Sunday, October 2, 2022

Hawks & Babies

Today I'm going to tell you why having a young raptor in your life is quite a bit like having a new baby. You can trust me; I've had them both.

As I sit here typing during an evening rainstorm - worrying about my dear girl, who was sitting, last I saw her before it got too dark to check on her, on the one perch in her mew which is not protected by anything, not even tree branches - I can tell you I'm wondering about pneumonia. Why the heck did she not fly to the perch under the roof while it was still light out?!? Should I go get her? Ok, it's not that cold, but I wouldn't want to be sitting out there in this. 

And absolutely, when I'm cold, I worry about her being cold. If I could put a sweater or rain jacket on her, I probably would.

So there's one of the similarities of being a new parent and being a "parent" to a hawk: You worry about them all the time. You've left them in someone's capable care (Kaya is safe in her mew when I'm gone) but the entire time you're away you wonder if they're really ok. You know they are and yet you worry anyway.

When they're squawking, you wonder what's wrong. Why is she screaming/crying? She's had a good meal, some exercise, a good poo, attention, a walk... She's sitting there on one leg and all floofed up - both signs of contentment for a hawk (less so for a baby) - so why is she still squawking??

indoors, on one foot, but squawking

Worse is when they're quiet. Why is she quiet all of a sudden? What's wrong? What's she doing? Should I check on her? If I do and she sees me, she'll scream again. Better to just enjoy the quiet. But why is she still quiet? She's still alive, right? (Visions of a dead hawk dance in my head as I imagine the guilt I'll feel for not having checked earlier.)

Perhaps she's quiet because she's
got something to think about.

And then there's their growth. Are they developing normally? Has she put on enough weight? Too much weight? What's the right weight? It's almost bedtime, but she seems hungry. Should I give her a snack or wait until tomorrow? 

Too chonky??
Naw, she's just all floofed up.

When she poos, I often take a quick look to make sure it's normal. I or we often have to clean it up inside because she shot a load right at the moment when we didn't have any protection like a towel ready - like a baby squirting in mid-diaper-change. And we have a load of poo towels (like cloth diapers) to wash once a week or so. 

It's still raining.

A brief flashback to Day 10: I was on a walk with Kaya and at one point she bated (threw herself off the glove for no apparent reason) and when she settled again I ran my hand down her back to settle her and...OMG! There's a lump! Only on her left side, I didn't feel the same on the right. M felt it and we came to the same conclusion - she'd injured herself! She wasn't acting hurt, she stood normally. But that lump! It felt like a bone sticking out. OMG.

I strode home and called our mentor, "Br". I tried to explain what I could feel, but my German comes out badly when I'm trying not to panic. She grabbed her birdy first aid kit and came right over. That was such a long 30 minutes! I'm thinking our dear bird is badly hurt, how could I let this happen, wondering how we'll live without her, speaking to her in soothing tones.

Br arrived, Kaya and I were sitting on our patio, Br ran a hand down Kaya's back and said, "This?
"Yes!" I'm choking back tears.
"Yeah, that's her elbow."

That boney lump can be felt any time Kaya has her wings folded in. I'd handled Hekate, Br's Harris, for an entire season but kept my hands respectfully off her. And apparently I hadn't thoroughly touched my own bird to know what is normal. Jeez... Since that day I have fondled and begrabscht her all over repeatedly so I now know what she feels like normally and will hopefully know when something's amiss - and when something isn't!

My weather app says the rain is abating. It is not.

Wonder what a wet hawk looks like?

That time she'd been in the rain while eating a big meal and didn't care she was getting wet. It was also warmer and during the day, so when she finished eating I brought her in to dry off. It took about 4 hours.

Another similarity to having a new baby is that your nice neat daily schedule, which ran your life for the last 10+ years, is history. Oh, you ate dinner every night at 19:00? You often cooked really good meals during the week and scoffed at those who scarfed down a pizza or some other quick meal? You prepared pretty healthy and balanced meals? You can kiss all that good-bye. The bird will stop screaming for a bit if you take her for a walk when "Dad" gets home at 18:00 (that's when you used to cook) and she "goes to bed" as it starts to get dark, which has been getting ever closer to 19:30. 

Oh, and neither hawks nor babies know about daylight savings time. So go ahead and change your clocks, but don't expect them to play along.

Kaya usually sleeps outside in her mew, but she often wakes up and starts calling around 6:00 even though it's still dark! I'm a light sleeper (was with my children as well) and at the first squawk I'm out of bed like a shot, slipping on my shoes and falconer glove, grabbing the keys to the mew and a head lamp and dashing out to get her, hoping the neighbors can fall back asleep again. I put her in her box in a dark room, and that usually buys us (and the neighbors) another hour. 

Those details are different with babies, but any mother and some fathers will recognize the whole "dashing out of bed at the first sound from the baby" thing. 

What about photos? Yes, we have hundreds and have only had Kaya for 2 months. Photos of her being silly, being serious, being curious, bathing, sleeping, drying off, on a kill, just sitting, with a full crop, and of course squawking - on the perch, on my arm, in the car, on a walk, in the house, on the porch, while training... I could write a Dr. Suess-like book about all the squawking she does.

Squawky McSquawkface

And then there's the coming home from wherever and wanting to touch base with her first, perhaps cuddle a bit, ask her how she's doing despite knowing she won't answer, wanting to check that everything is ok with her. I can check my emails later; first I want to see that she is ok. Sometimes that's just a peek through a cracked door hoping she won't see me and start squawking again, other times it's straight to the mew to get her out and do something with her.

She's doing Federpflege on me - 
fixing my bangs.

And finally, we thoroughly enjoy spending time with her! We love watching her develop, being a part of her (hunting) successes, helping her learn, laughing gently at her mistakes, praising her for good work. And we love it that she knows she's safe with us. When we're walking with her, she leans into us for shelter when it gets windy. She calms down when we assure her she doesn't need to fear the approaching dog or bicycle. And when she bates we just wait calmly while she gets back up onto the glove and pulls herself together.

She wants to be with us, too, and that's pretty cool.

Life will never be the same again.

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