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Cisco's Fourth Season Log - Dart's first - 2008/2009
Cisco began to molt on April 5th - that concludes the season. The new season can be found at Cisco's 5th
Newest updates towards top of page, except for field meet logs, where order is reversed
Please email me. Click on hypertext, or copy and paste address using your email client. email@example.com
The red-tail (and occasionally the Harris') can be seen during daylight hours CST here via webcam: Buzzard Cam
For 2008/2009 Seasonal Tally, please email me
Cisco, 3X intermewed passage red-tail hawk (Stephanie Jennings)
Dart, intermewed captive raised Harris' hawk (Picture by Bob Dalton)
Note: Biomass calculated on a spreadsheet by multiplying the average weight of each species by the number taken. The large difference is mostly related to the different environments that the two hawks are flown. The red-tail has been exposed to consistently larger prey.
Star crossed lovers........ or Cisco finds a girlfriend
A new summer hat (Stephanie Jennings)
3/29/2009 - The day starts with a bang, but the season ends with a whimper: Cisco performs and Dart goofs off
Last weekend I decided to feed up the birds and end the season. Well, my summer feeding regimen worked so well that on a cool sunny morning, Cisco weighed in at 918 grams (perfect hunting weight). I was only ten minutes from the De Soto Street field, so off we went. Cisco began by getting harrassed by red-shoulder hawks, then picked a fight with the resident red-tails; when they soared off, he decided to do the same. He started soaring up following them, with my waving the lure frantically, wondering whether it was too late in the season to fly him, and bracing myself for a long telemetry chase. Not to worry, moments later he was sitting on the T-pole, hunting. Just a little goofing around before settling in and not the first time I've seen this. We hiked around the field some, and had a few chases but nothing to brag about. On the west side of the field I flushed a swamp rabbit, the red-tail pursued, and nailed it on a nice flight. Good start to the last day of the season.
Later I picked up the Harris' hawk at Mike's house. Dart was also at what I thought would be a perfect hunting weight, 610 grams. I have been trying to get him to this weight for months. I had visions of rabbits running through my head, with each hawk's catching one. Oops. I took him to what should have been a perfect field for him, Jim Ince's merlin field, over by the Tollway. With several hours to hunt, I was ready for another great outing with my determined Harris' hawk. We did put in the time, but his performance was lackluster. By dusk, it was official: we were shut out. I'm not sure what it was, probably because all the game was in heavy cover, and the open areas were barren. He chased birds, rabbits, and cotton rats, but would not crash the cover going after them. In the heavy cover, a red-tail is better. Dart did chase a few things, and had a very nice flight after a rabbit, but overall it was pretty sorry. Wait'll next fall!
Cisco after Sunday's hunt
With a tail feather borrowed from Cisco showing plainly, Dart's looking very eager before 2 1/2 hours of fruitless hunting
See the squirrel on the tree, with the hawk's looking down - a deadly squirrel and rabbit hawk
Running along in her steel armored squirrel chaps
Above are two pictures of Cody Birdwell's exceptional hawk, "Beowulf," a passage female red-tail - excellent in the field and puppy dog tame. In coloration she looked a little like a western red-tail, though most RT's in Texas are of the eastern variety. Cody did a great job with an outstanding bird. He released her in March of 2009.
3/22/2009 Dart's season finale - Rats! (lots of them)
He caught three cotton rats down in Sugar Land - season is over . Pictures by Cameron Turner
3/21/2009 Cisco's season finale
A cotton rat first and then a swamp rabbit, not huge, but solid, taken in spectacular fashion. He had to catch this rabbit twice, first with a hover and tear-drop stoop, but the rabbit kicked free. Then when it broke into the open, the red-tail flew it down, catching it about 60 yards from the cover. Wow. Cameron and Kevin were both with me. Tomorrow we'll fly the Harris' in the same field. May be the last hawking of the season.
3/19/2009 And Dart ambushes a hapless dove in a bush
3/18/2009 A late season rabbit in Katy
After work, Cisco catches a little cottontail
3/15/2009 A wet Sunday afternoon adventure
This was from an email to Kevin Harcourt at Marshall Electronics. They had sent me an RT+ transmitter free, to replace the Scout that had gone bad. I have had lots of trouble with Marshall Scouts, with three out of four having problems, and two of them dying in the field. Marshall generally makes very good transmitters, but I have had bad luck with the Scout. At bottom of page is a review of my two transmitters, that I did last summer .
The new transmitter has already proved its worth. I took the red-tail out today in borderline weather to hunt swamp rabbits (Sylvilagus aquaticus). It began raining and the hawk flew south. I went back to the car to get my receiver, and it indicated north, which confused me. I tracked through some woods, crossed a creek, and saw the buzzard up in a tree on the other side of White Oak Bayou. No way to get to him, and he was pretty damp. It took me at least twenty minutes to get him to come down, swinging the lure garnished with squirrel meat, yelling at him, and blowing the whistle. He was peeping at me so I knew he wanted to come, but was just too wet. He finally flew down and attacked the lure, and I had to work my way back to the car, crossing the creek etc. with only one hand free. The weather improved, and I decided to keep hunting, as his weight was still good. I sat with him on the fist in front of the A/C vents in the car with the heat going; he spread his wings and tail feathers, seeming to enjoy it. He was dry in about 15 minutes and ready to go. He ended the day by grabbing two swamp rabbits. Here is a picture of a baby Texas swamp rabbit, one he caught a few weeks ago.
You should see the big ones. :-)
I sent the picture of that huge swamp rabbit caught by the red-tail about a month ago, 2/13/2009. Cisco did grab two swampers, but the first shook loose.
3/13/2009 Friday the thirteenth hawking
I took the Harris' hawk to De Soto Street field, where he chased swamp rabbits. It was rainy and very cool. The rain picked up, so I drove up to the old field at Ranchstone Road, near Jones and West Roads (aka Matt Reidy Field). It is now an enormous detention pond. I drove down to a field where Jim Ince used to fly his merlin, off the Sam Houston Tollway, south of US 59. In between rain showers the hawk caught a house sparrow and a cotton rat, which he dragged under some twigs, then took forever to eat. Finally, I just grabbed the rat and let him eat on my fist, not something that I often allow him to do.
A few hours later I took the red-tail to a field that looked good from the road - this is near my my house. It wasn't good. A waste of time, like most speculative hawking. My rule is first find the game, then hawk the field. Nothing there except a wild red-tail, which screamed at Cisco and vice-versa.
Dart trying to catch one of the huge rabbits at De Soto field. This is a typical wild rose bush there, about eight feet tall, and a reason why this field is so difficult for the hawk. Cisco has only caught about eight swamp rabbits there, in spite of being flown there fairly often.
Dart eating the cotton rat at another field - note his red deck feather, donated by Cisco. Also visible, a Pakistani bell and a Marshall "Micro" transmitter, borrowed from Mike Wiegel.
3/8/2009 Hawking at Lynne's
I took Dart up to Chappell Hill, to show Lynne Holder some of the capabilities of her new hawk. Transfer date is after Thanksgiving when Lynne's permit upgrades. We took her soon-to-be-released red-tail out first. It was somewhat overcast and breezy. Her hawk followed along well as we wandered around and occasionally he would smash into the ground chasing something. He caught a large grasshopper. We found a little ravine and the red-tail (Artemis) focused on a brushy area under a tree; he dove into it, hitting it hard. A temporarily very lucky rabbit wiggled out the back side and disappeared. We continued along with the hawk for a while, but found no more game, so put him in the mew.
Dart's turn next. We carried him on the T-perch, and he was alert, but again really nothing to really chase. We returned to that ravine and heard the rabbit. Dart pursued, missing, but the rabbit was still there. At some point, the rabbit headed up the gully, I chased, and saw the Harris' hawk right on its tail. Seconds later he had it.
Dart with his future mama - perfect Harris' hawk country
Gully rabbit - dragging into the brush. This is probably the same rabbit that Lynne's red-tail missed by inches about an hour earlier
3/6/2009 - Cotton rat and tiny swamp rabbit at Gold Fire
I took Kevin Prince and Mike Wiegel out to Gold Fire with the two hawks. It was very windy. Dart caught a big swamp rabbit but it broke loose. He had some great persistent flights, and he ended up with a cotton rat. Then Cisco also put in some fine flights on the big swampers, and grabbed a very young swamp rabbit. Time to wind down the season, I think.
3/1/2009 - Rodentia
I took Kevin Prince with me today. Up in Willis, Cisco put in a fine performance on a day when he appeared to be only mildly interested in hunting and there were no squirrels barking. This place is usually loaded with squirrels. Today, the woods were silent on a beautiful, cool Sunday afternoon. But the red-tail did find squirrels, and in three chases had one. The first was right in front of me, a dive from the tree; very close. The second was a classic drop down the trunk with the squirrel inches ahead, with Cisco crashing through the spindly branches that impeded his descent. The third flight followed a squirrel bailing out of a tree, and we had a young buck cat squirrel for the freezer.
We took Dart to two different fields. He chased birds, and missed, but caught a cotton rat under some power transmission lines at dusk. A good day for "Team Cisco."
Cisco with squirrel
2/27/2009 - Dart catches a bird in Katy
A new field out there on a windy day - he actually caught two, but the first escaped just as he was about to pluck and eat it. Earlier in the day, Cisco got shut out at the Fondren squirrel woods.
2/22/2009 - Sunday Squirrel
A perfect hawking day. Cool, sunny, but I forgot my tidbits, and had to stop at Wal-Mart for some lean chicken. The red-tail at 938 grams was deadly and efficient. He fought with some red-shoulder hawks, we found a squirrel, it bailed from the tree and Cisco caught it.
What, me worry? I already caught a squirrel.
2/21/2009 - Bobby Emison's Birthday Party
It was a great success. A present from Bobby's wife, Susan, was an afternoon watching me indulge in my obsession. This came about after she found Jonathan Millican's web site. Since Jonathan is serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq, Jonathan forwarded the request to me and Jim Ince. Bobby was ecstatic, and had a great time, bringing along his father, Bob. First, in Sugar Land, Dart caught 5 birds, a mouse and a cotton rat. Then in some woods in town, Rob's red-tail and mine put on a great show with the rabbits and squirrels. I tried all week to ensure that both of my hawks were at a good keen flying weight, but both weighed in heavier than I expected, probably because it was warm. It did not make any difference, nor did the wind and rain, which we encountered early, and seemed ominous. It was nothing. The hawks did great, and Bobby got to see some dirt hawking.
2/20/2009 - After work, Dart takes two birds in Katy
Windy and sunny, the Harris' caught a couple of birds out at Westgreen and Saums.
2/19/2009 - This squirrel should have stayed in the tree
I took the red-tail (927 grams) with me to the office, where he stayed hooded in the car all day. After work I took him to the woods on FM1960, soon to be converted into a hospital. Cisco put in a thoroughly professional performance. He did a little reconnaissance, followed me for a bit, then found a squirrel and attacked it. It got away, and he soon found another. He forced it to bail out from about 40 feet in the tree, and caught it right after it hit the ground running. One could do worse than flying a good red-tail.
2/16/2009 - Acting presidential, Cisco catches a squirrel
Cisco has had some thrilling outings. Today in a new woods in west Houston, Wiegel and I kept up with Cisco as he hunted bushy tails. We got out there at around 1100; it was cool and mostly sunny. Cisco was once again at the very high end of his good flying weight, 941 grams. On his tail he was wearing a new bell made by Jim Ince. He found squirrels right away and put in some flights. We worked the woods for a while, and finally got a squirrel pinned high in a tree. This was after Cisco crabbed with yet another wild red-tail. At any rate, Cisco worked hard for twenty minutes to get in a position to catch this squirrel, when it jumped to another tree and leaped (bailed out) to the ground. Cisco was right behind it, but the brush was heavy and it slipped away. This was disappointing. We started back toward the car, with Cisco still hunting. I heard a noise, and I looked up to see Cisco diving and snatching a gray squirrel out of some vines. Wow! Good one.
Cisco squirrel hunting (all pictures by Mike Wiegel)
Cisco looking around tree trunk to watch squirrel - this one escaped
Cisco on ground with squirrel
This photo shows the bell made by Jim Ince - right in middle of tail
2/15/2009 - Dart catches a basket full of birds and cotton rats
Again, I met Cameron down at his grandfather's field near Sugar Land. Sunny and warm today, Dart weighed 622 grams. We released him and the Harris' hawk went to work. By day's end he caught five birds and two cotton rats. It took a couple of hours, but it was fun. Later in evening, Mike Wiegel and I re-imped tail with a red-tail feather, a contribution from Cisco. We had done this before, but the feather fell out. Dart broke a feather while in the hawk box about a week or two ago.
Dart with new imped Cisco deck feather (Parabuteo unicinctus jamaicensus)
Day's end with full crop
Cameron with Dart on T-pole before the hunt
2/14/2009 - Dart's productive afternoon
I met Cameron down at his grandfather's field near Sugar Land. It was misty, a little rainy and balmy. We flew the Harris' hawk (611 grams) and ended up with a couple of cotton rats and a couple of birds. Some great flights, and he caught his 45th bird. This is the target flying weight for the bird, but it is difficult to keep a hawk at weight when he is this successful catching and eating small game in the field. I did manage to transfer him off the cotton rats. He eats them more slowly than the red-tail, who often rips them into three chunks and wolfs them down in about 30 seconds. The Harris' is easier to transfer than Cisco (except on squirrels), even though Dart mantles like crazy. But if you hold the game and put a tidbit ahead of him, he will usually leave the game behind, though he tries
to grip it. The cotton rats ended up whole, in the freezer.
2/13/2009 - The mother of all swamp rabbits
In the late morning I took Dart (625 grams) to the field on south Dairy Ashford. It is not as good, having been mowed. I carried him around and into an adjacent field; that field was OK. He had some flights and he caught a bird. He momentarily chased a meadow lark, but fortunately it out flew him. It flushed right at our feet. We got rained on a little.
A couple of hours later I took Cisco (932 grams) to the same De Soto Street field where I flew him on Wednesday. He started off being mobbed by red-shoulders, which he chased off. Then he crabbed with an adult red-tail, and I thought I might have to chase him with telemetry. The next thing I knew he was sitting on the T-pole ready to hunt. And today he was ready! I put him in the trees on the east side of the field, where he sat for a couple of minutes before flying to some very small spindly trees on the west side. He was very alert. I flushed in front of him, and he flew very fast about 80 feet or so, and smashed into the brush. A rodeo ride for him, with the biggest swamp rabbit I have seen. It kicked and bucked, and pulled. I ripped my thumb on some thorns subduing it. This one would have thrown Dart off, I think, as tough as he is for his size. Something to be said for a red-tail's greater weight and strength. Plus Cisco is as good a footer as Dart is. He was exhausted when I finally killed the rabbit, and he didn't try to break in for a while. I gave him the head to eat. I took this picture with my cell phone as I had left my camera at the house. I estimate this rabbit was 6-7 pounds. One flight, one rabbit. He was eating the head at the time this picture was taken.
2/11/2009 - It's the flight
I took Cisco to the DeSoto Street field and he got shut out, but great aerobatics.
From an email to Mark Reindel:
I took the red-tail out yesterday after work, to a field that has big swamp rabbits. He has only caught about six or eight of them in four seasons in this field, plus a few rats. He put in the most beautiful flights I have ever seen yesterday, wheeling and soaring and plunging into the cover. He almost always catches something when we hunt, but not yesterday. But I was saying, "Wow!" and "Holy S*&t!" just watching him fly. I hate getting skunked, but it was worth watching. A+ in the aesthetics department.
Yeah... a lot of friends, accomplished longwingers (with quarry, set-ups, everything ) are thinking about red-tails. Something to do with gratitude, common sense, older age. One friend trapped a RT and gave it to a beginner (good one) and the dude caught 35 squirrels and 35 rabbits. LOL....Steve was pissed. He wants to catch an early passager and kite it. RTs are made for soaring. He lives in the Flint Hills (perfect place). RTs can take divers on the flush from great pitches because divers can't dodge or fly straight up like puddle ducks etc. Here on (Nantucket Island) the nesting bog birds produce beautiful young that start off hunting like North American rough-legs. Hovering at 300 to 500 ft. all day long in the wind. You can imagine what's running through my mind as I watch them for ten or 15 minutes. Mulholland bought a beagle pup to fly an RT with. He'll trap one next fall. I'm seriously thinking about giving my falcons away. I just thought Ranger and a male Harris’ could be more interactive. But Ranger points rabbits as well as sparrows sooo.... he'd help an RT too.
Ranger is Mark's French Brittany.
2/10/2009 - Dart catches a cotton rat in even heavier wind
After work, Paul Junghans and Anthony Self came with me to hunt at the 1960 field with the Harris' hawk. Very, very windy, but the hawk did great, nabbing a cotton rat, and chasing a few birds and a rabbit.
2/8/2009 - Dart catches a rabbit in the heavy wind
My sister and I caught up with Rob Evans on a lousy hawking day. Windy, warm and overcast. We tried to find squirrels for Rob's red-tail, but struck out. No squirrels in west Houston. Rob suggested we take a shot with the Harris' on a rabbit that his hawk could never could catch because she always wanted to fly to some nearby pines, which put her out of position. This was down in a ditch with heavy cover, in back of a subdivision. We put Dart on the T-pole, flushed the rabbit and he caught it, on a quick crosswind flight. It was impressive.
2/7/2009 - Dart singles, and Cisco catches a huge Norway rat
My sister, Jane, is visiting from NM. I took her with me as I hunted with the Harris' (625 grams) out in Katy. It was sunny and very windy, but he caught a small bird and ate it. Good enough for the conditions.
Later in the day I took the red-tail out to Gold Fire. He was a lean and mean, 918 grams. He immediately caught a rat that weighed more than a pound, and no doubt a Norway rat. I extracted it, and we went after the rabbits. As I went to the east side of the field he caught a cotton rat, which I let him eat, so he had a large crop. His fiftieth kill of this season. He's done for the weekend I guess, but Dart will be at flying weight. Tomorrow we'll hawk with Rob and his red-tail, plus fly the Harris'.
It appears that Lynne Holder will take Dart next fall when she upgrades her permit in late November. She has a good red-tail, but where she lives, there is little game for that hawk. She'll do well with a Harris' hawk, and I can finally get back to flying one bird. I have plenty of game for my red-tail, and plan to continue flying him. I have really enjoyed flying this Harris' and know why they are so popular. Other than his screaming, I will miss him. I will get to fly him for part of next season, which will be good. Trying to find enough field time for two hawks is difficult with my schedule. If I were retired it would be different.
2/4/2009 - Dusk bunnies
After work I went hawking at the De Soto Street field. Less than ten minutes after arrival, the red-tail caught a large cotton rat. He gobbled it down and we continued to hunt, though it was obvious that a full crop had a tranquilizing effect on his attitude. As always, the field was loaded with swamp rabbits, but they are hard to catch. Some close calls, near misses, but we left without a rabbit, though we hunted until dark. This is the most challenging field that I fly with my hawks. It's small, with lots of rose bushes for cover and a line of protective trees where the rabbits run for protection. Always fun, though he has caught only six or eight rabbits here in four seasons.
Hispid cotton rat (Sigmodon hispidus), a favorite of
red-tails and Harris' hawks (Picture downloaded from a
Texas Tech University web site) http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/tmot1/sigmhisp.htm
2/3/2009 - A typical Wednesday after work
The Harris' hawk caught a couple of birds and a cotton rat. He also broke a deck feather while residing in the hawk box during the day. This weekend we will imp a red-tail feather to replace the broken one. Without the tail mount, I attached the transmitter to his anklet.
2/1/2009 - Rules for life
Rule 1: Never fly your red-tail on squirrels when he's an ounce overweight, especially in warm weather. Rule 2: If you do, don't give up.
From an email to Cody Birdwell: Cisco, a full ounce overweight, caught a squirrel after two hours of hard work up in Willis. I knew he was high when I left the house, but had my plans set. He and I were both completely worn out by the time he scored. When he is at weight he is very efficient. When he’s not, it’s like (today).
I weighed the hawk at the house, and was disappointed that he was still so heavy, as I had a long hour's drive to the squirrel woods. Two days ago he cropped up on a swamp rabbit. Today, he was at 946 grams, with a warm afternoon anticipated. In this weather I would have liked to have seen him around 915. I planned to hunt in some woods outside of Willis, TX, then drop by Jim Hunziker's house near New Caney for a Super Bowl party. I decided to stick to my plan, knowing that the hawk would at least be safe at this weight, if not red hot. The squirrels in my local woods have been scarce. I had the Harris' hawk with me also, but really wanted to get Cisco on some squirrels. When we got up to Willis, he did find squirrels; they were barking around us. He first chased some cat squirrels, and nearly caught a fox squirrel; but then he ignored that squirrel, and moved on to another patch of trees. That was unusual, and probably indicative of his high weight. He attacked a number of squirrels, not with tremendous zest, but at least he was persistent. A couple of times I nearly called him down, with the idea of leaving the woods and flying the Harris', but I kept hunting instead. He was hunting just well enough to keep me going. Besides, last year, while at 990 grams, he did catch a squirrel, so I knew it was possible. I had to cross a couple of creeks, and got snarled in prickly vines. It was beginning to get late, and we got rained on a little. Then a squirrel bailed out of a tree with Cisco right behind it. That was it. I'm not sure whether he plucked it out of the air, or snatched it on the ground, but it was a great finish to a long afternoon. He was panting with a cat squirrel in his talons. One large front talon was in the squirrel's mouth. I told Cody two hours; it was closer to three.
1/31/2009 - Cody's hawk
Cody Birdwell is flying one of the best red-tails that I have seen, a 1150 gram female, called Beowulf. Two weeks ago in Abilene and Ft. Worth, she caught more rabbits than any of the other red-tails and Harris' hawks in our group. This consisted of three Harris' hawks (including Dart), and four red-tails (including Cisco). What's more, this bird catches rabbits in a vigorous style, flying them down over long distances in the open. She is not only a great field bird, but is very docile when being handled.
Today she showed her mettle in another way. I missed it, as I was flying the Harris' by the street about a half mile away. Cameron Turner joined Cody, Cody's dad, and me for some squirrel hawking. We drove to some woods not far from Cody's house. I started out to the woods with them, but got a little concerned because the weather was not as cool as I had anticipated, and went back to the car to check on the Harris' hawk. The car was not overheated at all, well ventilated, but I don't take chances.
Cody's hawk caught a fox squirrel in the tip of a 80 foot tall pine tree, and parachuted to the ground with it. This was on an afternoon that produced very few squirrels and the hawk was following the falconers around in the woods. If the hawk is following the people, it indicates that the squirrels are scarce and the hawk is depending on the falconers to flush (typical in the open fields when rabbit hawking). When the squirrels are plentiful the hawk will attend to the squirrels and the falconer needs to keep up with the hawk. An experienced squirrel hawk will usually hunt in a fairly small area, not distracted by squirrels 200 yards away. Beowulf caught a squirrel yesterday as well. Cody has done a great job with a first rate hawk.
While they were hunting that squirrel, I had the Harris' hawk flying around near the road. He chased some birds, a couple of swamp rabbits, and a squirrel, but missed them all. When Cody came back, Dart went after his red-tail, and Cody had to shield his hooded bird from the Harris'.
Since Cody was finished, I took Cameron with me out to Katy and we hunted with Dart in the one un-mowed patch of grass left in the Saum's Road field. Dart, as usual, put in a fine performance, catching three birds within about 45 minutes. Cameron was impressed.
Picture taken last month - Cody and "Beowulf"
1/30/2009 - Trusty old red-tail
I had to be over in Oak Forest today, near the old house. The field where I used to hunt there is on DeSoto Street adjacent to White Oak Bayou. A small field with old tires piled up at the entrance, it is not scenic. The land is city's but has some soil pollution problems according to the guy who owns a good part of the land across the street. Espino, I believe is his name. Today I took Cisco out there, and I weighed him at the field (around 915 to 920 grams). There have always been very large swamp rabbits there, but they are hard to catch as they run for the trees on the east side, and disappear. Including today, my red-tail has caught only about eight rabbits there. This is total in four season's hunting, and I have hunted this field about forty times. I hunted there because of its convenient location to my house.
Today, cool and sunny, some workmen were planting trees along the bayou, and showed mild interest when I put the hawk up. Cisco did what he always does there. I release him, he flies around the field, then returns to wait for me to get ready. Today, no exception. I then put him on the T-pole and walked toward the bayou. He tried to catch a mouse, then chased a rabbit across the field to the trees. He returned to the T-pole again, but I wanted him in the trees. It is the only way to consistently catch the rabbits here. I gently flipped the T-pole toward the trees, and the hawk obliged me by flying back to them. Suddenly I flushed a rabbit, and Cisco dove from the tree, out into the field. This was a big female swamp rabbit; she bucked and kicked. I made in and dispatched the rabbit. My hawk fed up a bit, and I transferred him off. Tomorrow I plan to take Cameron to fly with Cody's excellent red-tail. We will hunt squirrels, then probably take the Harris' out.
The field is on the south side of DeSoto, west of TC Jester, by the bayou. DeSoto
1/27/2009 & 1/28/2009 - A sparrow for the Harris' and where are the squirrels?
Tuesday after work, I took Dart out for a hunt. First it was warm, then cold and windy, as a front moved in. He did OK, and managed to catch a sparrow.
Wednesday, I took Cisco to the old squirrel woods near my office. Very few squirrels like every other place I've hunted recently. He chased, but I think a hawk needs more than one available squirrel to be successful. He rode back to the car on my shoulder, parrot style. That should indicate what kind of day it was.
1/24/2009 - No hawking tomorrow
Cameron Turner called this morning wanting to go hawking. I had planned to hunt the Harris' at his grandfather's field in Sugarland, then would take the red-tail out near Gold Fire. It was windy and cool today, and I decided to fly Cisco first, at the Sugarland field. The red-tail certainly wouldn't drive off the plentiful small birds, and we have seen rabbits at this field. On the scale at the field, he was 943 grams, not lean, but he responded very well. He wanted to hunt. He immediately began crashing the brush, either after cotton rats or small birds. Mike Wiegel, his buddy Brooks Harris, and a guy who was just driving by, showed up. The third guy was a complete stranger, named Brad Huff; he had read the article on falconry in the November Texas Parks
magazine, the one with Cisco on the cover. He was driving by the field with his wife and saw some falconers, and she dropped him off. We walked to the end of the field and when we turned back, Cisco started catching rats. He ate the first one, and a few minutes later caught a huge second, which I managed to extract from him. Then, he caught a third, which I let him eat, writing off tomorrow. As we got near the car, he decided to chase the local pair of red-tails. I got concerned because he was no longer hungry, and thought he might pursue these birds over the horizon. I pulled the second cotton rat out, waved it, put it on the lure, and he lost interest in harassing his relatives. Back in the hawk box for him.
Dart up next, at a good flying weight (about 620 grams or so) for the first time since he flew off and disappeared for three days a couple of months ago. He was fired up today, catching four sparrows and a cotton rat. Wow.
Both hawks have big crops and will not likely go hunting tomorrow. Fat boys....................
Great pictures below taken by Cameron.
Cisco flying out of field
Dart taking off from fist
Getting a fat Harris' hawk home at end of hunt - note the crop
1/21/2009 A lone sparrow for the Harris' hawk
An after work trip to the field from last week resulted in a single sparrow before dark. Yesterday, I took the red-tail to the woods by Airtex Road. Barren.
Abilene 2009 THA Field Meet Trip
1/16/2009 The road to Abilene - all birds score
Cody Birdwell rode with me to the THA meet in Abilene. We left his house in Houston at 0700 with the idea of hawking briefly in Ft. Worth on the way up. Lynne Holder had already planned to meet with Roger Crandall in Ft. Worth; he would take her hunting. She has had a hard time finding game for her hawk, in spite of yeoman effort on her part. I was certain that we would be hours behind her. Cody and I stopped briefly en route to fly the Harris' in a little field by the road. Not much action. About 1100 Lynne called. Her red-tail, Artemis, had caught a cottontail and cotton rat in Ft. Worth and asked if we would like to meet her and husband Ron, plus Roger at Chili's for lunch. Sounded good. We ate lunch, had a good time, and Cody and I returned to the same field where we had hunted with Cody's hawk briefly before lunch.
First we flew Dart, who effortlessly caught a cottontail, after some fine aerobatics. Then came Cody's female red-tail, Beowulf, who after struggling a bit, caught a rabbit in a great open field flight from a power pole. A good 75 yard flight with a wingover at the end. Cisco, although fat yesterday, was at flying weight today. I had not planned to fly him, but after Cody's bird scored, I decided to check his weight. It was good, about 935 grams, fine for the cool weather. Very shortly, my red-tail caught a rabbit in heavy cover on the very first slip. The Uberhawk. So the Houston contingent did well on the trip up. Cody and I packed up the gear, and we headed to Abilene.
1/17/2009 Saturday - Abilene
My birds were both fat, so not flying today. By a lake north of the hotel, Cody's red-tail, "Beowulf," caught a rabbit in the morning after we hawked with Roger Crandall's Harris' hawk. Harris' hawk "Cujo" made some valiant efforts among the cactus, but didn't score.
In the afternoon we took Lynne's red-tail to the same field. Artemis caught a big rat in the late afternoon.
Lynne with Artemis, intermewed passage red-tail
1/18/2009 Sunday - Cody's afternoon
Cody Birdwell's hawk is great. We drove back to Ft. Worth with the idea of hunting there rather than Abilene. We started off with Cody's bird, "Beowulf." She didn't disappoint. She followed us around the tree line and flew to the top of a power pole, the same line as two day's earlier. Once again, she took off extremely fast and caught a rabbit hundreds of yards out in the open. This truly was the best rabbit flight I have seen ever, even eclipsing Dart's flight in Amarillo.
About that time, Paul Moore called. He was to meet us in Ft. Worth and was getting close. By the time he got there, we were getting Cisco ready. Paul's two dogs interfered with Cisco's field response, so Paul put them back in the car kennel. Cisco had a dandy of a flight by the north fence, but the rabbit narrowly escaped. We hunted a little more, and put Cisco back in the hawk box, as there were other birds to fly. Next came Lynne's hawk, who had already caught a rabbit and a couple of rats this weekend. "Artemis" had a good rabbit flight, but it was starting to get late, and we still needed to fly the Harris' hawks, mine and Paul's together in a cast.
I questioned Paul, telling him that Dart had shown aggression toward the red-tail. He said that was probably not an issue. It was. Dart attacked Paul's hawk a couple of times, so I took Dart to another field. Ron Holder came with me, while Lynne and Cody stayed with Paul, hawk and dogs. They had some close flights, so did I at the other field, but both hawks came up empty.
We also briefly flew Paul's apprentice's bird, but he was not too keen, possibly a little low. Greg is struggling.
This was Cody's afternoon. 1/19/2009 Monday - a cold windy morning for Cisco
I got up before dawn. Cody did not want to go hawking, and last night at dinner Lynne had threatened to hurt me if I called her before 0800. So I drove to the field by I-820, with the hawks in the car. All three. But this was Cisco's outing. It was very windy, cool, and clear. I weighed the hawk using the car as a wind brake; 925 to 930 grams, not bad. Because of the wind, I kept him on the fist and walked him near some trees on the east end of the field. I cast him off and he flew to the trees. He followed for a while in the trees, then flew down to the T-pole. The wind was keeping the game scarce, but he did have a chase. We kept walking for a good while, the hawk hunkered down on the T-pole. As I was heading back, I was beginning to think we would strike out, when he suddenly flew fast cross-wind, and disappeared in the vegetation. I thought he might have scored, and when I could not find him for about five minutes was pretty sure he had. I even considered going back to the car to get my receiver, but then spotted the hawk on a rabbit. Good work. I called Lynne at the hotel to recommend that she not fly her bird in the wind, unless she were really confident.
In Houston, in the afternoon I flew the Harris'. It was still windy, but not as bad. He did all right but did not catch any birds. Also they have mowed "his" field. The mower was working today. Ouch.
Cody Fields in Spearman, TX - January of 2009 with a 6-7 pound black-tail jack rabbit (Lepus californicus). One of two caught that day by his first year female red-tail.
2006 in Houston, TX with a five pound swamp rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus)
1/14/2009 A new field for the Harris'
Ted Andrews, a Sierra Club member, found a field for Dart. Off FM 1960, it's not great, but plenty good enough for a weekly hunting trip. The hawk caught a couple of sparrows there tonight. Yesterday, the red-tail found only one squirrel in some woods near the office. Where have they gone? One chase and escape and that was it.
1/11/2009 Harris' catches a sparrow down in Sugarland
In a great new field, the Harris' caught a sparrow. Mike lost his kestrel but took the day off on Monday and found her.
1/10/2009 Cisco's first mega-rabbit of season
I met Cameron Turner and Glenn, his dad at Gold Fire. The red-tail caught a huge swamp rabbit, and cotton rat out at Gold Fire. This is a very large swamp rabbit, somewhere around five pounds, but does not look large in the picture. The rabbit was caught on a downwind flight from the T-pole, right along Summit Ridge Road. This rabbit was old, having ragged ears from running through the rose bushes prevalent at this field.
1/9/2009 Dart squeezes in three birds and a rabbit in a short hour
I ran home from work, grabbed the Harris', and he performed brilliantly. I was concerned about the time and was hoping to just get in some flight time. It was extremely windy, and upon initial release the hawk got blown around a little, but worked his way back. He hopped on the T-pole and we worked our way across the grassy field. For about five or ten minutes there was not much action, but then a sparrow flushed. Within the next thirty minutes the hawk caught three, and I began to head back. I flushed a cottontail, and the hawk caught it just before dusk.
1/4/2009 Cisco at Gold Fire: A busy and stressful afternoon
On the Sunday before I had to go back to work, Mike Wiegel and I took Cisco (954 grams) out to the field at Gold Fire. We met Cameron (a future falconer, probably) and his dad, Glenn Turner. We got the red-tail ready, and released him. We have a familiar routine there. Behind a little church is a small grove of trees. In the heavy underbrush there is a big swamp rabbit we have been trying to catch for months. Typically Cisco takes a stand in the trees, I walk through flushing, and this rabbit escapes into the brush. Then in the open field the hawk rides the T-pole. Today Cisco went after a rat.
When we got to the other side of the ditch, Cisco caught a cottontail almost immediately. After a poor transfer on my part, the hawk was up on the pole again, ready to go. We soon flushed another rabbit that ran through the cyclone fence, up into the detention pond. A week ago, about 50 feet from this spot on the same fence, Cisco chased a rabbit upwind. He flew over the fence and caught the rabbit 50 yards south, out in the open. Unfortunately, today he flew into the fence. I heard the crash, and got very concerned. Red-tails are killed like this - less than two weeks ago Rob Evans' bird was knocked unconscious in a similar situation. I ran to the fence, and Cisco was standing on the ground, acting a little dazed, but not too bad. To make sure, I decided to keep flying him but we headed away from the fence. Suddenly he was off the pole, chasing a large bird that flushed, a barn owl (Tyto alba). This was trouble, as a barn owl cannot out fly a red-tail. I started running as fast I could, hoping to keep up. I saw the two birds crash to the ground, and ran up quickly, hearing the barn owl screaming. When I got there, the barn owl was holding its own, keeping Cisco from grabbing its head. I grabbed both birds, and separated them, Cisco did not have a fatal grip on the owl and let go. The owl flew off, apparently OK. Back to the car and a well deserved rabbit head for Cisco. The red-tail's second bird catch this year, but I was happy to release this one.
A while later, Mike and I coped the the red-tail's beak. We noticed that Cisco had taken a good blow to the head from his fence collision. He'll be all right, but may carry the scar for a while. His cere is torn and he has a small compression wound between the cere and his left eye.
A lucky barn owl flies off (depiction of real event)
Cisco's cere after flying into the fence. Taken the next day.
1/3/2009 Dart's huge rat (and a sparrow)
Very windy warm and sunny, Dart finally caught a sparrow, then a very large cotton rat. The Harris' caught the rat by a marshy area in his hunting field in Katy. He dined on it for a good twenty minutes, and had the biggest crop I have seen on him. Dart will be grounded tomorrow.
Rob Evans' red-tail caught two water moccasins at once today, got bitten by both, but is doing AOK. He had the snakes by the head, one in each foot. Two months ago the same bird nearly died in a water moccasin encounter.
This was actually 1/3/2009, in the morning (Photo: SJennings)
1/2/2009 Cisco two cotton rats, Dart strikes out
I took the red-tail out to a field in Katy. He caught a couple of cotton rats, I put him in the hawk box, and brought out the Harris' hawk; no luck in the limited time left. We ran out of time as I was supposed to meet Mike to fly his kestrel. We could not flush any catchable birds for the kestrel, but did flush a number of snipe.
1/1/2009 Cisco cotton rat, Dart 2 sparrows
Saums & Westgreen Roads, Cisco (942 grams) fights with a big Buteo, and catches a cotton rat. Same field later, the Harris' (629 grams) catches two birds. Here he is, eating one of them.
12/31/2008 New year's Eve
It is rare that two hours in the field results in not a single flight. But that happened today with the red-tail (931 grams). A Wednesday and New Year Eve, we spent two hours looking for squirrels and not a single one. Cisco got skunked, though he did chase a red-shoulder. I also flushed a woodcock.
The Harris' (641 grams) saved "Team Cisco" from a shut-out by catching a bird after an hour in the field, as the sun was setting. He was high in weight and it showed in his fifteen or so flights on birds and rabbits without a kill, before he finally connected.
12/28/2008 Dart and company
It is not often that I take someone to the field who actually roots for the prey species, but today my sister Lyn was along. She joined Mike, Kate and me as we hunted with Dart. The Harris' hawk was very heavy today, at 658 grams. He has never gotten down to his "flying weight" since he porked up while on the lam a few weeks ago. His response is good and he continues to catch whatever shows up. Today we drove in the rain to the (same) field, calling Rob Evans on the way. Rob didn't answer, but called back reporting that his red-tail, at a good flying weight, wouldn't chase rabbits in this cool weather. Last weekend the bird flew into a fence and was knocked unconscious for ten minutes. Let's hope she is OK.
We stomped around the field, and initially didn't encounter any birds. Then we got a number of flights, and Dart caught one, eating it quickly. More good flights and he apparently caught a very small cotton rat. It was some small furry animal, but quickly consumed. He usually takes as much time to eat a cotton rat as a red-tail takes to eat a five pound swamp rabbit. OK, I exaggerate. It rained, was very cold, and we headed back to the car. All the crew sat in the car while I hawked for a few more minutes and we left.
12/27/2008 The red-tail in the heavy air
Kate and I took Cisco (941 grams) out to Gold Fire. We met Glenn and Cameron Turner out there; Cameron is interested in falconry. It was very breezy, overcast and warm. Cisco rode the T-pole, but we didn't scare up any rabbits for a while. Then we had some flights, including a downwind flight on a rabbit that should have been caught. We then flushed a rabbit that ran upwind through the cyclone fence, and into the detention pond. The red-tail swooped low after the rabbit, flew up over the fence and caught the rabbit about 50 yards out in the pond. Quite a flight, but when I first saw the hawk on the ground, I thought he had missed. Then Cameron said, "Does he have something?" I saw the hawk dragging something into the light cover, and I went over the fence into the pond. When I got there Cisco had a cottontail. This was one of his longest rabbit flights in four seasons, made more interesting by its being an upwind flight. Kudos for the buzzard on this one.
Dart was very heavy (665 grams) but I gave him a shot at some nuisance grackles. The wind was too heavy, and he looked the wrong way. He flew around a little, and I called him back. He'll hunt tomorrow.
12/25/2008 Dart's Christmas hawking
Kate and I took Dart (641 grams) to the same field where he caught the birds on Friday night. I called Rob Evans, who met us out there. Dart was on the high end of his weight range, but responded OK. He caught a bird and a cotton rat; we took him home. Merry Christmas.
Dart with sparrow
Rob and I watch dart eat a rat
Dart in hawk box with full crop - no hunting tomorrow
12/24/2008 Cisco's Christmas Eve squirrel
Kate and I took Cisco (932 grams) to the squirrel woods around mid-day. He caught his second squirrel. There are not as many squirrels here as there were last season, so efficiency is important. Cisco caught this one on the ground. He had to fly through a sub-canopy that was about ten feet high. Crashing through it, he surprised the squirrel. This amazed my sister, seeing the hawk do this. With this red-tail, it has always been about 50/50, with half caught in trees and half on the ground. The squirrel, a big male, was caught within minutes of arrival. We continued to hunt for another hour, but didn't see any more squirrels. I wonder if Hurricane Ike has anything to do with the squirrel shortage. The red-shoulders were around for a time, screaming and flying overhead a little, but have kept a respectful distance since Cisco went after one a month or two ago.
Cisco watching for red-shoulder hawks
Back in the hawk box, eating the head
12/23/2008 Dart darts
My sister Kate and I took Dart (625 grams) out to a new field in Katy; new to me at least. Rob pointed this field out last Sunday and said it was good, as he had caught several rabbits there with his red-tail, and saw many birds. I left work early and rushed home to get the hawk, racing to preserve the daylight. My sister, who had practically just gotten off the plane from Denver, came with me. The Harris' was on it, very intense. There were lots of small birds in the fields, which he chased, putting in some great flights. We also flushed a number of snipe, which he barely glanced at. He caught three birds and a cotton rat by the time dusk found us. He also put in a determined chase on a rabbit, which got away. I don't mean to repeat myself, but he is a fine hawk.
Dart on Christmas Eve, fat from previous day's outing:
12/21/2008 Need more squirrels
Rob, Mike, and I took Cisco to the woods. Cisco (920 grams) today was in perfect form while squirrel hawking. Just not enough squirrels. On about three flights he got his feet on two squirrels, but they got away. At one point he had his feet on a nest, and I could see a furry tail sticking out. Divine intervention saved that squirrel apparently. Nevertheless, the hawk's performance in the very cold and breezy weather was exemplary, never better. Following the three of us closely and finding the very scarce squirrels in the woods today, he was outstanding. I did not hear a single squirrel scolding in the two hours that we hunted. That is rare. I don't know where the rodents went. There were not many Friday either, but Cisco managed to get one.
We ran into Cody Birdwell and his dad out there. Cody's bird is a female he calls Beowulf. She is a hunting machine.
12/20/2008 Dart at Gold Fire
Dart (636 grams) caught a cotton rat after a number of rabbit chases today. This field is really better for a red-tail, as Cisco handles the heavy brush better. Dart struggles more when on the ground, getting impeded by the vegetation, and doesn't really have the weight to penetrate the cover. Even Cisco, who outweighs him by 50%, sometimes loses rabbits and rats, as he smashes the brush and tries to reach down to catch the escaping prey. Two seasons ago, Carlos Madruga brought his tiercel Harris' out here. The bird caught up with a rabbit, nailed the brush hard, but bounced right off. The rabbit disappeared. A few minutes later, Cisco smashed into a similar bush and had a swamp rabbit.
12/19/2008 Cisco's first squirrel of 08/09 hawking season
Wiegel and I took all three birds (including Mike's kestrel) out for a day long hawking trip. Cisco (935 grams) labored to catch his first cat squirrel. He scraped up his cere a little, diving into the brush. After about an hour he caught a squirrel up in a tree. He parachuted down with it, and took it across the creek, which meant a 57 year old guy had to shinny across a log to get to the hawk. When I got there he was mantled over it, and transferred off easily; squirrels are hard as nails, and he prefers tidbits. The Uber-Buzzard is back.
Later we took Dart to the Dairy-Ashford field. It has lost its charm since they mowed most of it. But on the north side, after a number of flights, the Harris' pounced on a cotton rat. I was going to write, "a plump cotton rat," but that's redundant. This was Dart's first outing since he returned from being AWOL. He acted like any other time, no big deal. I do need to find better fields for him.
We struck out with Mike's kestrel, as we were not able to find quarry like sparrows and starlings. We tried.
Cisco and Dart have now combined for 70 kills. Maris and Mantle.
12/16/2008 A great day hawking (yes, Dart is back)
First of all, I'd like to thank those folks who put in the time and effort to help me look for the Harris' hawk. These include Lynne Holder, Rob Evans, Mike Wiegel and Jim Ince. Jim left work early yesterday afternoon, and drove and walked around the area with his lure and whistle, but saw nothing. Also I would like to thank the folks in the background, some even praying, and my boss, who let me take this afternoon off.
I left work feeling optimistic, believing that I would recover the hawk today and went to Gold Fire right after noon. I decided that I would look for Dart briefly, then fly Cisco, who was excited and ready to hunt (940 grams at noon). It was cold, damp and overcast. At Gold Fire, I parked where I had lost him Saturday then walked up the little knoll, which offers a view. I had my whistle, T-perch, and ear protecting headsets; Saturday night my ears were ringing because of this whistle. I blew the whistle once, and there he was. Dart appeared to fly up from the detention pond on the east side of the club house and pavilion area, and alighted on a light pole. Wow! I whistled again, offering the T-pole and he flew to it. I was shocked and elated. I carried him to the car, and leaned the pole against the side of the car, so that I could get some rabbit tidbits out of the cooler. He was slightly nervous. He didn't want to fly to the glove, but landed on the car door, just a couple of feet from me. I offered the glove again, he nervously hopped to my fist, and started ripping at the frozen tidbits. He relaxed quickly, and I put him in the hawk box, so I could make some phone calls. I fed him only about 15 grams of rabbit, as I wanted to evaluate his situation over the last three days. Was he successful out in the wild? Later I weighed him, and he came in at 690 grams, so he obviously did well. His keel felt plump. He had nothing in his crop, and had an apparent bite on one foot, probably a wood rat. Stuck to one foot, he also had a bit of what appeared to be bird-fuzz. I believe he avoided confrontation with the plethora of red-tails that live in this area. It worried me that he might decide to fight with one, as he is not the least bit afraid of them. He still screams - oh well. So much for hacking your bird to reduce screaming. Tonight he was so tired that he tucked his head under his wing (still screaming even with head tucked); sitting on Cisco's bow perch, he went to sleep as I was writing this. Cisco is sleeping in the hawk box by the front door.
After making some obligatory phone calls, I drove down to the little church on the other end of the field, parked, and unhooded Cisco. Up on the T-pole for him, and he flew to the woods. A great outing with lots of good flights resulting in a swamp rabbit and cotton rat in the bag. This was the best day hawking for me, probably ever.
12/14/2008 No Luck
Rob Evans and I went to Gold Fire at sunup. On the phone last night Rob was very optimistic, saying, "Let's go find your hawk tomorrow." He no longer feels that way. The area where I lost the hawk is perfect for a recovery. The little knoll where the hawk was lost provides a view of hundreds of tall perches within about a three mile radius. Where's the hawk? He seemed to have flown into a black hole, and all of the scenarios that I can imagine seem improbable. Did he get blown downwind? The most likely outcome, but I probably would have seen him. Ambushed by a red-tail on a kill, right after the flight? There were no wild red-tails around at that time. Did he follow the blackbirds upwind into the neighborhood? Question here is why he didn't return, and we checked the neighborhood upwind of the field. Did he switch from blackbirds to a swamp rabbit and get dragged into a hole? Who knows?
Around mid-day, Wiegel and I went back out to Gold Fire, and spent about an hour there; then later in the afternoon I hunted Cisco in the same field. He caught a small swamp rabbit in the warm wind. But I saw no Harris' hawk. It seems pointless to swing by there on the way to work tomorrow, but I will hunt the red-tail there exclusively over the next week or two. The hawk is gone, I'm afraid. I now know why Harris' hawks are so popular. This little guy was a gem.
12/13/2008 Dart lost at Gold Fire
A sad day. This afternoon about 2:30 p.m., while waiting for Lynne and Ron Holder, and Mike Wiegel, I slipped Dart at a group of starlings and grackles. He flew over a little mound, I lost sight of him, and he vanished. Lynne, Mike and I spent the rest of the afternoon looking for him with no luck. Tomorrow morning at dawn I'll start again.
12/11/2008 The Dusky hawk strikes at dusk
First of all, I need to mention that Bill Rhinehart's red-tail, "Sugar," has taken her second rabbit in a week. This is after an entire season of trials and tribulations, without a single kill. Good work, Bill. You now have a game hawk. Bill lives in Riverside, CA, and very recently got married. Congratulations all around.
Here are today's adventures with Cisco and Dart. As I write this, a few feet away from me, the red-tail is eating an eastern wood rat that he caught last week.
I left work at noon, taking today off rather than Wednesday, since the weather was bad yesterday. Today it was sunny and cool, moderately breezy. Cisco weighed 916 grams at the house, including his steel armored squirrel chaps. My goal was to take him to fly squirrels near Cullen Park. It turned out that parking was inconvenient, so I went to the park, got the hawk and walked out of the park into the woods. Along a path, Cisco spotted a squirrel and pursued. It was really too dense in vegetation, and he had to fly very low to the ground, just to get through. However he had a respectable chase or two on a squirrel. After about an hour I headed back to the place where he caught many squirrels last year. Today, for some reason, I heard no squirrels scolding. Nevertheless, Cisco did find and pursue some squirrels, narrowly missing couple. Ahhh........... so close. Finally I had to give up, though Cisco was still hunting intensely, because I had to fly the Harris' hawk. Cisco got plenty of exercise today, and will soon have his first squirrel of the season.
Harris' hawks (or Harris's or Harris) are also called Bay-winged or Dusky hawks. On the way back from squirrel hunting is a field where Dart has caught birds in the past. It was beginning to get late, and this field is convenient. Unfortunately it is also light on game sometimes, including today. I put the hawk on the T-pole, and carried him around. Very little action, and I wondered why I was there. Officially I have written this field off. Then, in the waning light, Dart pounced into some bushes and caught an English sparrow. One for the team. Between them, Cisco and Dart have 66 kills for this season. The Dusky hawk takes a bird at dusk
12/7/2008 Squirrel hawking
Rob Evans and I took the red-tails to some woods. Rob's rookie hawk up first; she immediately snapped in to the program. She is big, fast, and maneuverable. Within minutes she was spiraling down the trunk of a tree nearly catching her first squirrel. Cisco also hunted, but the woods are still too leafy. Neither hawk scored.
12/6/2008 Saturday after the NAFA trip
This Harris' hawk is impressive sometimes. Today, with Cisco burning through his rat-filled weight gain, I took a 615 gram Dart out to Katy to hawk with Rob Evans. We went to a well established field with Rob's red-tail, Fury, who is showing no after-effects from the cottonmouth bite of a month ago. It was sunny and cool, and it should have been good day for the hawk, but we could not scare up any game. Rob foolishly suggested that we put the red-tail in his hawk box, and give Dart a shot at a couple of shrub and grass mounds in a mowed field across the street. They just happened to be perfect for my hawk, with each containing a rabbit. Dart spotted the rabbit in the first mound, and on the second flush, the Harris' grabbed it as the rabbit bounced off Rob's leg as it tried to run into the open. After transferring off, Dart was ready again. The second mound also housed a rabbit, which ran down a cyclone fence line; the hawk expertly grabbed it as it returned. Amazingly fast.
We took Fury to another field, but once again couldn't produce a good slip for the hawk. Rob may now regret showing me that second field.
Dart says hello to SJ.
I took Cisco out to Gold Fire today, since the Harris' was the last hawk to catch game, and I had limited time. Weighing 900 grams, Cisco was primed and ready. He is flying very strongly now, recovered from a mild wing injury about a month ago. Gold Fire has consistently been his most productive field and it is still full of swamp rabbits, but also lots of rats. I released him and made a mistake. We should have hunted in the east part of the field, where there are more rabbits and the cover is less. Instead I took him to the west side, which has dense cover of natural rose bushes and is loaded with rats. He had a couple of nice flights on rabbits before he caught a large cotton rat, which I let him eat, hoping that there might be a swamp rabbit between him and the next one. Unfortunately, on the way to the east side field he caught a large wood rat. I managed to transfer him off, but he still had a good crop. He hunted well in the east part, but his edge was definitely gone. A few good flights, and I needed to leave. One good thing about this hawk is his willingness to return regardless of how much he has eaten, which today was considerable. He hopped back into his hawk box, and we left.
11/22/2008 - FT. Worth is always good to my bird(s)
On the way to Amarillo, I caught up with Roger Crandall in Ft. Worth, who met me at the Wendy's on Blue Mound Road. We put Cisco up first; he had some great open field rabbit chases in the heavy wind. As we returned to the car, he caught a rabbit straight off the T-perch, "accipiter style," as Roger described it. Then with the wind decreasing a little, Roger and I flew his three-bird cast of Harris'. They caught a couple of rats and a bird, which they all piled on to. We finished with Dart's solo performance. He had a lot of good flights, then caught a sparrow. Wichita Falls tonight, and on to Amarillo (by morning, up from San Antone).
11/23/2008 - 11/24/2008 - Amarillo by morning
I got to Amarillo in plenty of time to hawk. But I was unfamiliar with the area, and had gotten a stern warning about not trespassing, so ended up not hawking the first day. It was a shame because both birds were at weight. I did put the birds out to weather. See pictures below of NAFA weathering yard. The birds were weathered out next to each other. Dart was the loudest bird in the yard, a dubious honor.
First "real" morning of the NAFA meet was very cold. Wiegel and I, plus John Peaden* from Oklahoma went to a field east of town, and flew Dart first. The cover was too sparse, it was bitterly cold, and the wind was blowing. Dart flew around a little, and at one point we flushed a jack rabbit, which he chased. I figured Cisco would have a good shot at the jack, so we put him out. He went into his Alamosa routine (last year's NAFA meet) which was to basically do nothing except try to stay warm. He landed on fence posts and was generally unresponsive. Not a good sign, so far. We caught up with Deric Bowen and his buddy, Tim, who took us to another field. I put Cisco up in a tree in the middle of a field with extremely heavy cover, almost like tumbleweeds. Within a minute he spotted a cottontail in the brush, dove down, smashed through the cover and had it. It was so thick I could hardly get through. Good thing there were no eagles around. Another trip out to the field with Dart, who chased but didn't catch. Once again another encounter with a skunk, twice in one week. We then flew Deric's second year red-tail, who is a fine squirrel hawk. She put in lots of fine looking stoops into the brush, and we left when she caught a rabbit.
Late in the afternoon I took Dart out to the same field. Isaac Nichols and Trail Brueggemann
came along. We chased rabbits, birds, and the Harris' snagged a mouse. I was elated.
*John flies a female kestrel, catching lots of starlings and sparrows up in Oklahoma
11/25/2008 - Spearman
Early this morning I drove up to Spearman, Texas to hawk with Bob Peavy and Cody Fields. It is 90 miles north of Amarillo, but I had wanted to hawk with these guys for several years. The Harris' hawk wouldn't chase rabbits, so I put him back in the hawk box. Cisco was OK, but not red-hot, though his weight was good. He did catch a small rabbit. We broke for lunch, then flew Bob's red-tails, which caught a rabbit or two each. There are many raptors up here; prairie falcons, merlins, ferruginous hawks, red-tails, rough-legged hawks. You also need to be very alert for eagles - both bald and golden. We put Dart out again. He ignored the plethora of rabbits, but started to round up deer mice. Within an hour had eaten at least seven, possibly eight. He did catch a dead rabbit in a brush pile, which we had to extract and bury. We put an amply cropped Dart back in the hawk box, and brought Cisco out again. Within minutes he had a nice flight and a second cottontail in the bag. Back to Amarillo, where I drove to the airport to pick up my sister, Kate, at 8:00 p.m.
Cody and Bob with "Buck"
Bob's 5X intermewed red-tail, "Cowboy," really a girl
11/26/2008 - Amarillo, Wednesday
A quick update. We are still at the meet in Amarillo. My sister Kate and I took both hawks out to the field where Cisco caught a rabbit a couple of days ago. There are parts of the field where the cover is prohibitively thick. The Harris' threw his hood on the way to the field, so was rewarded by flying first. In Spearman, Dart wouldn't engage with rabbits. In this field today, he caught the first rabbit that he had a good shot at. A nice quick smash into the lighter cover.
Then Cisco put in a number of good flights in the same field, but by the time he flew, most of the rabbits had moved to the good cover. As the sun started to set, we left without a score.
11/27/2008 - Amarillo, Thanksgiving
This morning I went out with a group that included Manny Carrasco and family, and Paul Spexarth, who was in San Ygnacio last fall at our "Trapping Meet," where no one trapped any Harris' hawks. See last season's log for more details. This morning we hunted with Randy Peel's fine female Harris'. She caught a rabbit and put in a great performance in the cold wind.
This afternoon it was very cold , windy, and overcast. Cisco caught a large rabbit and a bobwhite quail at an abandoned farmhouse SW of Amarillo. At one point he flew sideways from a tree to the top of the farmhouse, facing into the wind, without flapping his wings once. The rabbit flight was great. The red-tail, using the heavy air to climb about 30 or 40 feet straight up, hovered for about five seconds like a kestrel. He then quickly closed his wings and dropped like a stone to catch the rabbit in very heavy cover. Kate missed it, looking down, beating the brush. Cisco handles "heavy air" (a term from my two decades as a sailer) very well. I have gradually flown him in heavier and heavier winds, and he always stays close. It does tend to affect his ability to foot game properly though, and his efficiency is not usually as good.
A while later, in the same field, Dart caught a mouse. He tends to get blown around more but holds his own well enough.
Randy and Janie Peel, Isaac Nichols (l), and Paul Spexarth with back to camera - Thanksgiving day
Randy makes in, Manny Carrasco with Dakota in background, Manny's wife, Deborah, filming video
11/28/2008 - Amarillo, Friday
(this entry added 12/24/2008)
Another cold and overcast day, a little windy. We went to an industrial area with Randy and Janie Peel, to fly our Harris' hawks. Dart up first, with a very impressive rabbit catch, just minutes after I predicted that he would be useless today. He started off very sluggish and unresponsive.
The Peel's bird, Scout (I thought they said "Gout," when I asked her name), has a flying weight roughly comparable to Cisco's, something over 900 grams. Unlike yesterday, today she goofed off and seemed to want to sit in the most dangerous looking electrical transformer setup that I have seen. Her response was poor, and she found a dead pigeon.
We put her in the hawk box, and brought Dart out again. We beat the brush for a good while, catching nothing, though had a few chases. Then came a great flight. Dart's second rabbit came after about a 150 yard flight upwind
, followed by a red-tail like wingover and plunge into the grass to catch the cottontail. It was one of the best rabbit flights I have ever seen. The hawk just followed along, not particularly fast, keeping the rabbit in sight the entire time, pumping into the wind. Dart was far enough ahead of me that I worried about red-tails and eagles. Fantastic. One day I wonder if the Harris' has given up rabbits to concentrate on mice, and then I have a day like this.
We had lunch with Jim and Carol Ince, who had been hawking with Matthew Mullenix this morning. Jim mentioned that Matt's hawk had caught a mouse, to avoid a skunking. During the meet, Matt's tiercel Harris', "Ernie," caught twelve rabbits and a pheasant. Not bad. 11/30/2008 Trip to NAFA Summary
Both hawks caught a lot of game. On the trip, the Harris' caught three rabbits, nine mice, plus a bird in Ft. Worth on the way up. The red-tail caught six rabbits total (four at the meet), plus a quail and a mouse. Three game pins awarded, and I am reasonably sure that Cisco was the only RT to catch a quail at the the meet.
On the trip back to Houston, I stopped again in Ft. Worth to hawk with Roger Crandall. Cisco struggled in the wind but caught a nice cotttontail after about a dozen good flights. This afternoon (Sunday) Dart caught a cotton rat in Houston.
11/21/2008 - The Harris' got skunked, but not sprayed
Yes, he went after a skunk. Earlier in the day we gave a presentation to some kids at Cypress Woods H.S. Tomorrow to the NAFA meet in Amarillo.
The skunk was in a field near my house, where we hunt birds. I first thought it was a snake because the Harris' went in after it, then recoiled back suddenly. I looked in and decided that the animal was: first a rabbit, then an opossum, then a short eared owl. Finally I saw the plumy tail and got a positive ID. I'm glad the hawk did not get sprayed.
Also Lynne's RT caught a rabbit out in Katy.
11/19/2008 - The red-tail was great, the Harris' got skunked
Once again, it was my Wednesday afternoon hunting trip. I left the house thinking that I had two hawks at perfect weight; 905 for the red-tail, and 611 for the Harris'. I was half right. I first took Dart to the new field on Eldridge. It was awful. No game at all. Then I took him to the Dairy-Ashford field where he has always been successful. Today, it was not warm, but in the sun, it felt hot. Not the greatest hawking day, and the Harris' was definitely off. He ended up chasing a number of sparrows but did not catch any.
I ran out of time, as I still wanted to fly Cisco. He was chirping, hooded in the hawk box. He was ready. At Gold Fire, he flew off immediately, rather than hanging around waiting for me, which is his norm. When I broke through the trees behind the church, he was already hunting out in the field. I showed him the T- pole, and he returned to it instantly. Within a few minutes he caught a small swamp rabbit. I transferred him off with a fair amount of tidbits, plus the front leg of the rabbit. He was ready for another one; a while later he caught a second one as it ran into the open. I stomped around some more with the alert hawk still in the hunting mode, and we had a few pursuits. Finally, with the sun starting to wane, I started back. When I got to the trees, he hopped on a branch, and I expected I would be calling him in shortly. Instead, as I went west, he went east, back into the field. I couldn't even hear his bell, so I wondered if he were down on some game. I trudged back through the trees, and saw that he was not finished; way out in the field I saw him in a small tree, looking into a bush. I let him ride the pole for a few more minutes, and I think we had one more chase, then called it quits. The best day for this hawk in a while.
11/16/2008 - A great day
Just two weeks ago, Rob Evans' red-tail, called "Fury," was bitten by a water moccasin. Today, late in the afternoon, Rob called to tell me that his bird had caught her first rabbit. Quite a turnaround I would say, from rushing to an emergency vet, to a rabbit kill. Rob was fired up and excited when he called. Yesterday the same hawk caught a cotton rat and a crawfish.
No wind! Today started when Wiegel and I met Paul Pennel for breakfast at Denny's, then while Paul went off to study, Mike and I took Cisco out to Gold Fire. He looked very strong, flying at 900 grams. I am sure that he has completely recovered from his wing injury that he picked up squirrel hunting ten days ago. After flying up to a tall tree, he responded very quickly, coming down to his beloved T-perch. Then many hard-hitting crashes into the brush, obviously after rats, followed by some good rabbit chases. One of them was spectacular, with a swamp rabbit running out in the open along a freshly mowed surface, with the red-tail getting faster and closing on him. Right at the last second, the rabbit turned and leaped into a rose bush, leaving a frustrated hawk standing on the ground. In four seasons with Cisco, that was one of the best rabbit flights. A few minutes later, the hawk smashed into a rose bush and grabbed a large cotton rat. His falconer, having left the tidbits in the car, could only watch as the hawk packed in about 150 grams of meat. No transfer off, and no hunting back to the car today, just a quick hooding, and we headed for home. Nevertheless, it looks like Cisco is back in shape and ready.
After lunch, Mike and I took Dart, the Harris' hawk down to the Dairy-Ashford field. This hawk is perfect, unbelievably good. He chased a few birds, including one really fine pursuit, then caught a couple of them. Mike wanted to fly his kestrel, and had a limited time window, so we headed back. I went out again to a new field, this one near the house. This is where I briefly thought that I might lose the Harris' yesterday in the wind. Today cool, sunny and calm. Since the hawk already had two birds in his crop, I put on his telemetry in this second field. I have been flying him without it for a couple of reasons. First, he is obviously very reliable (so is Cisco, but I always fly the red-tail with telemetry). With the Harris', the main problem is that he gets into the grass and vines, and several times has been caught by vegetation wrapping around the transmitter on his tail mount. Cisco was bad about bending up the tail mount as he crashed into bushes, but this hawk is a regular bush spelunker and I am afraid he will get a deck feather pulled out. I'll get him into a transmitter back pack, maybe at the NAFA meet, and that should do it. Then I will always fly him with telemetry, though in characteristic Harris' hawk fashion, he would be hard to lose. At this second field, he caught two more birds, breaking his own record. Four birds today, not bad. Then he had a great rabbit chase of his own, once again in the open, but the rabbit outran him. It was close to dark when I called him down and packed him up.
11/15/2008 - Both birds score in the heavy wind
Early today, Paul Pennel, from Colorado, and his colleague, Randy, joined me as I took the red-tail out to a field in Katy. This was the heaviest wind he has flown in. It was sunny and cool, but the wind was awful. He stayed fairly close, but there was little game. I was about to give up because of the wind, and also because the field was flooded from the recent rains. Suddenly he was off the pole, a rabbit was screaming, and he had a kill. There is no stopping this hawk.
Around mid-day, Mike Wiegel and I did a presentation for the Cub Scouts, up near Lake Houston. It was fun, and I put the Harris' up for a little flight demo. He did great.
On the way back, we spotted a field on Eldridge Road that looked good for the Harris'. It was, but when I released him, he got blown downwind a long ways, and I got worried. Soon he was flying back upwind, and landed on the T-pole. He chased a rabbit and a sparrow or two, but struck out, so we drove to the Dairy-Ashford field. There we had lots of flights, and the wind had let up a little, as it was closer to dusk. Dart caught a sparrow by a fence and had an excellent rabbit chase; we went home.
11/12/2008 - Cisco seems to have recovered; a double for each bird
Another Wed. afternoon. I went out alone, first to the Dairy-Ashford field with Dart, the Harris' hawk. He put in his usual good performance chasing birds, responding well, and shortly after arrival, caught a small animal. I never did see it, so inferred that it was a mouse. No feathers or plucking, and too small for a cotton rat. A while later he caught a small bird. Then we went across the street where he chased an English sparrow in a bush. It was now time to go.
He hopped into his hawk box, and I drove to Gold Fire. Cisco at a red hot 900 grams looked good. I think he is recovered, and seems to be flying fairly well, close to 100%. He chased some swamp rabbits and plunged into the vegetation repeatedly, but then I thought we might get skunked as the game seemed to dry up. Then he caught a mouse, followed by some good rabbit chases, and then grabbed a fat cotton rat. He ate that and was still very responsive in spite of a big crop. He had a couple of very close rabbit chases and I put him in a tree as I had to cross through a small wooded section. He then flew back to the fist instantly, and hopped into his hawk box. Life is good.
The red-tail with remains of the cotton rat
11/8/2008 - The Harris' catches a bird and a cotton rat while Cisco convalesces
Jeff Cobb, who I met last season out in Katy, joined Mike and me as we took Dart hunting off south Dairy-Ashford Road. A relatively cool, but windy and sunny afternoon. After yesterday, the hawk was very fat; he weighed in at 650 grams before I left the house. When I took him out of the box at the field, I found a casting that weighed about 13 grams, which still made him very fat. However, his response was just fine, and I didn't see any serious degradation of his performance. He chased birds, finally catching one. Then we took him to the north side of the property, where there are cotton rats and rabbits. Sometime near dusk, after many attempts, he caught a plump cotton rat.
Cisco's situation is this: he can fly, even from the ground to a six foot perch almost straight up. But he flies in a counter-clockwise circle, which indicates a problem in his wing. He is active in his mew, jumping and flying around, but it isn't quite right. I'll take him to the field on Wednesday afternoon to see how he does. Unfortunately (or not), catching game is no real indication of his condition. I'll keep free-lofting him, though as active as he is, I wonder whether he would be better tethered. Maybe I should hood him, and let him sit quietly for a few days.
Rob called today. His red-tail recovered from the snake bite well enough that he caught a cotton rat today in the field.
11/8/2008 - The Harris' catches two cotton rats
Cisco, with an ailing wing, has the day off.
At mid-day, Rob, Mike and I took the Harris' out to chase birds in Katy. At 604 grams his weight was perfect. We stomped around the field, and he chased some birds. On the way back, he nailed a huge cotton rat. I transferred him off, and he promptly caught a second (within about ten minutes). He knows how to catch them now. I hope he does not fall in love with them the way the red-tail has. When plentiful, they can get in the way of chasing other prey, and I think both red-tails and Harris' hawks like them better than anything else in the field.
Other local news: Rob's red-tail, "Fury," seems to be fine after her encounter with a water mocassin last weekend. Lynne Holder's "Artemis" caught his first rabbit of season.
11/7/2008 - Dart pulls momentarily ahead with three birds, a flight in a Piper Cub, and Cisco's heroic afternoon
I took the Harris' out early this morning, a Friday off. It was cool and clear right after dawn. He went to work right away catching three house sparrows in a little field in an industrial area. He also had some good rabbit chases.
I then went flying with Jeff Fontenot in his Piper Cub, which he rebuilt himself. At one point we flew over a soaring RT.
In the afternoon I took the red-tail out to Gold Fire to chase swamp rabbits and cotton rats. Upon arrival, when I put him up on the T-pole, I noticed his not flying well. He has always had a chronic wing ailment; that doesn't appear to slow him down, but it does affect the appearance of his flight. Two days ago, after he smashed into a brush pile chasing a squirrel, I thought that I noticed an issue, but brushed it off. Today it was apparent. Nevertheless he wanted to hunt, and rode the T-pole looking for game. I flushed a swamp rabbit, which he chased around some vegetation, and I lost sight of him momentarily. I walked around to see him sitting on a small vertical metal pole watching the bushes. Suddenly a swamp rabbit ran out into the open, right in front of him, and he grabbed it. I transferred him off the rabbit, and he got back on the T-pole. His flight was labored. We hunted some more, and he chased another swamper in a direct flight off the pole, but I noticed that his flight was a little slow. For him, this would have been a catch under most circumstances. He then landed on some low vegetation after the miss, rather than his usual quick return to the T-pole. Yes, he has a problem. I decided to hunt on the way back to the car. A few minutes later he pounced on a cotton rat which I let him eat. He has a lot of heart. A good hunter even with a wing ailment (separate and beyond the chronic one he has always had). I will let him free-loft at Mike's house for a week or so until he recovers.
11/5/2008 - It's the flight, not the kill
It was my Wed. afternoon vacation. Very windy, sunny and a little too warm. Dart, at 603, was spot on. He caught a small bird, chased cotton rats (he is back to his old non-effective approach), and had a nice upwind rabbit flight. Had it not been windy, it would have been his best day. The rabbit ran right upwind and the Harris' could not quite keep up. Otherwise he would have had him.
I then took Cisco to squirrel woods where he caught lots of cat squirrels last season. His field response was excellent at 904 grams. He struggled today, but was relentless. A+ in effort as he attacked the well protected squirrels. The ground cover and post-Ike debris is great protection but he did not give up. At the end of the day, he was so tired that he could barely fly.
Rob told me that his cottonmouth bitten hawk is doing fine. Rob expects to have him back in field within ten days.
11/2/2008 - Cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus)
Paul Pennel, a falconer from Brighton, CO, came into town (without his bird) to attend a work-related school. He flies a two year old female Harris' hawk. He accompanied me, and later, Lynne Holder, as we hunted our birds. We had a good time. Yesterday both the Harris' and the red-tail got skunked. Dart put in a good performance, but couldn't get his feet on anything, while Cisco just acted high in weight. Today, in the cool morning, the Harris's caught his first cotton rat; Cisco, not to be out done, answered with two in the heat of the day. Both birds with nice crops tonight. Later, as dusk approached, we hawked with Lynne's red-tail. Lots of good flights, but no scores. Can't win them all.
Rob's red-tail was bitten by a water moccasin yesterday, and rushed to the vet. She may be doing OK.
Sheldon Nicolle and Jack Brady came by mid-day to pick up their new Harris' hawks. Wiegel and I picked the hawks up last night at 11:00 p.m. from Jonathan Wood, after he had broken down on the Katy Freeway.
10/29/2008 - A good day for both hawks
My Wednesday afternoon vacation. Both birds were on the high end of what I call their flying ranges. Cisco was 924 grams, while Dart was at 618. I decided to fly Cisco first on squirrels, but on the way out, Dart's raspy screaming in the car earned him first spot. He did well at a field in Katy. He caught a cottontail, and chased birds and cotton rats. He is an excellent hawk. After about an hour or so, I put him up.
I drove to the squirrel woods near Cullen Park, and released Cisco. He immediately headed north, rather than into the woods, and was pursued by crows, and some red-shouldered hawks. I retrieved him, and released again. This time it was different; he had squirrels on his mind. Unfortunately, the resident pair of red-shoulders wouldn't give him any rest, and struck him a couple of times. He continued to hunt squirrels but the red-shoulders made him jumpier than I have ever seen him. Any noise in the woods would make him flinch. I was about to take him out of the woods for some open field hawking, when he decided he had enough. He turned on one the the red-shoulders, and I thought he might catch her. They got the idea, and vacated the area. For the next hour or so Cisco chased squirrels, which have a definite advantage with all the leaves on the trees. But he almost caught a couple of them. I had to shinny on a log crossing South Mayde Creek, since he had flown to the other side and was hunting there. He very nearly caught one on the ground - it was so close that I thought he had it, but it got away. Nevertheless, a great performance in the very early season. He got plenty of exercise, and was all business.
10/26/2008 - A rabbit and a bird
While the red-tail burned off his weight from yesterday, I took Dart out hunting. He caught a nice little cottontail, and a house sparrow. He is a bona fide hunting hawk - a good one. He is still struggling with cotton rats, having chased three today.
Wiegel and I went out this afternoon, and trapped him a female kestrel.
10/25/2008 - Two birds, three kills
The Harris', flying at 604 grams, caught his first rabbit as we returned to the car, after two hours of stomping around in a cloud of mosquitoes. In the meantime he had some good chases on bird, and feeble attempts on cotton rats. The rabbit was a tremendous catch in a stick pile, requiring exceptional footing. His method of "catching" cotton rats is entertaining to watch, but needs some work. It involves hovering above while the rat runs off, followed by some excavation work. He now knows how to catch rabbits and small birds.
With Rob Evans beating the brush out in Katy, in the late afternoon Cisco (at 913 grams) had some good flights on rabbits, then caught a couple of rats. One of the rabbit flights was a fast straight flight off the T-pole, with the rabbit diving into a hole inches ahead of the fast closing hawk. The second rat was caught at my feet with Cisco's diving off of a very tall power pole. It was exhilarating to see him drop off the pole, flying almost straight at me, and hitting the brush. One of the better flights that I've witnessed with him. Unfortunately he filled up on these rats, and his keenness dwindled.
Both birds are probably too fat to fly tomorrow.
10/24/2008 - Not as planned
A great day, with a scary moment or two. Dart caught his first bird in the field. A quick flight, lots of footing, and into the grass with a house sparrow (Passer domesticus). Once again, no carrying, and when he finished the bird he was on the fist in a flash. His field response was great, but after he caught the house sparrow, he watched a rabbit run by. When I saw the rabbit, I thought this might be an opportunity for Cisco, so I put Dart in his hawk box so that I could fly the red-tail. I thought this might be a way of flying the birds in a complementary fashion. Cover the ground with the first bird, and chase some game with the second.
The first mistake I made was releasing Cisco with his telemetry turned off. Most of the time, this would not be an issue, as his response is good. Today, he was balky, and there was a wild haggard red-tail flying around that I thought Cisco might chase. He ignored my fist, T-pole, and even the lure. He got on top of a power pole, and kept looking at the sky. This might have been the end of him, because of the topography of this area. The hawks screamed at each other, then Cisco spotted something on the ground, and dived after it. I called him to fist, got his transmitter switched on, and we hunted for a while. He did pretty well, but the game was thin. He chased or bird or two, but we couldn't find that rabbit.
10/22/2008 - Cisco soars, and Dart scores!!!
Eminent British falconers, Bob Dalton, Diana Durman-Walters, and I took the two birds out. I'll start with the big news. Dart caught a mouse, which is his first field kill with me. He shows every promise of being a great hawk. Today in some borderline weather, he took to a fence, and was very attentive to the ground in front of him. He blasted off the fence, and and caught a critter. He was mantling and very excited, but showed no signs of wanting to carry, which I was worried about based on his behavior with the small dead animals he had found earlier in the week. I offered a tidbit and he was on my glove. Wow. A banner day!
Earlier in the day, I thought I would show Diana and Bob some squirrel hawking with Cisco. What happened there surprised me. At the woods, Cisco took to the trees in the normal manner, looked for squirrels, then decided to soar off. It was beautiful, but disquieting. Bob took some great pictures of Cisco's wheeling around in the sky, one of which is below. The red-tail had never done this in three full seasons. I started to swing the lure and whistling; he came down in some trees about 150 yards off. I hiked over there; he was looking for some game in the brush. With mild difficulty I got him down. He was just too heavy for this warm weather, so we took him back to the house. Diana remarked, "In the UK, when red-tails do that, we never see them again." Oh joy.
A mouse for my Harris! (Photo: Bob Dalton)
10/19/2008 - Fantastic and close
Bob Dalton, Diana Durman-Walters, Jim Ince, Mike Wiegel and I took the Harris' out to a field on South Dairy Ashford Road. Cisco was WAY overweight from yesterday, so stayed home.
From an email: Dart is a pleasure to fly, chasing everything that moves. Crazy about birds. Today chased meadowlarks, sparrows, fish (sic), rabbits and cotton rats. And a huge female red-tail that could eat him and Cisco in one bite. I think when he gets in a little better shape he will be deadly. You should have seen the flight on one of the sparrows today. It was only luck that the sparrow got away. This was no feint. He will score very very soon. About 598 when we went out today.
I love this bird. Here is a picture of him being carried by Jim Ince out at the field.
10/18/2008 - A good day with the HH and Cisco triples on small game
Bob Dalton and Diana Durman-Walters stopped in to see some Houston hawking on the way back from Mexico to London. Great folks, Wiegel and I met them first for breakfast. With help from Rob, the Harris' hawk did great, chased some sparrows (yes!) and actually got his feet on a rabbit which squealed and wiggled off. After a couple of hours he stumbled on a dead rat, which I had to forcibly extract; the risk of poison was there. We picked up Jim Ince later. At Gold Fire in the afternoon, Cisco caught a long-tail rat, a cotton rat, and another very young swamp rabbit. He also watched a big swamper run into the cover. That shows he is still on the heavy side, especially as warm as it is. His 946 grams would be fine in winter, but not in the early fall. Actually what Cisco did this afternoon was exactly what I want the Harris' to do. He'll get there, just needs the opportunity.
10/15/2008 - Yikes
My first Wednesday with a 1/2 day's vacation was interesting, to say the least. I plan to take every Wednesday afternoon off until the end of the year. I ate a big breakfast at the Garden Cafe at work. Eggs, sausage, bacon, and a biscuit, along with coffee that I brew in my office. This is relevant. About 1130 I left work, swung by the house and got the two birds ready, and picked up my gear, and did not eat lunch. I then drove to a field by the tollway where Jim Ince frequently flew his merlin last season. The weather was very warm and sunny. The Harris' hawk needed a real field outing, and this was a good field to start, with less cover than Gold Fire. The hawk did spectacularly, jumping on the T-pole and riding it well. He flew to nearby trees, soared, and looked into the cover for game. Dart's field response was great.
After a while I thought that I should take him to Gold Fire as we were seeing no game. I drove to Gold fire and released him; he rode the T-pole just fine, and chased a rabbit into a bush. Performance could not have been better. As I was heading back to the car, Mike Wiegel called on my cell phone to tell me that he had gotten a copy of the Texas Parks magazine that had Cisco on the cover. I mistakenly slipped my phone into my snake chaps, rather than my pants pocket, and the fun began. Back at the car, I reached into my pocket to make a call, and realized that the phone was in the field. Panic. Not just losing the phone, but Bob Dalton from England was supposed to come into town today, and my cell was the only number he had. I hopped in the car, and drove over to Jim Ince's office a few miles away. I walked into the lobby drenched in sweat and covered with field debris. Jim let me use his computer so that I could send Bob an email (hoping he would check) telling him that I had lost the phone. Jim then suggested that we go out to the field and call my cell with his, a plan that worked in about ten minutes. Then I asked Jim, dressed in "business casual" and some rubber field boots, if he would like to go hawking with Cisco. He said yes, and we released the red-tail, who hopped on the pole ready to hunt. At one point Cisco flew the length of the field, and I followed with Jim keeping up as well as he could. Jim had no chaps on, and the cover is heavy at Gold Fire. Jim thought better of trying to follow me through that mess, and took off.
I hunted for a while with Cisco, but suddenly got very weak. 11 hours since breakfast, too much sun and not enough water, brought me to my knees. I could barely walk. I looked over to see Cisco intent on a bush obviously containing a rabbit - he was waiting for me to flush it. I couldn't and now was just trying to figure out how to get to the car. Every time I stood up, I got very faint. An 1/8 mile is too far to crawl, which looked like a possible scenario. Somehow I worked my way out of the field, and probably looked like a drunk. Kneeling down to get my equilibrium, and then staggering forward. I called Mike Wiegel to tell him to come over, "and bring some Gator Ade." I did manage to work my way back to the car, procured some water from some folks at a little church that sits right there, and then found Cisco ready to come back. He had not scored. A few minutes later Mike showed up, and we went to eat some Mexican food. That was a short version of the events.
Dart sitting on my car at first field by Tollway.
Cisco, Celebrity Hawk
10/11/2008 - Hunt your way back to the car
A long day in the field. Very little game, though Rob took us to a great looking field by Katy Mills. We saw almost no game there and earlier, Wiegel and I went to a field off Eldridge; we found it had been turned into a detention pond. Late afternoon, after letting the Harris' fly loose for the first time, I took Cisco to Gold Fire. There is plenty of game there still and the back part toward the tollway has rabbits. Cisco, still fat in the warm weather, blinked at a couple of rabbits, had a good rabbit chase, chased a ferruginous hawk (idiot), and on the way back to the car, snagged a plump cotton rat. I am planning to hunt tomorrow with both a rookie Harris' hawk, and a chubby red-tail. Should be fun.
Rob's bird is coming along.
10/10/2008 - "Not even a mouse........."
Actually Cisco did catch a mouse. It was warm and sunny, I got going a little too late, and encountered the warm weather. Out at Cravens Road I stomped amongst the poison ivy and mosquitoes. Cisco at 970, a good weight considering that he is still pushing out some feathers. Very little game out, no rabbits, few sparrows, but he came through, extracting a small mouse from the brush.
This evening, Dart will fly on the creance, and tomorrow perhaps he'll hunt.
Cisco hunting in a pine tree at Cravens Road
10/9/2008 - The stock market tanks again, but all is well on the falconry front
Yesterday I was disappointed in the Harris's hawk. I went to the mew expecting him to have dropped some weight, and had set up the line and pulley between two bow perches in the yard in anticipation of flying him. click link
Instead, he weighed 653 grams, when I was expecting around 643 or so. No flying and no food for him last night.
Tonight was a different story. The red-tail, Cisco, is on track for some hunting tomorrow, after a great premature season opener last Sunday. At 6:30 tonight, I went to check on Dart, the Harris' hawk. As usual, it was a bit difficult to get a leash on him; up on his high perch in the mew, a bit jumpy and nervous. But his weight was 640 grams. He's still pretty fat, but it didn't seem to matter. In the yard, I put him on a bow perch, walked to the other perch and offered a tidbit of DOC. Instantly he flew to the fist, about 30 to 40 feet. Then two or three more times, at least 40 feet each, closer to 50. Perfect. Tomorrow night, I will fly him on a creance, to around 100 feet. Then we'll install a tail mount for a transmitter; he'll be in business. I plan to be hunting on Saturday with my two hawks, unless Cisco catches a few too many rats and mice tomorrow and is too lazy to fly. That's life.
10/5/2008 - Season Opener: Fattest and Earliest
I took Cisco out to Goldfire. A robust, but keen 1000 grams. Never before had I taken him out this early in the year, or this fat, but I trust him after three full seasons. At the house, I put on his telemetry and drove out to the field. Cisco popped up on the T-perch, and as always, was eager to hunt. In the very heavy vegetation, he made two crashes into the brush and within minutes grabbed a young swamp rabbit. I fed him up and took him to the car, where he happily hopped back into the hawk box. What a great day.
Dart, the Harris' hawk, is much better manned than a few days ago, his leg is recovered, and he will soon be in the field.
Rob Evans caught a 1250 gram female RT this morning, a dinosaur with amazing feet. Rob traps a new bird every other year, usually keeping through a molt.
Rob with new passage female redtail
Dart in side yard - a leaner 650 grams
Cisco at Goldfire with little swamp rabbit
10/3/2008 - Dart
"Dart," short for D'artagnan, the fourth musketeer, and in line with the alphabetic naming convention started by Stephanie and Kasey a few years ago. That was my original plan for the next hawk. Alex, Apollo, Bravo, Cisco, now Dart. Tonight I flew him outside on a line a short distnce to the fist. He is jumpy, leg is good, and he needs serious weight control. I found an email today from Chris Comeaux stating that he flew the bird as low as 545 grams. He's at 700 now. Cisco is coming down nicely.
10/1/2008 - Cisco on track for the season
Cisco is scheduled to hit the field by 10/10, and has begun his weight reduction. The Harris' hawk, nursing a sore leg, but recovering well, may start a week or so behind. I have great hopes for "Aztec," which is what Chris called him. I call him Dart. He needs manning and is fat, but I'm sure will score a cotton rat or two on his opening day, whenever that is. A brief correspondence with Matt Mullenix was encouraging. I still do not know what the long-tailed rats are, either small Norways or eastern wood rats.
9/19/2008 A hurricane, mountain climb and new Harris's hawk
Hurricane Ike plowed into Houston while I was in Colorado. When I left on Wednesday, it was headed for Corpus Christi. By Thursday, it had Houston in its sites. It's all over now but had a devastating effect on this town, and even more on the barrier islands. Galveston and Bolivar were sacked. Chris Comeaux lost his house, but saved his two falcons and a Harris's hawk that he called "Aztec." He gave that hawk to me last night. Stephanie's house took a major hit, a pine tree hitting the kitchen and causing serious damage to half the house. In the meantime, my sister Kate and I, along with nephew, Jeff Ward, and Mike Wiegel climbed Mt. Elbert in Colorado. An exhausting effort, but worth it, and was sort of a memorial to my father, who climbed it many decades ago as a Scout. Cisco is getting ready for the pre-season weight reduction, looking better than ever with his darkening eyes. He will have to put up with a Harris' hawk buddy for a week or so. We are still without power at the house, but my mother and sister, Lyn, are fine.
Click on link for pictures of the mountain climb. The pictures with overcast skies were taken at Quandry Peak, another 14,000+ mountain near Breckenridge. Elbert is tallest in Colorado and second to Mt. Whitney in CA, which is the tallest peak in contiguous United States.
2nd Tallest Mountain in Lower 48
Cisco meets "Aztec," now called Dart (or D'artagnan) High Resolution Picture of This
9/1/2008 Gustav plows into Louisiana
The storm followed its relentless track that was predicted by the models. They're getting better. I hope my friends over there are doing OK. We are getting just a slight breeze from it along with moist warm air. I plan to start dropping the buzzard's weight a month from today. Nine days from now, I have a mountain climbing trip planned which I hope is not ruined by a virus or bug that suddenly emerged. Mt. Elbert, second highest peak in lower 48.
Summer Hunting Tally (OK, I'm Desperate)
Cisco battling a great horned owl. Actually this is a montage with the picture of Cisco was taken in March in Ft. Worth, the owl in Alamosa, CO. My hawk had three confrontations with great horned owls last season. The first was in Abilene where he attacked the male of a pair that lived in the woods where THA squirrel hawkers hunted. The next was in Katy, TX on the edge of a very small field where we were hawking rabbits. Cisco lost interest in the hunt, and alighted in the top of a pine tree. There he stared straight across to another tree. Minutes later we flushed a big female horned owl. The next and last encounter was near Bear Creek Park, in northwest Houston. While hunting squirrels, I looked up and saw Cisco crabbing with a large hawk. I was a little puzzled as the other "hawk" seemed to appear out of nowhere. Almost always there is some warning. They broke it off, and seconds later I heard a "Hoo! Hoo!" Not a hawk at all, obviously. Both pictures above by Krys Langevin.
6/13/2008 More Game Shears Talk
I started using some Fiskars shears as game shears. They are shown at right, were recommended by Manny Carrasco on his web site, and are excellent. From a cutting standpoint, about as good as I've used, but don't have quite big enough "bone" notch, which is about the only functional drawback; it is minor. They were similar to a pair that I had my first season, only better. The gold colored titanium nitride coating keeps them very sharp. However, I continued to take my worn out Gerbers to the field with me because the Fiskars did not fit the Gerber pouch, which I wear on my belt. At Wal-Mart I found some Fiskars shears (#9637) that appear to be a virtual twin of the Gerbers. I need to buy about five pairs. No titanium nitride coating but perfect for the belt pouch.
Orange Fiskars shears (#9637) in package, old Gerbers to left, belt pouch to right
Manny Carrasco's Recommended Shears
6/11/2008 Cub Scouts
South of town, Wiegel and I gave a presentation to a couple of hundred cub Scouts. We took Cisco and some gear. It went well.
6/8/2008 - A Mark Reindel story
Mark told me a good one. Up on Nantucket he knew a young falconer who flew a small red tail. 27 ounce flying weight, smallish feet, but a good looking bird, and lightning fast. He caught a few rabbits, and did OK, all things considered. The guy released the bird in May of 2007, but the bird stayed on the island and was observed once or twice over the summer. In October the guy was driving along the road, and saw his bird. He hops out of his car, put his glove on, and offered it. Down came his very fat bird, which he took home with him, jessed him up, and the following season caught three times as many rabbits. Can't beat that. I'd love to let my buzzard go all summer, and then get him back in the fall. Ha!
5/26/2008 - Not much happening
Cisco's not taking kindly to Demetrios' borrowing "his" computer. Actually typical attitude
toward strangers. At least strangers who are not beating the brush for game.
4/26/2008 - Kill #1 of the 2008/2009 season. A "short bus" squirrel is taken in the daytime weathering area
I did not expect to be updating this page for about five or six months. Cisco is molting, having already dropped three primaries, and has a solid 36 hour weight of 1015 grams. Wiegel called this morning, and we went out for some breakfast. We came back, and I went out in the back yard because I saw Cisco on the ground in front of his perch. He looked excited and I decided he was attacking the marine carpet again. I walked around, and saw a squirrel tail sticking out. I don't know what this little squirrel was doing in there, though a squirrel could certainly get under the netting. Obviously not the smartest squirrel we have encountered; it was a young one, not quite full size. I had been joking, even a little concerned about Cisco's blasé attitude toward the squirrels in the yard. He acts as if they are not even there a good part of the time, which is apparently a ploy. Yesterday he ate an enormous meal (squirrel from the freezer), and last night weighed close to 1200 grams. Laura Culley told me that her old female RT takes about three squirrels per summer when they that stick their heads into the bars on the mew. Her hawk grabs them and pulls them through the bars. What a way to go. I would have liked to have seen how this event happened today. When I showed up the squirrel was dead, but the hawk had not broken into it.
Cisco with a summer bonus. The squirrel said to one of his buddies, "Watch this - and hold my beer!"
The Shadybriar squirrel woods
Houston Off Season Squirrel Hawking
Here is a picture of my house in west Houston.
L.L. XLF-3 3V, left, and a Marshall Scout
An unscientific review of my two transmitters.
|L.L. Electronics XLF-3V
|Pros: The XLF appears to be 100% dependable, and is a light 6-7 grams. A simple and reliable design, which has been around for 20 years. The folks at L.L. are very responsive and friendly; they once shipped new batteries without a formal order. The unit is claimed to have 16 to 20 mile range, and 7 day typical battery life. This would be plenty for my hawk. By today's standards it has good range and a moderate battery life.
Cons: 13" antenna. I hate long antennae - they make me nervous for electrical safety reasons. L.L. did tell me that I could trim the antenna to 9", which I did, and it is better, but with some diminished range. With a back pack mount even the long antenna is all right, but I don't like the long antenna on a tail mount. For keeping on the hawk all the time with a back pack mount, the screw top is a little inconvenient, compared with the magnetic switch. Also my bird tended to pick at the XLF more, possibly because it has a higher profile.
Pros: Magnetic on and off switch, 7" antenna, unit looks good, 40 mile range, is claimed to have a 40 day battery life. Good customer service. It has a low profile and a modern look. I mount it using the Marshall PackTrack.
Cons: New unit shipped with wrong frequency, and had to be returned. It worked well for months, then went dead during the NAFA meet at a crucial time. I used the L.L. for three weeks while the Scout was checked out and replaced. Finally, the new replacement Scout is currently emitting a false low-battery warning beep that comes on long before the battery is getting low. I will probably send it back again this summer; that will be the third return to Marshall.
Update: 3/16/2009. After the fourth Scout died, Marshall sent me a RT+ which works fine. We will see how it holds up. I did find my lost bird with it on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Winner: L.L. XLF-3
I use the Scout most of the time because I like the features. But if I had only one transmitter, it would have to be the XLF-3. It worked dependably from day one, and I used it for more than a season. I bought the Scout because I was using a Marshall backpack, and the magnetic cutoff switch is more convenient. In 15 months, the Scout has already been returned to Marshall twice, replaced once, and even the replacement unit has a glitch (false low battery warning). So both Scouts have been defective. In three seasons, the one serious telemetry chase that I had with this hawk occurred last November after the NAFA meet. The bird was wearing the XLF-3 because the Scout was at Marshall being replaced. Without the backup, my bird would have been flying without telemetry, or not being flown. I recommended the XLF to two apprentices, but they both bought Scouts. Jim Ince, who uses Marshall transmitters, told me that Marshall seems to have problems with brand new products. He also mentioned that he had never known anyone to have a L.L. transmitter quit working. Years ago he did lose an XLF in the field after he clipped onto the threaded cap, and it backed off while he was returning to his vehicle.
On 4/11/2008, I began a life test on the two transmitters, with batteries measuring higher than nominal, in both cases 3V+. Not necessarily "brand new," but reasonably fresh. I kept the transmitters wrapped in foil to screen the transmission and checked every few days. Update: The XLF quit working after five and a half to six days. Certainly adequate, especially if the batteries were not brand new. The Scout ran at least 42 days. Most of the time it ran in the "Apollo 13 Mode," which has a reduced beep rate, thus conserving battery life. This is very impressive, and once Marshall gets the bugs out, the Scout will be an excellent transmitter. I happened to get two that were defective, back to back. Perhaps just bad luck. But at this point I would not recommend the Scout unless you have a dependable backup transmitter.
Incidentally, if your hawk is consistently bending the wire in the brush with a tail mount, use Marshall's back pack. It keeps the antenna and transmitter out of the way. I have had the back pack on my redtail for about a year and a half, including last summer's molt.