Thursday, January 20, 2011

Meet - part II

During lunch on our first day of the meet - we reorganized our groups, set things up and got ready to go. Chip, who organized the whole thing, comes up to me and says.

"I wanna go hunting with you."

So we did. It started out with his red tail. Chip hunts with lots of birds, and uses them for abatement as well, and all his birds hunt well.

The red tail was an accomplished hunter and proved it on this outing. With a dozen spectators the red tail chased down and cornered a squirrel in short order.

In a mix of tall pines and hardwoods, the red tail stalked the squirrel as it tried to sneak away and up a tree. The hawk soon cornered it 60 feet up at the top of a pine with no where to go.

He jumped.

The red tail folded and dove. The squirrel hit first, bounced in the leaf litter, and the hawk nailed it on the rebound. One down.

We put the red tail up to get out the harris hawks. Tess and Gonzo got tossed up into the tree and Chip got out his two tiercels - Rudy and Eli.

We've done this before, hunted with all four hawks at once - and it almost isn't fair to the squirrels. What generally results is bedlam - controlled chaos.

The hawks start out working as individuals, but by the end of the hunt, they were coordinating. Eli was the stealth hawk. He tends to wait lower in the trees and wait for the squirrels to bail out. He is very successful with this technique.

The other three hawks will pursue, pushing the squirrel into a mistake. The birds swipe at the squirrel, scraping them from the side of the tree, but the squirrel will circle, corkscrewing around to get away from the hawks.

One squirrel finally found itself at the tippy top of a scrawny oak, clutching on to a spindly limb. Four harris hawks perched around him at each point of the compass.

I can only imagine what the squirrel was thinking.

Multiple chases ensued, Eli took (finished) two of the chases, Tess one and the last one was taken by Gonzo, and was notable.

Gonzo drowned the squirrel in a narrow brook. I have to wonder if he learned this from Tess. Hard to believe it was only coincidence since three of the last five squirrels had been drowned.

We ended our hunt with four squirrels for the afternoon - my take for the whole day was three squirrels and a rabbit, and there was one more day to go (gotta love Sunday Hunting).

Last picture is by Jimmy Campbell, previous are by Paula B Page.

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