17 Aug 2012

Falconry 2012- part the second

Last post I closed out with a quote from Ray, head falconer of Flight of the Raptor.  “Falconry is based on respect and trust, if you respect the birds, you will earn their trust.”  There is actually a follow up to that, “The bird will never respect you, and you can never trust the bird.”

Today we’re going to take a look at at the two smallest birds flown during the session, Ace the American Kestrel and Chica the Merlin.

To be honest, I didn’t really get anything too great of Ace, he is just too damn tiny and spent most his time on the other side of the arena.  I suppose this means that I need to get a bigger lens.  Kestrels are also known as sparrowhawks, though to be fair their main prey is grasshoppers and the like.  They aren’t really too “useful” to a falconer hunting for his own cook pot, but are great little birds to learn with.  Did I mention that they are as colorful as tiny?

Ace in flight-

Ace to the hand (you can see how tiny he is!  Dare I say “Squee!”)

Next we have the lovely little Chica.  She is a bit bigger than Ace, but not by much.  Merlins are not hawks but falcons, meaning they hunt other birds and have long tapering wings rather than the broad blunt wings of the hawks and eagles.  They capture prey in the air and bind to them, killing swiftly with a bite to sever the spine at the base of the neck.    Here Chica was chasing the training lure rather than another bird.

I like this shot mainly because it shows off that wonderful camouflage as she comes in from a shallow stoop towards the lure.

Talk about intense focus!  Remember the caveat Ray gave on the trust and respect of a falconer’s relationship with his birds?  Well here you can see how he keeps tabs on his birds if they should choose to just fly off and not return.   Which they do sometimes.  The wire hanging down from Chica’s leg a little GPS transponder, if she flies off they can load up into a car and track her down.  Once found she will most likely be willing to return to the falconer’s fist with the temptation of a food reward, something all the birds have learned to expect anytime the falconer asks them to return to the hand.

Next up will be the supersonic superstars of the show, the big falcons!

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