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2013 Bedtime Stories from CulleyL

Evening stories shared in chat by CulleyL, cam mod and falconer extraordinaire!

 CulleyL with Mariah from her Photobucket Album
  1. Saturday, May 11, 2013: When things don’t go according to plan, all you can do is improvise.
  2. Thursday, May 16, 2013: There are several terms I could use to describe Mariah...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

There are several terms I could use to describe Mariah—defiant, self-confident, stubborn, and strong willed among them. She’s never been a passive bird.

In her first year, she would routinely challenge adult birds, even to the point of swiping a rat from an adult perched atop a telephone pole in the field we were hunting. She just snatched it slicker than snail snot. At first, I think she got away with it because she had that baby tail, but it went on from there. If there was a wild bird in the field we hunted, she was going to harass it and chase it! She was that confident! It got to where I’d avoid hunting in fields if I saw other hawks there. I just didn’t want the hassle and didn’t have a clue how to reign in her, uh, assertiveness.

In her fifth year when we got to Wyoming, she met her match—a big old adult female that wasn’t buying any of Mariah’s attitude and had some of her own! Mariah flew over to harass the other adult, but that old hag flew at the same time right at her. Mariah dove to escape but the old hag kept chasing. I lost sight of them in short order as they flew through the trees and around a hill. I followed in the direction they flew as fast as I could, and when I caught up with them, the two were on the same branch, the old hag sitting on top and Mariah hanging upside down right underneath her!

There wasn’t anything I could do beyond yelling my presence, but the old hag mostly ignored me. She looked up, but then glared down at Mariah hanging beneath her feet. The standoff continued for another five minutes or so before the old hag tired of the game and flew off across the Tongue River to take a perch atop a tall tree. About a minute later, Mariah let go and flew to another tree on our side of the river. She wouldn’t come down for another 10 or so minutes, but finally, she decided the meal on the fist was worth her trouble.

After that, Mariah’s attitude toward wild birds in the field changed. She didn’t harass anybody until we were back in Texas and another juvenile tried to harass her. She took that young one to the ground and then flew off to continue her hunt while that juvenile decided to take on another adult hawk or find its own meal.

Story Notes: 
  • "Haggard" is an ancient falconry term for the adult raptors. Then it turned into the phrase "old hag" that we know today.
  • "Snail snot" comes from reporting on races at Road Atlanta where if it gets wet, it's slipperier than snail snot! Especially through Turn One!

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

When things don’t go according to plan, all you can do is improvise.

Not so long ago and not so far away near Boulder, Colorado, Mariah, Zoe (Jack Russell TERRORIST), Hannah (long-haired mini dachshund) and I went hawking out in a nearby industrial park. There are rabbits all over that place, along with other raptors (including Ferruginous hawks and peregrines), prairie dogs, squirrels and even people. But if you go on Sunday, there aren’t so many people around.

I removed Mariah’s furniture (old falconry word for jesses and leash) and she flew off and took her usual perusal of the field from the edge of one of the buildings. Suddenly, a juvenile redtail showed up, approaching Mariah with the feed-me-Momma posture. At first, she ignored him, but he did NOT want to go away, so she flew to another tree. He followed, still begging for food and then screaming. She turned around and gave him the stink eye, then she flew off to yet another tree, trying to get back to the business of hunting. But the kid followed again. This time, she turned and body checked him out of the tree. He fell, but gained his wings and again flew up next to her. She body checked him again, but this time she took him to the ground, staring at him with the stink eye with him underneath her, ‘splaining, “NO I’m NOT your mother!” After a stern talking to, Mariah stepped aside, let him up and he flew a little way away, but not far, while Mariah flew about 100 feet away. In short, the kid was interrupting her hunting and she was not a happy girl.

I’d never seen that kind of persistence before and figured this little guy was not doing all that well in the survival department and was trying to figure out how to help him while at the same time keeping him away from Mariah. About that time, she nailed a rabbit between two buildings—another one of those flights I didn’t get to see. I followed the dogs to find her and who follows me but this juvenile redtail. I tried to shoo him off, but at this point, he was DETERMINED to stay close to Mariah and didn’t seem to care about the dogs or the people. He knew she had food and he wanted some of it. 

Back when Mariah was in her first year, she swiped a rat from an adult redtail in the field, I think just to be a teenaged snot because she wasn’t hungry. In fact, in her first year, Mariah harassed the adults mercilessly until one adult turned the tables on her—another story for another time.

Mariah screamed and mantled over her rabbit like crazy, melting into the ground while covering her rabbit from view. I tried to move in to trade her off the kill, but she wasn’t having any of THAT! My friends Richard and Becky tried to block her vision of the juvenile, but he wasn’t helping, screaming and food begging. So, we decided to divert HIS attention with some food. I threw half a quail to him, but he didn’t go for it. Instead, it dropped to the ground and the dogs went for it. ARGH! Thankfully, I always bring backups for these situations—I rarely need backup stuff, but when you need it, you NEED it.
I offered the backup to Mariah again, hoping for the best, and just waited her out. Finally, after the Kid shut up for a little while, she grabbed the quail, only she didn’t let go of the rabbit. Instead she dragged it with her and I didn’t react fast enough. Great! Now she’s got both the rabbit and the quail and I’ve got nothing. It’s going to be a while before THIS gets sorted out and all I can do at this point is wait and hope.

Finally, after about three or four minutes, Mariah decided to go for the quail and ever so slowly moved onto it, so I carefully slid the rabbit out from under her, slowly, patiently and reinstalled her jesses. I didn’t want any more chases after she’d finished her meal. I sneaked the rabbit into the back pocket of my vest, got Mariah under control while Richard and Becky got the dogs under control. As we walked back to the Jeep, I slid the rabbit out of my vest and left it under the Kiddo’s tree.

About the time Mariah finished her meal, the juvenile flew down to the rabbit and I’m sure had a great meal, which allowed him a little more time to learn how to catch his own stuff.

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