Thursday, January 12, 2023

Crow Hawking Diaries: The 15th Crow

I‘ve been spending all my time with Kaya and therefore neglecting my blog and my household duties! It’s astonishing how much time one can devote to a raptor, though we spend more time interacting with her than we’d need to.

We’ve recently hit another milestone. On Dreikönigstag, the last holiday of the Christmas season, M and I went crow hawking with Kaya alone – that is, without a more experienced falconer with us – and Kaya got her 15th crow! The three of us have been out alone before, but we were never successful. Returning home without quarry isn’t all that unusual and happens even when we do go hawking with experienced falconers. The odds are in the crows’ favor most of the time.

This Revier is about a 20-minute drive from home and where we have been invited to hunt deer and wild boar as well. We have sat frequently in Hochsitze and have had sightings of deer, but we have as yet had no good chance to shoot and therefore no hunting success. The Jagdpächter (hunter-tenants) allow us to go crow hawking there as well.

There is a Biogasanlage and farm in the Revier and we have often seen a murder of crows hanging around near there. I’ve missed several great opportunities by not being ready, so the other day I was prepared before I was sure there were crows on that field. On the far side of the building we all saw four or five crows on the field at a perfect distance for Kaya, and all but one took off too soon. I launched Kaya because the last one stayed on the ground nonplussed by her fleeing friends, Kaya flew up above and came crashing down on the confused crow and held on while they both screamed at each other. I ran over to them, “took care of” the crow*, praised Kaya for her good work, secured her to my glove and M snapped a quick photo.

Kaya's manteling over her prize to 
prevent me from stealing some noms for myself.

*Kaya is a Grifftöter (a raptor who kills mainly with her claws). In the wild, a Grifftöter will grab the prey, hang on, start to pluck and eat while the prey dies rather slowly. Nature is harsh. We falconers get to our bird as quickly as possible and end the prey’s life quickly and more humanely than the hawk would.

Our next step is to entice Kaya off the deceased crow using smaller bits of meat she likes – that day I’d thawed a Wachtel (quail) and portioned it to be ready. She was quite happy with the quail but had a Beutekrampf (the talons of one foot were cramp-locked on the crow) and even though she wasn’t interested in it anymore, she couldn’t release her grip. We tried everything we could think of and had seen others do, but in the end we just had to wait it out while she munched on the quail still attached firmly to the crow. 15 minutes after she’d caught the crow, she finally released it when going after the last tidbits we had left.

We were a happy trio in the end, because M and I felt we’d finally accomplished this on our own, and Kaya was stuffed with quail.

By now Kaya is up to 16 crows, which is quite good for a young bird only 8 1/2 months old! But lately it's so windy with strong gusts that we're forced to take some days off. Crow season ends on February 15th, so hopefully the weather will cooperate again soon.

Here’s to more hawking adventures!

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