Ready to go, last hunting trip of 2007/2008
Suki before she went to the car, avoiding walking on thorns
Large game, or what 's left of it
Day's end, wings hanging because I sprayed him down with a mister (all pictures by Mike Wiegel)
Cisco in Jim and Dana's yard, Friday afternoon (Photo: Chuck Redding)
Fantastic picture by Krys langevin - Cisco hunting
The Cooper's and Cisco on 2/16/2008
2/9/2008 – It's over when Cisco says it's over
Cisco's slump on rabbits seems to have ended. We went to Chapell Hill this morning to help Lynne with flying her bird loose for the first time. Lynne did just great, her bird returned instantly from the trees in the yard. Tomorrow afternoon we take the bird hunting in Katy with Rob Evans.
On the way back from Chappell Hill, I called Rob, so we could hunt rabbits. I caught Rob out in the field; he was excited because Cody's bird had just caught her first rabbit. Rob told us to meet him at his house. We killed a few minutes there, and drove the short distance to the church where the detention pond is. That pond is now destroyed, all dug out and deepened, but right nearby is another watering place, where Rob has caught rabbits. We walked from the church parking lot with Cisco on the T-perch. He took off to the pine trees and did not want to hang close. Finally he returned, and we began our hunt. We flushed for him and he put in a good chase or two in the heavy cover. Dusk was approaching and he still had not scored. We began to think about heading back, but Cisco wouldn't follow, and just sat on the fence (no pun intended). Suddenly he flew west toward the apartments, dropped into the gulley below and a rabbit screamed. Second rabbit of the weekend, a little 2 lb cottontail. This is the second hunt in a row where Cisco refused to leave, and ended up with a rabbit in the bag.
2/8/2008 – Jim Ince, a deer mouse, and a huge swamper
Took Cisco out to Cravens Road after work, racing the sun. When I got there I weighed him, about 950 grams with hood, chaps, and transmitter, which means he should have been fired up. I saw a truck parked on the the other side of the treatment building and was mildly irritated. I put Cisco up on the T-pole and started west. I saw someone walking out in the field, heading toward me, and realized that it was Jim Ince, with his little merlin. Small world. The merlin had only caught grasshoppers; Jim said that there were no sparrows out. We talked briefly about Matt Mullenix's visit next weekend. Jim then said that he had a date with Carol and left to go home. A few minutes later I flushed a number of sparrows
Cisco flew north of the ditch and was a little reluctant to come back. When he did he quickly caught a deer mouse. Kill #50 for the season if you include a still live snake, a frog that hopped off as Cisco was eating it, and a half grown pygmy shrew, the only evidence of which was a casting that I found in the hotel bathroom up in Colorado.
We started working the woods. This is a very difficult place for a redtail to hunt rabbits as the area is well covered and has lots of low trees. Not good for diving and slamming the brush - probably better for a goshawk or male Harris'. Or a 12 gauge. Nevertheless as I tried to leave, Cisco went back into the woods, and I followed. A few minutes later, from a fairly low branch, he nailed an enormous swamp rabbit. This was right at dusk. The rabbit screamed and kicked, but Cisco had him. 4 pounds, 13.6 oz. after I cut the front legs off and fed them to the hawk. So this rabbit was over five pounds, which is bigger than the average black-tail jack rabbit. As I was walking around today, I actually wondered if Cisco had forgotten how to catch rabbits. Apparently not.
Cisco with big swamp rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus)
Cisco after chasing squirrels. Note the moccasin lure
1/27/2008 – Hawking again Sunday with Carlos up in Willis
960 with his Scout and armored squirrel chaps a couple of hours pre-hunt. A good weight and after the cotton rat I was a little surprised. After an already good weekend, I made plans to hawk with Carlos, a veteran squirrel hunter. Except for last season, when he flew a tiercel Harris' hawk, Carlos has flown big female redtails for over 15 years. He releases the birds in the spring. We first flew his bird, a relative, rookie, but a pretty good hawk. She went to work, alertly seeking the scarce squirrels. A spirited flight produced an escapee, but she caught a second on the ground, using her 1170 grams to smash the little rodent. Cisco up next, also allowing an escape, but while Carlos was trying to kill himself climbing a tree, Cisco went back to the woods to hunt. We found him working a squirrel, which he caught up in a pine tree and brought to the ground. His 46th kill of a diverse season. Frogs, snakes, mice, wood rats, cotton rats, cottontails, swamp rabbits, cat (gray) and fox squirrels, all on his menu this season.
1/26/2008 – Hawking with Jim Ince and Mike Wiegel
Jim found a new field, which he thought would be good for kestrels, redtails and merlins. Wiegel and I joined him at his house, visited some with his wife, Carol, and headed out. Cisco up first, looking very promising as he attacked a quickly flushed cottontail. Things stalled out as he began to chase elusive cotton rats, and missed a couple of rabbits. Mike offered him a rat that had already passed away, but we managed to extract it from him. On the way back he grabbed a plump cotton rat, and wolfed it down.
Next we flew Mike's kestrel, who was interested in hunting from fence posts, so we couldn't flush any birds for her. Finally, Jim's merlin, looking good, caught a couple of house sparrows.
1/25/2008 – Hawking at the new field
Earlier this week, I asked permission to hunt squirrels at a horse riding center north of my office. I had gotten shut out of the woods that I had expected to hunt, and it cost me some precious daylight. The management said yes, but a gal named Martha insisted that she show me “an even better spot.” She was right. Though it was already getting late, I wandered around in the drizzly cold. Tonight I had more time, a ready hawk and we found some squirrels. As we were heading back, Cisco caught a cat squirrel as I was running to a tree to keep the squirrel off the ground. The squirrel did make it to the ground, but in Cisco's talons. Yes! I have a new place to hunt after work.
1/18/2008 - 1/21/2008 THA Meet in Abilene
Day One: I drove up to Abilene with Cisco and his speckled king snake, destined for Dan Hillsman. A good part of trip, I caravaned with Lynne and Ron Holder. When we got up there, we took Cisco "rabbit" hawking late in the day but saw no rabbits. Had dinner with Lynne, Ron, plus Roger and Claudia Crandall.
Day Two: (Cisco attacks a great horned owl) An early start, we went hawking for some small fox squirrels, at a place called "The Orchard." Cisco initially sat in a tree, very sluggish. When he got moving he attacked a male great horned owl, which fortunately flew off. I happened to talk to Sheldon Nicolle about this. He seemed not surprised, as he had flown a female redtail that chased a horned owl down in the brush and killed it. He said that his bird smelled like a skunk for weeks after. Redtails rule in the daylight? A horned owl is a bigger, stronger bird with sharper talons and heavier feet. To me it seems like Hector and Achilles.
Finally we found a squirrel, which Cisco pursued actively for a few minutes, until the squirrel took refuge high in a tree. Cisco decided to wait it out, which was too much for the impatient falconers on the ground, so I called him down. While the standoff was on, both Carlos Madruga and Jonathan Millican (need a squirrel flushed? Send in the Marines) were both up in the tree with the squirrel. Not at the same time, however. I will go out tomorrow with fewer people. At the raffle tonight, Wiegel won my perch; he had given me $40 to bid on some items.
An entertaining thing happened on the way to The Orchard. Carlos and company were in a car ahead of us, and I thought that I had lost them on the way, so I called. I misdialed on my cell phone, and ended up calling a friend of Mark Reindel's in Nantucket, named Cam, who I had met a few years ago. At that moment, he just happened to be sitting across the table from Mark, in a restaurant in Nantucket, having a cup of coffee. Pretty funny. I said hello to Mark, and we continued on.
Day 3: (Never skunked in Abilene) An early start with Dan Hillsman and Lynne Holder. We went back to the orchard and flushed the pair of great horned owls. Obviously Cisco's viscious attack on the male didn't convince them to leave. We put Cisco up in the trees and he pouted for a while, apparently not enjoying the bitter cold weather. Lynne had her video and Dan had a mega still shot camera that shut down on him. He wasn't too happy.
Cisco started moving a bit, though we were not seeing squirrels. Cisco flew to a tree and sat for a few minutes, then appeared to bew watching something below him. He rolled off the branch, a squirrel darted out, made about six feet and was caught. Cisco held it the tree momentarily, and dropped to the ground. It was a small male fox squirrel. For a videos of Cisco being transferred off, click these links:
Fox Squirrel 1 Fox Squirrel 2
1/13/2008 - More squirrel hawking
Hawking with Carlos Madruga and company, Cisco caught a squirrel so fast that he is not on the video. This is Joey Robertson's, Roz, a 1150 gram passage female, a rookie, but a good one.
Carlos, me, AJ, Joey, and Mike
1/11/2008 - Squirrel hawking
For some squirrel hawking after work, I took a colleague of mine, Otto Fanini, to some woods that are near Baker Hughes. I was a little concerned because previously I have seen only fox squirrels at this location; Cisco plunged into the pond chasing one last season. I would much prefer to hunt cat (gray) squirrels.
I let Cisco loose and he immediately set to work. As usual it was slow, and I told Otto to be patient. I even remarked that often I believe there are no squirrels, but that they inevitably show up. Cisco followed us a bit, then found a squirrel. I first saw what I thought was a fox squirrel running off, apparently a clean escape. But then Cisco started working on a cat squirrel in a tree - he missed and the squirrel scampered off with us in pursuit.
I was surprised to see the squirrel climbing back in to the trees, and soon the hunt was going again. Cisco flew around, away and back, maneuvering for position, hopping from branch to branch. Suddenly he dove, faster than anything I have ever seen, straight across and down, then he rolls with wings straight up, parallel to the tree trunk, dropping as the squirrel ran down the tree trunk. He snatched it right off the trunk of the tree and immediately straightened his wings out like this, and parachuted to the ground, smashing some small branches on the way down. The squirrel was biting the feathers on his leg, but when I reached in, the squirrel sunk his teeth into the thickest part of Cisco's foot. I throttled the squirrel, it let go, and there was barely a scratch.
Guess what. Everything in italics above I missed completely. I had turned away, heard the loud "THWACK!" as the squirrel was hit, and saw Cisco drop the last 15 feet or so. Otto saw the whole thing and described it several times, so I paraphrased the best I could. Otto was amazed, having never seen anything like this. Generally when I take people squirrel hawking they see better flights than I do. I always seem to be out of position. But this was probably the best flight that any non-falconer has seen on his first trip with me. Lynne and Ron did see a good flight on a rabbit up in Ft Worth two years ago, a 150 yard chase with Cisco flying down a rabbit. But this one today sounded even better. I don't know because I didn't see it. :-)
Sunday we go to Conroe to hunt squirrels with Carlos Madruga, and maybe two of his apprentices. One of his apprentices is Joey Robertson, who I know pretty well. They all fly huge female immature redtails, much bigger than Cisco.
Cisco is no longer a rookie.
1/6/2008 - Rat hawking
Kendal Larson Pictures of Cisco
Cisco has had quite a week. Since last Saturday, he has caught two cat squirrels, a cottontail, a cotton rat, three Norway (wood?) rats, and three mice. Today at Cravens Road, we were joined by professional photographer, Ken Larson, who was an enthusiastic participant, very impressed with the hawk. He had previously photographed Chris Comeaux's two gyr/pergrine tiercels, while hunting down on Bolivar Peninsula. Today Cisco was in good form, flying around in the fresh breeze. Right away he caught a deer mouse in the grass bails along the ditch; he seemed to eat this one alive. Then we worked our way to the woods, far from the road. He dropped off the pole, just missing a rabbit, then caught a couple more of those nasty rats that live out there. I think they are Norway rats, but they are not bigger than around 150 to 200 grams. Cisco looked great, soaring and diving in the wind. He left the field with an enormous crop. Pictures later.
1/5/2008 - A triple on rodents
Out to Cravens Road, on a nice overcast morning, just barely cool. Cisco at 970 grams, very fat. We walked along the ditch and he caught two mice. Then back to the woods and he jumped a rabbit, which slipped away in the heavy cover. We crossed the ditch, and Mike went back to the car to check on the kestrel while I continued to hunt. Cisco grabbed and ate a cotton rat. One of the most enjoyable morning hunts in a long time.
Later in the day we drove to Chappell Hill. Lynne's hawk is coming is coming along well, now eating on the fist.
Cisco with deer mouse
1/4/2008 - A pretty good rookie squirrel hawk
I didn't get to the woods until around 0900, shooting for 0730 or 0800. Cisco at 950 grams with chaps and transmitter. It was about 40F and overcast. I let him loose and he flew a short way. Within a few minutes we saw some squirreIs and he went to work. Took a pass at one in a tree, then I spotted two more in another tree. He was watching across South Mayde Creek, where squirrel #1 had gone, but he was also watching the squirrels in the tree on the near side of the creek. He then dove out of the tree into a shrub across the creek, attacking, but I thought that he missed. It was very quiet over there. When he misses, and is on the ground, I can call him and he will be ready to go, will jingle a bell and peep. This time no response, though I could see him by the bush. Then I saw him dragging a squirrel. Great. Now I needed to cross the creek and get him back. I could barely wade over there, using my stick. When I got over there he had still not broken into the buck cat squirrel that he held in his talons. He finally broke into it; I let him eat some of the shoulder, organs and neck. Then I transferred him off and ran the boot lace through his anklet. We began the march to the road and bridge and a fairly long walk back, though the car was not more than 50 yards from me. I needed the exercise. Cisco had a scratch on one foot, which I treated with Neosporin, and tooth marks in the other steel anklet. Once again anklets did the job. Cisco may be a rookie squirrel hawk, but he is good at it. Fourth squirrel of this season with 34 kills overall, though one of his "kills," a speckled king snake, is alive and well at Mike Wiegel's house.
1/1/2008 - Happy New Year - Cisco's first upwind rabbit catch
Mostly from an email to Bill Rhinehart:
Cisco hog fat today, 966 grams. Rob Evans and I went out this afternoon and hunted a scrubby little field between two apartment complexes out in Katy, TX. Loaded with rabbits, we each took one. Off the pole, Cisco caught his first upwind rabbit today; it should have escaped, but he had just enough drop speed to pump into the stiff breeze. The rabbit headed straight into the wind with Cisco following - pretty good flight. Early this morning, I took him for squirrels but did not see one. So I gave him a few hours of R&R and caught up with Rob. His bird, Ace, does straight drops on things, spearing them, quite a different style than my buzzard. It is fun to watch.
Last New Year's Day, Cisco caught a rabbit also. But I think that I lost my transmitter for a while.
12/31/2007 - Micro Hawking
Cisco was digesting a large rat today, so Jonanthan Millican, Mike Wiegel, and I met north of town to fly Jonathan's little male kestrel on some starlings. Jonathan is on leave from the Marine Corps, and has some Houston roots. The kestrel was eager and managed to slam into a few of them, but all escaped. We then went down to Cravens Road. Mike's bird caught a training sparrow, while Jonanthan's caught large grasshoppers and returned to the T-pole. One grasshopper flew right into the kestrel's mouth as he was hovering in the strong breeze.
Jonathan left; Mike and I caught up with Jim Ince and his merlin, Bernadette. She chased some sparrows in one field, then we took her for some doves. She pursued a few, then something dramatic happened. She flew a dove into some woods and closed on it, disappearing from view. Unfortunately, a resident redtail was right on her tail; this was real trouble. As Jim ran to his car, I drove off in mine, a futile effort to prevent disaster. I got close to the woods, leapt out of the car, and saw the merlin emerge from the woods. That was good. Later Jim viewed the redtail through the field glasses - it had a full crop. We looked around the area and found dove feathers.
This is the apparent scenario: the merlin caught the dove on the ground, but alertly looked behind her to see a murderous redtail closing on her, and bailed out. The dove was in the grass, probably alive, but could not escape the fast moving redtail, which caught and ate her. We do not believe that there was any time for the merlin to kill the dove, so the dove was just trapped in the grass, and had no time to react. The redtail was only seconds behind. Close call.
More pictures at: http://virtualvideo.cc/falconry/Jonathan
Preflight for Bernadette
Jim with Bernadette at day's end
Mike with Spira
Typical kestrel quarry
12/30/2007 - Another Norway rat
Wiegel and I took the buzzard to hunt rabbits out at Cravens Road. Cisco tried to catch a huge grasshopper, but this one slipped away. We continued to the woods where Cisco chased some rabbits. Pretty good flights, but there is almost constant cover, so the rabbits are hard to catch. He took off the T-pole at one point, grabbed yet another Norway rat and ended up with a huge crop. No hunting tomorrow so in the morning we'll go fly Jonathan Millican's kestrel on starlings. He's in town.
12/29/2007 - Great performance by Cisco
Wiegel and I took the buzzard to hunt squirrels. After a great effort the last two outings, I wanted to give the hawk a chance when we weren't cramped for time. Today at dawn Cisco took to the woods and started hunting. It was pretty quiet squirrel-wise, but after about an hour or so, we were back in the vicinity of where we started. Cisco attacked a squirrel that was invisible to Mike and me. Then he sat fidgiting in the same tree. Suddenly a hard attack on a squirrel, a miss and he flew across the street. He quickly returned, taking a high position. His next attack was in some leafy area high in the tree and he grabbed the squirrel. He parachuted to the ground with it, and hid from the red-shoulders under a bush. Transferring was a bit tricky, because I couldn't really get to him.
Other note: I hired some red-shoulder hawks to harass Rob Evan's bird. It seemed to work, as Rob was forced to retreat from the woods, and take his hawk to hunt rabbits today. He did catch a rabbit.
With squirrel, hiding from me and the red-shoulders
12/28/2007 - Lynne's new hawk- Artemis
Lynne and Ron spent a couple of days in Ft Worth getting help trapping a passage red-tail. This morning Roger Crandall took over frrm Krys Langevin, and they found a willing hawk. Artemis is now in Chappell Hill in his new home.
12/24: Chris Comeaux's Oddsod (the literate gyr X peregrine tiercel) and Miller the dog share a duck
Manny Carrasco is right about these Fiskars shears. They are really good. About $12 at The Home Depot. I have been using them all season. I had a slightly less expensive Fiskars pair a couple of years ago. Even they were good, but I lost them in the field. I have used Gerber, and another pair that I bought from DB Scientific, I think. These orange ones are the best so far.
12/25/2007 - Christmas Day - No animals were harmed in the making of this hunt
A trip back to the woods on a frosty Christmas morning. I got out very early because of the Christmas dinner engagement with my cousins around mid-day. I wondered whether it might be too early, but soon Cisco headed across the street and found a target. He chased the little rascal around the tree tops and it found its nest. Cisco shredded the nest as the squirrel made a clean getaway. We chased some more, but once again with time working against us, I did not want to have an incident. "Tell them I'll have to come later, I'm chasing the hawk. Yes, you'll have to drive yourself across town, and please don't hold dinner for me."
I called Cisco down, put him up, and we drove home. Merry Christmas
12/24/2007 - Christmas Eve
Mike Wiegel and I still trying to trap a bird with/for Lynne. This adult male with dried blood on his feet, that came down to our trap, is as close as we'll get. Lynne is heading for Ft. Worth in two days.
Not keen on Mike
Off he goes!
12/23/2007 - Cravens Road Rabbit
Mike Wiegel and I took the kestrel and RT out to Cravens Road. We walked west toward the trees, and then south about a hundred feet. Mike flushed a rabbit which broke into the open, only to be captured instantly by Cisco, dropping off the pole. The rabbit didn't get 15 feet. We hunted a little more, when Rob called to report that his bird (Ace) had caught a 2' water mocassin. While we were talking, Cisco dropped from the tree to grab another large Norway rat, and now has a (very) full crop and is not likely be hunting tomorrow.
We took Mike's kestrel out, she flew around, and seemed high in weight; see the movie.
Mike's kestrel clip
Often it is difficult to get kestrels to take birds consistently
12/22/2007 - Squirrel hawking at its best
956 with chaps and no transmitter. No hunting yesterday after eating that large Norway rat on Thursday afternoon. He was fat. 990 grams is heavy even for a hawk with his enormous flying weight range. Late this afternoon I took Cisco to the woods west of town. This buzzard has caught squirrels very efficiently at times. As readers of this log may know, there were a couple of times last season when he captured a squirrel so quickly that we left the woods within a few minutes of arrival. On other ocassions he has taken some time and ultimately scored, or not and once he caught a big swamp rabbit. Today we left the woods with no squirrel, but Cisco's performance was excellent. It was like watching a show. Daylight was running out, with this being the second shortest day of the year. I put him up and he immediately headed across the road, with my chasing him. Usually he has reasons for doing things, and today was no exception. I was concerned because I couldn't locate him, so I pulled out the receiver, and got a very strong signal. I yelled "Cisco!" but got neither a peep nor the sound of a bell. I looked up and he was right above me, silently hunting. Shortly he smashed into a ball of vegetation in the tree, but I saw no squirrel. He hung around there for a few minutes, and did it again. Then he spotted a squirrel in a nearby tree, chased it up and down, but it escaped. Then he went after a third squirrel, across the creek. This is where he really shined. He took a high pitch, attacked with force and precision, and stayed focused. A two pound flying dragon versus a perfectly evolved tree-top acrobat that today managed to outdo him. Cisco forced the squirrel to leap to another tree back across the creek and followed it. My hawk ended up on the ground panting, diving after the squirrel which had jumped from the tree and apparently scurried into a hollow log. It was great. Ali versus Frazier in the treetops. I called him to the fist, then had him do a few tree jump-ups for a quail. The sun was setting. We'll catch that squirrel tomorrow. We know where he lives.
Other notes: This morning Wiegel and I continued to help Lynne Holder in her attempts to trap a passage red-tail. Yesterday we saw immature birds, and more today. At one point I spotted an immature red-tail hunting by a field. She pounced on something in the middle of the field and I ran the BC out under where she had been perched. A perfect opportunity, so I thought. Next thing I knew there was an adult red-shoulder on the trap, I looked up on the wire, and there was my red-tail looking down. This was bad. Because of traffic, I could not get back fast enough to help the red-shoulder,and was expecting the RT to pounce on the trapped bird, but it stayed on the wire. I ran in, and released the little beauty (and they are), looked up and saw that the bird on the wire was not a RT, but another RS. My red-tail had apparently eaten her prey and left. Though they pester Cisco when he is squirrel hunting, red-shoulder hawks really are great looking birds, Not heavily armed, this particular one was fairly docile. Small feet. The only two birds to come down to my traps in the last two weekends have been red-shoulders.
Here is a question: Why have white-tailed hawks not expanded their range as red-tails have? Same question for Harris's hawks. One would think that a bird as intelligent, social, and versatile as the Harris's hawk would have wider distribution. They can hunt in very cold weather; I saw them at a falconry meet in Nantucket Island in January. Doing OK, though obviously not as comfortable as the goshawks and red-tails with the winter weather.
12/20/2007 - Squirrel chases, a (nearly) perfect rabbit flight, a mouse and a Norway rat
956 with chaps and transmitter. Early today I took the bird to the woods. He had some good flights on cat squirrels, but came up empty. He even lost one of the steel armored squirrel chaps after he smashed into some vegetation. Don't use snaps; time for a design change. Later I took him out to Cravens Road, where it was breezy and mild. I managed to flush a rabbit from a small area of cover and it ran across the open field. Cisco pursued fast, fighting the wind and followed it down into the gulley and over toward the woods. Really one of the best flights on a rabbit that I've seen. Had it not been so breezy, Cisco would have had his fuzzy little @$$. We had a couple of other rabbit flights, he blinked a swamp rabbit for some reason, then caught a mouse, or small rat. A few minutes later he grabbed a good sized Norway rat; it fought and bit. Cisco subdued, killed, and ate it. I don't like to touch those nasty things, Bubonic plague carriers. Huge crop, and the buzzard was worn out tonight, nodding off in the mew before dark. As I write this, I am keeping him awake, as the computer is in the mew (my old converted office). He will be too fat to fly tomorrow.
12/19/2007 - Cody's bird is good
I took Cody and his bird out to Cravens Road. He rode the T-pole, caught a deer mouse, and attacked a bunch of other things. One would think that he had been flying this bird for months. Great field response.
Afterwards Jim showed up at the field to take us out to fly his merlin. She (Bernadette) is beautiful and fast, but a goof off. At one point she flew about a mile away, then as we gave up on her and turned around to go to the vehicles to get telemetry, she was back, fluttering above Jim's head. I think Jim misses flying a peregrine.
Cody, The Movie
Cody at Cravens Road
12/18/2007 - An outstanding performance, Jim's merlin, and a great horned owl
At 950 including transmitter, I thought he would be too heavy on a warm day. In fact it was great. Cisco soared, caught a grasshopper on the wing, caught a deer mouse, and chased small birds.
We walked to the back of the field, several hundred yards from the car and Craven Road. Finally we found rabbits. In the heavy cover of the little woods, we kicked up a rabbit, which Cisco pursued, and nearly caught, but it strained him off in some bushes. I put him on the pole, but the overhead was too low, and I kept bumping him into limbs. So I carried him a little on the fist, he flew around some, chasing rabbits a couple of more times. Finally, on the east end of the woods a rabbit flushed, ran along the edge, with Cisco in pursuit. It ducked in, but stopped and Cisco had it. Overall, this was one of the best performances to date.
I called Jim Ince, who was on his way to fly his merlin. I followed him to the radio tower fields, and we put the bird up. Not her best day, but she is pretty. At dusk Jim put her up, and I got Cisco out, as I wanted to get his leash on. While Jim and I were talking, Cisco suddenly looked out into the dark, and his hackles went up. I said, "maybe a horned owl." Jim replied, "perhaps a skunk or coyote." A few minutes later we saw a great horned owl along a line of trees and light poles. It was amazing that Cisco spotted it out there. When it came time to put Cisco up, he dove into his hawk box. No horned owls for him.
12/16/2007 - Second squirrel of the season
This weekend we spent trying to trap a bird for Lynne Holder. Two days of lots of driving and a good time but the effort was comparable to the San Ygnacio trip. We saw dozens of adults, and not a single juvenile. Saturday Wiegel and I headed to Chappell Hill through a hard rain, stopped at Rob Evans' house for a couple of gerbils, then back to my house for the trap. The weather cleared up but it was cold and very windy and stayed that way. We made a moderate attempt to hunt squirrels on Saturday, taking Cisco to the woods, but it was too windy. Rob had temporarily lost Ace earlier in the day, and Chris Comeax sent an email stating that he had lost his first year hybrid tiercel, "Stormbringer." Tonight (12/17/2007) Chris wrote that he had gotten the bird back. Great news. Amazingly enough, Rob's bird caught a snake in that cold wind.
Cisco caught a squirrel up in a tree on Sunday - I could not help him as he was 25' high; he had to kill it on his own. He is getting his skill back, catching two this week. He came down with it after, but glided across the creek so I had to shinny across a log, then walk a long way to the bridge to get back. A great hunt, with Cisco's patiently watching for his opening. Lynne Holder and I were on the ground below; I thought Cisco was goofing off. He started the hunt flying around the woods across the creek, but I called him back for some quail, to coax him in a better direction. Pretty soon he discovered the squirrels, and basically just waited in one tree, occasionally hopping among the branches. Suddenly an attack, and the sound of a captured squirrel. He was supporting himself with his wings, wringing the squirrel until it was dead.
Sunday: Eating the head of the squirrel
12/13/2007 - First squirrel of the season
Cisco eating squirrel - the movie
Note that the jess shown was installed after the kill - I fly him without jesses on squirrels.
I took Cisco to the woods this morning. Cool, overcast, and very damp. He flew around for a while looking for squirrels; then I found one. A cat squirrel. Cisco came in and attacked it, chasing it in a tree, then either went after another one nearby, or this one sneaked away and Cisco followed. At any rate he flew to a branch, and was watching intently, when a local red-shoulder smashed into him, almost knocking him off of the branch. Boom! Reminded me of a peregrine hitting a duck (well, sort of). Cisco kept his composure. completely ignored the attack, and seconds later dove to the ground, grabbing a squirrel. Apparently the squirrel figured the red-shoulder was an ally, and tried to make an escape. Cisco nailed it. When I got there he had the squirrel by the head, but it was biting into the steel armor on Cisco's new squirrel chaps. One now is scarred up. They work. Cisco took forever to break into the squirrel, constantly watching the sky for those pesky red-shoulders, which circled overhead, calling.
Cisco with first squirrel of season. Note his flying without jesses. The snap on the anklet is visible.
Watching for red-shouldered hawks
The new lightweight armored chap is visible here. It prevented a nasty bite today. On the other foot the snap is visible, with the jess's being turned I think.
The red-shoulder waits for another shot at Cisco (re-creation depicting actual events)
Chris Comeaux's gyr X peregrine tiercel, "Oddsod." Who says Harris' hawks are so smart? Most are illiterate.
Dan Hillsman's Hooper's Cawk:
12/8/2007 - Good day's hawking
Wiegel came by at 0730. We took Cisco out to the Cravens Road field, which turns out to be very close to Jim Ince's office. There is so much rabbit sign there that it is hard to leave it alone, though we have not seen any rabbits. Today Cisco added a grasshopper to his take. He was riding the pole when a very large grasshopper flew by. Off Cisco went, and caught the thing mid-air with one foot. A giant kestrel. He flew to a tree momentarily, then returned to the pole to eat it. Amazing. A few minutes later, he snatched a very large cotton rat, and soon had a full crop. We continued to hunt.
Later we called Cody, Jim's apprentice; Cody wanted to enter his bird today. We drove to his house, got his gear and bird, and went down to Gold Fire. "Atilla" (or Attila) had never ridden the T-pole before, but it is advantageous at this field. The bird settled in immediately, grabbing a large cotton rat, with the attack launched from the pole. This was within five or ten minutes after walking into the field. Cody has done a great job. He is now an official member of the West Harris County Falconeer's (sic) Club.
Afterwards, the three of us went to Mike's house to fly his passage female kestrel. Out at the training area, she responded well, flying free for only the second time. But when Mike swung the lure, she started towards him, got close, then veered off to join a wild kestrel up on a power pole. Mike got her down after a few nervous minutes.
Cisco with cotton rat at Cravens Road
Cody holding the buzzard on the pole - never trained with pole, the bird caught a cotton rat moments later. A good red-tail.
Cody, Atilla, and his first kill at Gold Fire
Cody with bird. In background, beyond the wooden fence is the part of Gold Fire converted into detention pond.
12/6/2007 - Who needs telemetry?
I took Cisco to the nearby squirrel woods. My mother was with me on this outing. Still very leafy in the woods, but Cisco flew around for a while, looking. At some point he flew off as if on the attack, but then I lost him. I assumed that he was on the ground with a kill. I started tracking with telemetry, but was getting odd indications, one of which was that he was way across the road, but I was having some problems with my receiver (battery was low) as well. We drove around, trying to triangulate. It did appear that he was in some pine woods, about 400 yards from where I thought he should be. I walked into these woods, receiver in hand and the signal indicated he was ahead of me. I yelled "Cisco!" and heard his bell tinkle. What a relief after two hours. He flew toward me, trying to get into a position where he could drop down. A quail on the fist was his reward. I took Mom to Wendy's to celebrate. In three seasons, this is the first time I have had to track him with telemetry. Like a seat belt, you don't need it until you need it. Thank you, L.L. Electronics.
Later that day, I caught up with Jim Ince. We took his new merlin, "Bernadette" to a field south of town where she chased some birds, including a group of starlings, which "balled up" at her approach. I had never been in the field with a merlin before; it was impressive.
Cisco hunting squirrels in tree just before his two to three hour disappearance
Jim with Bernadette - day's end. It was not quite as dark as this picture would indicate
12/2/2007 - A mouse away from a skunk
Cisco's PackTrack harness was intact, so we installed the always dependable L.L. XLF transmitter. My Marshall Scout transmitter is on its way back to Salt Lake City. We went out to a new field, called the "Cravens Road Field." We stomped around, saw lots of rabbit sign, but no rabbits. After a good hour of riding the pole, Cisco spotted a mouse and pounced. I brought a quail along, and he ate it. Last summer he would not eat quail. He seemed to enjoy this one. We will return to this field later. Too much rabbit sign to be no good.
12/1/2007 - Cisco becomes a collector
A challenging morning. First we thought Cisco had lost his backpack (I found it still installed the next day). We fitted him with a neck mount. Then we took off with no tidbits, and Rob Evans bailed us out. Then we saw no squirrels. After supplying us with more tidbits, Cody came with us to Gold Fire (his RT is doing well. A tiercel, he will be a good rabbit hawk). Cisco caught a rabbit at Gold Fire. We left Gold Fire to hawk another field, where Cisco grabbed a speckled king snake. We managed to save the snake, and if it survives, Mike will give it to Dan Hillsman.
Cisco at Gold Fire with rabbit. This is an area with light cover. Ha!
Cody with a now manned, and almost trained Atilla
Wiegel with Saphira at his training area near the house.
11/25/2007 - Back from Alamosa, and Cisco returns to form
The buzzard had a horrible NAFA meet, but did well enough to earn a game pin. Negligence by his falconer resulted in no pin. At Gold Fire today he was good. Though no kills today he was strong and aggressive, attacking repeatedly into the extremely heavy cover and returning to the T-pole. More later, along with "highlights" from the meet.
11/19/2007 to 11/23/2007 – NAFA Field Meet 2007 Alamosa, CO (Updated 12/5)
Day 1: Wiegel and I arrived in the afternoon and got our rooms. I was feeling a bit puny, wrestling with some crud that I still have. Late in the day, I weathered Cisco out with some Harris' hawks that belong to Kin Quitugua, of HawkQuest and his assistent, Lisa. It was cold.
That evening we ran into some of our friends from THA.
Day 2: Wiegel and I took Cisco to a park for some squirrel hawking. I should have realized that something was not right. Good weight, poor response; I had to practically beg him to fly to the fist.
Day 3: Very windy, sunny, and cold. We took the buzzard out to a field after getting permission from a friendly land owner. He got on the pole, then flew to a ditch. Apparently this particular morning he caught a small furry creature (evidence was casting in bathroom on Day 4). That afternoon we went out with a fellow who was hunting jacks with a 3/4 gyr X 1/4 peregrine plus two greyhounds. I met Hal Webster out there. Kate came down from Denver, and she and Mike went to Meet hotel, while I stayed at our hotel, feeling lousy.
Day 4: My sister, Kate, had come up the afternoon before. It was good to see her. I was feeling bad, but we "hunted" in the morning. I had found the small casting that could have earned Cisco a Miscellaneous Category game pin, but figured that their standards were higher. Cisco watched with little interest as jacks ran off over the horizon. That afternoon we found a field full of cottontails. Cisco also found them interesting.
Day 5: I weathered Cisco out, something I should have done all week. At the end of the day we took him out for cottontails, but his main interest was staying warm. The night of the banquet, I learned that many RT's and Harris's had caught lots of jacks, and that game pins were given for "taking a pitch" and one guy's RT or HH earned a pin for attacking a dead alligator.
Cisco looking for warm hawk box
Cisco "hunting" in tree
My sister, Kate, and I
Wiegel and I with the birds. Cisco and the half trained kestrel caught comparable amounts of game during the meet.
11/18/2007 – Amarillo by morning (late) – Cisco snags a cottontail
Wiegel and I called Jimmy Walker and went to the field with him. His prairie tiercel caught a nice duck, his gos chased some quail. Cisco caught a rabbit that ran under his tree while squirrel hawking. Later we met up with Matt Mullenix, his dad, Ron, Matt Reidy, Brian Millsap, and Jimmy's wife, Karen, who made good stew for us. Then Wiegel and I left and drove to Dumas, leaving my game vest on the fence at Jimmy's. Jimmy and Matt Reidy were kind enough to meet us half way the next morning.
Harley with his duck
Jimmie Walker with Vinnie, his male Finnish goshawk, about to chase quail
Cisco in Amarillo with a cottontail squirrel
11/17/2007 – A pair of rodents in Ft. Worth
Wiegel and I drove to Ft Worth and caught up with Roger Crandall and Jeff Catoor. Cisco rode the pole OK, but was not inspired. He did catch a mouse. Then three Harris's up, but Jeff's “Black Jack” fought with Cujo, so only BJ and BC (Brother of Chucky) flew. BJ caught a huge cotton rat. Roger and Jeff left; a couple of hours later Wiegel and I returned to the field. Cisco was fired up. He attacked rabbits and almost nabbed one after a long open field chase, but as he grabbed, it disappeared. He then caught a cotton rat, we packed up our gear, and drove to Wichita Falls.
Jeff with Black Jack after eating large cotton rat - note crop
Roger with BC
11/16/2007 - Off to the NAFA meet in Alamosa in the morning
Plan to hawk in Ft Worth tomorrow with R Crandall and crew, then up to Amarillo with Jimmy Walker. Matt Mullenix will be coming up to Jimmy's on Sunday evening. Wiegel packing a kestrel in training, me with Cisco. Alamosa ETA, Monday afternoon late. If possible I will keep the faithful fans of this web site updated during the trip. Cisco has his eye on squirrels and jacks in Colorado. Sister Kate will come down from Denver, my nephew and family to head east from Durango. I am fighting off a bug. We shall see. Ciao.
11/14/2007 - Cisco catches a couple of rabbits
Modern falconry. I took half day's vacation and drove to Gold Fire, the dependable field, at least the 25% that's left. The temperature was 15 degrees above normal today, very unpleasant. On the east side of the field they have just about converted a great rabbit field into a detention pond and not the kind you would want to hunt. Scrapers were going back and forth; it was a little depressing. Cisco caught a small swamp rabbit on his first flight off the pole, just minutes after arrival. Then we hunted for at least another hour. He had a pretty good crop from the first rabbit, and his wings were wet from the dew. A rabbit ran by and he looked at it. But pretty soon he was flying around, hovering, plunging into the weeds. It was a little hard to tell what he was chasing. I was about to head in, when he caught another rabbit, a small one, probably a young aquaticus.
This hawk really enjoys riding the T-pole, even though he is not quite as effective, as compared with launching attacks from trees or from the air. Nevertheless, he will now leave a tree to ride the pole. The pole I have now is bamboo, plenty long and stiff. It works well. Courtesy of Wiegel.
My Honda element parked at Gold Fire. To the far right, across a fence, and not visible, is the big side of the field now useless for hawking.
11/11/2007 - Cody gets his bird
Jim Ince's apprentice, Cody, had been out with us last weekend. When Rob Evans told me that he had trapped a passge RT last weekend I suggested that Cody hook up with him for the hawk catching. It paid off Sunday afternoon, as they trapped a 1080 gram chubby little red-tail. I went over to Cody's house right after a hunt with Cisco (an unwise return to the detention pond). Cody had his bird, and we began to work with her. He (??? Cody wants "Attila") was spooky, but not bad. We used the on/off light switch to reduce the bating, and the bird came along well. As of this writing (7:52 p.m. on 11/12), Cody and bird are doing fine. He called me today at work and asked, "What's next?" He has been walking around the house with the bird on the fist, hooding and unhooding. The bird ought to be ready for food and outside/family exposure pretty shortly.
11/11/07 - Cody and his new RT buzzard, about an hour after first unhooded
11/10/2007 - Nothing in the bag, but a good time
Cisco left the house at around 926 grams, a perfect weight for him. We went back to Gold Fire. Cisco was great, making about fifteen attempts from the T-pole and excitedly waiting for me to offer the pole after each miss. Great flights, hovering and crashing into the weeds. Certainly no evidence that he was tired today. He finally grabbed a rabbit, it screamed for a few seconds, but then slipped away before I could make in. Cisco doesn't often lose rabbits, but it happens. He continued to attack everything that moved. At one point I called him back, or so he thought and the hawk landed on my shoulder. Ahoy, Matey!
There are still rabbits at Gold Fire, even with most of the field destroyed, converted into a huge detention pond. The front side, along Summit Ridge is still OK.
11/9/2007 - Cisco's record swamper
Cisco lay on his side, enervated, both feet buried in the side of a five pound buck swamp rabbit. It was warm out, and he was panting. A well deserved prize he held. Two or three hours earlier he was chasing cat squirrels in the woods, still too leafy for effective squirrel hawking. We left the woods after about 90 minutes of valient effort, and drove to Gold Fire rather than going to the Katy detention pond. The pond has been hit too hard by the local RT's, Ace and Cisco. I won't hunt there again, I don't think.
At Gold Fire it was sunny and too warm. Cisco attacked a number of rabbits, diving from the top of his new bamboo T-perch, but the very thick vegetation made it tough. I admired the effort, and was about to call it, when he dove into the brush by some small trees. Missed again I thought. A second or two later I heard a rabbit screaming, and ran up. Cisco had a huge swamp rabbit by the back leg and had been dragged against a small tree. I reached in and grabbed the rabbit, and for whatever reason decided to release it. For one thing, Cisco had his foot around the rear leg, the rabbit appeared fine otherwise. I managed to get Cisco's foot off the leg, and he instantly planted both feet on the rabbit, sealing its fate. No catch and release for Cisco. This rabbit was really heavy; I dreaded the thought of its being a pregnant female. It wasn't. Definitely a strong buck, and bigger than any rabbit ever bagged by Cisco. I gutted the rabbit in the field; the remains weighed 3 lb 13 oz, which means this was about a five pounder.
After I transferred him off, Cisco was too tired to hop to the T-pole, normally something he relishes, especially while on the ground. He was beat.
11/4/2007 - I owe Rob another six pack (from an email to Lynne Holder)
Cisco with another rabbit tonight. My old friend Demetrios came out to the field with me - he had never seen this before, though we have been friends since the early seventies. Cisco pounced on a number of things, flew around, and as we were leaving at dusk had a nice rabbit flight and kill. Demetrios was impressed. I owe Rob Evans another six pack as every single kill that Cisco has had was in his fields. This morning found a good cat squirrel place by a park. Once the leaves go away, Cisco will catch some squirrels - right now he is just tuning up. Once more a tip from Rob. Every time Cisco scores a rabbit or squirrel on one of Rob's fields, I will buy him a six pack of Bud Lite.
Rob's bird, Ace, also caught a rabbit today, the two birds catching comparable numbers and prey mix.
Jim Ince told me that his merlin is hunting, but so far catching mostly grasshoppers, no wild birds yet.
Mike's kestrel, currently dubbed "Spira," is doing lure training now, and flying across the room. Maybe she will be hunting by the Alamosa trip.
Cisco's current tally for this season: Five cottontails, three cotton rats, two leopard frogs, and a vole. And a grasshopper casting this morning.
11/2/2007 - A good flight at a swamp rabbit, and three in the miscellaneous catagory
Back to the pond after work. Cisco at 923 grams, and ready. Cisco followed me across the woods to the pond's edge, and promptly caught his first leopard frog. He killed it but didn't eat, so I decided I would pick it up on the way back and eat the legs. Cisco took off fast, chasing a rabbit out into the open, did a little rise and a wing-over and plunged into the brush. This is his patented "never-miss" technique, but he missed this one for some reason. We then hunted for that rabbit for the next hour or so, but saw no sign. Toward the end of the day, with dusk closing in, we caught our first mouse ever. Then another frog, which we released. I managed to keep Cisco from attacking a water moccasin; it was lucky that he did not see it.
I stuck the T-pole into the ground; there was some varmint that I was trying to extract from a hole, as Cisco watched intently.
Kestrel - the other white meat
10/30/07 - Cisco has dinner on the ground and a cotton rat keeps us from a skunking
I had to leave work early today for some personal business. When I got finished, I realized that I had time to go hunting. The bird was at 932 grams and seemed eager. I took him out to the pond in Katy, and we looked for rabbits. The traffic was bad on the way out, a bit frustrating, and I wondered if I might lose my daylight, but actually I had plenty of time. Cisco started his hopping around in the box, which means I may have to start hooding him for his car rides. When I released him, he flew to the woods, then to the edge of the pond. A good hour of walking and brush whacking didn't turn up any rabbits. I even went south of the pond, across the bayou to another field. But no luck. Houston hawking. I was heading back, about to walk up the edge of the pond, when Cisco dove from the pole. I heard a squeak, and he had a plump cotton rat. Dinner is served, and we catch some game. He will be fat tomorrow, leaving the field with a cotton rat and tidbits in the crop. I should have taken a picture of him with his cotton rat.
Mike's kestrel is staying with me. She flew about 6 to 7 feet to the fist tonight, and ate a 16 gram mouse. Her weight was 108.7 grams with her leash, swivel, and jesses.
10/27/2007 - West Houston Falconry Club tears 'em up
OK, a little strong, though we did finish the day with two cottontails and a cotton rat. Wiegel and I went to the detention pond early this morning with Cisco. He began the day with a great flight from a tree on the east side of the pond, leaving the tree, flying faster and faster as he attacked a rabbit on the north side of the pond. He slammed into the side of the hill and the rabbit slipped away. We walked around for another hour or so, seeing no more rabbits, though Cisco did attack a grass mound that contained either a sparrow or mouse. We called Rob Evans, who joined us with Ace, his intermewed male red-tail. We hunted with Ace for a while at a different location. At one point Ace was on top of a very tall pole, and we flushed a rabbit right below him. He rolled off the pole, and dropped straight down, I would guess 60 to 70 feet, like a spear to the grass below. Pretty impressive really - very fast. Amazingly he missed and we found no more rabbits for him.
Apparently this was a tune up for the afternoon. Rob and I met up again at around 1600 and took the two red-tails back to the detention pond. Cisco up first, lollygagged a little in the pine woods on the east side of the field before the pond, but shortly caught a cotton rat after a pretty flight. A hover and dive into the grass below. I almost had him transferred off the rat by dropping a tidbit just out of range. He grabbed the tidbit, leaving the rat, but recovered quickly and siezed both, one in each foot. Outsmarted by a pea brain. We walked around the pond with his mostly riding the T-pole. At the trees on the south side, Cisco flew to the trees and Rob yelled out that he located a rabbit. I ran around to the west side of the trees, and Rob said that he saw Cisco dropping down to the pond. I ran back around, and found Cisco on the ground with a rabbit, right by the trees, not down in the pond. He must have chsed he rabbit down and it had run back up again. I didn't see the flight at all. Sixth kill of the young season. I fed him up walking back to car, so that Ace could take his turn.
Cisco took forever to eat the rabbit's head; I told Rob that I would catch up with him. Rob went southwest of the pond to a brushy area behind a cyclone fence. By the time I got Cisco back in the hawk box, and caught up with Rob, Ace had already caught a young cottontail. Later, at Rob's house, we celebrated with some Bud Lite. By Houston's falconry standards we did tear them up. In Houston if you can kick up a rabbit an hour you are doing well. You need an efficient hawk, and these two are efficient.
Ace flies about 80 to 100 grams lighter than Cisco. He is a visibly smaller hawk, a quick and aerial tiercel. Rob once had a RT that flew at 1410, after being trapped at 1700. Mama Mia. Big buzzard.
If Cisco will burn some of this food off, we will hunt squirrels tomorrow up in Willis.
[Update 10/28: We did. There is still a little too much foliage, Cisco was a bit out of shape for squirrel hawking, wandered too much, plus was slightly high in weight. He did chase squirrels for an hour or two, and got plenty of exercise. Worth the trip. It was hard for us to see the squirrels, and they could leap from the trees and were then invisible to the hawk from the tree tops. Last season, half of the squirrels were caught after they jumped from the trees. Sunday it was easy for them to get to the ground and sneak away, but that will change shortly.]
Rob with Ace in the morning
Rob appears to be pleased
The obligatory picture of the hawks with the game
10/26/2007 - Early Friday morning hunt
938 grams at about 0745 today. I took Mom with me out to the Katy detention pond, where Cisco caught his last rabbit. Having never been hunting with us before, she stayed on the east side, and had a lawn chair to sit on. A nice cool, sunny morning. I walked nearly the whole perimeter of the pond, seeing nothing, and was feeling a skunking coming on. As I approached the trees on the south end, a small rabbit jumped and scurried towards the trees. Cisco dropped from the T-pole and grabbed it just inside the trees. He is deceptively quick and agile.
Earlier in the week, on Tuesday after work, I took him to a nearby golf course. The foliage is still too heavy in the trees, though he did chase one squirrel briefly.
10/21/2007 - I'm not sure how he caught this one
943 grams at about 1600 today. This includes jesses, anklets, scout transmitter, and backpack harness. Without all this, Cisco's body weight is probably around 915 to 920 grams. Once again thanks to Rob Evans (and some of Cisco's amazing skills versus lagomorphs), Cisco caught his second rabbit of the weekend, and his third kill of the season. There is a detention pond in Katy by a church. There are cottontails down there. A great place to hawk, with a chance to give your hawk the advantage of height, especially perched on a T-pole. It also has huge sink holes which would make it dangerous to walk at night, and it is pocked with small, well concealed holes that your leg can drop into. Twice today I flushed Cisco off the T-pole by stepping into these cavities, and falling. He began to wonder whether the T-pole was so great, after all. It is. After my second fall, and coaxing him back up, he flashed off the pole in pursuit of a rabbit, and disappeared. I wish I had brought the camera. I thought I heard a rabbit, but the topography of the this place, full of burrows and furrows, muffled the sound. Cisco was wedged in a burrow and I saw rabbit feet sticking through his wings. I thought that he may have barely had it, but when I looked in, I saw he had the cottontail by the head. It continued to scream, something I have only seen in swamp rabbits. The rabbit was well under control, so I dispatched it. This was quite an amazing catch. The rabbit was so close to its den that Cisco must have flown full speed, just nabbing it at the last second. Pretty courageous. The other possibility is that the rabbit ran into a blind alley and Cisco pulled him out, but I don't think that is likely. A big mess transferring him off, I actually stepped on his tail for a minute. A rabbit ran by while we were arguing over the rabbit carcass. A nice crop, and Cisco will be ready for squirrels after work on Tuesday.
Oh yes, Wiegel's kestrel is coming along well. Eats off the fist, accepts tidbits, and likes to bite. I went to Mike's house after the hunt; Mike helped me do some minor beak maintenance on the Uberbuzzard.
Rob Evans' RT, Ace, caught a rabbit this afternoon at another field in Katy.
For Cisco, 2 rabbits and a cotton rat so far. 100% success when shown game. A foot race against a cotton rat, a cottontail flown down in the open, and the second rabbit grabbed in a burrow. Not a bad start to Cisco's third season. He is sitting quietly on a perch behind me as I write this in the mew/office.
Wiegel and "Dot", this morning at my house
10/20/07 - A busy Saturday
Wiegel and I went early to Highway 90A, southwest of Rosenburg to trap a kestrel. Mike bought a zebra finch last night. The ultimate kestrel trap bait, zebra finches don't mind the heat and will resume eating seeds seconds after a kestrel tries to eat them! They do not handle the cold very well, so winter trapping in the north is out. Luck was with us. After one unsuccessful trap set which caused a hawk to fly away, we caught a good looking passage female kestrel, with a net trapping weight 123 grams. A bigger bird than Kiki with bigger feet, thick toes. It took just two placements of the trap and she was caught. She fought and bit, we hooded her and put her in a shoe box. As I write this it's ten o'clock at night and she has already made some manning progress. At one point, before we trapped her, I said that she looked like a dot in the distance, and she should be named "Dot." Probably Mike will name her something else.
After the first hour and a half manning her, Mike joined Rob Evans and me for some RT hawking out in Katy. Rob flies his RT, "Ace," off the fist, and we had a couple of good flights at a detention pond by a church in Katy. Ace made sure that all the rabbits were in their burrows for Cisco's hunt. Cisco was fat, 955 grams, and for the first time in a long while, just sat in a tree waiting for a tidbit. No rabbits evident. The only thing that motivated him was a female Cooper's hawk, whom he tried to catch, chasing her about 50 yards across the detention pond. She saw him coming and vacated the premises. Cisco disappeared for a few minutes, but was easy to locate at dusk with the telemetry. No game in the bag, but a safe trip home, and life is good.
Mike is still hoping that Kiki will show up. If she does, I'd like to have this bird. She bit Mike really well, and footed me, leaving a puncture wound. You gotta like that.
Dot on the fist
Dot and Mike
Rob and Ace
10/19/07 - Thanks to Rob Evans, Cisco scores his first rabbit
I went to work very early today, riding with Danny Bynum on the van. On the way home I realized that I had time to hunt the Uberhawk. I weighed him, 938 grams, and seeming eager. The only problem is that I had no fields to hunt. Rob Evans showed me a field a few weeks ago, but I had not asked to fly it, so I tried calling him, and missed him a few times. In desperation I went out there and put Cisco up on the T-perch, walking around. Rob called and told me to meet him at his house, a few minutes from there. I called Cisco down, picked Rob up at his house, and we went to another place. I had left the T-perch at the first field and got out of the car with Cisco; only Cisco. No game vest, lure, nothing. We walked for a little bit along some fence lines with Cisco on fist, and then out to the middle part of the field. He flew to a small tree whose trunk was surrounded by brush, in an otherwise open field. Suddenly a cottontail broke cover, running around the brush and into the open. I yelled, "Ho ho ho" and Cisco launched. A rabbit that runs into the open with Cisco nearby is doomed. Cisco quickly flew the rabbit down. It's now cut up and in the freezer. Rob, who has flown redtails for six years, had never been in the field with anyone else's hawk until tonight. Rob, If you're reading this. Thanks.
Cisco has now bagged a cottontail and a cotton rat.
Tomorrow we go kestrel trapping. Kiki finished her falconry career last Saturday with about 21 kills in the last 13 or 14 outings. Plus she caught nine birds in the field last winter.
10/14/07 - Better than a kill
I took the fat buzzard on his second outing today. Flying at about 960, I took him to a place I was very familiar with, sort of a tune up. I was hoping to find squirrels in an open area, with picnic tables. Cisco had other ideas, spotting a little fox sqirrel in some very dense woods. I followed, the place was loaded with poison ivy, and hard going. Cisco made a nice run at this squirrel, but then lost interest, his ounce high weight evident. I ended up getting disoriented, wondering if I might have to spend the night out. Cisco was following along just fine. I found a fence and got my bearings, and decided to walk along the fence. A crisis, suddenly. Cisco wearing his light weight chaps with no jesses decided to fly to a power pole. However, when he got close it was evident he did not like the electric fields being generated, hovering a minute, and not landing. I was impressed. He backed off, and ended up in the woods again. I walked along the fence, because I was running out of energy and did not want to get lost again. At first, this was fine but then I could not move even along the fence, the vines were so thick. I could see the parking lot, but there was no way I could make it. I looked at the six or seven foot cyclone with three strands of barbed wire on the top, and considered climbing it. This is not something I would have attempted even thirty years ago. But when the underbrush tore my boot off I realized I had to get over the fence. I tried climbing it, but my boots would not allow purchase. So I threw them over the fence. Now I was committed. I crawled to the top of the fence, sat on the barbed wire, and dropped to the ground. Fortunately the barbed wire was directed to keep people out of this area, rather than in, else it might have been impossible to climb. Success, though it was fortunate that I did not break my leg. I called Cisco down, fed him some DOC's and walked to the parking lot. Wow. I hope I don't get poison ivy, though I have taken precautions. Cisco, as always, did his job. If, in his fatness, he had decided to drift off, it would have been a difficult situation, even with his telemetry. Next weekend he will be at his normal flying weight.
One interesting thing that happened during this adventure, was that Cisco was harrased by a red-shouldered hawk, which in turn was being harrassed by a small accipiter, I think a Cooper's.
I did not hear from Mike tonight, so I think his kestrel is gone for good. We met at daybreak, and I looked for her for several hours today, both driving and riding my recumbent bike. Mike spent most of the day looking. Unfortunately, I believe she left the area where we lost her. No sign. It's a shame.
10/13/07 - Mike's kestrel lost and Cisco starts his season
"One word of advice in conclusion. A high hawk is a live hawk, though possibly a lost hawk. Be certain to err - and err you will - in this direction. The loss of a sparrowhawk in fair flight is no disgrace, but rather a mark of honor."
J.G. Mavrogordato - A Hawk for The Bush
The kestrel, flown a little high in weight, was lost Saturday morning; she just vanished and we spent most of the day looking. We will check before dawn Sunday.
Out at a now diminished Gold Fire, Cisco caught his first head of game for the season, a cotton rat. Captured on foot after dropping off the T-pole, it was far from a classic flight, more like a terrier chasing a rat in a junkyard. The bird weighed 965 grams before going to field. I was more interested in getting him out, letting him fly and getting him back, especially with the loss of Mike's bird this morning.
10/11/2007 - Jim's new merlin, "Bernadette"
The weekend before last, Jim went down to Matagordo and trapped a nice female merlin. He did not see many merlins, but managed to trap the third that he saw that day. Refining the techniques that he learned from friends in Florida, he was successful. Tonight, Mike, Randy Kocurek and I went over to meet his new bird. In Jim's living room, we drank a little wine, swapped lies and looked at the new merlin. Later, daughter Laura, and her husband Jeff, dropped in as well. The name, "Bernadette" after the old Four Tops' song, courtesy of Laura. The complete library of pictures is here: Jim's Merlin
Here is one picture
10/09/07 A predictable weight drop for Cisco
I believe that Matt Mullenix wrote in his book, In Season, that a 1% weight drop per day is a good rate for bringing the bird out of the molt. That is what I try to do, and seemed to have found the formula. For Cisco it is 1 1/2 DOC's per day. Sunday, 1018 grams, Monday, 1008, and today, 998. That's hard to beat. We'll see where he is tomorrow evening. Thursday to the school with the two perches, yacht line, and bullet block for some long flights to the fist. May hunt this weekend.
10/07/07 Another record weekend for Kiki the kestrel
Four sparrow kills yesterday, and a fifth tonight, ties her record for kills, and breaks her record for birds on one weekend, bringing her kills to 20 this summer/fall. Tonight at the the field called "Taco Bell Field" she ambushed a house sparrow, but carried and ate it. We got her back just after dark. Good way to end the weekend hawking.
Cisco is being a bit uncopperative weight reduction wise, maintaining his weight from yesterday on two DOC's. He is now at 1018 grams, with a fly-free weight target of 960. I will start flying him at the school, tethered, on Thursday, but won't let him loose until he is ready and responding instantly. I am trying to drop his weight about 1% per day.
10/06/07 A record morning for Wiegel's kestrel
Four sparrow kills this morning, three that were set up, but she carried the third to a roof. She ate that sparrow, then disappeared for a while. I saw her on a house, but having no glove, whistle, or lure (Mike had all the gear), just lip-whistled lamely at her, waving my bare hand. I then saw her dive, and lost her again for a bit. When I found her again, she was up on a chimney, eating, as it turned out, another sparrow. Apparently she ambushed one in the yard below. That would have been great to watch. All I saw initially was her eating some sort of vertebrate prey up on a chimney, but could only tell that is was large. Mike saw her pull feathers when he came over. Quite the crop on her by the time she finished that one and it took Mike about twenty or thirty minutes to get her down. Finally she flew to his fist. Best morning ever, and ties her best one day kill. She now has 19 kills this season, plus one starling getaway.
In other news, Cisco is losing weight, and is on target for next Friday to fly loose.
September 27 - 30 - The "trapping" meet at Manuel Gonzales' lease
A good time but no one caught any Harris' hawks. Wiegel and I headed to San Ygnacio on Thursday night, staying over in San Antonio. We got down to Manuel's lease in the early afternoon, and spent an enjoyable time with writer Eileen Mattie, who is writing an article on falconry. Manuel was a good host, and great cook. We slept out under the stars, saw a lot of haggard Harris' hawks, but no juveniles. We headed back on Sunday moring.
Manuel Gonzales and his tiercel Harris' hawk. Manuel on Youtube
9/22/2007 - Saturday: great flights, two more sparrows for the kestrel, and Rob Evans
Two gals from work were supposed to go hunting with Mike and me, but didn't make it. We took the kestrel out, and had a couple of good flights. First one, she shot under an arch made of two overlapping bushes, flying out to an open field where she just missed grabbing a sparrow. Then later, she crashed into a bush RT style, but the sparrow escaped. But she ambushed one sparrow and later grabbed another in a bush, resulting in a pretty good morning.
Back at my house I got an email from Rob Evans, who flies an intermewed red-tail. Mike and I drove out to Katy to see him. In the morning we will take his RT, "Ace" out to catch rabbits, then plan to fly the kestrel again. Picture taken by Tina out at Rob's house.
The West Houston Hawking Club
9/16/2007 - Sunday: a starling to cap off the weekend
Yesterday was a great day. Today we wanted to catch a starling. We had a good slip almost the minute we got out to the field, but she just missed. Then on another slip she tailchased and disappeared. I spotted her on a nearby building and called her down with the lure. Mike owes me. We were about to head back, when we stumbled on a good slip, and she attacked. Kiki handled the starling easily, with her "bad" foot wrapped around its neck, the better foot grabbing a wing. Mike made in easily, and we capped off pretty good weekend west of Houston. In Brenham yesterday three house sparrows, a mouse and a junebug. Today, a European starling, the bane of blue birds and purple martins.
another video of kestrel eating starling
What are you looking at?
Not a bad weekend
9/15/2007 - Saturday: Three sparrows and a mouse (and a June bug) in Brenham
We drove to Chappell Hill to pick up Lynne Holder, and then took Kiki to Brenham. She flew under a car to catch the first sparrow, then caught another under an overhang. We ate some barbecue, and then in the afternoon Mike mentioned that he had just weighed the kestrel and found she was at 104.8 grams. Off we went again. Behind a feed store we sat with the window open in the car. She slicked down, then flew up to some rafters, immediately turned around and dove RT style back down behind some tarp covered object. We heard a sparrow squeal, so Mike ran over there only to find that she was hidden somewhere in this object, and he couldn't see her. After about a minute she came out dragging a sparrow, and Mike picked her up. A while later we returned to that spot and she caught her first mouse. A banner day.
I took the fat molting buzzard along just so he wouldn't get bored.
Kiki's best day ever...............off to go hunting
Cisco in Chappell Hill with a fox squirrel, the same day the kestrel scored four kills
End of the day in Chappell Hill
9/9/2007 - A tiny blow for American songbirds
Starlings and English sparrows, both non-native species, have had a pernicious effect on the US songbird population. Kiki caught two sparrows and a starling this weekend. A step in the right direction, but the truth is that falconry in general has a negligible effect on wildlife. It sounds good though.
Today she caught a sparrow, carried it to a house roof and ate some of it. Then she flew to a gutter, and accidentally dropped it into the downspout. She hopped down into the gutter, but fortunately she didn't dive after it............. Mike called her down and she was forced to finish the day with a feeder mouse. Her ninth catch in five weekends, with only one starling escaping.
Here she is on the roof, a few minutes before taking the sparrow to the gutter. No I don't think that she was caching it. From her reaction, she just goofed. Sorry I did not have my camera set for high resolution.
9/8/2007 - The kestrel scores a double after a slow start
Lynne Holder from Chapell Hill joined us this morning. We drank some coffee, then left Mike's house and headed out west of Houston to hunt starlings. Initially the bird was a little high, not paying too much attention. So we ate breakfast, took her out again and she still seemed lackluster, though her weight was fine. Finally we drove to the place where she caught her first sparrow four weeks ago; she grabbed one on a nice flight. Mike made in, picked her up, and we went back to my house for a break, as several hours had gone by. It was now around 1100. We drove to the field where she caught and lost the starling last week. This morning she nailed another one, and controlled it well. A great day. Her first double of the season, and the first starling in the bag. Cisco ate it for dinner tonight. She has caught eight birds, seven in the bag, in the last four weeks. And this is weekend hunting. During the regular season Mike hunts with her almost every day.
In front of the house eating a starling.
English sparrow and European starling, the bane of native American songbirds
9/3/2007 She catches a house sparrow and a starling (but the starling breaks loose)
105.6 grams - We went out at around 0800 or so; she caught a house sparrow within a few minutes on the very first slip. Mike had no problem making in. We then ran over to my house to check a couple of video clips before heading out again. We slipped her on some starlings, and she nailed one, but it kicked loose just as Mike ran in. Kiki is a very small female, with a net flying weight of about 90 grams. Starlings weigh between 60 and 100 grams, with 80 grams being the average. Three to four times the size of a house sparrow.
9/1/2007 - Another morning hunt, another sparrow
This morning at 0730 the kestrel was at 104.5 grams, including gear. We headed west of town for some English sparrows. We saw a group feeding and she pursued. She is getting good at this, and grabbed one. Once again Mike made in, she did not carry it. Mike wants to reinforce the fact that he won't steal them, so he feeds her up rather than going for multiples. Out again tomorrow. Another YouTube clip. Kiki
8/26/2007 - All's well that ends well (redux)
No Cisco stuff, so the next month or so will be related to hawking with Mike's kestrel. We took her out this evening to hunt house sparrows; she is learning this new game well. We did not hunt her much this morning as she was a bit heavy, veering off a starling that she could have grabbed. At 1800 she was at weight. She is now flying at 105 grams, this includes the leash and jesses, so her net weight is about 90 grams. She is about the same size as Apollo, my haggard tiercel.
We headed west of town, she caught a sparrow on the first flush, but as Mike made in she took off, first to a fence, and then to a roof. We waited her out while she ate the sparrow, and when she was finished, Mike called her down with the the lure, held on the glove. She came right to the fist. This brief description hides some anxiety and a bit a frantic activity that was involved in getting her back. She did her job, and Mike has a bird that with a full crop will come down to the lure. We left the house with her weight at 105.3, and when we weighed her on her return, she was only about 117 grams. She always bites the heads off birds that she catches. Unlike Cisco, she does not relish the brains.
Here is a picture and a movie. Eat Mouse
Sorry, no flight movies.
8/23/2007 - Shall I eat the dog or not?
8/18/2007 - Kiki Strikes Again
An early morning hunt, at 0830 she caught a house sparrow right away. The kestrel knows the game. Mike made in smoothly and picked her up, and she fed on the fist eating a good portion of sparrow, but will be back on weight tomorrow morning. If you include the peregrine, this bird has now caught twelve head of wild game, but is now really getting hot. This season should be a good one. She also went after a starling, but it got the jump on her.
Here's the Youtube video: saturday morning
Here are a couple of pictures:
8/14/2007 - Bill Rhinehart
A picture of Bill Rhinehart from California. I have been giving him tips with his female Buteo jamaicensus calderus (western red-tail). She is coming along well, and looks like she will fly at about 1022 grams plus or minus 1/10 gram. He has her flying 60 feet to the fist. She is a rehab bird, the first I have heard about being trained. Bill is a very serious and dedicated falconer.
On Aug 26, Bill flew "Sugar" loose for the first time. Nice RT country.
8/12/2007 - A great day with Mike's kestrel
I got an email from Roger Crandall, telling me that his new male Harris' hawk pulled a "Cisco" i.e. slammed a rabbit so hard that it was silent. Roger didn't even know that the bird had scored until he made in. This has happened to me a number of times, but Cisco flies at over 900 grams. Roger's Harris's probably flies at around 600 grams. Below is my reply, which I have since edited for readability:
Good to hear from you.
Congratulations. Sounds great. That is a hard hitting little Harris' hawk!!!
Cisco still molting along, but we took Wiegels' kestrel out, quite fat, and she slammed into three groups of house sparrows and chased a starling. On the third group of house sparrows she connected. Mike made in, but she took off with the sparrow, something she didn't do last season, but now she's overweight. She flew to a house and munched on the sparrow.
She then flew off and we lost her completely for a while. We decided that we would wait until evening, with occasional checks during the day. About an hour later I went over there and she was sitting in a pine tree a few houses down from where she caught the sparrow. HUGE crop. I called Mike, asked if he had a buzzard that was lost and told him I had my 12 gauge handy; I could wing the bird if necessary. He started over from his house, but it took him about ten or fifteen minutes. I had a mouse and a spare lure, but I didn't think there was any way that she would come down to it. I tied the mouse extremely securely to the lure (I've had experience with sneaky kestrels). I swung it, put it on my fist, dragged it around. She just sat and bobbed her head, so I knew the greedy little rascal had some interest. Finally I put it right under the tree. Amazingly, down she came. She grabbed it and tried to drag it off, so I was on my belly on the sidewalk looking like a lunatic, trying to approach her - actually I was reeling her in, and she didn't want to lose that mouse. She had a death grip on it. This is a kestrel that tried to kill Jim Ince's peregrine, and later tried to steal a day old chick from Cisco. 85 grams of grit. Finally I got where I could grab a jess. Yes! I put her on my fist, holding her jesses with two hands, took her to my car. I then clipped her to the lure, which was a big mess of tangled string, and I saw Mike pull up with his BMW behind me. He got out, I saw him looking looking at the trees. He walked up to the car window and had a shocked look on his face when he saw his bird sitting on my fist. He now calls me the "Hawk Whisperer." A great day. I have not felt this good in years.
I left something out of this story. While Mike was first trying to retreive his kestrel, a constable pulled up. I had the passenger side door open and was watching Mike with his bird, fighting with a sparrow. The constable stopped, and you could tell he was thinking about stopping us, but then drove on. Hawking with a little kestrel is at least as much fun as any other kind of hawking. I have been in the field with some very good hawks and falcons in my life, hunting all kinds of quarry. But this kestrel hawking is its own kind of kick. I know why Jonathan Millican prefers it. Mike's done a good job with this bird.
Most of the stuff on the rest of this page is the result of boredom. The summer molt. Randy Kocurek offered me his sailboat. I should take him up on it.
Update 6/22/2007 - Cisco has dropped about half of his primary remiges, six in one wing, four or five in the other, plus a couple of retrices.
Email Cisco at firstname.lastname@example.org
He'll have his people call your people.
7/15/2007 - Cisco in the hawk box, not wanting to come out.
4/26/007 - A new season begins with the molt
Cisco dropped the 10th primary on his left wing today, so it's official. There will not be much activity on the site for a few months. Probably November. Have a good summer.
I have mixed feelings about this, given the polar bear's endangered status. On the other hand it is sometimes difficult to locate rabbits and squirrels, and the falconer has to provide game for his hawk. So when this character wandered into the yard, I slipped the buzzard. Not a bad flight, but quite a struggle until I made in and snapped its neck. Lotta meat.
Francisco (front row, right) as a downy chick in the nest in Caroline, Alberta, April of 2005. Sister, Consuela (Cisco refers to her as "Connie"), to his left and behind him his father, Luis. Three days later Cisco successfully defended the nest against a marauding great-horned owl. The incident left him somewhat traumatized, and resulted in the shock marks and broken feathers evident when he was trapped in December of that year. Even now he is prone to the occasional nightmare. I was accused of making all this stuff up. Hmmmm. Fancy that. (Photo credit: Ansel Adams)
The latest hawking vehicle in Houston. 2004 Honda Element. I bought it on Wednesday, May 16. This new car has room for hawk boxes, with a smooth ride, 4W drive, good gas mileage, and lots of room. I donated the VW van to charity. The picture was updated on September 3, 2007. It has already transported the kestrel to a number of hunting fields, where she caught sparrows.
5/27/2007 - We weathered the RT and Mike Wiegel's kestrel in the yard. The kestrel was completely relaxed, sitting puffed out, one foot up, looking at sparrows, until I fed Cisco on the fist. Immediately the kestrel started bating right at us, with the obvious intention of stealing the food. Of course this is the same kestrel who attacked Jim Ince's peregrine, hooded on a screen perch in Jim's truck. In general the kestrel is very relaxed around Cisco, but in the field she reacts with great alarm to any red-tail, red-shoulder, or Cooper' hawk.
A haggard red-tail that landed in a tree in my sister's yard in Denver. Too bad I had no BC handy.