We started off on Saturday afternoon. It was Andrew, Arnaud, and myself, the rest of the trappers would be in and out throughout the week. The sun was high as we motored our way across the sand to the trap site.
We wandered the dunes looking for good high spots and good background cover to hide the nets.
The area was desolate and high. Grape vines and sea grass covered the dunes and would act as a good backdrop. There were literally dozens of acceptable sites but we decided on two spots where we could set up the nets. You could see all the way across this spit of land, ocean to sound. It should be a good funnel for the birds.
Unfortunately, the weather would be working against us for the next couple of days. The wind was from the South, or the West, and migrating birds were few.
Our spot was good, the equipment all worked well, but we would be fighting the weather and that was one variable over which we had no control. I didn't have much hope until the wind changed. That wouldn't happen until later in the week.
As we chose the best spot, a peregrine cruised by, low and slow, close enough that we could hit it with a rock. We needed to hurry up.
We got set up and sat in the blinds watching the sky, pulling on the string that would make the bait flutter. Nothing.
We spent the rest of Saturday in the blind seeing nothing. Then with very little rest, we would come out before first light, and then stay until after dark. We didn't see many birds. We were becoming discouraged with the air heating up inside and Andrew's head lolling on his neck from lack of sleep.
At the end of the second day, the guys from Rocky Mount showed up.
We set up another blind, but no more nets. The day was quickly ending, and we were all discouraged.
We had seen a few merlins, and a peregrine had flown by without showing any interest. It seemed like this day was going to be another bust.
When a Peregrine took interest in one of the bait birds. She started circling Arnaud's net. We were communicating between blinds by cell phone, whispering urgently. The bird drifted back over my nets. I pulled the bait string urgently, then I got a call from Arnaud.
"It's over our blind!" I whispered urgently. " It's right here."
"No, It's in my hands."
"No, it's coming into the net right now."
"IT IS IN MY HAND!"
And there it was. The first legally trapped peregrine in 37 years had been caught and was cradled in the hands of her new partner, Andrew. His fingers shook as he and Arnaud extracted the bird from the net and jessed her up.
She was a tad on the thin side, but otherwise feather perfect.
I admit to that envy struck me hard. But with this bird, and Andrew's young Weimaraner,
and of course Tess and Gonzo, it should be an exciting season.
She really is a gorgeous bird.
Two more peregrines to go, and maybe a merlin for myself and Arnaud.
I won't be trapping for a few more days, but I'll keep you posted on the results.