Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fat and Happy

Goblin is doing much better now. It's taken about 5 days of constant feeding, but he has finally reached a point where is is gaining weight!

It's been a process. I was told that it is almost as hard to put weight back on them when they get low as it is to take weight off of them when they're fat. Well, as usual, the experts were right. I managed to get him to eat fairly easily and I gave him 2-3 feedings per day. Basically, when he'd put over his crop, I'd feed him more. After 3 days of loading him down with food and after his energy level appeared to be improving, I finally weighed him. To my utter shock, he weighed the same if not less than when I pulled him soaking wet out of the mew that horrible day! Wow! At least this time he had energy and he seemed to be more eager about taking food and he was definately taking larger quantities.

Monday he started futzing around with his bells and jesses again, so I knew he was really starting to feel like his old self. When I weighed him, he'd put on a significat load of weight. Yesterday he spent the day in the mew and Hazen stayed home and was able to watch him. I took him in to spend a warm night indoors and when I picked him up this morning, he was noticably heafty. I've gotten him back up to a good weight. For good measure though, I am going to give him a few more gorgings and then start bringing his weight back down.

I feel much better now that I know that he is feeling good. Even at this higher weight and with all the food he can handle, he is still allowing me to handle him with minimal resistance. It is interesting though how closely our relationship ties around food. Even though he does let me handle him, he couldn't care to give me a second glance right now where I could hardly keep him off of me when he was lower.

In the picture, he has on a hood that I made this weekend. I spent a whole day on it, so of course he doesn't like it! Even though it doesn't touch his eyes, I think it's a little on the small side, so I'm going to try again this weekend to make him another one.

I still think that we'll have time to get a few hunts in this season. I hope to free-fly him before we take the trip to Texas. When we get back, I'll have to manage his weight again to get him in the right condition and hope for a few good hunts before the season is over. Whatever happens, we'll knock-em dead next fall.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Listen to the Nagging Voice!

The last week with Goblin has been fairly challenging. I have been following a training method set out in Gary Brewer’s book Buteos and Bushytails. I had my doubts at first, but once I got Goblin out of the house and flying to me on the creance, he was a superstar! Then, we had some bad weather days. The day after our first spectacular session on the creance was raining, so he just got to eat some food in the mew. The next day was insanely windy. I watched a tree fall in the 1 acre woods behind the house as I was trying to fly him. He was a little shaky, but I couldn’t blame that on him, the weather was terrible. The next day the weather was perfect and he did well on the creance, but after a few minutes, he would start to lose interest and look around. We also had a bad day since Sabel had torn up a toy in the yard and he attacked it and tried to eat it. He traded off well (which was something I hadn’t even worked with him on) but after that little incident, he was more focused on the ground than on me. The next day was better, but he lost focus early so I terminated the session early. I tried to figure out why his response would slow down. He seemed to be making a good effort, but it looked like a lot of effort. I thought maybe his equipment was too heavy or maybe since he’s coming off of a low perch, it takes a lot of effort to get altitude. I also had the thought that he might be too low, but I felt that if he was too low, he would be insanely aggressive about the food.

The next day I went to my class in Tallahassee. I didn’t get back until just at dark and by then, he had already gone to roost. I was anticipating not feeding him on this day and hoped that he would show keenness during our next session. Then came the flurry of storms. We had about 4 hours of thunderstorms descend upon our house dropping more than 5 inches of rain in that time. The whole time I was sitting at work on pins and needles wondering how my bird was fairing the storm or if the high winds or chance of tornados would rip the roof off the mew. When I got home, Goblin was soaking wet and sitting on the bottom of his mew… uh-oh! When I went in to get him, he was eager to take the food but had trouble getting on my fist. He was too low! I called my sponsor and he walked me through what to do. I imagine that the stress of the storms combined with low weight was enough to put him over the edge. He had dropped a ridiculous amount of weight since I last fed him. Musket could take several days without a feeding, but this little guy’s metabolism must be much higher than hers.

I took the poor sopping wet bird inside and fed him as much as he would eat. I stuck him under a heat lamp and he started to feel better and look around. I’ve never felt so horrible in my life. Rudy made me feel better about it, it happens, and now I know his low weight. Now I also know to listen to that nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that he seems a little weak, and that might be why his response is slow. I’m going to bring his weight back up and then down again. This has set our training back at least a week, but I don’t care as long as the bird is healthy. Right now he’s sitting nice and cozy with a foot tucked up and a full crop of food.

Monday, January 11, 2010

And time goes on.

It took Goblin 4 days to get brave enough to eat from the glove. I had to coax him by shoving a piece of meat in his mouth. It was fun watching his reaction to the meat hanging out of there. I could see his little tounge lightly touch the meat and then his eyes got wide as he realized what it was and he snapped it up. Then he gently reached down and eventually convinced himself that he wanted the food on the glove. The next day he was a little hesitant, but he took the food with no coaxing and the day after that he eagerly went for the food.

It took me two more days to convince him that he need to step to the glove now to take his food, but he did it! Yesterday, I got him to hop to my glove from this perch you see in the picture. He was entirely focus on the food, it was amazing. That first leap was hard, and the next two or three were similarily difficult, but I think after building his confidence (and stomach) for a few days of these excercises, I'll be ready to move him to the mew (hawk cage) for his next phase of training.

I love watching his progress as he learns that I'm not going to kill him, and now I'm feeding him. How confusing that must be for a solitary hunter. Now when I look in at him in the hawk box, he starts to smack his lips (as much as a bird can) in anticipation of feeding. He is also starting to settle down, and does not jump off my fist as much (though he still takes the leap whenever the mood strikes). But those moods are becoming less and less frequent. He's starting to feel like a falconry bird and less like a wild beastie. Now that he's letting me do things with him and I'm starting to settle into a familiar routine, it's hard to not call him Musket. He looks so much like her but in miniature. I still miss that bird.

Wish me luck as we move on the the next phase. Soon I'll be asking him to come to my fist in the hawk cage, which should be interesting...

Monday, January 4, 2010

At last...

After thousands of miles, countless hours, a lot of frustration, and some tears; I finally brought home a beautiful little red-tail! We call him Goblin.

After our wonderful vacation to Texas to spend Christmas with Hazen’s family (and seeing tons of beautiful hawks lining the roads) we started back at trapping. Since the days are so short now, we had to wait until New Year’s Day to have the opportunity to get out and look for some birds. As forecasted, New Year’s morning was windy and wet, but it cleared out and turned into a really nice sunny day at about 2pm. After watching the Rose Parade on DVR (I love DVR!), we headed out to look for a bird. Secretly, Hazen and I were thinking, “this time we’ll get one.” I figured that after a bad weather morning, there would be birds all over trying to catch a meal before the sun set. Well, we saw birds, but no juvenile red-tails and the other birds seemed pretty scarce too.

After that day, I was feeling pretty down. Hazen later admitted to me that he felt the same way, but on the outside, we were both trying to remain optimistic even if we felt differently.
Saturday morning came and we got up early and headed south this time. We took the back roads to Ocala—Horse Country. I figured that Ocala would provide lots of open fields and we might have a better chance at seeing a bird. It took us over 2 hours to get down to the Ocala area, and that whole time we saw only 2 adult red-tails where we had seen 8 the night before. I was really starting to get depressed at this point. The way I figured it was this was my last weekend to trap with help since Hazen is teaching a class starting next Saturday. After that I’d be on my own, so I really wanted to catch a bird this time. Also, time is running short for the trapping season, it ends on January 15th.

We hit Ocala and then tried to figure out where to go next. I decided that we should make it a loop and start heading back for home so we took a turn and headed North-west. After we got out of the town of Ocala, we started to hit some open fields. Hazen saw a bird and casually informed me. It took me a second to register and then even longer to get off the road. We were too far away by the time I stopped to get a good ID on it so we made a U-turn and headed back towards it. As we were watching, a person on a bicycle drove right under the bird… d’oh! But it didn’t get scared and stayed put. It was a red-tail, but more than that, it was a juvenile! Hazen identified it before I could through the Kowa spotting scope lovingly passed down to us by Hazen’s folks. (Thanks for the scope, it came in quite handy!)

After making a game-plan, Hazen and I drove across the road to set the trap. (another U-turn) we got a pole’s length away from the bird, threw out the trap, and drove away without frightening the bird (we’re pros at this now). We came back around the road to watch the bird where we could easily drive up and grab him if he went for the bait (2 more U-turns). After about 5 minutes, he looked across the road and left his perch… curses! But he didn’t go far. He landed on a tall stake on the fence-line, not too far away. As we were evaluating our next move, he made a dive for the ground after some small animal concealed in the hedge-row… more curses! After a few minutes, he left the ground and flew, without anything obviously caught in his feet, to a small billboard. Even though he had shunned the bait before, we decided to go for it. I figured that he’d still be in hunting mode at this point. We came around the road (yet again, another U-turn) and set the trap. As we were driving off, he took to the air… I figured that we had spooked him. But I watched him in the rear-view and he was making a B-line for the trap.

I didn’t know what to do so I slowed down and Hazen told me to hurry up and loop around so we could get him. From what I could see in the rear-view, he looked caught… if only we could get to him before he managed to get loose. 2 final U-turns later, I made it back to the trap. Hazen dove out of the truck and leapt on the bird. I ran out, everything looked fine, so I went back to grab my video camera and took a short movie of Hazen with the bird. Little did I know that Hazen did not actually have a hold on the bird, he was just pushing him down, and the bird slipped out of Hazen’s grip. Realizing what was happening, I dove for the bird and in my panic yelled at Hazen to not let him go. Luckily, he was pretty bound up in the trap and I got a good hold of his legs and worked on getting him out of the nooses. About this time, a concerned citizen drove up to offer assistance. He thought the bird was hung up on something and came over to free it. He was very concerned with what we were doing and why we were trapping a bird. He asked if we had proper papers to trap a bird and I assured him that we did and offered to show them to him if he would like to see them. He was still very concerned when he left so I was sure to call our Law Enforcement Dispatch to let them know just in case someone else called with similar concerns. After the man left, we finished getting the bird secured, discovered that we were missing a few essentials like scissors and a towel, but we had enough to secure him safely.

An hour later, we had him home and in his new outfit. He’s a feisty little guy…perfect light colored male red-tail with large feet and squirrel bites on his toes. This little fellow has probably already hunted squirrels. I can’t wait to see what he does in the field!

On day three now and he still hasn’t been brave enough to take food from my glove. He got really close last night, but couldn’t quite make that extra effort. I’m sure he’ll eat tonight though, then we can really start training! He’s coming around nicely; I can see little improvements every time I handle him. Thank you everyone for listening to my whining for the last few months. I’m on cloud 9 right now, all that hard work has finally paid off and I learned a lot about trapping a bird too.

I doubt the Snuggie Corporation ever envisioned their product being used while manning a hawk!

Thanks for the perch Mom and Dad!!

Hazen with Goblin on the trap. Unknown to me at this point, he doesn't have a good grip on the bird.

First time on the glove.

Goblin is quite the fighter. Even not being able to see, he still tried to bite and claw at our voices. I'm fully impressed with his ferocity.

Christmas in Texas 2009

Hazen and I spent the Holidays in Texas this year for Christmas! We took the 17 hour drive in one day (each way!) and exhausted ourselves with that little excursion. But the long drive was worth the time, we had a great time in Texas!

Hazen's folks have moved into a nice new apartment. It was so fun to see all of the paintings and furniture pieces that Hazen talks so fondly about. I felt at home right away, his parents are always so warm and welcoming! We spent the week before Christmas relaxing and catching up. We saw the movie Avatar that was stunning and fun to watch. I finally got to see some home movies of not only Hazen and Warren, but also of little Johnny Mitchell (aka Big Mitch) and his family growing up. I came away with a lot of information and finally faces to put all these names to. I also got to flip through the childhood picture albums that had been away in storage for so long. Unfortunately, there were no embarrassing nude photographs of baby Hazen to blush over. Oh well.

The week went by quickly and before we knew it, Warren had flown down and we were picking him up at the airport on Christmas Eve. We were treated to a skillfully prepared Turducken and spent the evening catching up with loved ones around a warm campfire. Christmas morning came and we awoke at a leisurely pace set by the last several days of finally being able to sleep in! We found that not only did we have lovingly constructed Christmas Stockings, but we each had enough to fill at least two grocery bags! Santa was very generous to us this year!

We opened our presents and ooooed and ahhhed over the gifts. I was particularly amazed at the hand-blown glass bowl that Hazen made for me in Alaska this summer and had skillfully hid from me this whole time. I'll take a picture of it and post it so you can see, I just love it!

Hazen's parents also passed down their birding scope. Hazen and I were just stunned when they gave it to us. I'm still a little in shock about it. We will use it well and I'm sure see many new lifer's with it. Thank you so much for trusting us with it! We've already put it to good use!

My parents also spoiled us for Christmas sending Hazen a huge Lego set (see the video below for his reaction) and many other goodies including a wonderfully fuzzy sweater-jacket that was a big hit! I'm still amazed at how spoiled I was this Christmas where they not only gave me the portable hawk perch that I've been drooling over for the last 4 months, but a piece of Vera Bradley Luggage overflowing with gifts! Mom... Dad... you really outdid yourselves this year. Thank you for the gifts, I feel so loved on Christmas and I miss home so much especially on that day. I hope to one day live closer to you. But, as it is we'll see you soon in Mexico!!

We spent Christmas Day sorting through the Mitchell treasures that could not fit into the new apartment. Hazen and I brought a truck-load of furniture home with us. We are so happy to have the extra storage and some of the beautiful pieces that Hazen has told me so much about to grace our home. Though we did discover a piece that I am sure we were not meant to have, we'll try to figure out how to get the clock back to you. Christmas evening, Hazen's uncle John made his standing rib-roast that was smoked to perfection. The meat was tender and delicious! I'd heard about this elegant meal from Hazen but had never partaken of it since the last time I was there and he served it, I was still a vegetarian... sort of.

Sunday we made the long drive home, hearts heavy at having to leave. Hazen's mother and Warren were hot on our tails hauling a trailer to North Carolina similarly laden with familiar furniture. Thank you so much for the time we spent together over the Holidays. We'll see you soon!!

Hazen opens his gift from my parents.

Warren opens the box of Christmas Goodies Hazen and I put together.

The Mitchell Treasures.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's raining birds!

So the week before last, I went with my co-worker Rebecca and picked up an injured adult red-tailed hawk. He was pretty awesome missing one eye (old injury), one toe-tip and claw and squirrel bites all over, definitely a warrior. He went to Rehab. Then I drove to live oak to rescue a downed Cooper’s hawk from Walmart and drove him to the rehabber. Then my co-worker picked up two injured bald eagles that were fighting and hit the ground hard. They flew away after they had rested about 6 hours. Then Friday a barred owl that was caught in a fence ended up in our office and I got a call that a rehabber had a red-tail for me. I went down to see the red-tail, and it turned out to be an adult bird. Sigh. Yesterday I went trapping with Hazen after getting skunked on Saturday with the constant rain. We caught a juvenile red-shouldered hawk. I let him go this morning after reading a review that they tend to take off as soon as they get a chance no matter how tame you get them. And today I got a call from my rehabber friend again that another bird ended up at the vet school in weak condition and he is definitely a juvenile red-tail, she got a look at him herself!

She told me that he’s a smallish bird, probably a male, but birds that emaciated have a tendency to die when they get that low. So it’s a possibility that he won’t make it. I need everyone to send happy thoughts to Gainesville and hope this bird makes it!

Boy… I wish this yoyo would stop!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

morning view

Ever have the feeling that you're being haunted. I was day-dreaming about trapping a red-tail when I looked out my office window and saw this...

I've seen a bird use this tree before, but for some reason today it was eerie.