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Sixth Season 2010/2111 - Cisco & "Elbert"

The previous season log can be found at Cisco's 5th Season
Newest updates towards top of page, except for field meet logs, where order is reversed 
Please email me.  Click on hypertext below, or copy and paste address using your email client.

The two hawks can be seen via web cam during most weekday daylight hours here: Cam1 & Cam2

For seasonal totals, please email me.

Cisco, 5X intermewed passage red-tail hawk, riding the T perch.
(Photo: Jay Mangum, 2010)

A female rehab red-shouldered hawk, that I call Ms. Elbert (Photo: Lynne Holder)

Reward offer:
A reward will be paid to anyone providing information leading to the arrest/conviction of the individual who shot and killed Cody Birdwell's peregrine falcon.  17 year old Cody was flying his bird west of Katy, TX on November 1st, 2010, late in the day.  The bird flew off, and Cody found him hanging on a fence, shot and decapitated.  If you have information, please send an email to  $750 will be paid upon arrest, and another $750 upon conviction of the individual.

Cast of characters for those not familiar with the web site, local falconry buddies: Mike Wiegel is a falconer who lives about two miles from me in Houston, and flies a tiercel Barbary falcon.  Rob Evans, another falconer out in Katy has flown red-tails for years and is now flying an intermewed female.  Cody Birdwell is Jim Ince's apprentice, and has had a couple of successful seasons flying two red-tails.  Cameron Turner is my 16 year old apprentice, living in Sugar Land.  Jim Ince my former sponsor, is not flying any bird right now.   Lynne Holder is my former apprentice, lives in Chappell Hill, TX with husband, Ron.  Over Thanksgiving 2009, I gave her my Harris' hawk, Dart.  Dart spends occasional time in Houston. I have other falconer buddies, but these are the ones in Houston who show up most frequently on these pages. 

Ever wonder what red-tails and Harris's really think of each other?  Cisco and Dart on the side lawn.......


Cisco's buddies

4/21/2011 – Season wrap up

I quit hunting late last month.  It was an odd season, with very few rabbits in the fields. Cisco did pretty well overall, finishing his season with a bird caught while hunting rabbits (none to be seen) out in Katy.  A very low year for rabbits, with Cisco's catching the smallest number by half of his previous low of his six season career.  Cisco caught around forty cotton rats, and a half dozen squirrels.  Oh yes, about ten mice.

I hunted with an often poorly motivated red-shouldered hawk.  I still have Ms Elbert.  She is a great companion hawk, with no screaming  and she's well mannered overall.  She is beginning to molt, dropping a half dozen primaries so far.  I have kept her weight in the mid-600's.  The preview of her adult plumage is stunning.  I will make an effort to keep her engaged next fall, and may even take her out this summer to hunt starlings.  Much of her attitude this season was related to my not providing her with enough game to catch.  She finished the season with a dozen birds and ten cotton rats, a mouse or two, some retiles including the water mocassin that nearly killed her.

3/17/2011 – A "discouraged" Cisco catches his sixth squirrel Thursday after work

I took Cisco to the FM 1960 field two days ago, on Tuesday.  He had a couple of flights on squirrels but that was it.  Also had a scary moment when he decided to chase something in a ditch just the other side of 1960 (four lanes of not slow traffic).  A frightening moment, but not for him.  I had to run across 1960 and retrieve him.  Fun.

Last Saturday he caught a cotton rat in the woods while squirrel hunting.  That's a first.  Speaking of cotton rats, Lynne Holder caught eight this week, with Dart, the Harris hawk.

Today, because it was warm, I did not take Cisco to work. I took him out west of town to have another whack at the squirrels.  He's been missing lately and it's been a couple of weeks at least.  Today, sunny and warm, the woods were full of squirrels.  Cisco started out fine, but in a few minutes he left the woods and flew across the street to a field and chased a rabbit.  I helped him, but was wondering if he was losing confidence in his ability to catch squirrels.  But within 10 minutes of returning to the woods he put in a hard attack on a young squirrel, but missed.  He circled back, and the squirrel leapt from the tree.  Hawk and squirrel were plummeting to the ground.  It's an amazing sight.  Thwack! and a squirrel squealing.  This was a very small buck cat squirrel, similar to the first one he caught years ago.  I didn't have my camera, so here's another picture of Cisco with a squirrel.

 Cisco with squirrel

Three texts from Lynne Holder as she and Ron were returning from CO in early March:

3/6/2011 – A weekend with a squirrel and a swamp rabbit

Today and yesterday were a study in contrasts.  Saturday it was so windy that I nearly didn't fly Cisco, and he handles almost any wind.  It was overcast and cool. I ended up taking Cisco to the park, accompanied by Ben Maudlin, who I met six years ago as he was entering college at UH.  Ben is back and has a renascent interest in falconry.  Rob will probably sponsor him. The trees diminished the winds enough so that Cisco was in fine form.  He found and chased squirrels, ultimately catching one right above my head.  Ben was impressed.

Today was sunny and cool.  Nice weather with no wind.  Late in the day after picking up Stephanie at the airport, I took Cisco to De Soto.  He was heavy, 994 grams, but seemed eager when I approached the weathering yard.  He initially blinked at a swamp rabbit, but later put in some wonderful flights.  One was very fast and hard followed by a wing-over, and a miss.  A few minutes later he grabbed a swamp rabbit that dragged him under the rose bush.  He had the cane cutter by one leg. I cut my hands and arms on the thorns, and ultimately let the rabbit loose, something I rarely do.  But it's late in the season, and I have caught rabbits carrying kits in the past.  So off he went.  We could have put this one in the game bag, but I let it scamper off.

3/1/2011 – 4th squirrel for Cisco

I finally got Cisco to a good hunting weight, a little high maybe, but 946 grams is not bad.  I had to work a little late so instead if driving across town, I took Cisco to what I call the 1960 Field, north of the big airport.  I burned an extra 30 minutes of daylight working late.  Funny how work can interfere with hawking.  This hunting area has not been great; Cisco caught a swamp rabbit and a few squirrels there over the last couple of seasons.  It looks like a field that should be good with varied habitat.  This evening was slightly warm and sunny, a nice day to be out.  I weighed the hawk and released him so he could fly around while I got my boots on and put on the other gear.

Cisco was very focused.  We went into the woods and he looked for squirrels.  Initially it seemed there weren't any, but soon we had a flight or two.  I managed to let one squirrel get to the ground.  Cisco continued to look up and down in the trees, and suddenly did a wing-over into the brush. Looked like a rabbit flight.  He missed, and flew back to a tree.  I walked around a little, lost sight of the hawk, heard a crash and a squeak.  I decided he had scored.  When I could not call him from the trees, I was convinced that he had a kill, but I could not find him in the heavy brush.  I had to go back to the car for my receiver.  I hate to leave a hawk on the ground with a kill at dusk with the possibility of horned owls in the area, but had no choice.  At the car I turned on the receiver and could pick up the L.L. XLF's signal.  I hiked back to the area, tracking the hawk.  It seemed that he was on the ground.  I quickly found him at the base of a tree with a big buck cat squirrel.  He was breaking into it, even though a squirrel's hide makes it difficult for the hawk.  I let him feed a little, then traded him off.  On the way back I let him eat the head, which he finished at the car.

Cisco was very restless after the hunt, even with a full crop.  I realized that he wanted to be in the hawk box, not perched on the new car perch.  I left the hawk box at the house, on purpose, since I didn't think I had a use for it.  I was wrong.  He will dive into a hawk box after a successful hunt and is content.  Today he had to ride home hooded.

A very poor cell phone picture:

2/27/2011 – Ms. Elbert burns through another of her nine lives (email addresses deleted)

On Sun, Feb 27, 2011 at 4:12 PM, Mark Reindel <> wrote:

Hey..what happened with your bird today?

from Chuck Redding <>
to Mark Reindel

bcc: Jim Ince ,Matthew Mullenix ,Kate Redding ,Lyn Redding ,Roger Crandall ,Cody Fields ,Cody Birdwell , Cameron Turner , Lynne Holder , Charli's Email
date: Sun, Feb 27, 2011 at 9:42 PM
subject Re: rsmailed-by


Just fixin' to send an email to you and some other folks.  I bcc'd a few folks on this reply............

I had the RT and RSH weathering out in Stephanie's back yard like any other time.  They perch about 8' apart.  We had been doing chores and had the back French doors open.  We keep an eye on the birds when they are out, but have never felt compelled to sit with them the whole time.  I came out the back door to the yard, and Steph says, "What's up with Cisco?"  I looked over and saw Cisco with crest flared, intently looking across the yard and up just a little.  He started screaming that classic angry RT sound.  I said, "He must see a red-tail."  I looked in the same direction that Cisco was and saw a hawk coming in very fast heading straight for Ms. Elbert.  First impression was a big Cooper's.  I yelled, waved my arms, and ran at the RSH.  The immature male RT broke off its attack, within a few feet of the red-shoulder, and I think he may have been on the ground for a second.  It flew off quickly. 

I will never leave any small hawk out without sitting with her.  This was too close.  We had been in and out of the yard, the dog and cat were running around and we were standing right there when it happened.  If I hadn't rushed at the RT he would have clobbered her.  Likewise if Cisco hadn't reacted...................

Chuck Redding

Birds at

This is Steph's back yard, but the picture was taken months ago.  When the aforementioned attack took place, the bird's positions were
reversed, not that it makes any difference

2/22/2011 – Weeks later

The two hawks, Cisco and Ms Elbert have been busy.  Cisco, always productive, took his third squirrel last Saturday.  Cliff Johnston came along and was impressed by Cisco's approach to squirrels.  He chased some around the woods, then sat upon a hollowed out, dead tree trunk.  I could not get him to leave.  He was working a squirrel that was safely ensconced within.  Apparently Cisco was trying to get the rodent to come out, maybe even provoking it to charge.  Ultimately, it did, Cisco grabbed it by the head and quickly parachuted to the ground.  This is the first time I have seen him take a squirrel like this.  Two days earlier, on Thursday after work, Cisco took another squirrel.  See below

Thanks to an idea of Kevin Johnson's I mounted a transmitter on the red-shouldered hawk with a new method, which I believe is extremely safe.  It uses an upside down plectrum from Western Sporting, with an extra pair of holes punched in it.  A loop of parachute cord runs under the wings. It seems to work just great.  I like it because I think a hawk could put on any amount of weight without the harness constricting her.  Marshall's backpack can get tight on a hawk, IMO.  See picture below.  Two holes are hidden under the transmitter.  The cord is just a single strand.  This system is much easier to install.  You could also use Marshall's plectrum and tape, just change the way you route it.  I like Marshall's plectrum better, being more compact and smoother.


2/7/2011 – Lots of time has elapsed and a THA Associates Mini-Meet

It has been two months since the last update to this page.  To my avid readers, I apologise again, but can't guarantee anything.  This season has been like that, even though I have been hawking a lot.  On Saturday, 2/5/2011 we held the first ever mini-meet for THA associate members.  My co-chairs for the event were Cody Birdwell and Lynne Holder who brought their hawks.  We had amazing cold weather, with repeated night freezes.  My office shut down the day before the meet, and as a consequence of the weather we had a number of no-shows, or more appropriately, cancellations.    Nevertheless, Lynne Holder drove in from Chappell Hill with Dart, and a number of participants came from as far away as San Antonio.  We met at Denny's on Westheimer, a spot where Mike Wiegel and I frequently meet on Saturday mornings, pre-hunt.  After a nice long breakfast we split off into two hunting parties.  Lynne and I took our three hawks out to De Soto Street, followed by the Barkers.  Nathan Andrews rode with me.  We put Dart up first and he put in some nice flights mostly chasing cotton rats.  He caught one, we hunted some more and put Dart in the car.  My two hawks were both very fat from the day before.  The previous day, the red-shoulder caught a cotton rat out in Katy, while Cisco nabbed a squirrel, his first of the season, in a wooded area near Cullen Park.  I was a little ashamed to have two hawks with large crops the day before this meet.  Well, not that ashamed.  I decided that although Cisco hit the scales at 1.02 kilograms the morning of the meet, he is always safe and dependable, so we let him hunt.  He was ready to hunt.  Cisco rode the T pole, and after blinking at a couple of swamp rabbits not to his liking, he caught one hiding in a shallow gulley.  He hadn't not caught one in a while, so this was nice.  He has caught 29 cotton rats so far this season - I think going for his own record.  We all talked a while, and the Barkers left.  Emrah called, telling me that Cody's bird didn't score, and that he was heading back to The Woodlands; Cody and his friend Zach were heading home.

Lynne and I, along with Nathan and Nisha Andrews, had lunch at La Hacienda.  Afterwards, Lynne went home while the Andrews' accompanied me to Katy.  Ms. Elbert, the red-shouldered hawk caught her 9th cotton rat.  She hunted well, attacking birds and cotton rats, being only moderately distracted by the local red-tails.

Interesting information on Ms. Elbert:

The red-shouldered hawk was hot early on, up until early October, then was a bit lackadaisical for several months even though she steadily caught cotton rats.   No birds since very early October.  Between her nascent screaming and lack of focus, she became much less fun to fly.  She spent most of January at Charli Rohack’s in Bryan.  When I got her back she had gone from 550 grams to a portly 700 (leave it to a rehabber.....).  The amazing thing is that a hawk I considered plump at 550 grams is much more focused than she has been for months, now attacking everything that moves in the field.  Her fist response is not diminished, she rides the T pole better than ever, and is extremely quiet.  Right now her keel feels like that of a typical bird’s taken right off a BC.  In my life I have never flown a bird so fat. Live and learn, or maybe live and get more confused...............

Back Row: Zach, Emrah Binatli, Stephanie Barker, Logan Barker, Eddie Barker, Daniel Rasi, Nathan Andrews
Front Row: Cody Birdwell w/ Katy, Lynne Holder w/ Dart, Chuck Redding w/ Cisco, and Jim Ince with Ms. Elbert.  Standing between Jim and me is Dalton Barker.
Photo by Stephanie Jennings

Ms. Elbert enjoying a cotton rat on 2/4/2011 - day before meet

Cisco enjoying a squirrel on 2/4/2011

My hawks at the THA meet in January
Cisco, Elbert, and Dart (Dart screaming, amazingly enough - one reason he is now Lynne's hawk)

                    Elbert, and Dart dart

12/7/2010 – A couple of rodents

I have not been very attentive to the web site this season.  I'm sorry.  Here is an update. 

Rob Evans, as always, continues to catch cottontails with his latest red-tail, out in Katy.  Lynne Holder and Dart, the Harris' hawk are having a good season in Chappell Hill, TX, with Dart's pursuing and catching a fair amount of quarry. 

I have been giving Elbert a lot of field time, with Cisco's doing very well with less field time, maybe half as much.  Nevertheless, Cisco has caught a half dozen rabbits, including a swamp rabbit, and plenty of rodents.  Elbert has not been very successful in the field in the last two months.  The bird flushes have been few, and she has been high in weight a good part of the time.  In the last week or two I have brought her weight down.

This morning I took the two birds out to Katy.  Elbert was down to 508 grams, lower than I have ever flown her, but I did not see any real increase in her keenness, so I will bring her up some.  I have generally been in the range of a 1% daily change, actually closer to 1/2% per day, since she generally gets flown every other day.  She was as high as 550 or 560 in recent weeks.  This morning in the chilly air she looked with moderate interest at some field sparrows, and I carried her along a ditch so she would have a shot at some cotton rats.  Along this same ditch, Cisco has caught a number of mice and cotton rats.  Toward the end of the ditch, very close to where Cisco caught a cotton rat and cottontail on Sunday, Elbert caught and killed a big cotton rat.  She dragged it deeper into the thorns, and it took me a while to cut away the thorns and transfer her off. 
I wanted the red-shoulder to at least catch some warm blooded prey, and she did.   On Sunday she caught a lizard. probably a skink.  This was on a cold day in field where I have never seen a lizard.

Elbert had a big crop after eating most of a rat, and weighed 600 grams tonight.  I took her back to the car and brought out Cisco.  He was quite heavy this morning, having not cast yet, and I wondered how responsive and eager he would be.  On Sunday he ate a rabbit head and a large cotton rat.  He did not disappoint me.  When I got to the field this morning, I found a large casting in the hawk box, and he left a healthy slice on my tail gate.  He attacked birds in the ditches, once doing a teardrop stoop on a sparrow in a bush, after hovering above the bush for about five seconds.  A very cool hawk, he is.  At some point he caught a mouse, blinked at a rabbit, but then pursued that same rabbit a few minutes later.  A pretty good morning overall, with both my hawks catching game, however humble. 

11/23/2010 – A herculean effort by Team Cisco pays off

The second full day at the Dodge City NAFA meet was great. I got up before dawn to take Cisco to a field that Rob Huber and I located yesterday. A good looking field that the owner, Sheila Urban, told us was filled with quail, pheasants, cottontails, and jacks. Yesterday morning

Rob and I kicked around for a good hour or more. We flushed only a single small cottontail that Cisco attacked and missed. Cisco bounced off the ground, and chased it into an open area with vegetation cut way down. This is normally a perfect situation for my hawk, but the rabbit vanished. A great flight, the first of many in the next 24 hours.

Rob and I returned with Cisco in the evening, and had a number of fine flights with my hawk powering very fast, and pursuing hard. He ate two mice that he caught – alive, I think. Super effort by Cisco. Every flight was good, but the bunnies just disappeared in this field. I have never seen anything like it.

This morning was a frosty 20F and foggy. I got up before dawn and ate breakfast. Rob had a NAFA board meeting, so I went alone with Cisco. My car was coated with frost, as was everything in sight. I had no gloves and no watch cap, so I carried the T-pole bare handed, wearing a baseball cap. Very mature behavior for a man pushing 60 years old. Cisco was reluctant to come out of his hawk box, but settled down to attacking the rabbits with vigor. When he returned to T-pole after one flight, he had frost on his face and whiskers. After about a half mile, the pain in my hands was sufficient to force me back to the car, where Cisco happily jumped into his box. Apparently I only thought that my hands hurt while I was carrying the pole. When I got in the car, the pain was screaming, or maybe that was me. I went back to the hotel to pick up a heavy sock to use as a mitten.

We returned to the field. It was now sunny and a balmy 25F. Besides, I was armed with a sock. Cisco, still longing for the Gulf Coast, had to be coaxed out. We continued to flush these transient rabbits and Cisco's efforts to catch them were spectacular. I began to wonder what he could possibly do, and hoped that he wouldn't get discouraged. We took occasional breaks when Cisco got cold. He would fly to a fence post to rest; I would call him to fist from 100 yards away. We'd head back to the car to warm up. In a few minutes he was ready again, though never willing to leave the hawk box. I moved the car down the road about ¼ mile to try another field. We walked to a tree line, where Cisco took a stand, following-on very well. Our efforts finally paid off. Cisco launched from a pine tree, flew about 40 yards, and did a classic RT wing-over, slamming a good sized cottontail. One of the most rewarding outings in six seasons with this hawk.

In other news, Elbert is recovering well from her water moccasin bite of last Tuesday morning. One week ago today. She has survived near starvation, a direct blast of a skunk, and now a near deadly snake bite. She seems ready to hunt, though a little fat. I will slip her on some starlings tomorrow. Isaac Nichols will bring his kestrel. Elbert prefers the cold weathering yard to being in a hawk box in the hotel. Cisco, of course, loves hotel rooms..... Below are some pictures of this morning, and a clip of the red-shoulder riding to the NAFA meet.

November 7, 2010 - A mini-meet with Lynne Holder and the para, micro, and Uber-buzzards (Harris hawk, red-shouldered hawk, and red-tailed hawk)

Lynne came in from Chappell Hill, and brought Dart.  We met out in Katy, TX which is about 45 minutes from Lynne's and 30 minutes from my house.  I brought Cisco and Elbert, both a little high in weight.  I carelessly let Cisco get fat this week, while I was deliberately trying to get the red-shoulder up, to see if it would alleviate her occasional noisiness. 

Dart put up the best aerobatics, and was very active, but failed to score.  Elbert caught a few grasshoppers, and caught his first non-skunk* fur, a cotton rat.  Cisco road the T pole stoically, and grabbed a cotton rat, the first of the season.  It was fun hawking with Lynne and Dart.  We ate Mexican food afterwards.

*I guess I failed to mention that a week ago, she grabbed a skunk, and I had to treat her her with peroxide, baking soda, and dish soap.  Next time I'll use tomato juice, as she is now a little blonder than she was, due to the peroxide.  She still smells a bit skunky, but it is waning. 

Me with Uber-buzzard (Photo: Lynne Holder)

Cisco with cotton rat (Photo: Lynne Holder)

Lynne with para-buzzard

(Photo: Lynne Holder)

Me with micro-buzzard (Photo: Lynne Holder)

Ms. Elbert with her rat.................... (Photo: Lynne Holder)

October 31, 2010 - Cisco's first for the season

Over in Oak Forest, I got up before dawn.  I let Cisco weather out a bit as the sun came up, keeping close because I heard great-horned owls last night.  Cisco was at 946 grams, heavy but not too bad.  I drove over to De Soto Street and released him - he was ready apparently, as he caught a very large swamp rabbit on his second flight.  The first flight may have been after a small bird.  The picture does not not make this rabbit appear too big.  Gutted and partially  eaten, it weighed around 1600 grams.

Tonight the RSH caught a bunch of grasshoppers.

Cell phone picture - sorry

Rob with his fine new hawk, called Brewsky

October 28, 2010 - Weather cools

It has been awful the last few weeks.  I got Cisco into the field last Saturday.  Gold Fire was a bust.  We didn't get one good flush of a rabbit, but he performed well at 950 grams.  Likewise the next day at De Soto. 

The little hawk catches tons of grasshoppers and chases birds.  Tonight in the slightly cooler weather she tried to ambush some doves.  Did a good job, but they escaped.  She also chased a cottontail. 

 October 10, 2010 - Update (from an email)

Early this morning on the way back from a taco run, the RSH nearly caught a starling.  So she's stuck on an even dozen birds taken including a rail, starling, sparrow, a let-it-lie, and a few grackles.  Nine from the window, and three from the T pole.  The other night she attacked her first fur, a mouse.

In today's warm afternoon, I found a great bird field out in Katy, north of the freeway.  This will be good for the RT also.  Other than a lark or two, there are no birds here yet, but I know it will fill up soon.  She put in a good chase on one of the larks.  As training and T pole reinforcement, today couldn't have been better.  She caught about half a dozen large grasshoppers and a dragonfly, some caught in the air, and most brought back to the pole for eating. She rode around in the open field as well as any RT or HH.  I really thought that being a forest bird, that she would feel vulnerable in the open.  No - she doesn't mind a bit.  At one point she was on the ground eating a grasshopper, when she hunkered down.  I looked up and saw a merlin was soaring above.  Later I watched that same merlin attack a group of starlings, chasing one down, but finally breaking off the attack.

Go to You tube chuckr1951 for a couple of clips from today.  Shot by me with the right hand.  Silly really.  There will be some others. 


October 2, 2010 - Two birds taken in the field

Mike Wiegel and I took the red-shoulder out to some fields west of Houston.  We carried her around on the T pole near an industrial park.  Within about 30 minutes she had captured and eaten two birds.  This is a dozen birds taken by the RSH now.  Here's a short clip of one flight.  



September 25, 2010 More Updates

This morning she caught another bird.  Last Sunday morning she caught another up off Highway 6.  She is getting very good at this, even though there is hardly any game in the fields where I usually take her.

The following is from an email to Matthew Mullenix, slightly edited for clarity:

Last night (Wednesday) I took the RS out to Katy, about 30 minutes from house, to the field where last season Cisco and Dart caught lots of birds and rabbits. I put her on the T pole, and walked about a 1/3 of a mile down this grassy road.  She caught half a dozen grasshoppers and katydids, a couple of them in the air.  She learned that the T pole is good, and kept returning to it.  I got all the way to the end and realized I had no glove!  It was getting dark, so I called her to the T pole and picked her off of it; I carried her bare fisted all the way back to the car.  I had a death grip on a jess.  She bated a couple of times, but didn't grab me once, which was nice.  The other two hawks always give a squeeze for good measure after a bate like that. She feaked on my bare hand also, as we walked back.No fur or feather out there yet.

At this field, by this time last year Dart had caught a cotton rat and rabbit.

September 14, 2010 Updates (from an email to Lynne Holder)

I am having a blast with my little goof-butt RS.  She's taken seven birds - plus a nickel sized frog out at De Soto.  Dart and Cisco battle six pound swamp rabbits there - she catches frogs. The other night she caught a bird from T pole that I had her eat on the ground.  Tonight she attacked a coypu (nutria) out at my Eldridge Road field.   It went into the water with her in pursuit.  She followed it out into the lake and attacked its head.  It lunged up at her, and she wisely retreated.  She is very aerial, and can fly nearly straight up.  Last night she flew several hundred yards to attack some blackbirds on the other shore.  I think this place will get good in a month.  Right now there is little game. 

September 4, 2010 A Sunday morning bird

On the way back from a breakfast taco run, she caught another bird.

August 31, 2010 - Labrador red-shoulder

I took Ms. Elbert to a grocery store parking lot where flocks of nuisance birds live.  She plucked one off the pavement, and immediately flew to a tree, which could be trouble under most circumstances.  I offered a quail garnished fist and she flew down from the tree carrying the bird.  That's a first for me.

August 28, 2010 - Ms. Elbert's third and fourth birds

I took her out early today, just about dawn to Katy, TX to see if she would catch some game out there.  She did.  A grasshopper.  She rode the perch for a while, then chased a small bird.  I took her back toward Houston and she caught a couple of birds.  Here she is eating a starling.

Last Saturday she caught her third bird.


August 14, 2010 - The red-shoulder feeds the red-tail - Ms. Elbert's first kill

Finally, Ms. Elbert caught a bird in a parking lot up off Highway 6.   She got good slips several times this week, as I have been taking her out in the evenings.  She came close to catching a few deprecating grackles, and a couple of starlings, but all escaped.  Nevertheless, she has been persistent.  This morning it paid off.  Her first kill, I let her feed up on it.  What was left, I gutted, dressed and fed to the red-tail.  She's now officially a game hawk, and a meat hawk too.  Sorry - I left the camera home this morning.  Ms. Elbert weighed 533 grams when we left the house.

August 8, 2010 - Hunting Update

Most days I have been taking Ms. Elbert out to attack birds in the urban environment.  She has pursued, has a great eye for birds, but we have yet to score.  In Oak Forest this morning she nearly caught her first grackle, but missed.  Today I managed to slip her one too many times, with her getting a reward each time.  She got balky, and it took about 20 minutes to get her out of a tree.  I forget that she does not have a red-tail's capacity to wolf down food.

Here is Greg Pearson's beautiful anatum peregrine tiercel.  Out of Danny Ertsgaard’s breeding project, Greg just got the bird recently.   He calls him "Turley."


August 1, 2010 - Hunting?

Yesterday, Wiegel, Lynne Holder, and I took Elbert out west of the house for some hunting.  She rode the T pole well, but we didn't catch or even flush any game.   

A big day for Cody Livingston.  His red-shouldered hawk caught a cotton rat and a bird.

July 26, 2010 - Ms. Elbert flies free

The  text message that I sent to some friends right after I got back from the school yard.  A big day.

"@ 540 grams in a drizzle. Off the perch to the open field, a few from the tree, including the last, to the chick garnished lure. Then a hop to the fist and home w/ a full crop."

Yes, Elbert is a girl. Cody Birdwell's  RS bird flew at 415 grams.

July 19 -20, 2010 - Elbert trains himself

Monday he flew 100 feet to the fist effortlessly, several times coming without being called.  He landed on my head once.  Tuesday I thought that I would "train" him to the T-pole.  Went to school yard, attached creance, and he immediately flew to the T pole.  Within ten minutes he was flying across the field to it.  So far so good. 

July 18, 2010 - The easy part is very easy with this bird

The early part of training, once you've trained a hawk or two, also is the easy part.  Man the bird, reducing his weight gradually, and get him to fly to the fist.  With Elbert, this part has been the easiest of any hawk that I can remember.  He doesn't mantle on food or scream, and is very tolerant of dogs, cats, and people.  At 545 grams, tonight at the school yard he flew at least 70 feet to the fist.  Why only 70? Because I only spooled out about 40 feet of line.  I always put the spool and weight between me and the hawk, so get roughly twice the creance length.  With a red-tail, I put the hawk in the middle of a field and call him to fist, with my being near the edge of field.  My feeling about red-shoulders is that they don't like being in the open, so I put the training perch by trees, and call him toward the center of field.  Don't know if that does anything good, but it seems to work.  He sits very relaxed on his training perch.  Important: Although he is near the trees he cannot get to them.  Getting your hawk caught on trees, fences, and power lines is the classic rookie mistake with a creance.  Elbert was very responsive, eager to fly to me, and has not veered off even once when called.  Yesterday he flew to me, uncalled, while I was attempting to lengthen the line, and when I looked up startled, he veered off.   The leash and jess setup I use with my hawks makes creance flying easy and safe.  Tie the bird to the perch with both jesses and leash.  Remove a snap from one jess, and attach creance with bowline (knot).  If I have my normal jesses with a small hole, I pass the creance though the hole and put a figure eight stopper knot at end of line.  See pictures of my setup. 

Tonight the hawk would have flown 100 feet with no problem I think.  I'll find out tomorrow. 

This is roughly how far he flew tonight.  The line length is about 40 feet.  The spool is in the foreground.  The hawk is near the trees but cannot fly to the trees or any other object.

With a bowline (knot), the creance is attached to one jess only.  One would never tether a bird to a perch with only one jess.  He is intently watching the sky in this picture. 

July 10, 2010 - Elbert makes significant progress - he flies to the fist
I told Charli Rohack that Elbert would hop to the fist yesterday.  OK, I was a day late.  Yesterday he wanted to, but wouldn't quite do it.  Today after hanging out on the patio with Mike Wiegel and me, along with Mike's Barbary, he was ready.  At about 560 grams, I took him into my mew/office, and set him on a perch.  Offered a chunk of DOC, he didn't hesitate.  He flew about a foot to the fist, then by the third flight, about 3 1/2 feet.  He is very relaxed, unafraid of the dog, cat, or Cisco, at least from a distance.  He preens on the fist, rouses, sits with a foot tucked up.   Here are a few pictures:

Elbert looking curiously at Tariq

Elbert and Tariq, Mike's Barbary

Soo Barrow with Charlie

Gregg and Soo Barrow and I, along with Hannah (L), Charlie (center), Elbert (R), and Cisco in foreground.  Taken on a visit on July 3 after picking up the red-shoulder in Bryan.  The camera was set on timer, and I had to run back into picture.

A detail of Charlie, the famous Harris' hawk from Matthew Mullenix's book, In Season.  Charlie is now about 13 years old, and is being flown by Soo Barrow.  He had a good season.  There are other pictures of Charlie here:

From an email to Charli Rohack

Until today while at work, I have kept him in hawk box every day this week because I was afraid of his getting leg abrasion from bating.  In the evening I have tethered and carried him.  Today I tethered him in the office mew, and checked him many times from the web cam; I saw only one possible bate.  I think he will be OK.  The perches in the office are very low, and it takes hawks a little while to realize that they can’t fly to the higher objects in room.  The little RS has figured that out now, and seems to be fine in there.  He flies from perch to perch, which all the hawks do.  This guy does something no other hawk has done.  He starts to fly to a file cabinet which is to the right of that V-shaped back perch.  When he comes to end of leash, he flutters back to the perch without turning down.  Even Dart the HH didn’t do that.  I have kept 2 RT’s and a HH in that room successfully.  Cisco is there whenever the weather is really bad.  I have maintained Elbert’s weight at 585 all week, but did not feed him yesterday.  I think he will hop to fist tonight and get a good reward and dinner.  He is coming along, but this week I have had little time to man him.  He eats readily on the fist.  I was pleasantly surprised when I carried him outside on fist.  He was quite relaxed and watched swallows flying overhead.  Most hawks take a step back when taken outdoors, but not him.  Tomorrow and Sunday he will get more attention. 

I just realized that this email will go on my web site as a log posting.

Elbert looking at picture of golden eagle

June 14, 2010 - A new hawk for the summer

Don't tell Jim Ince, but I'm taking on a red-shouldered hawk in a couple of weeks.  Charli (Charlotte) Rohack, my friend and apprentice in Bryan, has a little male RS that was found by a retired falconer's neighbor.  The bird was in a roadway, very weak, with the parents flying overhead.  The falconer, Steve Magyar, took him to Charli, who is a rehabber.  The bird weighed 250 grams, but has now beefed up, and is closer to 400.  I will take him and, I hope, teach him to hunt. If he can catch some summer cotton rats, mice, and maybe a bird or two, I plan to release him while there is lots of warm weather left.  The new Texas regs allow me to take the bird without penalty on my permit.   I can give him back to Charli, release the bird to the wild, or transfer to my permit.  In the last case the bird counts as a wild bird taken.  The regs allow 180 days in which to do this.  The one issue that I see as a possible problem is my husbandry, as I have no facilities to free-loft a bird.  My birds are tethered.   If the RS bates from the perch too much there is the potential for leg abrasion, and I would have to return him to Charli.

The bird will be called Elbert.  This is consistent with my alphabetic naming convention.  Why Elbert?  Two years ago my sister, nephew, Mike Wiegel, and I climbed Mt. Elbert, the tallest of the "Fourteeners" in Colorado, 14,443 feet or so .  The climb was in honor of my father, who died in early 1999.  When he was a young man he climbed Mt. Elbert, and mentioned it to me as we were driving near Leadville nearly forty years ago.  He said it was easy.  I beg to differ, as would my climbing companions.  But we succeeded.  It was the toughest thing I've done physically in a score of years.  This little hawk will be called Elbert for that reason.

I will pick him up in early July, and will keep you updated on his progress.

Little Elbert

Mount Elbert






Cisco feeding on coturnix (quail)


At Steph's the birds weathering - boxes block Dart's view of Cisco so Dart won't scream at him.  Technically this is from fifth season, not sixth.

May: Cisco is a relentless squirrel hunter, believe it or not..................


Cisco and his young girlfriend, Katy, chilling on the lawn in March

A couple of old pictures of Cisco, taken in late 2005 and early 2006.  At left, 1/7/2006, Cisco's second rabbit ever; the first one caught at Gold Fire.  Above sitting on perch in December 2005, I think.