Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Morning Hunt

Due to the inclement weather, work opened late today so I was able to sneak in a quick morning hunt. The temperature was in the 20's and the new snow crunched underfoot as I tromped through the quiet morning woods.

Gonzo's weight was perfect, but Tess had lost more weight over night than I had anticipated. Her performance today showed it. Usually she follows directly above my head, but she hung back today. Her perches were still high, but she just didn't seem into it.

I tried to follow along the ridges where there was less snow, but the hawks had other plans. The squirrel nests tended towards the bottoms, near the swamp. So I ended up wading through the snow covered canebrake. This stuff is thick, like miniature bamboo. and my legs were soon wet and cold from the snow brushing onto them.

We soon located a squirrel. I didn't see it at first, but Gonzo was circling a tree and then dove into the canebrake and out of sight. Tess soon followed as I ran, earthbound, trying to catch up.

I caught a glimpse of the squirrel crossing a downed tree and disappearing into a root bundle on the other side of the water. Gonzo pitched up and sat for a minute, considering.

In the meantime, Tess had found another and was attempting to flush it from under a brush pile. I picked her up and tossed her onto a low branch and I started methodically tromping my way through the pile. The squirrel burst out and clawed it's way up a leafless tree, freezing between the branches. Gonzo circled up the trunk, following.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a large shadow passing overhead and alighting in a tree nearby. It was a large resident Red Tail. She sat and watched the chase for a while. I had a hard time concentrating on the action, as I kept expecting the Red tail to go after one of my birds. But she seemed contented to play the spectator today. In another couple of weeks, that may change as mating season approaches.

I found a vine and began to shake, trying to get the squirrel to move. He apparently didn't like the pressure and bailed out of the tree.

Gonzo folded his wings and dropped in after him. The squirrel hit, throwing up a spray of powder, and Gonzo hammered in after him.

Score one for Gonzo.

Everyone got traded off, fed up, and we made it back to the house in plenty of time to get me to work.

It's a good way to start the day.


Little Miss Sisyphus said...

I know this is and old post, but I am curious how well the Harris' take to the snow. I hear so much about them needing special consideration in colder climates....With this short hunt on that particular morning, no worries....but on longer hunts, how do your ensure the appropriate amount of warmth, with our pampering them too much?
Just curious....
great birds, and I am enjoying reading your posts!

Doug said...

I have to be honest, it snows here so seldom that I don't worry about it. We rarely have nights below freezing, and when we do, I bring the birds inside. If I lived in colder climates, I would need to be sure that portions of the mews were kept warmer, or possibly revert to heated perches.

In NC, I have never had a problem with it being too cold for these birds.