Thursday, July 8, 2021

Falconry Update, July 2021

Since it has been a while, I thought I would post an update of how things in our falconry world are progressing.

We have a new falconer-mentor, who has a lovely Harris Hawk named Hekate. The two of them have been teaching me some of the basics, and while I have a long way to go before I'd feel comfortable with my own hawk, I have been learning a lot! I'm grateful to my first Lehrprinz (with the Habicht/Goshawk), but I don't think that was going well for any of us. I did learn without a doubt that a Habicht is not the right bird for us, at least not yet. The Habicht tends to be a nervous bird, and adding to that my own nervousness...not the right combination. That was important to learn as well.

Before I met my mentor and Hekate, I was not entirely sure what direction I wanted to pursue with falconry. Going for hawk walks, as we've done during falconry afternoons in Scotland and here in Germany and with Ronja the Sakerfalke, definitely. Daily training, surely. Hunting with the bird, maybe but I wasn't sure. Since learning more about the Krähenjagd (crow hunting) I can say that I'm eager to head in that direction and continue working with my mentor and Hekate.


Hekate is in the Mauser (molting) right now, which generally lasts from March into August. This is "down time" for her and her training exercises are limited to very short flights on a Lockschnur (creance) and some exercises in her Voliere. Her Falknerin spends time with her every day and weighs her most days, and she's a very personable bird. M and I have been partial to Harris Hawks ever since meeting Albus in Scotland. They are sociable birds who actually like to spend time with their falconer, unlike the Habicht, who'd rather be left the hell alone.

She has her moods, for sure. Like the day I brought our beautiful new wooden Sprenkel (perch) for her to sit on so I could take a photo and send it to the Drechsler who made it for us for his website. That little experiment started with her giving it the side eye and ended with her hanging upside down from her falconer's glove, clearly saying, "Just kill me now. I'm not sitting on that thing!"

Here's the Sprenkel without Hekate,
but with a bottle of wine with a falcon label.

I've also seen her have a bath on a hot day, which looked like the slow-motion birdie version of twerking. Not very elegant, but entirely adorable.

Just like Ronja enjoys her "Baum-to-go" walks, Hekate enjoyed a windy day out for a "hawk walk." Since M and I were both there that day, we got some photos.

Her look is clearly saying, "Lift me higher, Woman!"

"That's more like it!!"

Recently  my mentor took me out in her car to demonstrate the kind of driving we do for hunting crows. Holy cats! This will take some practice! Crow hunting is done here from a car. The bird sits on the passenger's glove and everyone keeps a look-out for crows standing in fields not far from the road. At just the right moment, the passenger lowers the window and "throws" the hawk out, and the hawk picks out and attacks a crow. Immediately after the hawk is out, the driver slams on the brakes* and pulls off the road, the passenger jumps out and runs to the hawk to help finish off the crow if necessary or bag it if the hawk has already taken care of it. The hawk returns to the glove, they both return to the car, and it's off again to the next opportunity.

*She has already made sure there's no vehicle behind her and no oncoming truck!

You can't do this on foot because the crows will be long gone before you can get the hawk close enough to be successful. They're smart, too, and learn which cars the falconer and hawk travel in, so it does no good to hunt the same area again too soon. Crows can cause a lot of damage to farmers' crops, so farmers are generally pleased to have an active falconer nearby.


Hekate's favorite nibbly is mice. Even when she's not entirely in the mood to come down from her perch, land on the glove and be weighed, she can generally be tempted do so for a warm and squishy (deceased) mouse. Nomnom.

M and I also visited Ronja and her Mensch together not long ago and had a really nice day! He was able to see why I was really leaning toward wanting a Sakerfalke after spending a few hours with Ronja. We look forward to seeing them again.


In the mean time I/we continue to work with Hekate and my mentor each week, and we are trying to get the building of the Voliere settled. We need to apply for a Baugenehmigung (building permit), which requires filling out a bunch of documents and providing a drawing of all four sides of the Voliere. That's proving to be an intimidating expense and an enormous pain in the ass. 

I am looking forward to crow season and every step of learning leading up to the first time I assist Hekate! In a future post I'll provide some information about Harris Hawks, why we've decided that's the bird for us, and why we want a Terzel (male). I will also be able to provide more information about the Krähenjagd after I've been out a few times.

Until then...





Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Email subscriptions

Greetings to my readers!

I've been remiss in notifying you that Feedburner (the program that has handled email subscriptions to my blog) will no longer function within Blogger. I have switched to follow.it in order to keep offering email subscriptions.

This means that yet again, if you want to keep receiving my blog posts by email, you will need to click on "Get new posts by email" and enter your email address. On a PC that is in the upper right of the screen. I don't know where to find it on a tablet or smartphone, but perhaps someone who does can add that to the comments section of this post.

Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland

I'm including a favorite photo for your efforts. Enjoy! 

And although my blogging has slowed down signifcantly, I plan to post a falconry update soon.

Until then, stay healthy! (Well, stay healthy after that also!)


~ Ami


Monday, May 24, 2021

das grüne Abitur

And now for something a little bit different... I've decided to write this blog post (about what I think one should know before starting a German hunting course) auf Deutsch because it isn't very relevant to English speakers not living in Germany and/or not interested in taking a hunting course here. I'm hoping it can be helpful for Germans starting the journey I started 3 years ago!

Du hast dich gerade entschieden, das „grüne Abitur“ zu machen. Super! Das wirst du nicht bereuen. Egal, was du danach machst, wirst du viel Neues gelernt haben. Wenn du aber so bist, wie ich damals war, dann weißt du nicht genau, was auf dich zukommt. Ich habe mich mit einem Familienfreund mit vielen Jahren Jagderfahrungen getroffen und eine Schule gefunden, eine Schnupperstunde gemacht, und den Schulleiter einige Fragen gestellt, bevor es losging. Ich dachte, ich war bereit. Das war ich nicht.


Ich gebe zu, meine Muttersprache ist Englisch, statt Deutsch. Und ich hatte früher überhaupt nichts mit der Jagd zu tun – weder in den USA noch in Deutschland. Ich war wirklich ein Nullanfänger. Warum wollte ich den Jagdkurs machen und meinen Jagdschein erwerben? Weil das ein Schritt zu meinem Ziel war – Falknerin zu werden.

Öfters während des Jagdkurses habe ich gedacht, „Wenn ich das nur gewusst hätte…!“ Und deswegen schreibe ich diesen Blogeintrag.

Was man wissen soll, bevor man zur Jagdschule geht:

  1. Lern und lies so viel wie möglich bevor dein Kurs anfängt – in Büchern, Lernmaterial von der Schule, Jagdzeitschriften... Mach eine Liste von Fragen, die du während des Kurses stellen kannst. Alle Jagdschulen sagen, man braucht keine Vorkenntnisse, um den Kurs zu machen und die Prüfung zu bestehen. Wenn du aber wirklich  ohne Vorkenntnisse reingehst, musst du sehr viel sehr schnell lernen. (Klar, für mich war das schwieriger wegen der Sprache.)

  2. Bring elektronischen Gehörschutz für den Schießstand! Eine Schießbrille brauchst du auch für Flintenschießen. Eine Schießweste ist empfehlenswert.



    Gehörschutz: Rechts (elektronisch)!!
    Gelpad gegen Rückstoß (sehe unten)

  3. Wenn du vorher nie geschossen hast, wird der Rückstoß wahrscheinlich wehtun. Erwarte auch Prellungen. Privatunterricht mit Büchse und Flinte wäre eine gute Idee, damit du wenigstens weißt, wie man in Anschlag geht, zielt und schießt. Kontaktiere den Jägerverein in deiner Nähe.

  4. Schau dir auch Youtube Lernfilme an. Es gibt viele richtig gute Videos!

  5. Du wirst am Ende jedes Kurstags fix und fertig sein (sehe #9). Das sind lange und anstrengende Tage und viele Informationen werden in deinen Kopf reingestopft. Du musst während der Prüfung vieles davon wieder abrufen. Komm zum Kurs gut ausgeruht.

  6. Wenn (z.B. beim Aufbrechen) der Lehrer um einen Freiwilliger bittet, zögere nicht! Du kriegst unwahrscheinlich eine zweite Chance, und dann gehst du zur Prüfung, ohne einmal geübt zu haben. Learning-by-doing ist am besten.

  7. Bleib mit deinen Fragen im Kurs beim Thema! Deine Geschichten kannst du in den Pausen erzählen. Es gibt nicht genug Zeit im Kurs, um über Themen zu diskutieren, die vielleicht jagdlich relevant und interessant aber nicht prüfungsrelevant sind. Stell keine Fragen, die nur spezifisch dich betreffen. Nimm Rücksicht auf deine Klassenkameraden und stell auch keine Fragen, deren Antworten mit Google zu finden sind (Beispiel: „Was kostet Wildbret heutzutage?“)

  8. Nutze jede Gelegenheit, die die Schule anbietet: Ein paar Stunden abends auf einem Hochsitz, um Wild zu beobachten, auf Treibjagd (als Treiber) zu gehen, am Jagdhundetag teilzunehmen, jede Möglichkeit zum Üben für Waffenhandhabung…


    Kennst du diese zwei Jagdhunderassen?
    Sie sind nicht gleich.

  9. Jeden Tag geht der Kurs normalerweise von 8:00 bis 18:00 oder 20:00. Das ist immer noch nicht genug Zeit um alles zu behandeln. In unserem 3-wöchigen Kurs gab es auch keine Zeit um einen Reviergang zu machen, oder Fallen zu lernen und eine Falle einmal zu spannen. In der Prüfung wird es aber erwartet, dass die Jagdscheinanwärter das schon gesehen und geübt haben. Aber, ich muss sagen, wir haben sehr oft das Aufbrechen von Reh und Schwein gesehen (einmal durften 3 von uns mitmachen). Das war – besonders in Baden-Württemberg – sehr hilfreich für die Prüfung!

  10. Wenn die Schule vor der Prüfung eine Intensivwiederholung anbietet, mach mit!!! Nur in dieser Woche konnten wir einen Reviergang machen und Fallen spannen, und wir haben so viel wie möglich wiederholt, Präparate nochmal angeschaut, usw.

  11. Was du für den Kurs bezahlst ist nur ein Teil von den gesamten Kosten. Mein Kurs hat ca. €1800 + Prüfungsbebühr gekostet, aber dazu kamen:
    • Munition und Schießstandgebühr
    • Heintges Lernbücher und anderes Lernmaterial
    • Heintges Online-Learning-System (empfehlenswert!)
    • Zusätzliche freiwillige Schulungen (z.B. Trichinenprobe entnehmen)
    • Gehörschutz, Schießbrille, Schießweste, Gummi Recoil Pad
    • Unterkunft, Essen, Benzin

    Ms Kurs in Saarland hat ca. €2600 gekostet, inkl. Lernmittel, Munition, und Schießstandgebühr.
Heintges Online-Learning-System


Bevor mein Jagdkurs angefangen hat, habe ich den Schulleiter gefragt, was ich mitbringen sollte – außer Stift und Papier. Seine Antwort lautete: „auch reviertaugliche Kleidung mitbringen für die Aktionen draußen.“ Ich habe nicht gewusst, dass Gehörschutz auf Schießständen Pflicht sind und hatte keine. Man kann von der Schule Gehörschutz ausleihen, aber es gibt nicht genug für alle und sie sind wahrscheinlich nicht elektronisch.

Meine Antwort auf diese Frage wäre das gewesen (meine Jagdschule war nicht vor Ort und ich übernachtete in einer Pension):
  • Elektronischer Gehörschutz (keine Ohrstöpsel und kein passiver Gehörschutz!)
  • Schießweste und Schießbrille, Baseballkappe
  • Traubenzucker (hilft mit der Konzentration beim Schießen)
  • Reviertaugliche Kleidung (inkl. Wanderstiefel und Gummistiefel)
  • Wasser, Kaffee-to-go und Snacks für jeden Tag, besonders für den ersten Tag, bis du weißt, was es in der Schule gibt (Meine Schule hatte Kaffee, Getränke und manchmal Brezeln, in Ms Schule war die Kaffeemaschine kaputt, sie hatten keine Getränke, und es gab nichts in der Nähe.)

Der Jagdschein gilt in allen Bundesländern, aber jedes Bundesland macht es anders. Meine Prüfung (Baden-Württemberg) hat in der Wildkammer angefangen, wo ich ein Reh teilweise aufbrechen musste. M hat während seines Kurses (Saarland) kein Tier von innen gesehen. Wir hatten beide gute Lehrer, aber bei mir haben sie uns vorwiegend die Bücher vorgelesen. Alles sonst, was sie uns erzählt und gezeigt haben war super!

Ohne Zweifel bin ich froh, dass ich das grüne Abitur gemacht habe! Du brauchst keine Angst zu haben es auch zu machen - auch wenn du keine Vorkenntnisse hast - aber wenn du eine Ahnung hast, was dich erwartet, hast du einen Vorteil.



Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Hawk or Buzzard?

This is as much a language post as a bit about certain birds of prey. And as language goes, part of it concerns “two countries separated by a common language.”

In the Facebook group “Scotland from the Roadside” members frequently post photos of birds of prey – Kestrels (Turmfalken), sparrowhawks (Sperber), golden eagles and white-tailed eagles (Steinadler und Seeadler), red kites (Rotmilane) and common buzzards (Mäusebussarde). Inevitably when a Scot posts a photo of a buzzard, the discussion begins.

Common buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Credit: Andrew Fuller
Website

Scot: Buzzard on a post/in flight/sat in a tree.

Amer: That’s not a buzzard, it’s a hawk.

Scot: It’s a common buzzard.

Amer: I know what a buzzard looks like, and that beautiful bird is not a buzzard.

Scot: No really, it’s a buzzard. Buteo buteo.

Amer: Huh?

Harris hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus)
Germans also call this a Wüstenbussard ("dessert buzzard")

In one discussion I’ll never forget, the American insisted he had spent his whole life around birds of prey, and the buzzard in the photo was definitely a hawk. In the end he looked it up and realized the truth of what I’m about to tell you, and ended with, “I surrender. Would you like my sword, Sir?”

That is the best capitulation I have ever read. Chapeau, my fellow American!

So who’s right??

It could be argued that they both are, but not equally so. The common buzzard is indeed a buzzard. Why do Americans get confused by this every time? Because Americans call vultures “buzzards.” For clarity, we need to look at the classifications of the birds in Latin.

This not a buzzard, it's a vulture.
Photo credit: M
Buteo = buzzard

Parabuteo = sort of a buzzard

Accipiter = hawk

Cathartes = vulture


Common buzzard = Buteo buteo = Mäusebussard (not native in the Americas)

Harris hawk = Parabuteo Unicinctus = Wüstenbussard (native only in the Americas, popular in European falconry)

Red-tailed hawk = Buteo jamaicensis = Rotschwanzbussard (most common "hawk" in the Americas)

Cooper’s hawk = Accipiter cooperil = Rundschwanzsperber ("round-tailed sparrowhawk")

"Turkey buzzard" = Cathartes aura = Truthahngeier

 

But don’t get distracted by the English names or the American common usage. We Americans call vultures buzzards, though they are not. Try it – google “turkey buzzard,” the one most Americans have heard of. Wikipedia will correct you and take you to the “turkey vulture” page. They are not buzzards, they are vultures.

Hawks and buzzards (in the European understanding) are both members of the Accipitridae family of raptors, which in German is "Habichtartige" (hawk-like). The genus is where they split into buzzards (Buteo) and hawks (Accipiter). The vultures native to the Americas - New World vultures, such as the turkey vulture - already split from other raptors at the classification level of order. They are raptors, but they are not buzzards, regardless of what they are commonly called.

(Kingdom - Phylum - Class - Order - Family - Genus - Species)

Frankly, the buteo buteo are beautiful birds regardless of what people call them. But since this comes up nearly every time an American hears or sees a European call this bird a "buzzard," I thought I'd throw some light onto this confusion.

By now each time I see on the Scotland group that a Scot has posted a photo of a beautiful common buzzard, I mention it to M, who, like Douglas Adams’ pot of petunias, says, “Oh no, not again.” 😊


Some of the other birds mentioned above:

Kestrel (falco tinnunculusTurmfalke)

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus; Sperber) in our neighbor's tree


White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla; Seeadler), Isle of Mull


Red kite (Milvus milvus; Rotmilan)


Back to the wildlife photography I've seen in the Scotland Facebook group, do check out Andrew Fuller's portfolio of photos from the Outer Hebrides and elsewhere! Truly breathtaking.



Thursday, April 1, 2021

Knock Knock

There was an informative article in this month’s state hunting magazine about how to handle a visit from the Waffenbehörde (weapon authorities). I’m blogging about this to show how differently gun ownership is handled in Germany. What’s it like in Wisconsin? There is no national gun registry and there are no laws about how to store guns as far as I know, so what I’m going to explain here will sound utterly foreign to American gun owners from the very first word.


The German gun law (
Waffengesetz, or WaffG) allows certified officials to show up unannounced at your door – if you own guns – and check that you are complying with the law and properly storing them. There is a national gun registry in Germany, so authorities know where the legally owned guns are or should be.

At the same time, this is Germany, and spontaneity is not really a thing here. It's unlikely anyone from the Waffenbehörde would waste their time going from gun-owner-door to gun-owner-door on the off chance the gun owners are home. Of course, a spontaneous check is more to the purpose. If we're ever subject to one of these, I'll update this post.

Despite my title for this blog post, the article emphasized that the officials who come for this purpose have zero sense of humor. While Americans think Germans lack that anyway, this is really not a time for any attempt at being funny or getting them to smile.

Parts of this law changed after one school shooting in Winnenden in 2009. One.


What if the gun owner is not home?

If the gun owner is unavailable, the appointment must be rescheduled. The spouse or children of the gun owner are not permitted to even know the combination to the safe or the location of the key, so if they allow the authorities access to the guns, the gun owner has already gone against regulations and could risk the confiscation of his gun license, hunting license and guns. This, for instance, is one change in the law since the school shooting, in which the shooter knew how to get to his father’s legally-owned guns.

Rescheduling the appointment will not damage the gun owner’s *Trustworthiness* (one of the requirements for gun ownership), but repeatedly doing so could.


Identity of controllers

Just as with any visit to your home of a uniformed person requesting entrance, the gun owner should first check the I.D. of the controllers. If there’s any doubt after checking their badges or I.D. cards, the gun owner should call the Waffenbehörde (weapons agency) before letting them in.

Satisfied that the controllers are who they say they are, the gun owner should show them to the gun safe by the most direct path possible. They have no business in any other room or location in the house and are not allowed to search any other place or objects other than the gun safe.

Checks are not allowed to be made on Sundays or holidays, or between the hours of 22:00 and 6:00.

 

What will the authorities check?

  1. the security grade of the gun safe
  2.  that all guns registered in the owner’s WBK (gun license) and the ammo are stored according to regulations
  3. that all guns are unloaded

It is legal in Germany for a hunter to borrow a gun from another hunter for up to a month without paperwork such as an Überlassungsvereinbarung. However, at the check if there is a gun in the safe that is not on the owner’s WBK and there is no paperwork, this will lead to questions and hassle. 

Proper storage of guns and ammunition

Depending on the type and number of guns and ammunition, these must be stored in a locked gun safe or case (the locked case is only for Luftgewehre or air guns). The gun safe, if purchased after July 6, 2017, must be a minimum of security grade 0. The guns must be completely unloaded, as in no ammo in the chamber or the magazine. 

The boxes of ammo may be stored in the safe with the guns as long as the safe is security grade 0 or 1.

 

Fee

Not only can the Waffenbehörde show up at your door unannounced to check that you are properly storing your guns, but they can also charge you for the experience. The federal law states that the fee has to be reasonable in regard to the tasks performed, but it does not state what the fee should be – that is determined by the county. In our county the charge is €50 + €5 per gun, with a maximum of €75.


And now for a little Aprilscherz fun, the article below appeared in the current April 1st edition of Wild und Hund. In an attempt to reformulate “Waidmannsheil” to be more inclusive to hunters of all genders, the Gender Commissioner of the federal government has released a statement that the traditional hunter's greeting and congratulatory salute should be “Waidmenschheil!” from now on.



I totally fell for it, but M thinks it's an April Fool's prank. I guess we'll see two things in the next issue:
  1. whether it was indeed a prank, and
  2. how many people's heads exploded when they read this.