Archive for the ‘Apprentice’ Category

Raptor Banding at HawkFest 2014

September 23rd, 2014

Raptor Banding at HawkFest 2014

This past weekend was the HawkFest celebration of birders and raptor enthusiasts down at Lake Erie Metropark.  An avid group of birding enthusiasts keeps up the Raptor Count during the annual hawk migration from northern Canada through the United States across the Detroit River and down through the continental United States. The HawkFest Celebration at Lake Erie Metropark coincides with this annual migration. If there is a high point in the birding world of raptors in the State of Michigan, this weekend is it.

I had the unique opportunity to participate in the bird-banding program held at the park by a few select avid bird banding groups. I’ve known about this for a while, but have never been able to participate, so this year I took the time to sit out in the trapping blind with a few fellow raptor enthusiasts and we settled in for some hawk trapping.

The trapping outfit is setup for catching, banding, and releasing birds of prey that are lured in by our bait animals. There were two bow nets flanked on two sides with dho-gazza nets that collapsed on impact. Occasionally, the bait animals act up, or in the case of our mouse in the B.C. Trap, he earned the nickname ‘Houdini’ because he escaped from the trap without so much as a sound when we weren’t looking. The starlings lasted throughout the day as long as we provided a small dish of water to keep them hydrated in the sun.

As our setup was constructed out in a field, there was some of the grassy area that was mowed and kept short, but the surrounding grass was left high.  The insect life an populations were in full swing, and the noise level was almost deafening from the crickets and grasshoppers, and the occasionally odd-sounding cicada in the trees changed up the natural ambiance. Once in a while, a large ‘leaf’ flew by the blind window, and upon closer examination, turned out to be a preying mantis. Hordes of Common Green Darner dragonflies were flying around every which-way and we were pretty sure that the gulls were diving on them for snacks.

A few early customers that hit the nets turned out to be Sharp-Shinned Hawks, referred to as ‘Sharpies’ by birders (not to be confused with the markers). The best capture and release was an immature Northern Harrier who turned and cartwheeled into the net after the lure bird caught his attention. Later on in the day, we were treated to a Coopers hawk and a Broad-Winged hawk. The Broad-Winged Hawk is the common standard at Lake Erie MetroPark during HawkFest. They can form giant kettles of birds within a few hours and can be seen moving across the sky in huge numbers. If you hit the migration and the weather on the right day, observation teams count hundreds of thousands of birds in a single day.

In addition to the birds that we trapped, banded, and released, there were many more raptors that were observed. A steady stream of Bald Eagles crossed over the trapping area during the course of the day and I stopped counting after 10 of them because there were so many. A few Sharpies and one Kestrel buzzed the nets, but became spooked when they approached the trapping area more closely. The highlight of my day was when we had a peregrine falcon swoop into the nets and checked off at the last possible moment. He was clearly visible coming into the lure area and was a delight to see.

As for a first banding / trapping adventure, this was surely a pleasure and I am thankful for the wonderful trapping companions who were there to help identify, lure, band and release birds with me. It was a very fun day of falconry for me and one of the more fulfilling experiences to release banded birds back to the wild.


Training Complete

October 7th, 2012

Training Complete

It took Cedar 15 days of manning and training to achieve first free flight and catch her first rabbit.  To say I’m excited about this would be an understatement. This is a wonderful start to what looks like it could be a great falconry season with a fantastic Red-Tailed Hawk.  It’s hard to say just where training ends and hunting begins for these raptors, but I’m quite pleased with today’s progress in the field.  The weather today was ideal  for Cedar’s first free flight;  light winds, cool temperatures, and a moderately cloudy /overcast sky.  Not only was she great at following along through the trees, she was very attentive to the hunting area,  and she was a successful hunter today.  Very exciting!  I’ll be sure not to get my hopes up too high, as each bird and each season can be different.  Each season, hawk, and adventures bringing their own set of challenges. I’m sure glad to be back enjoying the fall weather with a feathered friend in the hunting grounds. Stay tuned for more hunting updates, it’s going to be a heck of a ride!

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Cedar’s Training Progress

October 6th, 2012

Cedar’s Training

It’s been almost two weeks with Cedar and so far she is showing great promise during her training. She started out fairly high wieght, as nearly all newly trapped birds do, and has been manned down to training weight (around 850g) and continues to progress through the steps. The manning process took about two hours each day for the past week and we continue to spend time together to get used to one another.

Trap Weight: 1100g
Color: Dark Back, Medium-to-light Belly-Band, Light Colored Head Feathers
Feet: Large, dirty feet, a few mild scratches, talons sharp
Keel: Medium sharp
Crop: Full
Feathers: Good Shape, none missing
Attitude: Very Mild mannered, getting used to new falconer

So far, the most impressive feature about Cedar is her light colored feathers on her head and neck. She has a full white breast, with the distinctive immature belly band. Her breast feathers are very thick and it gives her the appearance of being larger than she actually is. The other thing that is amazing about this animal is her temperment. She is manning down very easily and allows all the handling and attention that new birds get without any issues. She sits on the glove very comfortably for long periods of time. She accepts a hood without any bating or issues. The other day, I was sizing hoods for her and she sat on the glove while I tried on 5 different hoods to get the proper size. She did not bate once. I’m truly excited about her personality and am excited for her training to progress into the hunting excercises.

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Introducing “Cedar”

September 22nd, 2012


Introducing “Cedar”

I’d like to introduce “Cedar,” my third Red-Tailed hawk



Date: September 21st, 2012
Weight: 42 oz. / 1152g
Keel: Moderately even
Crop: full, ate meal recently
Trap: Hit the trap quickly, but after 5 nights of trying and bumping.
Feet: Large, Dark, dirty;
After Dusting: No noticeable parasites or flat flies

Cedar was relatively close to home, and with the light coloration of the head, I stalked her each night for a week in the hopes of catching her.  Success for Cedar (and me) came on the 5th night when she finally didn’t bump when I tossed the trap.  She is a beauty!



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First Hawk Off the Trap

September 18th, 2012


Trapping can be one of the most exciting aspects of falconry.  It’s an exciting time to trap and train your new hawk for the new falconry season, but the excitement and adrenaline rush as you race to rescue that hawk from the trap after waiting ten minutes (or longer in some cases) for that Immy to come down to the trap off that pole is highly energizing.

So, after carefully watching a bird on a post for 20 minutes look down on the trap, but not come down to it, I gave up.  I drove over to another area, and then came back to the first bird I saw, she had moved over to a taller tower. By this time, she was hungrier than earlier that morning, and when I threw out the trap the second time, turned the car around, she was coming down to the trap and got herself stuck.  Here is the picture of the hawk wrapped up for first wieght.



Results of trapping

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