Notes Relating to The 2005-2006 Season
After a somewhat trying season with two kestrels, in 2004-2005, I decided to give up on k-birds, at least for now. l lost two birds last season. Matthew Mullenix believes that I have neither the time nor the facilities to have consistent success with kestrels. There is some truth to that, but I did end up with two birds that were hunting. A major problem was my irregular catching of sparrows, which broke up the training routine. With Apollo especially, he was just about ready to go, would fly out the car window after sparrows, and would not carry. This was in early March when Matt came over from Baton Rouge. Then I couldn't get sparrows. Then I started getting sparrows, but had the incident with the veterinarian, then the tarsus bruise, etc. It was about six weeks later when I lost him. I did take a risk, because I had noticed that Apollo was wilder, more possessive with food, and I flew him high in weight. That high weight was ultimately good because he ate a full sparrow that night. His crop was gone the following morning, and he was ready to hunt again, which he did. Jennifer Coulson writes that a trained kestrel that carries a sparrow and then eats it will die from sour crop, because of a kestrel's typically low flying weight. I was lucky.
I was confident that this season would be different, telling Mark Reindel that I would catch a bag full of game with my kestrel. But I started thinking about the accipiters, ubiquitous in Houston during winter, and decided the stress of avoiding them was not worth it. So now I am planning to trap a redtail. I'll hunt gray squirrels, also ubiquitous. I am now (mid-August) scurrying around upgrading my facilities to redtail caliber.
I have an unofficial protoge, attorney and surfer Randy Kocurek, who is also planning to trap a red tail. He is very close to getting his permit, after building a nice mew, weathering yard, and doing all the other stuff. His inspection is scheduled next Tuesday (9/6) . His sponsor is Jim Ince, who has sponsored virtually every falconer in Houston. We have another interested party, young Ben Mauldin, a first year student at UH, who lived in Japan. His father is a USAF officer. He is also planning to join us as we trap red tails, employing John Graham's BC trap.
As I write this, Randy is heading to Biloxi, MS to help a friend look for his elderly parents, whom he has not heard from since Katrina. Obviously we wish them the best. Makes thinking about falconry seem a bit a frivolous, at this point. (9/5 update: the parents are fine. Randy and buddy provided them with a generator so that they now have power - Inspection tomorrow at 1500)
The progress of the new redtail, which should be trapped late next month, will be recorded on this page.
Back To The Future!
(Freezing in Barrington Hills, Illinois - December of 1967. Jezebel, who killed a jack rabbit in Colorado a few months later - I believe that she was shot by an unfriendly neighbor the next summer, after escaping during the molt) I think that my father, Edward Redding, took the picture.
I was anxious to get going and trap a passage red tail, but the weather was not cooperating. The first Saturday after 9/15, Ben, Randy and I went out to 90A south of Richmond with the BC's and finches. It was a hot day and we saw a number of haggard birds, none interested in our trap. We had a good Mexican lunch at Larry's in Richmond, then Randy left, so Ben and I wasted a few more hours. Jim Ince said that he would have been "flabbergasted" if we caught a bird, and as usual, he was right.
Some family obligations prevented my trapping for a few weeks after that, but during the first week in October. I sent a few emails up to some falconers in north Texas. I got good and optimistic responses. It appeared that the area north of the metroplex, from Frisco to Decatur was promising. Friday 10/7 I drove to Dallas with all of my gear. I stayed overnight in Dallas with my good friends Jim and Dana, and Jim came with me the next day while we attempted to trap passage red tails. Two hundred miles of driving did not yield a single immature bird, though we trapped two haggards, using my old kestrel trap that had been retrofitted with John Graham nooses. Click the following link to see pictures of that day's trapping. Incidentally, the picture of the dog and cat in my weathering yard was taken the morning we abandoned our house in north Houston to stay with my Mom and sister at our other house in west Houston. We didn't want the animals to run off. Unless you have patience, don't click on this link unless you have a broad band connection - the files are very large, over 1M per picture. I will scale these down at some point. The pictures dated October 20 are the Ft Worth trapping pictures. The ones dated December are pictures taken the day we trapped Randell Kocurek's bird southwest of Houston on December 18. Trapping on Saturday
Back to the story. The next day, with the invaluable help of Roger Crandall, Laurie Rose, and Ryan Sandstrum, I trapped a nice passge redtail, now called Bravo. He was caught up north of Ft Worth near the intersection of 377 and 170 on 10/9/2005. The BC was one that I had bought from John Graham, actually designed as a kestrel trap, but apparently Bravo didn't know that and was caught anyway. Caught at sundown, just one year minus a day after I trapped Alex the kestrel.
As of 10/29/05, Bravo is coming along. This morning he flew to the fist outdoors, and has tamed down a lot. (more of a write up coming)
Bravo now weighs about 925 grams,roughly 13% under his trapped weight. Yesterday I took him to a nearby park, and flew him on the creance. He was very responsive, and flew 10' then 20' and then over 40' to the fist. I take him there in the morning because it is a nice open area where nobody bothers me. Today was a different story. It was warm, and though his weight was less than yesterday, he was mostly interested in flying off. He did hood extremely easily though. First pass both at thehouse and then at the park. Normally it takes a few times, as he ducks it. It is so warm now that tomorrow I will introduce him to the lure,rather than fly him at the park. When it cools down, I can resume training. Four mice all at once. He'll enjoy that.
A little excitement and anxiety today. This is the second time out with the bird off the creance.
I took him out at 916 grams this morning and put him on the roof of the mew. He flew right across the yard to my fist. I flipped him to the roof of the house, and he responded instantly, back to the fist.
So I took him to the front yard and put him in my neighbor's oak tree. He began to work his way up that tree, got to the top, and them flew to a tall pine behind our house. These pines are about 60' to 70'. So I ran to the mew and got the lure, preloaded with a mouse. Then he started laddering up that tree until he was at the very top. I'm whistling and dragging the lure. He is so high up that I can just barely see him intently looking down at me. But he's not coming. I went to the yard right across the street from ours, with fist and lure. I raise my fist and he drops straight out of the tree - and attacks the lure. This is only the fourth time that I have presented it to him. He ate the mouse, then flew to my fist for some more mouse goodies. Whew!
From here on out he does not fly loose at over 910 grams.
I cut his weight to 891 because he was not coming to the fist from a tree (at 904). Would only come to lure. I took him to the park this morning at dawn, and put him in a tree about a hundred feet away. He was balky. I wandered about a little to see if he would follow along the tree line, and he didn't though he was thinking about it. I went back and whistled, and he flew to another, better positioned branch, and then down he comes. I fed him half a mouse, and cast him off again. This time he was back on my fist within a minute. He ate the rest of the mouse and then I fed him a little more, maybe a little too much. So I think he's close to being trained. If he is back at 890 tomorrow I will take him hunting, if a little higher I will fly him from the tree again, and plan to go hunting on Saturday.
11/29/2005 Final Post on This Page?
The bird is gone. He disappeared Sunday morning under what seemed to be bizzare circumstances. I took him out at 892 grams, which should have been OK. I took him to the field at Tidwell road , just about a 1/2 mile as the buzzard flies. I let him fly to the woods, and he seemed to be keen. I walked a short distance to see if he would follow, but he didn't. It wasn't very far, but I could not see the bird. I started blowing the whistle and heard more than the usual bell tinkling. I tried to call the bird, then he flies off across the field toward some trees across the road. I waved the lure, but he didn't even look back. He landed in a tree across the street, and I started running in that direction. This is at least 200 yards. As I got close he took off again, flying even farther away. He has never been this spooky. On his second flight I noticed that I did not hear his bell, which was odd. I began to worry about his losing it. I went to the car and drove over to a road behind where I last saw him. No luck. After stomping around, falling in briars, ripping up my arm, and getting cut off from my car, I spent the day wandering around looking for him. None of his behavior made sense until tonight. I went out there as usual, late in the day and saw a red-tail. I thought it might be Bravo, but it was the resident male adult. This cleared everything up in my mind. What really happened Sunday was this: When I went out of sight, the local resident attacked Bravo and drove him off, but I did not see him leave. I then flushed and followed the resident, not Bravo. That explains the absense of bells, the jumpiness, and I do not recall seeing his field jesses hanging down. Unfortunately this also means that Bravo will not return to this field, so there is little point in going back there. Where to look now?
Bravo was a good redtail. It took a long time but he got tame, didn't foot, was hoodable, would sit quietly all day in the hawk box. He was very strong. He had large feet for a tiercel. He was smart enough that he learned about the lure in just two exposures. When he became lure-bound, it took just two days to get him coming reliably to the fist from a tree a long way off. I may have flown him too high. It's hard to say, but I hope he does OK out there. When I got him he had feather lice. I treated that and he also got a WNV shot, so maybe I helped him. Maybe he will miraculously turn up in the next few days.
Bravo - two hours off the trap - 10/9/2005 (Photo: Jim DeBruin)
A week later - still wild (Stephanie Redding)
Mellowing out a little (Picture by Demetrios Tzoumas)
11/8/2005 - In the mew at night, bonding with his hood (Chuck Redding)
Artist: Jim Hunziker
After Bravo's premature departure a couple of my friends at work decided I needed a flightless bird. Jim Hunziker, who captured ths moment, put it this way:
"Chuck and his new bird Chayton, which is Native American – Sioux for 'falcon.'”
Hmm. Looks a lot like an Emu."
11/8/2005 Bravo in the mew, about a month after trapping. (Chuck Redding)