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Last posting on this page - On April 26, Cisco dropped his left #10 primary - Click on Cisco 3rd Season Link Above

4/1/2007 - A copperhead and the season ends
Mike and I took Cisco back to the golf course.  We went into the woods, found a squirrel that managed to escape in the heavy foliage.  Then Cisco spotted a copperhead snake.  I saw Cisco on a fairly low branch, looking intently toward the ground.  He flew down, grabbed the snake by the head, and that was pretty much it.  He didn't like eating it, so I called him off and we worked our way back to the car.  Afterwards, Mike and I tried a little carhawking with  Kiki.  So ends Cisco's second season.

Here's a little tribute to Cisco.  My first really successful game hawk
including my teenage attempts, he is the fourth or fifth red-tail that I have attempted to fly.  But he is likely to be my last red-tail.  There are several reasons.  My age, and the fact that I plan to fly him indefinitely are two.  But also because because he is an exceptional RT, having a combination of qualities that would be hard to duplicate.  51 kills in a season is hardly a record.  This season by comparison, Cody Fields, Bob Peavy, and Manny Carrasco, all took at least twice as much game with their red-tails. But Cisco has done well in the less than optimal fields where I usually take him to hunt.  The field that he hunted most frequently during the second half of the season is so difficult that I don't expect to catch game there on any given day, though it is full of swamp rabbits.  He managed to catch a cotton rat and three swamp rabbits there this season.  I usually hold him back, not allowing him to double, unless we flush game immediately, and he makes a kill.  This is because of the paucity of game, and my wanting to preserve the fields.  Of course, I wanted to preserve Gold Fire, and now it has been largely ruined by earth moving equipment.  But I digress. 

As far as I know, Cisco did catch more game than any other trained hunting hawk
of any species, within a 45 mile radius of Houston.*  He almost always puts in a good performance, chasing game relentlessly, in all sorts of weather.  In very heavy wind he will fly overhead, but always stays close, and will pursue rabbits straight up wind.  I have told a few people that Cisco never connects in high wind, but looking at my notes I found that he did catch a rabbit in a heavy wind earlier in the season.  I hunted him in Abilene during an ice storm, and he was one of the few birds to catch a rabbit up there this year, or so I was told by Dan Hillsman.  In Abililene there was game caught, but not like other years, I don't think.  I know that with their Harris' hawks, Roger Crandall and Jeff Catoor caught some cotton rats across from the hotel, some ducks were caught by the falcons, and I think Kurt Reineck's hawks (Cooper's and Harris') caught some birds.  I read that Jeff Suggs' hybrid Harris's/ferruginous caught a rabbit as did Kurt Reinick's Harris's, Zeus. I digress again. 

On days
when Cisco and I were both panting from the heat he has caught squirrels, rabbits, and rats.  He hunts from a T perch, trees, or from the air, and often puts on impressive aerial displays.  I would rather fly him than any other bird that I have seen fly, and that includes a number of peregrines, prairies, kestrels, hybrid falcons, Harris' and red-tailed hawks. Cisco chases game on foot, and as I learned this weekend, won't hesitate to plunge into a pond to pursue a squirrel.  He has hit rabbits so hard that they were dead before I could make in, and he knows how to kill cat squirrels almost instantly - I am not sure how he does it.  He chases small birds, though he has yet to catch one.  He doesn't mind dogs a bit, but is not fond of our cat, raising his hackles when the cat comes around.  He will hunt with strange dogs and people with practically no introduction, yet he knows who everybody is, and in the yard is not fond of strangers.  As aggressive as he is in the field, he had the good sense to release a rabbit when rushed by a large untrained dog.  By the way, I cheated and scored that rabbit.  His weight control is very easy, as he will hunt over a huge range of weight, about 125 grams.  During the molt he is as friendly as he is during the hunting season, readily flying to the fist throughout the molt, and showing no fear or nervousness.  In the mew he is friendly and a little playful.  He is loathe to foot, and has never done it deliberately.  Cisco will not foot my hand, even if he knows there is meat in it, as long as he cannot see the meat, else he will try to snatch it with a quick foot.  I often tidbit him like a giant kestrel.  He chirps a greeting when I approach him in the weathering yard.  His only vices are a little screaming, and his gettting so excited when he thinks that he is going hunting that he jumps around in thehawk box and this year damaged a couple of primaries, which had to be imped.  I have since learned how to cope with that excitement.  If it is a field that I regularly  fly, I let him out of the box immediately upon arrival at the field and he will sit in a tree and wait for me.  If it is an unfamiliar field, I hood him at the house before I leave and he will not jump around.  He will scream some if he gets bored with lack of game activity in the field and sometimes if I don't flush game for him, he will swoop just above my head, reminding me that I'm not doing my job. 

He became an extremely efficient squirrel hawk, with his first try on December 31.  He showed some interest in them right away, almost catching one at the end of the first day. He had a few things to learn, but once he did, he was deadly.  He caught six squirrels, again not a high number unless you consider that he was shown squirrels only once a week and not every week.  Once he caught his first squirrel, he went 7 for 9.  This includes one day when he was quite overweight, another when there were no squirrels and we gave him hardly any time.  On one of those trips he caught a big swamp rabbit instead of a squirrel.  There were a couple of times when he caught the first squirrel on the first chase.  Another time Wiegel and I went into the woods, looked in the trees for the hawk, and couldn't find him until we heard a bell.  He was on the ground eating a freshly killed squirrel.  From a "great flight" standpoint, it scored a zero.  But in terms of prowess, it was amazing.  I expect he will catch a respectable number next season.  I would like to take him hunting with Manny Carrasco at some point.   

He has been admired by the likes of Greg Thomas, and Matt Mullenix, who liked the fact that Cisco is fast and very active in the field, a trait I noticed early on.  Greg Thomas actually admired his looks, seeing Cisco in his ratty first year plumage, but of course, Greg is a RT aficiendo.  Cisco doesn't like it, but is reasonably easy to hood.  He's a keeper.  If you ever catch me flying a tiercel Harris' hawk, you'll know something happened to Cisco.  Or that I've retired and have time for a second bird.

*In this he was aided by starting the earliest, and hunting until April 1st.  All the other birds flown, with the exception of Jim Ince's fine peregrine were passagers, started late, and had varying degrees of success.  Jim had challenging season that included his daughter's wedding, a scary health issue, rapidly diminishing fields, and to cap it off, Gaucho was injured either by a wild falcon, or red-tail, or flew into a fence.  He never fully recovered, but managed to catch a snipe or two.  Mike Wiegel's kestrel caught nine birds in the field, but then stalled out for some reason.  Carlos Madruga's Harris' hawk, Max,may have passed Cisco by season's end - what I got from Carlos was that Max put a major dent in the grackle and crow population while in California.    Randy Kocurek caught a few rabbits with his passage red-tail, Jupiter, then released the bird. John McBrine and his passage red-tail sort of dropped out of sight.

Season tally: 51 head consisting of 22 cottontails, 14 cotton rats, 7 swamp rabbits, 6 cat squirrels, a bird, and a copperhead snake.  Not bad for a little redtail hunting mostly within the city  limits.

April 1, 2007 - Cisco: he ends a successful season (Mike Wiegel)

3/31/2007 - A visit by Matthew Mullenix and Cisco takes to the sea (or a pond, at least)
Matt Mullenix came to town Friday afternoon, and stayed overnight.  We hawked yesterday with Matt's giving Mike Wiegel some car hawking lessons.  Then we took Cisco out to DeSoto, no game to speak of.  Today Mike couldn't make it, so Matt and I took Cisco and Rina (Matt's whippet) up to a new golf course.  We saw some squirrels immediately, but Cisco wanted to pursue deeper in the woods.   It looked like good squirrel country, though it was difficult to see much with the leafing trees.  Cisco moved around over our heads, being quiet, and a little difficult to follow.  Suddenly down he plunges, pursuing a squirrel that leaped into the water of a small pond.  I ran over there, and saw  Cisco swimming around, and it looked like he might have something.  Then he disappeared and I thought he had been pulled under and was all ready to dive in.  But a few seconds later he leaves the pond, on foot.  We had trouble locating him again, finally Matt saw him on a  tall thin stump, about ten or twelve feet high.  Drenched of course, the day was over.  I finally manged to coax him down with some rabbit.  Below are a couple of pictures taken at least an hour later in the mew, with Cisco's drying off with the aid of a little space heater.  A seahawk - I didn't know there was such a thing.  We had a good time, and Matt took off for Gregg Barrow's after we got back.  Four lower pictures purloined from Matt Mullenix's website.

Look carefully and you can see me reflected in the water (upper right).  Cisco
is visible in the lower left, right above the "y" in previous "carefully."  Matt couldn't
see through the brush, but saw us  in the reflection. (Matt Mullenix)

Mike car hawking with the kestrel. (Matt Mullenix)

Cisco looking for non-existant swamp rabbits (Matt Mullenix)

Matt's whippet Rina (Matt Mullenix)

3/18/2007 - Kiki takes a peregrine
What a weird afternoon.  Began with our getting booted out of Deerwood, and ended with Kiki's nailing Gaucho.  Wiegel and I began the afternoon with great anticipation.  Our plans were to fly Cisco at Deerwood, then catch up with Jim Ince and Doug Stine, flying Gaucho (Jim's tiercel peregrine)  south of town near Missouri City.  Close out the day with some kestrel flights at small birds.

Things don't always happen quite as planned.  We got to Deerwood and released Cisco.  As we walked down the gravel path we saw a fellow in a golf cart, who obviously intended to talk to us.  It was Jim Baker, the club manager, who wanted to know what we were doing.  Well, as smooth a talker as I am, Mike and I were soon driving back to Houston.  So much for Deerwood.

We called Jim to tell him that we would  meet him at Gold Fire, then follow him and Doug down to Missouri City. 
At Gold Fire, Cisco flew to a tree, where he watched, with mild interest, a perfectly good cottontail running off into the brush.  He had a better idea, a minute later catching a baby rabbit, his 50th head of game this season.  Really impressive - the thing was the size of a large cotton rat.  We hunted the field a while with Cisco's continuing to admire the appearance of rabbits as they ran by.  I rewarded his fine performance by letting him eat the entire baby rabbit.  

Then it was Gaucho's time.  Mike and I caught up with Jim and Doug, and went to the field by the radio/TV towers.  Doug and Jim scouted out some birds, Jim released the peregrine, who put in a great stoop on a bird, then decided to fly to Mexico.  We tried to lure him back with a pigeon, but he was having none of it, soaring around a good mile away.  We got the telemetry out, jumped in the vehicles and located him sitting on one of the television towers.  Jim lured him down.  Destined to go to Greg Moore's breeding program, he is recovering reasonably well from a wing injury which has plagued him for several months.  Jim hooded him and put him in the truck.  Little did Gaucho know that luck was about to turn against him.

We took the kestrel out, and she did really well, putting in some fine, long chases on birds.  Jim and Doug (an erstwhile falconer himself) were very impressed.  They had to leave, and we walked back to Jim's truck.  Jim opened the camper window flap and Kiki decided that it was now time to put some game in the bag.  Instantly she was inside the camper, binding to a hooded Gaucho, trying to bite him in the neck to finish him off.  Jim reacted quickly, grabbing Kiki, wrenching her off the hapless peregrine, saving Gaucho from certain death.  OK, that's a bit of a stretch.  In fact, it was a good thing that Gaucho didn't reach up, grab the kestrel and remove her permanently from the gene pool.  Important questions remain.  How does Mike score this one?  A bagged peregrine?  Since that wasn't the intent, I believe it has to be considered Kiki's 10th field kill, as Jim ended it with Kiki still in control of the situation.  <<<Update 3/19/2007:  Matthew Mullenix opined that it is counted as a kill, but falls into the miscellaneous category>>> The judgment exercised by Kiki here is comparable to Mike's the day he reached up to grab a live squirrel, only to be saved by Cisco's quick interception and dispatch of the little rodent.

On the way back, via cell phone, Jim stated that he would carefully inspect Gaucho's neck, and if necessary, take Mike to court, depending on the severity of Gaucho's injuries.  Kiki seems pleased with herself.

Yes, quite a day      

Pictures below taken by me with a little Kodak digital camera, except where noted.

A rabbit to brag about (picture: Mike Wiegel)
Cisco's thinking, "Look - there's a peregrine in that picture to the right."

Jim, about to fly Gaucho

Gaucho's flying by, gaining pitch

Doug, Mike and Jim, watching Gaucho on the horizon

Where's Gaucho?  Jim, with receiver, getting a line of position

Good, got him back

 Gaucho, Ubertiercel

3/17/2007 - Squirrel hunting and catching a big swamp rabbit
Mike Wiegel brought his friend, Nancy, along for some hawking.  Deerwood was busy in the parking lot, no available shade for the car, so we took both birds out to the woods, leaving Kiki in a shady spot.  At 932 grams, Cisco seemed eager, so we let him loose.  He found a squirrel pretty soon, had a flight, and  the squirrel disappeared.  We beat the trees for a while, then Cisco plunged from a tree into the underbrush.   A rabbit screamed - a big swamper.  He had the rabbit, but was straddling a tree, as you might be able to tell from the picture.  This is another that might have escaped without intervention on my part.

We then took Kiki the kestrel out to the new field east of Huffman, which was really wet.  She caught a number of grasshoppers, and had some great bird flights, one as long as 75 yards.

3/17/2007 - Cisco with swamp rabbit  caught in woods 

3/17/2007 - Kiki with big grasshopper (Chuck Redding)

3/17/2007 - Nancy with Kiki
eating grasshopper on T-pole (Chuck Redding)

3/11/2007 - A good outing, but Gold Fire is gone
A good day hawking with Mike W and Joey Robertson.  We took Joey's rookie hawk (Archie) out to Gold Fire, and I noticed immediately that something didn't look right.  At the end of the little spur that is Gold Fire, things looked different.  We took the bird on the west side of the field, he grabbed a rabbit instantly, but it slipped loose.  Impressive.  The east side of Gold Fire is no more.  All the vegetation and trees have been torn down and put into piles.  Too bad.  That was my most productive field, with Cisco's taking about 30 rabbits there, at least.  A mixture of cottontails and swamp rabbits.  His first kill this season was a big swamper there, in October.   We left and drove to Deerwood after Archie started to run out of steam in the warm wind.  Cisco caught a squirrel up in a tree, deadly efficient, and parachuted to the ground, where I killed it, though it didn'r have much left at that point.  Cisco's sixth squirrel catch, which he made look easy.  We immediately put him up to get more kestrel time.  We went to a field east of Huffman that Jonathan Millican told us about, and had a number of really great flights on birds with Mike's kestrel.  Lots of close calls, and good performance, but no kills.

3/9/2007 - A baby Texas swamper

This is Cisco's largest kill to date.  I hurried home from work, fed the dogs, and drove the ten minutes to my toughest field to hunt.  It takes pure luck to catch the swamp rabbits in the open - Mike Wiegel can attest to that.  This is only the sixth rabbit that he has grabbed out there, with five in the bag.  We first hunted there in early March last year.  He caught two swamp rabbits on only about five flights, last year, making it look easy.  We always get flights, but I really don't expect to catch rabbits there.  But it is the one field that I can leave work and get to with a reasonable amount of hunting time, so I hunt it twice per week, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Today Cisco had three flights, the last about 40  or 50 yards from a tree, smashing into a rose bush.  This  rabbit would have gotten away, as Cisco was blocked by the bush.  When I got there it was screaming and pulling loose, with  Cisco's having a foot on the head, but he couldn't maneuver the other into place, because of a branch.

3/9/2007 - Cisco's  personal record, a swamp rabbit weighing more
than 4 lb 10 oz (photo: Stephanie Redding)

"Luke! I am your father!" Cisco's best Darth Vader impression
2/7/2007 at night in the mew.

3/7/2007 - Luke! I am your father!
A not too noteworthy day at DeSoto after work.  A couple of nice flights, a wild red-tail,  and a little exercise.  However, my friend Gregg Barrow gave me a hood and hood holder, which came from Justin Tanner at High Tech Falconry in Utah.  Showed up in the mail today.  A nice present.  He looks like Darth Vader.

3/4/2007 Cisco: Rodent Warrior

That is what Matthew Mullenix called him.  I still call him the Uberhawk. 928 grams - Wiegel and I took Cisco back to Deerwood, and we had trouble finding the place.  After all it's been a week.  We walked to the gravel road again, this time with hawk box and clipboard.  Mike opened the box, Cisco flew out, and followed us to the woods.  Within a few minutes I looked up and saw Cisco diving at me from a tall tree, a doomed squirrel sitting on a branch between us.  He grabbed the varmint about fifteen feet in the air, and hung there with him, one foot with a sold grip on him, not looking too comfortable (he felt better than than the squirrel, no doubt).  He was trying to handle the squirrel and get out of the tree, but his wing was caught a little in some twigs.  Cisco wiggled loose and parachuted to the ground in front of me.  I killed the squirrel, and we hunted for a little while longer.  Cisco had a couple of good flights, including a near miss, then we left to fly the kestrel.  A good weekend with a cottontail, cat squirrel and a cotton rat.

3/4/2007 - The Rodent Warrior eating a squirrel head (Mike Wiegel)

3/3/2007 - Joey Robertson's passage red-tail, Archie (Chuck Redding)

3/2/2007 A double on a warm day

930 grams - I took Cisco up to Matt Reidy field.  He flew after some rabbits, missing, and I wondered if he was OK.  Yes, he was fine.  He caught the first cottontail that he had reasonable shot at, then a cotton rat.  He ate the entire cotton rat on my fist so he may not fly tomorrow.  It was really warm out there today - Cisco did well in spite of the heat.  A lot of panting by both of us.

3/2/2007 - Cisco and I with his rabbit.  The cotton rat is in his crop
(Stephanie Redding)

3/2/2007 - Cisco at night in weathering area.  The white box is the enclosure for
"Cisco Cam." (Chuck Redding)

2/25/2007 Swamp rabbits and cat squirrels

Had a great day today.  Mike W and I took Cisco out to Deerwood Golf Club, up in Kingwood, recommended by Jonathan.  I had to call Jonathan after we got there because we weren't sure where to go. He was helpful.  We carried Cisco in the hawk box all the way onto the gravel road that led to the woods, and had no problems with curious onlookers.

I let him loose, and he followed well.   We had great flights on both cat squirrels and swamp rabbits, which was exciting, but he was not connecting.  In fact, the warm afternoon was taking its toll.  At one point Cisco was up in a tree, beak open about 45 degrees, panting.  There was a huge alligator out there, BTW.  I began to feel a skunking was in the works, which was a shame as Cisco was really putting out the effort.  But it was getting close to kestrel time and Cisco appeared to be slowing down a little.  Then our luck changed.   Cisco was sitting in a tree with two squirrels, when the bigger of the two bailed out, but instead of hitting the ground, momentarily got hung in some vines, right in front of Mike.  I saw Mike reach up as if he were going to grab the squirrel himself, when THWACK!!!!  Cisco came flying in over Mike, nailed the squirrel and took it to the ground.  I rushed in and killed  it.  This all happened in about three seconds, but Mike did admit that he had planned to grab the squirrel.   It was comical.  We laughed about it later.

Cisco had both feet on the head of the squirrel.  I have been trying to figure out how he killed the previous two so quickly.  Maybe he strangled them.  Based on his foot position today, that is possible.

Cisco with the remains of the "Deerwood  Squirrel." (Mike Wiegel)

2/27/2007 - Cisco at night in weathering area, picture taken with
my new inexpensive Kodak camera.  Much better than pic at left.

2/23/2007 - I let one go
I took Cisco to DeSoto after work.  He was immediately joined by a wild red-tail in the tree across from the field.  No crabbing, they visited for a minute, sitting together on the same branch, then the wild bird took off.  We hunted out in the field, and at some point Cisco flew to the trees on the SE end near the fence.  I flushed a rabbit right under him and he grabbed it.  I should have dived in from behind him and grabbed the rabbit, instead I walked around in front of the hawk, dropped to my knees, and attempted to get the rabbit, which was under a layer of grass. It stopped screaming and disappeared into the undergrowth.  Just vaporized.  Damn! 

2/21/2007 - A truly great flight on a cotton rat
915 grams pre-flight.  Normally cotton rat flights are not much, a quick drop off the pole and the extraction of the creature from a grass clump.  Today, after work Cisco flew and soared a little in the warm breeze, the first warm day in several months.  He was eager, so I let him fly out of the box
immediately after arrival at DeSoto, home of swamp rabbits.   We  had a flight or two at prey, birds, rabbits, rats, I'm not sure.  He flew to the east side trees and I worked toward him, hoping to spring a rabbit.  Cisco was sitting majestically in a tree, when he flew straight out, hovering with one, two, three, four wingbeats, facing into the late afternoon sun.  Then a 20 foot plunge into the grass resulting in a very plump cotton rat, which he ate, in spite of my cleverly tossed, distracting tidbits.  He not only ate my tidbits, but the cotton rat as well, a big one.  Nevertheless, with a very full crop, he continued to hunt, with his putting in a few more respectable flights on the elusive Sylvilagus aquaticus.  A nice day.  He is out in the weathering yard, tipping the scales at 1015 grams.  I won't have to feed him much tomorrow.

2/19/2007 - If a hawk catches a squirrel in the forest, but no one sees....
Is it still a great flight?  Mike W and I took Cisco up to Willis for some cat squirrel hawking.  Originally my plan was swamp rabbits, but it was pretty windy.  We had barely arrived in the woods, when Cisco disappeared.  We kept looking up in the trees for him, but no sign.  We heard a bell, very close, and  found him in the underbrush about twenty feet from us, chomping on a dead squirrel.  Cisco is an efficient and sneaky little rascal.

2/18/2007 - "...have some fun on the bayou"
A trip to Baton Rouge.  I stayed with Matt Mullenix, met his very nice family - Jonathan Milican came up from Florida, with his fat redtail-in-training.  Well, we did have some fun, and Cisco caught a magnificant cotton rat.  Smash the Harris' hawk caught a couple of sparrows on Saturday,  a cotton rat this morning, and five sparrows this afternoon.  Here are some pictures.

Smash, Matt Mullenix's male Harris' hawk

Cisco, on Smash's perch

Matt, Jonathan, and I - a few minutes earlier two experienced small bird
hawkers allowed Cisco's bagged sparrows to escape.

Matt and I - I have no idea what we were doing.

Smash and Rina on the hunt (not taken this particular weekend, but representitive)

A better description of the weekend by Matthew Mullenix (used by permission, I think).  I knew he would write this up, so I told him to make it good.  Well, his writing is always good.  He finished up his season today (2/20/2007).
See his web site..........


Update: 20 February 2007: It's Fat Tuesday, and the last morning of a little hawking holiday. I took Monday off and, in Louisiana, Mardi Gras closes down state government. I'll fly again this afternoon, unless the rain is coming down in sheets, and finish up the hawking season with that final hunt.

Chuck Redding and Jonathan Millican spent the weekend here, helping send my season out on a pleasant note. Good weather contributed much to the visit, being sunny and cold enough to hunt all day, if a shade too windy at times. Chuck and Jonathan drove in from Texas and Florida, respectively, toting one red-tail each. As Jonathan's bird was still too green to hunt, we concentrated on Cisco, Chuck's second year passage male. He's a good one, a regular killer of rabbits and sundry other things and a budding squirrel hawk to boot. Cisco is also a tame, likeable bird who gives his falconer no trouble.

It would be a pleasure to serve such a hawk, and I wish I had. Chuck's seeming-innate good manners forbade him from noting the obvious: I've got squat for rabbit spots. Recent years of development have drained the pool, starting at the deep end. The big fields along Burbank are gone, west past the muffler shop, east to the ball fields and south to Nicholson. A long, narrow strip of marginal cover remains at one end of Bluebonnet, and we hit that, naturally, but came up empty. A second spot further away looked better but was no more productive

My hopes remained across the river in Port Allen. A honey hole, saved for the ends of many seasons here looked as good as ever, like a little patch of south Georgia, but with levees. A turn of good luck in being granted permission there (a bit belated) went sour with the news that next year the spot will be gone. Eight hundred acres of surrounding cane fields were sold last week to a Hollywood production company with plans to build a massive studio on the spot. A boon to the state's economy, hooray.

And the bad luck held: We flushed only a couple rabbits in an hour's hard push through perfect briars. Cisco tried, and flew pretty in the wind, but needed more slips than we gave him. In the end, Chuck would have to be content with a ten-hour round trip for one Louisiana cotton rat. Ever in character, he claimed to be satisfied, and for what its worth, seemed happy as he pulled his EuroVan camper from the drive and aimed it home.

I won't get by without mentioning the two bagged sparrows I let escape. The sparrows, English ones, came courtesy Jonathan and offered an opportunity to redeem, somewhat, a weekend of slim rabbit slips. Chuck has a goal for the season of catching a wild sparrow with Cisco, and for this the hawk will need a lesson. That opportunity was lost when both sparrows flew clean away from my bungled attempts to toss them.

Chuck chuckled, politely. It is possible, though, that he shook his head a tiny bit when he thought I wasn't looking.


Note: I never did shake my head.  However, as I put Cisco in the box to go back to Matt's house, Cisco went through the motions of casting, but didn't.  Hmmmm.

2/13/2007 - Huntin' swampers and chasin' a Coops
An after work hunt in the cool wind.  Nice and sunny.  Cisco put in an amazing stoop from a tree at a rabbit, and flew into the woods after a Cooper's hawk.  He acted like he might catch her.  This was an adult which kept an alert and respectful distance.  Hard work, a number of flights on swamp rabbits, and that was that.  A good evening of hawking. 

2/11/2007 - Weekend tally: a cottontail, a cotton rat, a squirrel, and an inadvertent bird
A busy weekend for Cisco.  Today up in Willis he caught his second squirrel.  He is now a thoroughly professional  squirrel hawk.  He looks for squirrels, finds them, makes them leap from the trees and kills them.  He caught a squirrel today in about 30 minutes, on the third flight.  It leaped from the tree, he dove to the ground, and I was sure he missed.  So I wandered over to where he was by a log, and he was dragging a dead squirrel.  Amazing.  Unfortunately he got bitten up on his heel, not just a slit.  We treated it with a dilute Bentadine and Epsom salt - he'll be OK, but this is two squirrels and two bites.  Dunno about this squirrel hawking.

2/10/2007- An unfortunate double
All season I had been hoping Cisco would catch a small bird, or any bird.  Today, unfortunately, he succeeded.  Wiegel and I went up to Reidy field, with Cisco at a leaner 922 grams.  He was cranked up.  He started by trying to catch some mourning doves, which were perched in a tree.  Then he flew to the little stand of trees where he caught his first rabbit last year.  He was up there for a minute, then disappeared.  We ran around the trees and he was on the ground with some prey.  I ran in, and he had his foot on the head of an immature female Cooper's hawk.  She was alive, but in a bad situation.  I quickly  grabbed Cisco by the head, thinking he might let go, then hooded him when the head grabbing didn't work  He let go, but it was too late, and she died in about ten seconds.  I put Cisco on my fist, and he was too excited, and wouldn't perch, so I tried to pop him up and I got footed badly on my right wrist.  Oh well.  We then went rabbit hunting and he caught a rabbit off the pole in and around the cover.  One rabbit, one unwanted bird.  The Cooper's was in good plumage, with plenty of weight on her, about 550 grams or so.  It is hard to figure how Cisco could get the jump on her, but she may have been momentarily distracted, hunting the white-wing doves that are there.  She was immature, which may have contributed to her possibly less than alert state.  Cisco had her on the ground, maybe she was injured, but she seemed to be an otherwise very fit bird.  Mark Reindel has seen evidence of Cooper's  being killed by red-tails up in Nantucket.  There are no horned owls on the island, Mark is a careful wildlife observer, so I believe him when he tells me  that they were red-tail kills. 

His comment?
"Everything dies sooner or later once a red-tail gives them a
solid love-grip." Sentimental, Mark is.

2/9/2007 - Lots of slips, an escapee and a cotton rat
Hard work today at Reidy field.  Out the door at 933 grams, and about 55F.  I have never seen so many rabbits flushed, and so many consistently out of reach.  Cisco kept chasing and finally grabbed one in some cover.  Unfortunately I didn't rush in, and the rabbit became one of the three out of about 50 caught, that escaped.  Cisco tried to pursue on the ground under the bush and ended up being smooshed in some vines - looked like he was sitting on a nest.  We kept hunting had more chases and then on the way back I kicked up a piece of sheet metal which housed a small herd of cotton rats.  Oh well, vertebrate quarry.  I manged to transfer him off the rat, and fed him to about 990, so he will be on weight tomorrow, back at the target 930 grams.

2/4/2007 - A swamper weekend
Mike Wiegel and I took Elsa and Cisco out to the DeSoto street field where Cisco caught a couple of swamp rabbits last year, catching them easily, in fact.  After finding it empty last summer, then flying it multiple times in the last few weeks, a leaner and meaner Cisco caught a small swamp rabbit quickly on Friday.  Today he was flying at 930 grams, and was ready to go when we got to the field, jumping around in his box.  His transmitter was already firing, so I just opened the door and let  him go.  He flew to a tree on the east side of the field, sitting while Mike and I got ready.  Then he flew to a tree right above the van.  Mike and Elsa were walking through the brush, with Cisco watching attentively.  He launched straight out, did a wing over and plunged into the brush.  A beautiful flight pursuing some small birds once again.  I put him on the T-pole, and he took off again, chasing some birds.  He circled and flew back, riding while we tried to flush rabbits.  When we started east again, I flipped him off the pole, and he flew across the field to the trees, a perfect position.  in a minute he flew straight out, another wing over and smashed into the ground, grabbing a small swamp rabbit (small being only twice his weight).  This one screamed and kicked, I made in and finished it off.  3 lb, 11 oz., bigger than Friday's rabbit, but smaller than the two from last year, which were both around 4 1/2 pounds.  This was a swamp rabbit, though, small or not, and bigger than most of the cottontails that Cisco has caught this year.  So two swamp rabbits in one weekend, at a field less than ten minutes from the house.  Not bad.

2/4/2007 - Cisco in a Gary Brewer hood, borrowed from
Gregg Barrow (pictures by Mike Wiegel, camera borrowed
from Kasey)

2/2/2007 & 2/3/2007 - First swamper from DeSoto field
I must be prescient. I wrote the heading for this update on Thursday night, 2/1/2007. The next afternoon Cisco caught the first swamp rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus) of this season at the DeSoto field. It has taken a while, as we have hunted here a fair amount.He was at an unusually low weight, if I can believe my scale (857 grams), but I'm not sure that was correct. He was at 940 this morning, and spent the day in the hawk box in the car at Baker Hughes. I got him to the field and he was really wound up, exploding out of the box and unwilling to sit very still on the scale. So I'm not sure. He made a couple of flights on rabbits, then, off the T-pole, flew over a rose bush, and grabbed a small swamp rabbit (3lb 6 oz.) that kicked hard and screamed, though Cisco had him by the head.

On Saturday (2/3/2007), we went to Willis, north of Conroe, but Cisco was quite high in weight, 960 gms, before I left the house. His performance in the field reflected that, though he did put in a couple of good flights on squirrels.

1/28/2007 - Cisco's first squirrel (will be updated later, maybe)

By Sunday, Cisco had chased a lark, and caught two rabbits and a cotton rat. I was hoping the weekend would end with a squirrel kill. Anita Howlett, her husband, Mike and son, Joshua, took Cisco
and me to a park near Spring. After an unsolicited flight at a fox squirrel, they followed me to Willis to hunt cat squirrels. Cisco seems to have it now. We followed him around for about 45 minutes and he nailed a little cat squirrel up in a tree. He hung from a branch squeezing the little rodent until it was limp, and then flew to the ground with it. Not a bad way to end the weekend.

1/27/2007 - A cotton rat at Gold Fire

From an email to Mark Reindel:

"Cisco nailed a cotton rat today in a rose bush. Also put in some good rabbit flights, even with a full crop, though you could tell the fire was out of him after the rat. Huge rat. The rat weighed about 130 grams based on Cisco's weight five hours later. He ate the whole thing, no way to transfer him off of it, down in that bush. 22 rabbits and 9 cotton rats so far. Cat squirrels tomorrow."

Mike Wiegel, Anita Howell and son, Joshua came out also. After I activated his telemetry, Cisco flew to a tree. He spotted a lark in another tree and attacked. The lark took off well ahead of him and flew off. But Cisco still likes chasing those small birds. After flying Cisco, we flew Kiki
, but found no good slips.

1/26/2007 - Cisco pulls out of a slump with a double on cottontails at Reidy field

From an email to Cody Fields:
Cisco doubled on cottontails this morning to break his slump. I think the main reason for his not catching game, is the tougher fields I have been flying him in, the squirrel hawking, and the wind, which are all elements in the last five or six outings. I was a little surprised Wednesday that he didn't score on one of the flights, though. Also this year he has been flying from the T-pole, not a really tall one like you and Bob use, but about 6' or 7'. There is no doubt that he is better from a tree, or the air, than straight flights off the pole. But now, in most circumstances he prefers riding the pole. One of the rabbits this morning was a pole catch, the other from a tree. It was a silent catch - when I walked up I was surprised at his posture, because I thought he had missed. Yet there he was, with crest flared, mantling, looking for enemy raptors.

After driving all over town I found some DuPont rubber mulch for the weathering area. I spread it in a semi-circle, about 2-1/2 feet wide, probably 4" thick at least. Like a smiley face pattern with the center of the radius at the tie-post of my U-perch. I think this stuff will work fine. It cost about $50 for the four bags that I used. I think it will make a difference on his talons.

1/20/2007 to 1/21/2007 - Crabbing with a ferruginous, pulling bunny fur , and chasing squirrels

I told a guy up in Abilene that Cisco caught game about every time I took him out. Well, not lately. Friday he had some flights at his swamp rabbit field, no catches. Saturday Wiegel and I took him to Gold Fire for a "sure thing." He always catches game there. When we got there he got attacked by a large Buteo, which I believe was a ferruginous hawk. Pure aggression, it flew right in at Cisco, I yelled, and it retreated with Cisco in pursuit. They got to the woods and Cisco attacked it, and they locked feet together, tumbling to the floor of the woods. I ran, and when I got fairly close, the "frog" flew out, and I could hear Cisco's bell. A minute later he emerged, winded but OK. It was in all likelyhood a wayward immature ferruginous hawk. No immature redtail would just fly in and attack an adult redtail, and the adults usually swoop moderately low, screaming when Cisco is in the field. Not this bird. A dangerous character, and I'm glad Cisco handled it OK. Cisco was quickly ready to hunt, though it was really windy, and he has never held on to a rabbit on really windy days. Today was no exception. Lots of overhead flying and good efforts. Twice he ended up with rabbit fur in his talons, it was that close. I think the wind throws his timing off just enough.

Sunday, Wiegel, Gregg Barrow, and I flew Cisco at squirrels in Conroe, some good flights, but no kills. He is on a five day scoreless streak, but in his defense, he has been flying some tough fields.

We flew Kiki at some sparrows, but she may have been just a little low, starting out with some great attacks in the bushes, but got tired quickly.

1/13/2007 - A rabbit on ice

From an email to Mark Reindel:
"Cisco continues his deadly ways. I'm in Abilene, at the annual THA field meet. 350 miles from Houston. It is ice storm weather, really slick. I now have two apprentices, after just getting my general permit. Mike, a federal agent, has the first well trained kestrel that I have seen. Lynne, an attorney who has done important work for THA, won't be trapping until next fall. This morning they were with me along with two non-falconers. Cisco took off the T-pole and left us a quarter mile away. Instead of trusting him, I called him back, trying to get him to sit on the pole to take him to another field - off he goes again to the same area, so this time I follow him. He's not a screw off. Suddenly I kick up a rabbit, he dives, and he has it by one foot on the butt in a cactus hole. I push the other cactus leaves out of the way, and pull the rabbit out, with him attached. I love this guy. None of my party could keep up, and when I got back Lynne had slipped on the ice, twisting her knee.

Yesterday, shortly after arrival in Abilene I took the hawk to a field near the hotel. Steve and Cody Birdwell came along. I didn't like the looks of the area, with transformers, etc. So we walked a ways to get clear. It was drizzly and cold, Cisco chased a couple of rabbits, although he was a little damp from the mist. I wasn't completely sure that this was the correct area shown on the map, but we did get some flights.

1/10/2007 - Cisco catches a rabbit, but after some spectacular flying
From an email to Joey Robertson, Carlos Madruga's apprentice:
I enjoyed last weekend, though I missed (Cisco's) most spectacular flight, which everybody else saw. I like squirrel hawking, and will like it more when Cisco quits being a rookie. He caught a rabbit today, and soared over the field (a place I call "Matt Reidy Field") in the wind. It was really beautiful, the most spectacular flying ever, though I could not flush a rabbit under him while he soared. To me, this is what redtails are all about. I took him to the field pretty high in weight, around 930 grams, and it was on the warm side. Combine that with his getting fed last night and he was not as keen as I have seen. In fact, I thought he was dogging it until he grabbed that cottontail. Fantastic! On to Abilene.

1/6/2007 - Kiki steals the show
Harris's hawk - 0, redtail hawk - 0, Kiki the kestrel - 2.
Wiegel and I drove to Conroe to fly the redtail and kestrel. We met Carlos (Madruga) at the Home Depot, and when we pulled into the parking lot we saw his truck, with Max, the Harris' hawk riding on the roof. They had been hunting grackles, but the grackles had won today. Carlos and Mike Dixon piled into the VW, and we went to the golf course to chase squirrels with Cisco. Though he did not score, I believe he did grab one, but it managed to break loose. He has not learned to tear them from the trunk yet. He also put in a flight that impressed both Carlos and Wiegel, diving straight down the trunk of the tree in pursuit. I was blocked from the view by the heavy foliage, and missed it. We got tired and called Cisco in, fed him up and drove to a field that Carlos and Dixon had found this morning, while flying the Harris's hawk. Mike got Kiki ready, and we immediately had a flight on a small bird. Kiki was relentlentless, and on about the fifth reflush, the bird tried to break into the open. Kiki flew it down. Mike made in and we hunted for a while longer. Near dusk, we flushed another bird down in a gulley. The bird put in, and Kiki went into the grass and extracted him. Mike approached, and Kiki flew to his fist with the bird! Wow.

Mike Wiegel with Kiki

1/4/2007 - A Friday Afternoon Field (The De Soto Street field)
Late last season, I found a swamp rabbit field less than ten minutes from the house. Some condemned city land, it overlooks the bayou, and is about twenty or thirty acres. A tough place to hunt because the rabbits hide along a tree line where they can reach cover easily. Last year Cisco caught two rabbits there, and would have caught a third, but I flushed a rabbit early when he was not in position. I took Elsa dog there several times this summer, and saw no rabbits. I also flew Cisco one morning earlier this season, again nothing. A few weeks ago, I took Elsa there again, saw lots of rabbit scat, and flushed one rabbit. After work yesterday, I flew Cisco there, after installing his new Marshall Scout transmitter, and got about eight flights on rabbits. The rabbits are back, and Cisco is unlikely to put a dent in the population there. I will hunt there every working Friday for the rest of the season. The little woods next to the site has gray squirrels, but it is too dense to get into. Cisco chased a squirrel last season, and I was glad he missed. He also nearly caught a red-shoulder hawk that had come out to harass him. Fortunately the RS flew off.

1/1/2007 - Happy New Year, but not for the rabbit

An early morning trip to Reidy field. Streets were very quiet at 0730 on New Year's Day. Cisco weighed 938 grams, on a 40F morning. There was still frost on the ground. Out at the field, he had a number of flights, and as I thinking that his "goshawk style" flights were unproductive, he caught a rabbit. On the way back to the car, I lost the transmitter somehow, but didn't realize it until I was about to leave. A thirty minute search with the receiver yielded the transmitter in the grass. If I had trusted the equipment more, I would have found it much sooner. But I "knew" where it was. Yeah, right.

Note: This was added July 25, 2007.  An email to me from Mark Reindel, sent around New Year's.  A good one, I thought.  Frankie is Mark's intermewed gyr/Barbary, A fine looking bird with a sweet disposition.  Nantucket hawking, always challenging for long-wingers.  The refernce to "jessups" is an old joke going back to the late 1960's.  Not worth explaining.
>> With two more people beating (old hawkers), the young man's undersized
>> male RT caught and held a large buck cotton-tail - by one hind foot. 1st
>> kill and one helluva flight!
>>  Then we flew Frankie down on the beach on homers. His pitch was decent
>> (and then some). After his first stoop,tail-chase,and remount he was
>> joined up with a hag (big) tundra falcon. She wanted to rob him of his
>> field jessups and transmitter. But no luck for her,however, she did
>> manage to scare the shit out of him. He eventually got pissed and turned
>> the tables on her three or four times. At one point he managed to climb
>> above her and just missed a head shot...nearly capped her. Finally I had
>> to do something as they were way too far out over the ocean. And as high
>> as could be. I figured the peregrine probably had an evil trick up her
>> sleeve - like dragging him half way to the Vineyard before binding to him
>> and jamming him into the surf. I fluttered a homer from my hand, impeded
>> it and chucked it out. It worked. Frankie and the falcon came screaming
>> back with Frankie in the lead. He did a wing-over and took it on the
>> ground near us and the falcon had to balk. She shot right over us. Three
>> men and a big Brittany were just too much for her to deal with. So she
>> landed on a cottage just on the other side of the pond and watched while
>> Frankie antagonized her by killing the pigeon slowly, and then drinking
>> the blood in total confidence while  surrounded by his human/dog safety
>> zone. We left about half the pigeon carcass behind on the dunes making
>> sure a wing was sticking up so she could mark it properly. We walked back
>> to the cars and hung around awhile to watch the sunset. She finally
>> jumped off the cottage at dusk and lumbered over towards the kill site.
>> After about ten or more swoops and some circles she touched down and
>> grabbed her offal. She carried the mess swiftly and neatly to the ocean.
>> No doubt to eat it on the other side of the barrier dunes on the beach
>> ....looking for a little privacy. What a day.
>> mr

12/31/2006 - Hunting cat squirrels with Carlos on New Year's Eve

I had agreed to catch up with Carlos Madruga in Conroe at 1300. Both of us were ahead of schedule, so we took his small male Harris's hawk, Max, out for some car grackle hawking. Carlos hunts right there in the parking lots of Home Depot, Sam's, Lowe's etc. In the middle of all the traffic, shopping and people. We had a number of flights, but none with a really good set up, so came up empty. I drove and he pitched the bird out the window. He has caught a number of birds, just not today.

Then we took Cisco out to the golf course, where we met Carlos' apprentice, Joey Robertson, a prosecuting attorney. He just recently trapped his first redtail. Cisco got into the swing of squirrel hawking right away, discovering a cat squirrel right after we arrived. Unfortunately, a wild redtail messed up that flight. He then made some valiant attempts on a couple of other squirrels as they bailed out from the trees to the forest floor. When we didn't find any for a while he got bored, wouldn't follow too closely, and screamed. I have a redtail with ADHD. Then as we were heading back, close to the end of the day, he discovered another squirrel, which he pursued hard in the tree. As two of us hugged the tree (tree huggers) to prevent the squirrel from getting to the ground, the squirrel lept from the tree about six feet over our head. As he hit the ground running, Cisco was right there, missing him by inches. It was a great flight, that could have gone either way. Cisco's not bad for a rookie squirrel hawk. Then he chased some doves, and made a serious ground attack on either a nutria or a probably a swamp rabbit. I could not see, but it was large. At that point he would not follow, as he was waiting for it to re-emerge. So I called him down, hooded him and we went back. This is two years to the day of my kestrel Alex's getting chased off by that female sharpie. A good day - Carlos and I both got our birds back healthy, and had a few good flights.

December was a good month, with Cisco's catching ten rabbits and eight cotton rats. I was hoping that he would cap the month and year with a squirrel - it was close.

12/31/2006 - Cisco before his first squirrel hawking adventure, temporarily in
chaps (Redding)

12/31/2006 - Carlos Madruga with "Max" after some
car hawking attempts on grackles

"The Houston Between The Holidays Mini-Meet"
Day 1- 12/27/2006:
Cisco always seems to shine in front of strangers. At this point I thought that the "mini-meet" had sort of fizzled, with Jonathan Millican and Matt Reidy coming down on different days, Gaucho getting hurt, and Mike Wiegel AWOL. Today Jonathan and a friend (Matt) came out to Gold Fire with me and a colleague from Baker Hughes (George), who is interested in falconry.
It was short and sweet. We got to the east side of the field, flushed a rabbit right away, Cisco made an impossible catch off the pole and into the bushes, and that was it. A short but very impressive flight. Once again, I was surprised that he caught the rabbit. Apparently the rabbit stopped just inside the bush. You don't do that with Cisco. Jonathan has a fine looking female merlin that he kept in Cisco's weathering area while we hunted. he may release her tomorrow (update: he did).

12/27/2006 - Cisco in the bush with rabbit (George Nalbandlan)

12/27/2006 - Lt. Millican and his soon-to-be-released merlin (George Nalbandlan)

Day 2 - 12/28/2006:
Jim Ince, John Mcbrine, Mike Wiegel, and Matt Reidy showed up.
John brought his female redtail up to the house though she is still being manned. John, who has had two redtails, had never been in the field with one hunting, so we started out with Cisco in the early afternoon. In three vehicles, we drove up to "Matt Reidy Field" at Jones and West Roads. Cisco, as usual was hot, though flying at the very high weight of 938 grams. Within 15 minutes, he caught a rabbit that he slammed, and it was dead by the time I made in. John left, and we took the two sparrow hawks (kestrel and Matt's male Harris's hawk) out to find some birds. We eventually found a field out 290 that wasn't that great, but we flew both birds there - neither scored. Kiki the kestrel did well in spite of the wind, and made a serious attempt at a small bird. Jim went home. Mike, Matt and I ate some delicious grilled rabbit (marinated in A1 Sauce, a Roger Crandall suggestion). Stephanie made some good salad and potatoes, and we had a good time. Rabbit a la Cisco.

Day 3 - 12/29/2006:
Matt Reidy stayed at the house Thursday night. At 0700 this morning Mike Wiegel came over, and the three of us went hawking again. We found a field southwest of town, near Gold Fire, where Domingo the Harris's hawk caught a sparrow just as I looked away. He had a number of good flights in the heavy wind. Then we flew Kiki. She also looked good, missed a sparrow or two, but caught a number of crickets and grasshoppers. On the way back we spent 30 minutes or so at Gold Fire. CIsco chased a rabbit, and had a really good upwind flight. It was impressive because he recovered from his first assault on the rabbit where he missed, but bounced right up and continued the attack. Very good. Matt had to leave, so after a brisket lunch at our house, Mike and I drove back to Matt Reidy Field (took the Goober dog with us). Had some rabbit flights and the rain got us. We walked down the street in the rain. Two wet men with a wet dog, and wet hawk.

Three Day Tally - Cisco: 2 rabbits; Kiki: large number of orthoptera; Domingo: 1 sparrow

12/28/2006 John McBrine, Chuck Redding, Matt Reidy, and Mike Wiegel (Photo: Jim Ince)

12/28/2006 - Returning to group with Cisco after rabbit kill (photo: John McBrine)

12/29/2006 -The hawk boxes in car. Kiki, Cisco, and Domingo the male Harris's hawk (Chuck Redding)

12/28/2006 - Matt, Jim (standing with famous Gaucho pole), Mike, and Elsa wait for me to return with Cisco and rabbit. (photo: John McBrine)

12/29/2006 - Mike with Kiki (Chuck Redding)

12/29/2006 -Matt Reidy with Domingo (Chuck Redding)

An email from Cody Fields (squirrel hawking with RT in Arkansas):

I think I told you that I put Marge's squirrel chaps on the night I got home from the last TX trip. I went out the next morning and caught one of those cat squirrels that live on the ground. Two days later, same thing, I call them squabbits. See the attached pic. It is the second squabbit she caught and it's not a modified pic. This morning, I set out to go again. I got a pair of racquetball goggles and a slingshot and marbles for Christmas and was all duded up in my new hawking gear. One problem here is the terrain. Can you imagine how labor intensive it would be to hawk on terrain like a ski slope? That's what it is like here. As I beat on the ground cover, I heard Marge's bells above make a noise like she is hung up in a tree. I found her on a squirrel nest about 30 ft up. (it never occurred to me to look in the trees). She has caught something in the nest , maybe a squirrel, but as confused as I am, it might be a rabbit. I wonder what to do. I see a couple of potentially bad situations. First off, she may be getting chewed up by the squirrel. Secondly, the tree she is in is near the apex of the tallest hill in the area. I'm standing on the side of the hill using my t-pole to keep my balance because the terrain is so steep. If she leaves the nest with the squirrel and heads eastbound, she can glide out of sight through the trees. The terrain slopes sharply downward to the East until it reaches a creek that is flowing so swiftly, that I can't cross it by wading. There is no bridge across this creek, the road goes through the creek and it is up too high to cross. To drive to the other side of the creek, It would take 45 minutes after I reached my vehicle via an alternate route. I decide to throw the lure and hope she will come to me with or without the squirrel. I stand uphill from the tree she is in so that all she has to do is make a horizontal glide to me. She comes out of the nest with the squirrel and heads toward me then veers away, eastbound. I wonder why she didn't continue to me. I was wearing the goggles which she had never seen before. That could have been it but it was probably the fact that there was my dog running around and she didn't want to be on the ground in his vicinity. Well she fixed that. Last time I saw her she was eastbound through the forest over a bluff and headed toward the creek. I never saw her flap, but with the terrain falling away from her she didn't have to. It has been my goal to never use my telemetry, but today, I got a lesson on it. I started tracking her down bluffs that weren't fit for a mule. As I got closer to the creek, I feared the worst. If she crossed it, she's gone. As I got the creek in sight, the signal seemed to favor a direction paralleling the creek. I followed the signal now northbound for what seemed like and eternity and thought I was going to pass out from exhaustion. 30 minutes later, and some 1/2 mile from the catch site, I found her on the ground eating. If I hadn't had telemetry on her, I would have never found her. Do you want a slightly used set of squirrel chaps? I think I'm through with them. I'll send the squabbit pic later, something is wrong with my webmail

12/26/2006 – Uberhawk status reinstated

A cool morning, in the 30's, but clear. Out at Gold Fire (I made the decision to go there as I got to the end of my street), there was lots of frost on the ground shrubs. Cisco was about 927 grams at the field, where we got hunting at about 0730. Today, I really did not want to catch a cotton rat.

Here's a non-sequitur. I need to get a Marshall “Scout” transmitter, because Cisco's new Track Pack buries the mount in the fluffy feathers on his back, and it is difficult to get my L.L. XLF transmitter on him before he wiggles. You have to blow feathers out of the way, and the mount is about 3/4” deep in feathers. The angle is just right that I can't see the thing very well through my glasses. It's a pain. The Scout transmitter stays on the bird, and is activated by a magnet. I'll sell the L.L. to one of my friends, I guess. It seems to be a really good unit. Briefly this morning I considered putting the transmitter on his tail, but I really like the Track Pack as it protects the tail and transmitter from rose bushes.

Cisco was in great form, sweeping around the field attentively. He hovered momentarily, and flew back to the trees on the fence line. Suddenly he launched a fast attack toward the middle of the field, and dropped with a wing-over. Not a sound from the brush. I ran up to the rose bush and he had a moribund rabbit by the head. I squeezed the rabbit a little, but it was pretty well dead. I transferred him off, and fed him a few tidbits.

He flew back on the T-perch, which he likes to ride much more than he did last year. I'm not sure that I like it that much,as he is not as effective. He tends to do more straight line attacks, which may be good for a gos or HH, but I think RT's do better from the air, or a tall tree. He catches just enough rabbits like this to keep him employing this approach. If he keeps missing, I have seen him revert to his more deliberate aerial attacks, where he is deadly, rarely missing. On the other hand I enjoy his launching an attack, then making a wide circle and returning to the perch when he doesn't see a good opportunity. We spent the next hour chasing rabbits mostly from the perch, but he did not connect. A couple of close ones, a lot of exercise, and no cotton rats (yes!). I took him back to the van, and let him eat the rabbit head on the ground, with his leash tied to the T-perch. I started the day thinking that I wanted to bring his weight down just a little, but now I'm not sure I need to. As I was writing this in the car, I got a call from Matt Reidy. He may stay over at our house, with our planning a mini-meet in the next couple of days.

12/24/2006 - "tis the season to be ....." catching cotton rats

I woke up before dawn listening to the rain outside, but decided to gamble on the weather. I got up and drove the buzzard down to Gold Fire in a rain storm - a lousy, wet and chilly morning. I was in a mood that reflected the weather as I pulled the van up to the field and waited, not too optimistic. The rain quit just before I was ready to quit and head back.

Turned out to be a great day. Initially there was no sign of any game, and Cisco was riding the pole hunkered down in the wind. As an erstwhile sailor, I estimated 15 to 20 knots with gusts to 25 or 30. I have flown Cisco in winds like this and he does great, actually hanging closer than usual. I read an article by Rod and Ellen Gehrlein. They said one thing they really like about Harris' hawks is the way they return after a down wind flight, compared with redtails. They said that they always had to go retrieve their redtails. Perhaps they never trained their red-tails properly. It's funny, but I have never had this problem with Cisco (or any other red-tail that I have seen fly) and have never had to walk downwind to retrieve him. In fact, he readily flies up wind.  Today he did something else that was notable. When I finally kicked up the first rabbit of the day, the rabbit, predictably, ran upwind into the fairly heavy breeze. Cisco launched from the T-perch, also flying upwind, quickly closed on the rabbit and grabbed it. Screaming for about five seconds, the rabbit managed to wrench free, and will survive Christmas Eve. I was amazed at Cisco's even getting close to this one as it shouldn't have been catchable. We chased this rabbit or his brethren for another 30 minutes or so, and Cisco spotted his new favorite prey - a cotton rat. I let him feed up, hooded him and took him to the car. He and I both felt great.

12/21/2006 & 12/22/2006 - Lots of cotton rats at Reidy Field

On Tuesday,Cisco caught a cotton rat, then returned on Thursday, and promptly caught another. Nevertheless, he hunted vigorously for a couple of hours, with lots of rabbit flights. Friday (12/22/2006, flying at 929 grams) he caught one and then put in a lazy overweight performance for the rest of the day. He chased rabbits, but with no fire. He even would watch them go by as he sat on his T-perch. Then, right as we were heading back he caught another cotton rat. I have learned that the every-other-day schedule, flying at a high weight, works fine if he feeds up every other day, the day he hunts. Then Cisco comes to the field heavy, but hungry. On Friday, he came to the field heavy, and not all that keen. I will not fly him tomorrow, I'll wait until Christmas Eve.

12/19/2006 - Vitahawk and a cotton rat

I keep a checklist that I carefully run through before I go to the field. It's basic and complete. One of the items on it is "Bird." This morning I decided to sprinkle some Vitahawk on my rabbit tidbits, and left them (the tidbits) on the counter. I went through my checklist, and assumed that the "Hawk Food" was in my field jacket pocket. I took the bird to Reidy field, parked in the daycare center, hiked out into the field, and reached into my pocket, only to find that I had no tidbits. Having the lure, I decided to keep hunting. Cisco hovered above twice, looking quite spectacular, dove into the weeds, and caught a plump cotton rat. He munched it down quickly, a nice full crop, and I decided to go fix the gutter at our other house. The Home Owner's Association had sent my mother a threatening letter. It was great seeing Cisco fly above though.

12/17/2006 - That's why it's called hunting and not catching
Mike Wiegel and I took his kestrel and my redtail out, starting early, around 2:00 p.m. The kestrel chased a starling out the car window, and returned readily to the fist extended out the window. She chased some sparows, including some hiding in some stacked pallets. But no connections. She did catch about five invertebrates at Matt Reidy Field (
aka Poison Ivy Acres) before we flew Cisco, then missed her bagged sparrow, which made a clean getaway.

We flew the redtail. I weighed him in the car - 925 grams. Tons of rabbit sign and we got a number of good flights on the south side of the detention pond. We killed about twenty valuable minutes tracking my transmitter, which I had carelessly thrown in the grass. Close to dusk Cisco did all his attacking, but other than one close call the bunnies were safe. It is really a tough field to hunt. A shotgun would be adequate. At dark I called the buzzard in and we went home. A good day in falconry is when you chase game, and you get your birds back, all healthy. So this qualifies.

12/16/2006 - A Bug Eyed Brush Hog

Carlos Madruga commented that Cisco's eyes bulge out some; I have noticed the same. Today he flew off the pole and grabbed a small rabbit in the middle of a thorn bush. The rabbit was completely silent, a head shot. I thought he had a cotton rat, but realized there was a large body attached. Once again Cisco flew into a rose thorn bush, and I had to work him out of there. I don't know how these redtails manage to penetrate cover like they do. He has caught game at this Gold Fire field eleven straight trips. Nine rabbits, two cotton rats, and a mouse, in the last eleven trips out here. Jim says I need a new field. Tomorrow to "Matt Reidy Field."

12/14/2006 - A new antenna mount

Because Cisco was always bending the mounting wire on his transmitter (also the antenna hangs off the tail), I bought a Track Pack system from Marshall; Jim Ince and I installed it
on the bird last night. It was interesting to install and seems OK, though Cisco attacks it, aggressively preening himself. It may be a little loose, but works well inthe field. Easier to install and remove the transmitter, and looks better. Jim and I may tighten it up at some point.

Drove to Goldfire on a foggy, damp, morning with bird weighing 927 including the TrackPack, or 922 grams reference. He chased a number of rabbits, the wetness affecting his flying a little. Then he grabbed a small rabbit at the edge of a tunnel in a rose bush. He grabbed the rabbit, a half grown cottontail, and took it into the tunnel, where he killed it. I was planning to try the new transfer technique that I learned from Carlos, but there was no chance to do it. It took too long to prune the rose bush, so I could get to the hawk. By that time he was well into it. He weighed in at 1105 tonight, after eating almost the entire rabbit, or about 2/3 of it. Big crop. No flying tomorrow, I'm afraid. Saturday afternoon he'll be ready.

12/12/2006 - Another rabbit taken by a fat cruise missile

Early this year at the THA meet in Abilene, I refused to fly Cisco because he was a heavy 850 grams. Today he flew, responded well, and took a rabbit at 920 grams. This was his weight after two days of no feeding - he was fed a large meal on Sunday afternoon. Last December, his weight with hood and jesses up at Roger Crandall's house, just three hours after being trapped with a full crop, was 964 grams, or without the hood, he would have weighed 950 grams. Pretty amazing that he is flying in that range now. This is about 100 grams higher than his weight when he took his first rabbit last January. Tonight at 2130 he weighed 1031 grams, up into his molting range. In my notes I have him at 813 grams on a cool, drizzly morning last December, when I was flying him on the creance at the park. Was he starving then? One of Steve Martin's goals in "Training Schemes for Achievable Dreams," was flying his bird at molting weight. Cisco's well above trapping weight, and molting weight is looming.

Mike Wiegel calls Cisco a "cruise missile." This morning it was nothing like that, as the bird and I sweated to catch a rabbit . It was warm. When we first got there, we saw no game. Then we started flushing rabbits, but Cisco couldn't connect. We did have some good flights, but I had about conceded the day, when he crashed into the bushes and grabbed a rabbit. This is ten trips to this field in a row, without getting skunked. Eight rabbits, two cotton rats, and a mouse during this time. Five rabbits there since last Tuesday.

12/10/2006 - A mini-mini meet - Cisco shines again

Carlos Madruga came down from Conroe with his apprentice, Joey Robertson. They brought Carlos' tiercel Harris' hawk. This meant that virtually every falconer in Houston, currently flying birds, including Jim Ince and Mike Wiegel converged at the Gold Fire field. Quite an event. The rest of this update is from an email that I sent to Matt Mullenix. Joey took some pictures which I will post later.

We had a good time out there. Carlos' HH, Max, had never flown at rabbits, but put in a spirited chase, a couple of near misses. The bird may be a sibling of Matt Reidy's bird and Matt helped Carlos trap him. Also we saw a lot of rabbit sign, so I think there still may be plenty of rabbits. In fact, the Harris' was chasing a rabbit that ran right over another rabbit which also flushed. Jim and and an old friend of his, Mr. Stein, came out and stayed for the Harris' hawk's flight, but got concerned about the weather and wanted to fly Gaucho, so they left. After Max we flew Cisco. Off the T-perch, he nailed the first rabbit that flushed, crashing into a wild rose bush, where the bunny should have been safe. It didn't really look like he had the rabbit because you couldn't see it too well down in the bush. The rabbit is now safe in my freezer.

Mike's kestrel was well overweight so stayed in the hawk box.

Cisco with rabbit (pictures by Joey Robertson)

12/9/2006 - "for the first time say to yourself, 'I have trained a sparrowhawk!'" J.G. Mavrogordato

A great day hawking all around.

In the morning Mike Wiegel came by and we drove to Goldfire, Cisco weighing in at 912 grams or something. Cool, breezy and a little overcast. It took a while to flush a rabbit, but when we did Cisco grabbed it in the open, flying from the T-perch. Not bad, and the 9th rabbit taken from Goldfire this season. Cisco is now flying at higher than trapping weight and responding well. Oh yes, Elsa, the dog was there, had a good time, and barely got in the way. :-)

The really good part of the day occurred later. Toward the end of the day, we took Mike's kestrel Kiki out to a field west of town. When we arrived,
there was an osprey on a power pole. Kiki has caught lots of bagged sparrows, but had no field kills yet. I carried the bird on the T-perch while Mike tried to flush. We had a flight or two, Kiki was harassed by a wild male kestrel, then Mike hid in the cover and released a sparrow. Kiki followed it to cover and killed it. A harrier flew right overhead as Mike made in. He let her feed a little, and then hid the sparrow. We got back to the car and I noticed the sparrow was gone. "Did she finish it?" "No, I hid it." "Let's keep hunting then." We went out again, and we saw some birds by some bushes, but they flushed and Kiki didn't pursue. The sun was starting to set and Kiki suddenly left the perch. She was heading quickly to some bushes about 50 feet away, and then down into the grass. Mike ran over, and said, "she has something!" Then Kiki took off, and I saw her carrying what looked like a mouse. Uh oh. She flew around the field, and put in on a very low bush about 30 yards away. Mike made in again, as I hung back, channeling Matt Mullenix. "Tidbit with a bare hand! Keep low! Get rid of the glove! ............" A few minutes later Mike emerges with a feeding kestrel. She's caught a sparrow in fair flight. Mike has successfully trained a kestrel, something I couldn't do, with all my efforts over six months. He has a sparrow hawk and has done a good job. Yes!

As usual I am amazed at some of the physical abilities of these raptors. When I looked west toward the bush where Kiki caught the sparrow, all I saw was shadows and the glare of the waning sun. The kestrel spotted a sparrow trying to sneak into the tree for cover, and then into the tall grass. It was dusk, making this quite a visual feat.

Cisco on his rabbit - 12/9/2006

Mike and Elsa 12/9/2006

Hence the name of the field

Kiki feeling cocky

12/7/2006 - Cisco plays in the wind and catches a rabbit
I took Cisco out this morning (another 1/2 day's vacation). He was over 905 grams when I left the house. Windy, a little cool, and overcast he flew around a little, a little bit of "stilling" at one point. I began to wonder if we really had depleted the rabbits at Goldfire. He was following well, and very attentive. Then I flushed a rabbit and he went after it, missing. Then it kicked up again and he nailed it in a cross-wind flight straight off the pole (or maybe a small tree), no high flying stuff, I don’t think. Nice little cottontail, second one this week. That's his ninth rabbit, 13th vertebrate quarry since the end of October. That doesn't sound that impressive but his efficiency has been good. This week he has caught two rabbits in three flights. I let him eat a large crop on this one, and I’ll fly him again on Saturday morning. He responds very well at 905, which coincidentally was his trap weight. 55 grams (2 ounces) heavier than last year’s typical flying weight.

12/5/2006 – A nice morning hunt

I took a 898 gram buzzard down to Goldfire. He was in good form as we worked the west side of the field. Followed well, then flew to the trees along the fence line, while I beat the brush. He flew out toward the middle of the field, obviously hunting, and I yelled, “ho, ho, ho.” I quick wing-over and a bunny caught. I let him eat up even though we had been hunting for just a few minutes. It was a beautiful sunny, crisp morning. This is what 1/2 day's vacations are all about. See the picture below.

12/5/2006 Cisco with a rabbit at Goldfire (Chuck Redding)

This picture taken by Soo Barrow in Montgomery, TX, the
Sunday after Thanksgiving. Gregg calls it , "High and Outside."
Actually it's my breaking pitch.

12/3/2006 - A rodent's weekend

Today was an anniversary, as Cisco was trapped in Ft Worth a year ago today. Once again, Mike Wiegel and I took the two birds to Goldfire. Just before we left I got a call from Jim Ince - he told me that a redtail had attacked Gaucho in his backyard, he had to break up the fight (Gaucho fortunately saw the RT coming), and released the RT, an immature. He was on his way to fly an overweight Gaucho for the first time this year. He later told us that he had to use a pigeon to get him back.

Cisco finished his weekend and his first year with yet another rodent, this time a mouse, I believe. Not much to report, except that Cisco weighed about 935 grams before going to the field. A record for him. He was overweight all weekend, and catching tiny game might not be a coincidence. No hunting tomorrow, but Tuesday morning we'll go out and catch something.

Mike's kestrel had a nice flight at a sparrow. Unlike yesterday, the sparrow escaped.

12/2/2006 - Be careful what you wish for

Today is my sister's birthday. A week or so back, almost wistfully, I was wondering why Cisco didn't catch more cotton rats. Now, in two days, he has caught two fat ones, which ended his hunts. Yesterday was fine, as I was exhausted and ready to head back anyway. Today? Stay tuned.

This afternoon after watching Mike Wiegel's kestrel catch a sparrow after a nice long flight, I took Cisco out to the east side of Goldfire, away from "Kiki," finishing the sparrow on Mike's fist. No rabbits were kicked up, but Cisco crashed into a wild rose bush to grab a cotton rat. When I ran up, he was completely encased in thorns, with a tenuous grip on the rodent. I'm not sure how he managed to catch this thing. Redtails are brush crashers, but this was ridiculous. I was hoping to transfer him off, but couldn't figure out how to get him out of the bush. He was so encased that he could barely hold the rat, let alone eat it. I started pulling thorns back, and promptly cut my hand. It was a mess. Finally, I opened a hole in the bush, reached in with both hands and grabbed the hawk (and rat). I put him on the ground and made a clumsy attempt to fool him away from it. He ended up eating the rat and my offered tidbits, so he ought to be ready to fly again by January.

Mike and Elsa the dog showed up in the field as I was heading back with the hooded hawk. Mike said he could see the full crop from 200 feet away. He flew today at 898 grams, yesterday at 924 grams. Is that why he catches cotton rats? Two record high weights, two rats.

12/1/2006 - 2 swamp rabbits, 5 cottontails, 2 cotton rats, 3 grasshoppers, and a grub

Last summer, after reading Steve Martin's article from an old Hawk Chalk, I invented a new perch based on his idea, and modified my training to increase Cisco's responsiveness. I also quit counting quarry taken, focusing just on my relationship with the bird, and the fact that he is catching game consistently. I have been hawking about a month this season and have no idea what he has caught. :-)

morning was the coldest of the year. Last night I felt sorry for Cisco because the mew was cold, and fed him when he was probably at a good weight. Then, when he shivered, I brought him in the house where he spent the night in the hawk box. This morning he was a portly 935 grams, heavier than trapping weight (update 4/25/2007 - not true, his weight at the Crandall's a few hours after trapping was 34 oz with hood and jesses lifted). I considered not flying him, then weighed him a few hours later. 922 grams. OK, I was not overly concerned about his not returning. During the molt he would fly to the fist instantly at over 1000 grams. So I took him to Goldfire, not expecting too much except a possibly balky hawk. Once again Cisco shined. Got to the field - he was alert and responsive attacking rabbits with relish. In and out of the heavy cover, but the rabbits were really protected today. We hunted a while, had a number of good flights, and he finally grabbed a chunky cotton rat. I let him eat, so he should be REALLY heavy now. I'll have to hunt him tomorrow evening. I'll go weigh him in a few minutes.
Update: @ 2200 he weighed 940 grams. He'll be ready by tomorrow. Who cares? It makes no difference. He caught his first rabbit at about 822 or 825 grams. Today he hunted with great vigor, and caught a cotton rat while flying at 922 grams. The

11/29/2006 - 2 Bunnies at Goldfire -Wednesday

One great thing about this buzzard is the way he varies his flight style. I took a 1/2 day's vacation
the morning after Jim Ince and I re-imped Cisco's 4th primary Tuesday evening, employing a feather donated by Cody Fields' male redtail. We also coped Jim's peregrine's beak after a wrestling match involving two grown men versus a 550 gram bird. Gaucho is a strong little rascal. I saw Gaucho close up, unhooded, for the first time in four years. He is a great looking bird, downright cute.

Cisco and I arrived sans dog at Goldfire about 0900, and set out. Almost immediately we kicked up a rabbit in the heavy cover, and Cisco took off from the T-perch, in pursuit. The rabbit made an easy escape into the bushes. I realized that I had left the telemetry receiver in the car, and went back. Some time in there we kicked up another rabbit, and Cisco grabbed him using his new goshawk style of flight. This was too quick so we continued to hunt. It was warm and partly cloudy. Cisco had another flight or two at rabbits, goshawk style and not too effective. At one point I started getting dizzy, probably dehydrated, and looked up in a tree to see Cisco panting. I cursed global warming , but decided we should continue to the north end of the eastern part of field then over the fence, work our way through the western part, then back to the van. I flushed a good sized cottontail which ran down wind and Cisco had a nice long flight, good wing over, but the rabbit escaped making a last minute move. Cisco was on the ground. He flew to a low tree then spotted the rabbit again and flew out over the area. He soared briefly, then hovered and dropped, nailing the rabbit. Success, and one of the best looking aerial displays to date. I wish I had my
video camera. It was beautiful, though it didn't last very long. I am impressed with Cisco's changing his tactics. He had caught two rabbits "goshawk style" repeated it a few times without success, then returned to his deliberate fly-over, surveil, and drop technique. He rarely misses from the air. Besides, he's a redtail, not a goshawk, though he has surprising maneuverability and acceleration. He has flown down and caught rabbits, flying close to the ground, in conditions that should favor the rabbits.

11/24/2006 - $27 Grasshoppers

My father-in-law and I took Cisco down to the Red Slough, just north of the Red River. 20 miles south of Idabel, OK, it's a huge open wetland. A great place to hunt, except it's lacking in redtail game. A Harris's or sharp-shin might have a better shot at the small birds there, though most are MBTA birds. We saw some spooky ducks, that did a horizon job when we were at least a quarter mile away. So much for Cisco's being entered on ducks. He followed along well, and did catch a couple of grasshoppers. Since my out of state hunting license was about $54, they were quite expensive. This is probably a good peregrine place. Cisco did get plenty of exercise.

Cisco patiently waiting for game to be flushed at Red Slough, OK - top of branch at right

11/21/2006 – What The Hawk Catcheth, The Dog Taketh Away,or “The Uberhawk Meets The Goober Dog”

As I write this we are heading to Oklahoma to see Steph's dad. I took Elsa the “hunting dog” to Gregg Barrow's Covenant Kennel in Montgomery. She will be boarding there this week. The plan was to hunt rabbits or squirrels behind the kennel, before I dropped off the dog. I took my mother with me also, and she accompanied us to the woods. Cisco was in good form, flying around in the canopy overhead. We had Elsa running around dragging her leash as Gregg wanted some pictures and had a massive Canon lens to lug around. Of course, on the second flush, I saw Cisco dive, thought I heard a rabbit scream, and ran around the bend. In one eye I saw Cisco apparently subduing a rabbit, out of the other I saw a blurred golden monster rushing toward the hawk, but my shouted commands of “sit” and “no” fell on deaf ears. Cisco bailed out, and the rabbit took off to the right. Perforated, no doubt, but fast, probably wounded just enough such that the next horned owl that sees him will have him for dinner. So far Elsa is in the hole for two rabbits. Maybe I'll leave her at Gregg's, since he seems sympathetic to her situation. :-)

We got in the car and drove to Montgomery proper, where we hawked a likely looking field behind a Brookshire Brothers store. The hunting began promisingly enough with Cisco's catching a cotton rat, which promptly escaped. I guess those 100 gram cotton rats can really kick. Oh well, one of those days. We saw no rabbits, but Cisco did chase off a local redtail.

11/20/2006 - Not Just a Rabbit*

This was the best day in the field with Cisco ever. 856 grams before we went to Goldfire. Earlier in the day the poor buzzard had to be on display at Bechtel's Diversity Fair, being passed off as a falcon. He was the hit of the event though. Picture below. More folks in tighter quarters than I anticipated, but Cisco did OK, and finished the day with a flurry.

When we got to Goldfire, Cisco was "on fire." Never more responsive, attacking everything that moved. He finally nailed a cottontail from the T-perch, flying it down in cover, in a style more like a goshawk than a redtail. He enjoyed his catch, once again, in a sea of poison ivy. I really wished that I had my camera to catch his pose.

*Disclaimer: "Not just a rabbit" title purloined from Stacia A. Novy's article in American Falconry.

"Yeah, buddy, I'm bored too. We'll head out to Goldfire in a while."

11/19/2006 - Kiki the kestrel puts up a good flight

Though this blog is about Cisco, Mike Wiegel's haggard female kestrel put on a good show today. The plan was to fly both birds. "Kiki" is now trained and responsive, flying at just over 100 grams with her gear. We took her to a field in west Houston, and set her on a T-perch, which I held. Mike called her once, then she returned to the perch. As she flew back to Mike, he released a sparrow which took off in a flash for the cover about 50 yards away, across the street. Kiki in hot pursuit, the sparrow just barely made it to safety, with us running after. A great flight, the longest kestrel flight I have ever seen. A good one. Kiki then caught a grasshopper, was a little high in weight to begin with, and was balky returning. Mike resorted to the lure, and got her back. She's doing well, at this point not a carrier, and will let Mike make in easily.

Cisco? Well once again his humans are not giving him enough opportunities, Today we again had Elsa's help, out at Bush park, but saw no rabbits or cotton rats, or birds. Some old rabbit sign, and that was it. Cisco got some exercise.

The pictures below were taken a few weeks ago, during our kestrel trapping adventure in Chapell Hill.
Mike, mildly excited to have a kestrel (Lynne Holder. both pictures)

Kiki, not happy about the situation. An easy finch lunch gone south. Of course, "Tidbit," the finch, is a bit relieved.

11/18/2006 - A good time, but came up empty

884 grams. Wiegel and I imped Cisco's primary and it lasted a good five minutes. Time to get a better feather and do it right. We went out aqain to Gold fire, Wiegel, Gregg Barrow, Cisco, Elsa, and I. Had some good chases with Elsa being handled by Gregg. Only one really good slip and Cisco missed. There are a couple of wiley rabbits out there: a swamper and a cottontail. The rest have been taken by the redtails. We hawked until dark. Cisco (and Elsa) did well, following and responding, and at one point he flew to the top of a very tall power pole, maybe 40 or 50 feet high. He had a great shot at everything, but we produced no game while he was there. When he flew across the tollway, I called him back. Right at the end we did a little chasing. Saw a couple of cotton rats today also. Four pictures below by Gregg Barrow

Mike Wiegel and I

Elsa the rabbit slayer

Cisco on the tall power pole

Wrapping it up

11/17/2006 - Cisco catches a grasshopper and breaks a primary

At 1000, 884 grams. With all his scraggly plumage last year, he didn't break a single feather all season. Today, though slightly ill, I took the hawk to Goldfire. Early on he pounced on a large grasshopper. Matt Reidy's Harris's hawk is catching them, as was Jonathan Millican's kestrel, before she flew off. I have heard that they give hawks worms. He ate it with relish, quite pleased with himself. A while later I noticed his third primary (ornithologist's 8th) hanging down. I'm not sure how it happened, but I suspect the hawk box. While he sits quietly in the box 95% of the time, he does ocassionally jump around in there. It may be the light coming through the white coroplast. At any rate, this afternoon I painted the box with dark green Rust-O-Leum paint. It is now much dimmer inside the box. He did not hop around at all in the old wooden box. We saw a couple of rabbits, out there, a swamper and a little cottontail, but Cisco is not as deadly from the T-perch as he is from the air or in a taller tree. He cannot get the penetration into the heavy thorns. But he now rides the T-perch, maybe a little too much. He has caught a few rabbits from it.

11/12/2006 - The hawk is good, the dog needs some work

Around 850 or so when I left the house. Lower than I wanted, but OK, as he flew at this weight most of last season. Stephanie questioned my taking Elsa out with us this afternoon. In fact, I had decided not to take her but she looked so disappointed that I changed my mind. We were flying at a new field, at Birdwell Construction near the horse racetrack. Mike Wiegel agreed to handle the pooch. She did not cause any problems yesterday, so why not? One reason is that right after we got out there we ended up with a perfect rabbit slip, the rabbit crossing an open field in a race for cover. The rabbit broke across the field, Cisco launched, and Elsa slipped her collar. She was bounding about 15 feet behind the rabbit and Cisco broke off pursuit, which was wise. Goofy dog. We had a few more opportunities, hawking until dusk, but none like that one. There are rabbits there, but fewer than I was expecting. I'll try it later, maybe next weekend.
Michael O'hearn brought his daughter Samantha, and took some good pictures. Steve and Cody Birdwell accompanied us all afternoon.

4 Pictures below by Michael O'hearn

Kiki at Birdwell's

Cisco ready to go

Off he goes!

Wiegel and I trying to think of an inhumane and cruel way to kill the dog, moments after she messed up the flight.

11/11/2006 - Sometimes you have to be patient

Elsa the dog, Mike Wiegel, and I went down to Goldfire. 864 grams. A nice cool morning, we put Elsa on a long lead at least to start. It was windy and Cisco was sailing around in it early on, looking great. A rabbit or two we flushed but not in good position. We started at the leeward end of the field, not a good idea, so we worked our way to the other end. Cisco got bored and landed on my head. Not much action for a while, and we found our way back down wind again, with Cisco sitting in a small tree. Out toward the middle of the field, Mike and the dog kicked up a rabbit. Cisco had to fly upwind to catch it, but did. It may have been a small swamp rabbit. When I made in, Cisco had it by the butt and it was trying to get away through some vegetation, but the Uberhawk was having none of that, even if he couldn't get it by the head. THis all took about two hours. Tomorrow we will try a new field.

Later in the day we put Mike's bird, KiKi, on a tethered sparrow. Mike made in fine, without the bird's bolting. That bird may be a sparrow hawk. :-)

There are lots of raptors in Oak Forest. Great horned owls, screech owls, Cooper's, sharp-shins, broad-wings, red-shoulders, red-tails, and kestrels. All of these within a half mile radius of my house. Only the large falcons are missing.

11/07/2006 - Cisco will panhandle if he gets bored

I got up before dawn to take the bird to DeSoto, because it is the only nearby field. 886 grams. A waste of time, although when I pulled up there was a rabbit in the street. I even tried to flush it before going into the field. Nothing in the field, and the outing ended with Cisco landing on my back. I need to find some new fields.

11/05/06 - "Skunked Again," or "A Bad Day Hawking is Better than a Good Day Working"

A cloudy and sometimes rainy afternoon. Back to Goldfire, with Cisco at 886 grams. A lot of time on the pole, and a few attacks on rabbits on the east side of the fence. Then I headed back to get some mosquito spray from the car, as the critters were really bad. Worse than our backyard. On the way back out we flushed a rabbit, Cisco attacked from the pole. RT's do better at brush crashing from 30 feet than 10 feet from the pole. We worked and worked on an elusive rabbit, but he got away. At dusk I fed Cisco up really well with about 100 grams of rabbit. Back in the box and to the home we go. A good day, we worked hard. I would almost rather do this than have one of his typical 10 minute, first flushes, that he's so good at. So he has been skunked 2 days in a row. A first since he first started hunting.

11/04/06 - Sproing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Redtails have a reputation for pursuing game recklessly; Cisco demonstrated this today. Before dawn, Steph and I drove up to Ron and Lynne Holder's place in Chappell Hill. A great looking area to hunt, but we only flushed one rabbit - twice. The rabbit ran to the end of the barn, and I tried to reflush it out into the open. Instead it headed for refuge in some metal gates that were stacked up along the fence line. It was a good move, but Cisco countered it, diving for its escape path, cutting it off, but just a quarter second too late. The rabbit was gone but Cisco slammed into the fencing so hard that you could have heard it a half mile away. A crash of metal, that Steph said sounded like breaking glass. An awful sound, but Cisco was fine, amazingly. There were two tufts of redtail down hanging on some nearby shrubs. Wow. I have to worry about the little fella sometimes. Yesterday was pure finesse. Today was pure grit.
Other comments. I weighed him in the van just before we went out. 890 grams with a large rabbit casting in the hawk box. He attacked the rabbit visciously at this weight, but was a little sluggish in responding to the falconer. After I had tidbitted him some in the field, it took the lure to finally get him back at the end of the outing. Tomorrow at Goldfire in the afternoon I will make 880 his target weight. Actually he did catch a grasshopper.

11/03/06 - Cisco takes another rabbit at Goldfire

I decided to go to the DeSoto field a little after dawn. Nice and cool today. Last year Cisco caught two swampers there. This summer, Elsa the dog and I went out there several times and didn't stir up any. Nevertheless, I gave it another shot today. Cisco got plenty of exercise, but that's it. No rabbits or birds to chase. I went back to the house, and then we went to Goldfire. Cisco rode comfortably on the T-perch, and then flew to the trees along the fence. I crossed the fence and started beating the bushes. This time we went south toward the power lines. He flew out over the field watching something, then clumsily alighted on the small tree. I believe I flushed a rabbit toward him and he flew out again, hovering like a giant kestrel, watching the brush. He dives down, a rabbit is screaming, and then quiet. Either the rabbit had escaped or he had him by the head. The latter. I put the squeeze on the rabbit, and Cisco ate its head. A little cottontail. Cisco is rolling along - time to challenge him, I think. Tomorrow morning early to Chappell Hill for some open country hawking. He is a bit high in weight right now but it will be cold tonight, and tomorrow.

Cisco at Golfire on Sunday - it was a similarly bright sunny day today. This is typical of the vegetation there,
where he frequently sits in bushes/trees like this. (Lynne Holder)

10/29/06 - Sigmodon hispidus and Poison Ivy

Saturday was a great success, especially now (Monday night) that my arm is not so swollen. We decided to go back and show the bees a thing or two. Lynne Holder, Mike Wiegel and I went back to Goldfire, but it was mid-day and too warm. No bunnies, but Cisco attacked a grub worm and missed. Seriously. After about forty-five minutes we went for hamburgers and a little rethinking. We killed some time and I decided we should check Matt Reidy Field late in the day, where Cisco caught his first rabbit last spring. We went home first, then to Gander Mtn. where we struck out finding Lynne some snake chaps, but scored at Academy across the highway. Finally got to the field, and got the bird ready. One side of the field had some rabbits but no way to catch them because of the extremely heavy cover. We walked over to the other side of the detention pond and discovered that we were wading in a sea of poison ivy. The cover was heavy, the slips were few but the urushiol was abundant. Finally, Cisco grabbed a cotton rat, and we had had sufficient exposure to the weeds, so called it quits. Cisco always seems to catch rats on Sundays. This is the third rat caught in this field on a Sunday afternoon.

Cisco on the T-perch at Goldfire (Lynne Holder, these four pictures)

Time to go to Annie's for some hamburgers. Too hot out here.

Cisco with his cotton rat among the poison ivy

Hooding at day's end at Matt Reidy Field

10/28/06 - Sylvilagus aquaticus and Multiple Bee Stings

Finally, after a long molt, I took Cisco to the ball park yesterday and let him fly loose. Today off for some hunting. He weighed 886 grams this morning. He had good success last year at a field we call Goldfire, seven months ago Cisco finished his season there with a double, in the company of Jim Ince, Gregg Barrow and Matthew Mullenix. And yes, Matt was right, at least some of the bunnies here are swamp rabbits. Mike Wiegel came by this morning, and we headed down there at 0840. Got Cisco into his telemetry, we put on our "Rattlers" snake chaps and stomped into the heavy brush.
Cisco hopped to the T-pole and watched for a while, finally flying to a small tree. For a while I wondered if we would start this year like last, with lots of hiking and no game. We crossed to the east side and saw no rabbits, though Cisco gave a hard look at a sparrow that put in. He was following well, so I was happy just getting out. We headed to the north end of the field, and at some point Cisco launched an attack, grabbing a rabbit that screamed and fought. I ran in and put "the squeeze" on the rabbit, let Cisco break in and eat a little, then transferred him off. Mike dropped the rabbit into my game vest and it felt heavy. Sure enough, it was clearly a swamp rabbit, with the long head, shortish ears. The remains weighed 4 lb 5oz. at the house.
We started off again and I whacked a wild rose bush with my T-perch. Lots of buzzing and out come some bees or hornets. As they immediately started stinging me, I started swatting and cursing, expecting to be stung to death when I tripped on a vine. Mike pulled the stingers and entrails out of my arm, which is now all rosy colored, and not too comfortable. We're falconers, so we kept hunting, but Cisco was beginning to get warm, and with a little crop was not too keen. We called it a day. Bees notwithstanding, a good way to start the season!

The rabbit is in my bag. Cisco, being unhooded might like to have another run at it if I displayed it. (Mike Wiegel)

I took a few pictures with Kasey's little digital camera. Out in the yard


He is progressing well in the molt. If you have a broadband connection click this link: Cisco_July_1
It is a big file, 11 Meg.

5/29/2006 - Off to a Great Start - A Rat

He's molting away, and I exercise him regularly on Greg Thomas's Launcher Leash. I feed him until his evening weight is over 1030, and then I skip a day. I maintain his weight always on the high side of 1000 grams, which is over both his flying weight and trapped weight. Today I found a pellet of rat fur in the mew. Yesterday I noticed him footing something at the base of his perch, then he was about 30 to 40 grams heavier than I expected when I weighed him. Either the last kill of last season or the first of this. Hmmmm.

He has lost his inner primaries, which have been replaced, his legs have new feathers , and he has three red tail feathers growing in.