Did Robb and I have a great time at our much-anticipated falconry class? Oh yes we did! I had some trepidation that the place was going to be a dismal set-up with defeated-looking animals in miserably small cages. I had fairly low expectations, and was very pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. The birds were housed in large immaculate aviaries, and seemed healthy, alert and relaxed.
The bird we worked with was a Harris Hawk, a large bird of the American Southwest. They are unique among raptors, in that they are social animals, hunting and raising their young in family groups. Their social tendencies make them excellent "working" birds. Mariposa, the eleven year old bird we worked with was quite a character. Very intelligent, often anticipating the commands she would be given.
Having worked with wild birds, it was very odd to look a bird directly in the eyes. In pretty much every photo of me, I'm retracting my head as far away from the bird as I possibly can. I'm trained to stay away from a wild bird's head, but apparently it's the feet you have to watch out for on raptors. See how relaxed Robb and the bird look? If she wanted to, she could exert five hundred pounds of pressure with her talons. Impressive strength, particularly as she weighs only two pounds.
We did not manage to get any good photos of the hawk flying to our gloves, because it was all moving so quickly. I did get some nice shots of Mariposa chasing quail meat, way up in the air.
Beautiful, isn't she? If you look verrrrry closely, you can see a wire protruding from the left end of her tail feathers. That's a clip-on radio device that would help her keepers locate her, if she decided to fly off.
Why run away from home, when there's fresh wings on the menu? I don't think the people teaching the class quite knew what to make of me and Robb, as we are both vegetarians, and entirely un-squeamish about handling raw meat. I may not eat meat, but I don't expect birds of prey to subsist on a diet of wildflowers.
Robb and I will definitely be going back to take another class. If you're interested in learning more about West Coast Falconry, click here.
My usual Monday garden updates will resume next week. If you're missing reading about gardening, there's plenty to read at Daphne's weekly round-up.