Saturday, October 29, 2011

Falconry Apprenticeship

E13 is moving right along with his apprenticeship in falconry. We are so excited to see him start down this road. This summer he received his packet and we began getting things checked off. He and Dan took the hunter safety class a few weeks ago and achieved success. They are both card carrying safe hunting ready. In order to have a falconry license, you must also have a small hunting license (since you will be hunting with your bird of prey) and a hunting license requires a hunter safety class. So, we can check that class off!

We've been waiting patiently for our master falconer's hawk to get her flight feathers and then E13 will get to watch him work with his bird and get to know what its like to be around them and care for them. He's also started studying for the falconry exam.

In the meantime, there are some other apprentices ready to trap their hawks and we were invited along! One is waiting on his federal license so he's not quite ready, but another was ready to trap a hawk and had her trapping permit in hand. She had previously worked with a red tail and was working with a kestrel for the past year and it took off on her during the height of migration season. She needed a new bird. We set off on an adventure Monday morning to follow and learn. It was an amazing experience!

There were a lot of red tails soaring above the trees- we got out to take a look. Of course, we were armed with binoculars, though we could use a better pair.

The traps are set with rodents and birds inside because they irritate one another and the movement will attract the attention of a hawk that is perched nearby. If you look closely, you'll see lots of nooses on the top of the cage. When the hawk flies down, it's feet will get caught up in the nooses and that's it!

We followed them around and it was down this farm lane that they were finally able to successfully trap a red tail. The others kept flying away when they'd spot one and jump out to lay down the trap.

The state game farm raises pheasants for hunting- lots and lots of pheasants!

Hawk trapping does require patience. This apprentice falconer held out and tried one more time. She reached success after 3 hours!

We were surprised to see the falconer emerge with the bird being held like a baby. They stay very calm for several hours after being caught.

Once caught, they weighed the bird to see if it was male or female. This one is a he handsome or what?  The falconer puts an aba on the bird. This covers the wings and calms the bird down- then the hawk gets a hood. The hood keeps them from seeing lots of movement- especially before it is trained.

A view from outside the arboretum not far from our trapping site. It was such a lovely day I couldn't resist!

Here are a few things we learned while out with the falconers on Monday morning: (we counted over 20 things, but we won't make you read them all)
  •  Hawks can get into it with squirrels. If you look at the feet of a hawk and they are scarred and messy, then the bird is a squirreler and some falconers look for this in a bird.
  • Squirrels can bite a hawk so hard that they sever tendons, cause infection, and tear muscle in a hawk's feet.
  • If you accidentally get a turkey vulture in your trap, they will spit vile green yuck on you!
  • You can only trap juvenile hawks.
  • Adult hawks are called haggards.
  • This hawk was hatched in April or May of this year and is now on it's own.
We are looking forward to the next trapping adventure when the apprentice J has his trapping permit. The game farm is a great location to get hawks so my guess is we'll be there again next time. If you'd like to learn more about the sport of falconry, The Modern Apprentice is a great website. E13 has begun studying for his NY state falconry exam and since I'm helping out, it's been very interesting!


Kisha said...

So cool! What a neat experience!

Michele said...

Very cool stuff, Heather! Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Wow! We have a hawk's nest in the top of a tree in the field next door. It was fun watching the parents sit on the nest. The babies are now flying around the tree and making an unusual sound. I looked it up yesterday because I didn't know what it was. It almost sounds like a kookaburra!

Tracey said...

Cool, cool, cool! That is a beautiful bird.

e-Expeditions said...

What a cool experience! It must be incredible to work with such a wild, fierce, powerful creature.