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2013/2014 - Cisco's 9th Season, Farrah's 3rd in Houston

The previous season log can be found at Cisco's 8th Season
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Newest Updates at Top - If you want seasonal tallies going back to 2006, send an email.



April 23, 2014 - Season Summary

As I write this, the season is over. I am exercising the hawks every other day in the cul-de-sac in front of the house. Both hawks caught lots of cotton rats, 174 between them. Each hawk hunted about 75 days, with Farrah's starting earlier by a month; Cisco hunted for a couple of weeks after Farrah was put up. Excluding the ones caught in the front yard, there was only one squirrel and a few sparrows for Cisco this season. Combined the hawks caught 38 rabbits with Farrah's catching a few more as Cisco struggled early because of his focus on rodents. Once he got going he was good and consistent, and I believe that he prefers the smaller eastern cottontails to the swamp rabbits he had been catching in previous seasons when we hunted closer to the coast. Most of the this season was spent hunting west of Katy. I did not attend the NAFA meet this year.  Both hawks crushed their previous season totals because of the cotton rats. The hawks had some really great flights on rabbits this season, aesthetically the best I have seen.

I have two new apprentices, Corby, a young Army veteran and family man, and Amy, who has probably been the most dedicated of any apprentice I have ever had. Amy is planning to take her falconry test in May. Amy is the first apprentice who I have allowed to handle my hawks; she did well. She has called Cisco to the fist and traded him off a couple of kills. Farrah is too disagreeable to be a training hawk, but Cisco is tolerant.  

March 17, 2014 - A scary finish to Farrah's season

Things can happen quickly. It's pure luck that Farrah is still with us. Farrah caught her first rabbit of season on September 15th. I decided to close her season in mid-March after six months of hunting, and continue to hunt with Cisco until month's end. Monday afternoon I took Farrah to the RV park where we have permission to hunt; my friend Amy was there waiting. Here the hawks have taken scores of cotton rats and plenty of rabbits this season. Farrah was high in weight, but this is not typically much of an issue with her. I usually just note it in my log book and move on.

This day Farrah was a little distant, not following too well, but put in some good chases on cottontails. On the east side of the main parking lot, about 150 yards south of I-10, she caught her probably 85th cotton rat of the season. She has a tendency to carry them so I gave her some space. With cotton rats I let her break in, usually staying back for a few minutes, then move in and transfer her off with a good chunk of meat, often more cotton rat. Today she was jumpy, flying a short distance up the ditch toward the highway. I gave her more time to break in but she moved again. She was still a long way from the road, but I didn't like the direction she was heading, so decided to walk a huge circle out to the field and approach her from the other side, to push her south, away from the busy interstate. This didn't work and she flew the good sized rat to a five foot pole at the end of the ditch, right by the feeder road. Now I was really getting concerned, but still didn't think she would try to carry the 120 gram rat across nine lanes of road. Concern quickly morphed into panic as she headed across I-10, which was loaded with fast moving traffic. I don't think she was ever more than eight feet off the ground as she stupidly blundered her way across. My knees were bent, my mouth was open, and I watched between my fingers as she cleared the road and disappeared from sight.There was great relief but we still had to get her, hoping that she would not try to fly back across. Amy stayed well back during all of the preceding events. We headed back to the car, a good ten minute trek. It was meaningless but reassuring to hear her on the telemetry receiver. We worked our way north of the interstate and without too much effort we found Farrah calmly munching on the rat in an open field about 50 yards off the road. I called her to the fist with a chick and grounded her for the next six months.

Wednesday we had a few minutes of high anxiety with Cisco as well. He took off soaring with a pair of resident red-tails, truly "specking out" and disappearing from my view as I frantically waved the lure and blew the whistle. I was ready to hop in the car to chase him downwind  with the receiver but he suddenly  returned. He was at a very good weight and took a small cottontail.

February 2, 2014 - Cisco's dandy rabbit catch in the foul weather

Cisco's had a renaissance with cotton tails in the last couple of weeks with his catching four in the last five field trips. Today, Superbowl Sunday, I took Cisco out to Katy with my friend Amy accompanying us. It was drizzly, cold and very breezy. Because of the wind, I considered not flying Cisco, but he continues to handle the wind, even 20 to 30 kt. winds like we had today. I was not expecting too much gamewise, just wanted to get him out. Cisco was screaming when I pulled him hooded out of the hawk box, eager to hunt. He immediately got blown downwind, but perched on top of a large backhoe boom. I showed him the T perch and he worked his way upwind. Amy and I walked the ditches and Cisco was very intent, once of twice plunging into the cover. Then he put in a very nice flight, hovering over the vegetation and returning to the T pole. I told Amy that any rabbit that ran out into the open in any direction would be safe in this wind - the ones in danger were the ones that stayed in the cover. I was wrong. A rabbit bolted out from the ditch mostly down wind, and in a few seconds I saw Cisco with his feet in a large grass clump, but heard no rabbit. I told Amy that he missed. I was wrong. Cisco caught another cottontail. The Uberbuzzard is back.

This season the two hawks have caught 137 cotton rats between them - 71 for Cisco, 66 for Farrah. Already Cisco has caught nearly as many so far this season, as in his previous eight combined. There are a lot of them out there. 

Cisco took a couple of sparrows recently.

Farrah is the best rabbit hawk I have flown, and is continuing to get better in her third season with me, fourth overall.

January 31, 2013 - Cisco's and Farrah's best rabbit flights ever

Apologies to those of you who read this web site. I have not kept it up to date. Partly it has been the fact that events have not been that remarkable, at least until recently. But in the last week or so my hawks have put in two spectacular flights on cottontails, with Farrah's resulting in a kill.

This morning out in Katy, Cisco put in his best-ever flight on a rabbit.
I had a young man in the field with me who had never seen trained hawks. We flew Farrah first, she chased a rabbit or two and quickly took two cotton rats. We put her in the truck and brought out Cisco. After Cisco blinked at three or four perfectly catchable cottontails, we flushed one that ran toward us, and then escaped running along the ditch behind.  Cicso gave it a look but would not commit. I shook my head in frustration. Suddenly Cisco bolted from the T pole, flying hard and fast perpendicular to the ditch and out into the open. It was apparent he was chasing a rabbit that was a very long way off. About 150 yards out he pitched up, did a wing-over and a teardrop stoop to the ground. It was spectacular - his best rabbit flight in nine seasons. I ran out to him because I thought he might have scored and there was a pair of resident red-tails sitting on power poles about a 1/4 mile off. Cisco was sitting on the ground - the bunny had escaped. I've always said that the best flights usually result in misses.

We went back to the same ditch and continued to flush. Cisco grabbed an eastern cottontail that was running through the heavy cover along the ditch.

Last week, Farrah caught a cottontail after a wonderful chase that probably consumed 150 yards. We flushed a rabbit out of the ditch and across the dirt road, with Farrah starting well behind. HEr competence as a rabbit hawk showed. Darting in and out of the cover, pitching up and diving, it was the best rabbit flight from a Harris' hawk that I have seen in years. She grabbed the rabbit just as it made it to some good cover. I told my friend Amy, "Farrah just made the A Team."

December 15, 2013 - Season of the rat

Lots of cotton rats (Sigmodon hispidus) this season. Between the two hawks we have a hundred. Cisco has caught almost nothing else, just a couple of rabbits and a small squirrel. The Harris' hawk has put a half dozen rabbits in the freezer to go along with her cotton rats.  There are lots of rabbits out there, and Farrah caught two rabbits on her first two trips to the field back in September. That made me optimistic about the season. Cisco is so efficient with cotton rats that he sits on the T pole and slams them with ease, often ignoring rabbits that he could catch. Then it's a race to transfer him off before he eats too much. I have taken Cisco to the woods to hunt squirrels, but he twice left the woods to catch field rodents. I have brought Cisco's weight down and we're getting better chases. Farrah chases the cotton rats around missing a lot and we get flights on rabbits too. Like a lot of passage Harris' hawks Farrah has a tendency to carry, but I have that largely under control. I give her space initially, then when she breaks into the rat I move in and trade her off. If she is in the open with no cover, she carries almost every time, but usually not far.

November 19, 2013 - A long delayed update

We are well into the season. Cisco is still heavy, mostly laziness on my part, but this week I will get him ready. His high weight has resulted in his blinking at rabbits, though he grabbed a big swamp rabbit last Sunday morning at De Soto Street. It managed to pull loose. Cisco and Farrah now have over 50 cotton rats between them, and I have been transferring them off. Farrah has taken a half dozen rabbits along with the boatload of cotton rats. Until lately I never thought of cotton rats as a nuisance, more of a consolation prize.

Look at this very cool picture of Farrah:


Late September: Andrew Barnes of Monroe, Ohio bought a couple of perches from me for his new red-tailed hawk. She was trapped at 52 ounces.

September 26, 2013 - 99SE

I flew Farrah after a three day fast, something I have never done before, but she was hugely heavy after Monday's hunt. At dawn today I took her out toward Katy, TX to a field I refer to as 99SE in my falconry logbook. It's still warm out, about 5 or 6 degrees above average. That doesn't sound like much, but it's huge. Farrah caught a cottontail and another cotton rat. 

Eating a trade-off chick after her rabbit catch

After a rain a few days later


Wiegel's merlin
Joe Philabaums' red-tail, Rocky after a little beak coping

a cottontail

The hawks on the side yard at my house. Chillin'........

September 23, 2013 - Trois plus

Farrah at 872 grams! Caught three cotton rats, but carried two of them. I managed to trade her off, but this carrying business is beginning. Will be too heavy to fly on Wednesday - I'll try Friday at a different field. Too many cotton rats here.

September 21, 2013 - Nice Weather and a trey of cotton rats

Farrah at 861 (fatty). Saturday morning - cool and overcast, the nicest hunting weather. It rained a lot the last two days, and the hawk got damp quickly plunging into the thick grass. In a hour we had three cotton rats. No rabbits flushed. She has caught seven rats and not carried one, though the last one today she dragged under a bush. I managed to get her on the fist. She had a mega-crop, and will be heavier yet on Monday, her next scheduled hunt. I am targeting her weight at around 850 grams, which is more likely to be about 870.

Jim Ince and Mike Weigel headed to the coast this morning to trap merlins.

The rain shorted out the power supply on my IP camera - have to get that fixed, and protect it better. Try  Email me for user and password.

September 19, 2013 - Farrah's on a roll in the new season

Since last Saturday, in four outings, Farrah has taken an eastern cottontail, a swamp rabbit, and four cotton rats, two this morning. She has been flying very heavy, today over 850 grams again, but so far has not carried. Her flying weight is comparable to Cisco's his first season. Cisco is now about a month from being ready to fly - I am eager to get him out with the new dog, Arnie. Farrah hates the dog..............

Farrah with eastern cottontail, barely visible at lower right.

Cisco and his new pal, Arnie.........

September 9, 2013 - A visit from Matthew Mullenix

My friend Matthew Mullenix, the eminent falconer and author from Baton Rouge, was in town and brought along his little Harris' hawk, Ernie. Matt wanted to hunt with him so I shared my favorite Harris' hawk field, which is just a few minutes from my house. Matt put Ernie up on the T-pole, and off they went. There were lots of cotton rats running in the thick grass, and the hawk pursued, but without any great zest, and Ernie was panting. Matt was concerned about possible carbon monoxide poisoning, as they
briefly had gotten stuck in traffic leaving Baton Rouge. Ernie ultimately caught three of the cotton rats, but Matt was unconvinced and took some precautions for a few days following. Ernie's doing fine now.

Matt and Ernie in Houston

Ernie later with a kill
May 14, 2013 - A couple of days later - " Unfair head start on hawking season....!"

From another email to same folks:

Yep  - again.  I'm really not trying to run up the score.  Matt (Mullenix) called it an "unfair head start on hawking season."  I figured Sunday  was a fluke. Today Cisco at 965, and acting keen; I put him up in the trees and called him twice to the fist.  Some Mississippi kites gave him grief and he started chirping like a downy chick in the nest.  Then he spotted another buck squirrel.  Sunday's squirrel got a couple of bites on him, but today he wasn't having any of that. The squirrel was hiding in the fork of the tree.  Smack! A hallux to the base of the brain pan, and that was it.  But he's going back on the creance.  He's mashing around in the trees a little too much for the molt.

Hard to see but that's Cisco wing hanging out of crotch of tree.  Has squirrel #2 in talons

"This is some vacation............"
May 12, 2013 - Cisco's still hunting - 1st kill of ninth season

From an email to a bunch of friends:

I've been flying the hawks during the off season on the cul-de-sac in front of my house.  Friendly neighbors, no traffic, and good exercise.  Cisco I sometimes put on a zip line, depending on his attitude.  The Harris' is like a pup.  I went into the house to get something he other day and she sat on the peak of the roof waiting for me to come out.  Cisco has "horizon eye" so I watch him.  I fly him about 1 1/2 ounce over his good flying weight. This is a 48 hour weight, alternate day feeding.     Farrah's relatively much fatter.  The hawks had already nearly caught a squirrel or two .  Today Cisco's response was good, he flew from the neighbor's tree for a tidbit, and then back to the tree.  He spotted a couple of squirrels in an adjacent tree and started his chess match.  Hop, hop, hop, and mate.  A big male cat squirrel full of fight, with Cisco's trying to get out of the thick tree and to the ground.  He got about 170 grams of rabbit for his trouble, and I gave the head to Farrah.

Cisco loves those deep bath pans..............


Cisco: Not realizing it's time to slack off

Cisco: More like it......

Farrah's Summer Exercise

2 Days later: "Not gonna mess with squirrels..........."