Sunday, August 27, 2023

Hawk Training Diaries 1

What an adventure!

I have no photos from today, so I'll just include a few recent ones of Kaya.

Lüften (airing out) in the garden on a breezy day

This morning we set out at 8:45 with Kaya to meet our mentor, "Br," for yet another go at getting Kaya into hunting mode. In this, her second season, she’s flying free really well from glove to glove, but she has not attacked the crows we’ve set her at, nor the dummy crow yesterday. So today we were going to try again after she had some thinking time.
Graureiher (grey heron) on our neighbor's roof a few years ago.

On the country road between our village and the next, suddenly a Graureiher (grey heron) took off from tall grass right on the edge of the road (neither of us had seen him standing there), right across the road and directly into our car. With Kaya in the car and nothing with which to capture or secure the heron, we drove on an agonizing 4 minutes to meet Br. M waited with Kaya while Br and I drove back to the heron, who was now sitting in the middle of one lane of the road. Luckily it was Sunday morning, not much traffic, and no one else had run into him. We herded him off the road and into the grass, Br got the large net out of her car, and after some tromping through long, wet grass, caught the angry bird. She covered him with a towel and her jacket, making sure he could still get air, laid him in the back of her car, and on the way back to our meeting point she called a friend of hers who runs a NABU Vogelauffangstation (bird rescue center and sanctuary), taking in injured birds to treat and either re-wild or keep at the center, or - if needs be - put to sleep. She left a message, and since the heron was as comfortable as he could be under the circumstances and in a quiet, dark place, we decided to see about getting the training done with Kaya while waiting for her friend to call back.

Kaya once again flew toward the crow dummy but then just wanted to land on it ladylike rather than fiercely grabbing it as she must do to hunt, so mean Tante Br swung it out of her reach. Never mind this, then, we tried a different tactic. Twice Kaya flew from my glove toward the crow dummy, which Br snatched away when Kaya didn’t attack it. Each time she had to fly back to me to start over. Kaya finally got frustrated enough that she ATTACKED the crow dummy! She got a thawed chick for her efforts, and we did it again. Having realized attacking the crow dummy means getting a sizeable chunk of food, she went straight for it a second time. Then she was allowed to eat until she was full.

Back to Herr Reiher, the heron. As we were walking back to the car, Br’s friend called and said someone will be there at the center even though it’s officially closed on Sundays, and we can take the heron there.

M took Kaya back and gave her another reward in her mews, and we probably won’t hear from her again until Tuesday. She’s stuffed.

Br and I drove to Mössingen with Herr Reiher (40 km/35 min), the young woman on weekend duty met us, Br unwrapped and held Herr Reiher while the woman from NABU checked the bird over, and they put him in a cage lined with a blanket where he could rest until a vet could see him. I filled out a form with my contact info and where the bird had been, and Br and I left to take care of her animals (mice, quails, and a hawk). I hope he’ll make it.

Kaya (l) and Hekate (r) sitting on their perches
at a restaurant in Reutlingen Br and I brought them to last week

We flew Br's Harris hawk, Hekate, 15 times or so between us, and each time Hekate landed on my glove and got her measly tidbit, she looked at me with lowered head and threatening posture as if she wanted a piece of me. I’ve lost my fear of her in such situations, but once when she landed in a way that I couldn’t quickly secure her jesses, she grabbed the fleshy part of my upper arm and squeezed. She means business! Happily, when she has her talons stuck in my arm, she can’t also attack my ungloved right hand, so I was able to get hold of her jesses to secure her. Br told me to “scream” at her (Hekate) using the same bird-tone she was using with me. That’s what Harris hawk parents do to keep their kids in line. So I did, and I wish I had a photo of Hekate’s face at that moment: “What the…?!?” I did it again and she let go of my arm.

This is about establishing the pecking order, which Hekate and I have to work out every year from scratch. She's on a diet but still pretty heavy, and that makes her grumpy. She wants me to think she is above me in her little hierarchy, but that doesn't work for hunting together. So I have to show her I'm not afraid of her and also that she can't get away with attacking my fleshy bits.

M then picked me up and at home I was able to enjoy a scrambled omlette made with the fresh quail eggs Br and I had gathered from her girls.

By the way, I now have a large net on order to keep in our hunting car. Should be here by Tuesday.

Until next time...


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