap than Gaucho is now. :-)
Called Apollo, his predecessor was a quick study, at least as far as manning and returning to the lure and fist went. But a
screamer. She got driven off by that sharpie after nailing a bagged sparrow, but before catching wild game. If you get to
Houston and have time maybe we can get together. I guess you'll call Jim if you get to town. My number is below.
Update Saturday, February 12, 2005
Not much new to report, but reducing his weight has made a huge
difference. He was at 96 grams this morning. He flies instantly to the fist
indoors, in fact I have to hide the food when I am chopping it up. He had a
decent time weathering (constantly attended) in the back yard this morning.
He preened, roused and bated some, always returning quickly to his bow
perch. A bath was offered but he declined it. Every small bird in the county came out to
verbally abuse him, but when a Cooper's hawk showed up they scattered in panic.
Apollo kept a very intent eye on the Cooper's. Later a sharp-shinned hawk
flew right overhead, and he watched intently. I have a movie of his
watching the sharpie fly overhead. Apollo screamed at Paco the cat a little as
Paco circled the yard his way out.
He flew to my fist a couple of times outdoors, so tomorrow I will do a
short creance flight. Tonight I will introduce the lure, long
Update Saturday, February 5, 2005
I finally got his weight down to 100
grams - 100.1 grams to be exact, at 0715. He was more relaxed when I
picked him up this morning as a result. Since his new housing
arrangements* are working out so well he doesn't expend much energy,
so reducing his weight has been tough, even in the cool weather. I
had a couple of sparrows in the trap this week, so he had a little
variety in the diet. This morning I gave him about six grams of
sparrow meat while I was walking around with him outside. He was
nervous and had the sparrow breast in his beak for about twenty
minutes before he settled in and ate it. A lot of bating, but this
is the first extended manning session that I have had with him. For
about two hours I walked around with him, front and back yard. I'll
put in another hour this afternoon. By the end he was a little more
relaxed, roused a couple of times on the fist, even preened his
breast feathers for about five seconds. About two minutes after
walking outside the mews, a Cooper's hawk flew overhead, which just
reinforces why I won't fly this bird in Oak Forest like I did with
When I took him back to the mews he was
more relaxed there than ever. So he is slowly coming along. I'll
take my time with him.
* He stays in the day on a bow perch in
the mews with a shroud of denim surrounding him. The denim hangs on
a small overhang, tacked to some boards that make the overhang. It's
sort of a soft walled hawk box. The wooden wall behind has plenty of
ventilation holes. He does not hang upside down, tear up his cere,
or try to get out.
Monday, January 31, 2005
I am hyper-sensistive to the leg abrasion issue, having that one really
bad experience with a kestrel when I was a teenager. Otherwise I would
keep him tethered. On the other hand eating duct tape in the box and
bloodying up the cere is not so great either. I'm am cautiously
optimistic about the current setup. I'm glad that the weather is cool.
I like to hear about kestrels nailing cowbird sized birds! One of the
guys who put me on to the Arkansas trapping said that on his property a
kestrel was sitting on a fence post eating a cotton rat that weighed
easily 100 grams. These guys are experts with cotton rats, since their
birds catch more of them than rabbits. How did he get a 100 gram cotton
rat to a fence post? Drive a red tail off a kill?
How's Gaucho doing? Knocking down those birds after making them fly?
To: Jim Ince
Apollo is coming along. Housing him when Iím at work has been the usual pain. Free-lofting didnít
seem to work, he tried to eat his way out of the mews. In the hawk box, he hung upside down from
the padding. He wound his feet up with the leash and jesses when I tethered him in the mews. So I
made a built in hawk box in the same location as the flat perch was in the mews. I took that perch out
and use my bow perch. I had built a shelf over it to block Alexís seeing the vent windows, and I tacked denim
fabric to the shelf and let it hang down, completely surrounding him and the perch. Dark, dark, dark. I drilled
air holes in the inner wall which happen to be well blocked from the light. I put him there for four hours yesterday
and he just sat. At noon today he was just sitting. I figure that he is plotting something. At night I just tether him on
the same perch without the covering.
He flies to the fist indoors in the mews. Actually roused in my presence yesterday, and was calm while I drilled, cursed, and battled the new perch arrangement yesterday afternoon, with his sitting just four or five feet away. This morning at dawn I took him out to let him eat a mouse outside. He gets really nervous outside, but after bating a few times he settled down and tore the mouse up.
He has real good manners on the fist. No tendency to fly with the food and no mantling. I think I told you that. Cutting his weight is hard. Mattís bird, ďTycho,Ē that he caught at exactly the same weight, 111 grams, flew at high 80ís. I am having trouble dropping this guy below 103. I am cutting back on his rations but heís not too sensitive to it. He was down to 101 and then boom! heís back to 103 for the last two or three days. A few days after I caught him I overfed him (22 grams) and he barely put on any weight. He somehow regulates his metabolism.
Flew 2' to my fist after a couple of 1' hops. He looked
quite surprised. His weight was 103 grams tonight. He was
free-lofted today. That seems to be the way to go with
This goofy bird hopped to my fist tonight. It took some doing. I let
him nibble on some mouse and then moved it away. He just decided to hop
up there. He's still kind of wild though. Tomorrow I free loft him.
In the hawk box, no matter how dark it is he hangs upside down like a
bat. I tether him in the mews and I come home to find his feet and
jesses in a gnarly ball.
The really good thing is that he sits and eats on the fist with no
mantling and no flying off, which Alex would do 100% of the time.
I'm going to post this on my web site.
To: Cody Fields
Actually, I don't think that I have cut his weight back. I should, but
I haven't. Via the tidbitting, he's been getting a fair mount to eat.
Kestrels! I went out there to check on him. Keep in mind that he's in
the hawk box in the darkened mews with boards angled over the air holes
to reduce the little light that's coming in. He is hanging upside down
by his feet inside the box. Now I have darkened the mews even more and
put another board over the front of the box.
It's noon Sunday. Twenty-four hours makes a difference. The new bird
was sitting on my fist eating normally, ripping up some mouse meat,
about an hour ago. He doesn't bate off the fist much, and generally is
While at the Texas Hawking Association's annual field meet in Abilene
last weekend, I met two guys, Bob Peavy and Cody Fields, who were nice
enough to let me tag along with them while they hunted their red-tails
at rabbits.They informed me informed me that as an apprentice falconer
from Texas, I could trap hawks in Arkansas through January 31. Bob had
caught his red-tai, Cowboy, in Arkansas, though he is a Texas resident.
They were correct. I bought a temporary Arkansas hunting license via
the Internet, and headed out Thursday after work.
I caught the bird on Friday morning about 1000 just south of Texarkana,
AR. He was sitting on a power wire by a bridge near a road crew. I
threw the BC with a zebra finch inside, and he flew off and disappeared.
I thought he was gone, and decided to retrieve my trap, when he comes
zipping across the road and was caught. I decided he was a haggard so
hooded him and put him in the box in case I struck out the rest of the
day. Within three hours I had caught four kestrels, three tiercels and
a haggard female. After I caught the fourth bird I decided that I could
only catch haggards - didn't seem to be any passage birds around. About
1400 I caught the fourth bird and decided I would release the first
bird, who had been having a miserable time in the shoebox. He had
knocked the hood off and was occasionally thumping around in the box. I
decided to release him where I trapped him, back by the bridge on Route
71. I drove back there, took the box out of the car, opened it and set
it the grass. He was immobile - wouldn't fly off. I started looking at
him and realized that he was very likely a passage (juvenile) bird, not
an adult. He had spots across his belly and lots of black barring on
his back unlike the other bird I had, who was certainly a haggard
(adult). So I closed the box, pulled the other bird out, took his hood
off and set him in the grass. He wouldn't move either. I picked him up
and gently tossed him and he was off. He flew to the power wire, rested
for a minute, and flew off, maybe back to his spot by the Tyson chicken
plant about five miles away (as the kestrel flies).
So I re-hooded the bird, deciding to call him Spark. Per Jim Ince's
suggestion I put jesses on him, took the hood off, and put him back in
the shoebox for the long drive to Houston. He was like a piece of cord
wood while hooded. Rigid and passive. I called Stephanie and told her
I was heading back to Houston. She pulled a mouse out of the freezer
for his late night snack.
When I got home Friday night I found three sparrows in my sparrow trap,
so fed him on one of the sparrows. He was completely panicked when I
unhooded him and laid him on my fist. He would not grip, wouldn't bate
just lay there with wings out and mouth open. I managed to almost force
feed him by sticking bits of meat in his mouth which would usually fall
out, but occasionally he would eat a little.
The next morning he was in a worse state, if possible. I began to
wonder what I was doing in falconry. One thing I decided was that
I need to put softer jesses on him, using alymeri jesses, which have a
brass grommet, instead of the all-leather jess that I had used with
Alex. With the alymeri jess I could fly him without the straps hanging
down, a suggestion made by Mark Reindel to reduce the attacks from wild
hawks. I went to over to Jim Ince's house to get some soft leather and
told him what a whacky bird I had. Saturday afternoon Jim had twice
driven off a large female immature Cooper's hawks who was eyeing the two
falcons he had weathering in his yard - his peregrine, Gaucho, and an
aplomado falcon he was taking care of for someone else. Jim figured it
was late season and the passage birds were getting older and wilder,
which makes sense. But when I went home that evening the bird had
changed tremendously. I easily got him out of the hawk box, he sat on
my fist and ate a pretty good meal from my fingertips. Unless I breathed
or moved my eyes he would sit relaxed with mouth closed. I realized
that this was the best looking bird I had seen and decided to call him
Apollo rather than Spark.
This morning he bated a few times when I got him out of the box, but
when I gave him a too-large tidbit, he grabbed it with his foot and
munched away on it. This bird, though trapped at 111 grams (Alex was
120) has much larger and heavier feet than Alex.
That's the latest.