Posts Tagged ‘Sable’

Sable’s Release back to the Wild

April 1st, 2012

Sable’s Release back to the Wild

After 6 months as a falconry bird this season with Sable, I was grateful to return her to the wild this weekend.  With just about a half-season of hunting together, we had to take it easy for the remainder of the winter to heal the injuries sustained from hard hunting in the wild over the Christmas break.  She healed up alright, and will be sure to succeed in the wild, I’m confident of her abilities.  Sable was a very gentle, mild mannered Red-Tailed Hawk who took to manning quickly and was quite the successful hunter earlier in the fall.  She never made an aggressive move toward me and was a perfect apprentice bird for a second experience. She was instantly successful with our first hunting exercises and took to squirrel hawking quite naturally. I will miss the best parts about her as the next chapter in my Falconry book turns.

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With the release of my first bird, Tahoe last year, this picture (above) seems to be a tradition, as our family gathers together to say goodbye to the hawks we treat as guests in our mews and with our family for the season.  It is a bittersweet moment in the course of a falconer’s experience with any bird, I suppose.  It also provides a learning opportunity for my family as I hope to show my boys how to care for and respect the wild animals that inhabit our earth with us. A bird has been trained and captured from the wild has grown accustomed to the the company of a human hunting companion for a period of time, and the set free to return to the wilderness from which she came.  Sure, they are not ‘pets’ like a cat or a dog, who appreciates the master and interacts socially, looking for praise and companionship.  Raptors are solitary creatures and show no affection to their falconry hosts. At best, they might respect you, but you only serve as a meal ticket in their eyes.  Nevertheless, it does not prevent the human condition from growing attached ourselves to these beautiful, wild creatures.  It is the feelings of admiration and respect for them that provides for the personification of our hunting partner; we give her a name, call her out in the field, describer her attitude in human terms, and care for her as gently and as lovingly as we can.  After all, If I didn’t love them and appreciate these wonderful animals as much as I do, I wouldn’t be a falconer.


“Be free, my friend.  As nature intended you to be.”

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Sable’s First Squirrel Catch

November 25th, 2011

Sable’s First Squirrel Catch

It was a nice November morning on Friday, the sun was bright and the woods was a bit damp from the previous night’s rain.  It took  a few minutes for Sable to catch up.  She took some high perches in the trees as she contented following along.  The forest had plenty of squirrel nests, complete with vines and open floor.  This was a perfect squirrel woods for the morning and it was a delight to watch Sable finally catch her first squirrel on our hunting adventures.  I’m fairly certain that she has caught squirrels before, as evidenced by her cut-up feet and expert squirrel catching techniques.  I’m excited to watch this hawk grow in each new hunting adventure.


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Sable’s Manning Log

September 26th, 2011

Sable’s Manning Log

It’s been a week since capture for Sable and the training progress has been steady this week after the initial jump to the glove.  With her hunger response now keyed into the glove and her comfort level with my presence and handling I was able to place her out in the mews last night.  I’m sure creance and lure training will go equally as well over the course of the next couple of days.   For now, I’ll post up the manning log for a day-by-day account of the activities, mannerisms and observations that I made over the course of the week.

Manning Log

—–=====<<<<< Sunday Evening >>>>>=====—–

First manning session went pretty well. hackles and wings all up to start, two hard bates and then she settled down. Se seemed to sit on the glove well for long periods of time, and then a bate attempt. I introduced chopstick and tested her tolerance. She didn’t pay any attention to it after the third time. After three more bates, she started picking at her jesses. I think she figured out that the jesses were holding her in place. I was amazed that she started picking at the jesses first night on the glove. I didn’t offer food tonight, but will tomorrow. I picked her up, gave a little water, without bating, and then hooded her on first attempt. No bate, no bite, no fuss, no muss. She took the hood like a champ. Put her back in the box and will try again tomorrow. I might have some extra manning time during the day, today. We shall see.

Training Time: 2-1/2 hours

—–=====<<<<< MONDAY >>>>>=====—–

Monday AM Session:
I took her out of the giant hood backwards as she was facing the wrong way in the box; she still had the hood on from last night. I took it off and her wings flared and hackles went up. This posture quickly subided after a bate and then settling on the glove. We sat still for a few minutes until the next bate. Since she appeared so comfortable picking at her braces last night, I decided that I ought to introduce food today. I thawed out a decent size rabbit chunk from the freezer and quickly placed it on the glove after a couple of bates. She kept it under her talons for a little while. She noticed it, took a quick nip and then left it alone. She slowly bent over to look what had appeared under her feet; stared at it for a while. There were two more bates that dropped the meat to the floor where I quickly snatched it up and placed it back on the glove. She finally bent over, took another quick snap on the meat, and then proceeded to eat the food comfortably. She did not appear wary of me at all. Success at eating on the glove 24 hours after capture. This is quite unusual.

Training Time: 1-1/2 hours

Monday PM Session:
With food out of the way, I wanted to see what else we could accomplish by sitting together some more today. Her posture slowly eased into one that appeared comforatble and easy going. Her wings were neatly folded, her feet were properly situated on the glove for a comfortable perch. Her hackles were down and she simply stared forward. My coughing fits and nose-blowing have been alarming, but she seemed to get used to these minor interruptions also. After another long sitting session after some bating, I picked her up and walked her around the room. Getting up did not alarm her. She sat comfortably on my glove as I paced around. I found the water bottle and gave water. She eagerly drank this time, relaxing enough to swallow in rythm with the squirts. This appears to be some serious progress for a freshly trapped bird and I am eagerly awaiting tomorrow nights training session for ‘Step-to-the-glove-from-the-perch’ which is an important step in getting her out to the mews. I’m trying to plan this out for Friday night so that I can spend time with her in the mews before dark and also have enough time early in the AM on Saturday.

Training Time: 1-1/2 hours

—–=====<<<<< TUESDAY >>>>>=====—–

Lesson Plan: Luckliy, I’m Feeling better today. I’m going to thaw out some small mice for reward today and see if she’ll step to the glove or jump to the glove. When finished, we are going to hood up and scrub her feet again.

Activity: Started the session out by taking Sable out of the box very gently. She seemed to step up to the glove easily and came out of the box without an issue or a bate. Posture was apprehensive, but it quickly subsided. Sat down and she sat on the glove; took wieght with hood off. Easily stepped to scale and waited enough time to get proper weight. 1070g tonight. Picked her up off the scale easily. Hooded her for feet scrubbing with little issue. Feet cleaning is going to take some time to get them into good shape, they are still quite dirty so we are going to make that a regular activity for a while. She tolerated feet scrubbing well enough to get in a lenghty scrub.

After sitting on the fist and a couple of bates, we attempted to sit on the perch and try to step-to-the-glove. We repeated bate, stand, bate, stand for several repititions until she settled down. She sat on the perch for short periods of time before bating off to air. I did my best to catch her with the jesses each time. After she settled, I plopped a mouse on the glove; she noticed right away, but didnt bend down to get it. It took a few more bates to settle down and she finally ate the mouse on the glove. I look at this as reinforcement from yesterday’s lesson, in the hopes of getting her in a ‘hungry’ mood for stepping to the glove. Afte the next bate, I placed another mouse on the glove, but showed it to her from a distance. She bent over once to attempt to pick it up off the glove, but I didnt let her. We were unsuccessful for the rest of the evening with two more tries. We sat quietly without bating for another twenty minutes. I placed her in the box, backwards without a hood without issue.

Training Time: 2 hours

—–=====<<<<< WEDNESDAY >>>>>=====—–

Lesson Plan: Hood, wash feet, attempt step-to-the-glove

Activity: Weight: 1043g. We’re not gaining much ground on the weight with the weather as warm as it is. Perhaps the next couple of days will provide the cool evenings we so desparately need. Tonight was basically a repeat of last night without any eating. We took weight without hooding, without bating. She hooded easily for feet washing and took it very well. She is much more interested in bating and chewing on her anklets than eating or paying attention to the glove. I gave her a second try on the perch and then put her back in the Hood without issue.

Training Time: 1-1/2 hours

—–=====<<<<< THURSDAY >>>>>=====—–

Same behavior as Wednesday. Weight was at 1013 Grams. I’m going to put her outside, in the box, in the mews in the hope that the cold will trigger a hungry response.

Training Time: 1  hour

—–=====<<<<< FRIDAY >>>>>=====—–

Similar Program this evening: Went out to mews, got the box and brought it in the house. Took out Sable and got weight. It’s tough to get her out of the box gently when she is facing the wrong way. Posture was aggressive at first, but she swiftly settled down. After weight, hooded her, and then walked around the yard before dark. No issues there.

The remainder of the evening proved out to be an effort in futility to witness any progress or hunger activity. We went through a series of ‘perch-bate-glove’ episodes with no indication of being hungry or moving toward the glove. I placed her in the box, gently, and then took her out to the mews and let her rest for the night.

While ‘progress’ may be measured in what step she’s at in the training curriculum, I’m thinking that her easy-going manner is getting solidfied as our comfort level with each other grows. She has yet to make an intentional agressive move towards me or my hand.

 Training Time: 1 hour

—–=====<<<<< SATURDAY >>>>>=====—–

Sable spent the night and part of the day out in the Mews, in the giant hood. This appears to have achieved the desired effect I was looking for today. I picked her up out of the mews at 1:00pm and did a manning session in the middle of the day. I took her out of the box, hooded her up, and we went for a walk outside. Then we spent the next hour working on the step-to-the glove. She weighed in at 960g today. I did something against my training principles today, and instead of waiting for Sable to ‘figure it out’ today, I antagonized her a little bit by putting the tid-bit up to her beak. I also started pulling her jesses to unbalance her a little bit. The trick worked. She got one snack for free, and then, I got what I was hoping for, hoping to turn ‘on’ the hunger response and it came. The next tid-bit she was a little more interested in, and was now finely tuned into the glove. I let her have the next one for bending over to the glove and she ate it easily. By this time, I was witnessing full hunger mode. So I slapped another tid-bit up to the glove, blew the wistle lightly and she jumped to the glove without hesitation. Now, with every jump to the glove, she was watching my right, un-gloved hand very intently and I noticed this. So, in the next couple of training sessions I’m going to have to be much more careful with garnishing the glove.

I had a suspicion that she would catch on very quickly once she was in ‘hunger’ mode, and she did. We probably got about 8 jumps to the glove, three of which were for no reward, as she was eager to look for a snack on the glove; She figured it out. One short hesitation to the glove and that was it. Later in the evening, I took her out of the box for a ‘maintenance’ session. I got weight to see how much she ate earlier in the day; 1000g, so she got around 40g of food. I hooded her, socked her, and taped her feet up so that I could attach her bells, official bird band, and affixed her tail mount for her telemetry. When all was said and done, she was un-taped and I took the hood off without any issues at all. After a few mintues to settle down, I scrubbed her feet with her hood off for the first time and she gave no sign of irritation whatsoever.

AM Training Time: 30 Minutes

PM Training Time: 1-1/2 hours (20 minutes Setup Time)

—–=====<<<<< SUNDAY >>>>>=====—–

PLAN: The plan for Sunday is to get in one more training session indoors, and then take her out to the mews for the first night. I also have to get a fecal sample to the VET clinic, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to catch that before tomorrow night on the tin-foil that’s currently in the box.

Activity: A quick lesson in the morning was all it took for Sable to get the hang of flying to the glove. I figured it wouldn’t take her long at all, once she figured it out. I staged the perch and a long leash in the den and she took the first jump easy. The next several flights were slightly hesitant at first, but she got it. I even got two flights without reward and she took it in stride. Each time, I had to set her back on the perch, even though one time I tried to get her to fly back to the perch but she wasnt leaving the glove without a reason. So I put a mouse on the perch and tried to get her to fly to the perch and she was unable to go. Last big flight to the glove was high and she flew up and landed easily. With 8 flights indoors today, I am satisfied that I’ll be able to take her out to the mews this evening.

Training Time: 30 Minutes

Mews: I had to get the paper, water, and catch netting set up for our mews introduction. Tonights routine started out just like the others. Took her out of the box without much of an issue. Moved over to the scale and got weight, again without any trouble. Brushed feet clean and applied lotion without any trouble or bating. Grabbed a hood and a leather glove to walk outside. Tonights walk was first attempted without a hood on to see where her attention was. She was all bate for the first several steps. Once I got around the house, I put her back on the glove and hooded her. Walked around the house and put her in the mews and then took the hood off. We sat down quietly for a few minutes before I put her on a perch. She immediately turned around and was working at the bars. I am worried that she’ll hurt herself either on the bars or on the cieling. She hung upside down from the cieling twice, then fell to the ground. She broke a tail feather in the first five minutes. ARGH! I hung out for a few minutes more while she acclimated to the new home. I’m going to go out there early in the AM and make sure she is OK.

Training Time: 30 Minutes

—–=====<<<<< MONDAY AM>>>>>=====—–

I had to check on Sable early in the morning, during the dark, before I went off to work. She was sleeping on the high perch with her head tucked under her wing. I only remember catching Tahoe like this once.  I cam in and had to wake her up gently.  I didn’t want to startle her and end up with a scared and startled hawk, so I tried to make some noise. I also did not want to pick her up off the perch. The key event here is having her come to the glove on her own.  From my learning and education from my first training episode, continuously entering the mews with food can cause some bad habits.  So, today will be the only day I’ll go in there with food.  She seems pretty comfortable with my presence and the glove, so I don’t think it will be necessary.

—–=====<<<<<  END of Manning Log>>>>>=====—–


** Training times were added after publishing as a suggestion to understand the amount of time one should dedicate to training.  I would say that the times here are extremely accelerated due to the nature of the hawk’s personality.  Training times and exercises can vary depending upon the hawk’s  progress.  My first hawk took an entire week to eat from the glove and another week to get out to the mews.


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Trapping Success : Introducing ‘Sable’

September 20th, 2011

Trapping Success : Introducing ‘Sable’

My third trapping adventure started out on Sunday morning a little late, but I joined my sponsor for an early morning outing anyway.  We decided to drive East again, as it’s much easier to see birds out there. We checked out a few local east-facing woods before hitting the freeway.  We served once close to a ramp, but were unsuccessful at trapping that bird.  A few minutes later, we were back driving eastbound on M-59.  Trapping Hawks, much like hunting is mostly dependent upon being in the right place at the right time.  There is some skill in choosing weather, time of day, and location, but still the most deciding factor is luck.  I drove many back roads on Friday afternoon / evening, saw 12 Red-Tails and successfully trapped two of them.  Upon weigh-in, they didn’t quite meet the weight requirement, so I enjoyed setting them free once again after careful inspection and a light dusting of poultry dust.

Our next serve turned out to be a great trapping location off M-59.  We did a quick turn out to verify an Immature Bird, and after 2 seconds with the field glasses on her, I said “Immy – GO!”   There she was, sitting in the sun on a snag, facing east with a meadow/field under her to watch for tasty mice frolicking in the tall grass.  She was a big beautiful immy, and might have appeared so with the sun on her, puffing feathers out for maximum warmth.  We did a quick turn-around and looked for a good way to serve the trap. Luckily there was a dirt driveway that we turned into off the main road and we were able to serve out the window quickly and quietly as we bumped along the potholes. Amazingly enough, the immy didn’t bump and seemed quite tolerant of cars.   By the time we turned around, the bird was gone. Where did she go?  She had bolted from her perch and hit the trap hard. I raced up with a towel and noticed a large bird with tremendous feet; I covered her up quickly as she scurried to the best of her ability but failed to get away. I started shaking, getting hopeful for a big bird; her size was bigger than what I had trapped earlier in the weekend and the feet were noticeably bigger.  We quickly re-located her to the car to get the nooses off her talons as she was quite tangled up.  After taping her feet up, hooding and socking, she weighed in at 40 oz.  Perfect!

We drove around for another hour looking for more immys and found one on a back road and served the trap.  After ten minutes of no sign of movement, we picked up the trap and headed home for jessing and dressing. After trapping my second bird on a Sunday morning, I’m absolutely *convinced* 😉  that mornings are better trapping times.  You can find birds sitting comfy in the sun somewhere, still warming up and waking up, much like I have observed my previous birds in the mews. There is a window that faces east and they regularly would sit in that window and catch the early morning sun.

I named her Sable for no particular reason, I just liked the name.

** Please leave  a comment!  I’m interested in hearing other trapping stories either successful or ‘educational’.



Date: September 18th, 2011
Weight: 40 oz. / 1134g
Keel: Moderately sharp
Crop: full, ate meal recently
Trap: Hit quickly; by the time we had the car turned around, she was down off her perch.
Feet: Large, Dark, dirty; some scabs and injuries indicate possible squirrel attempts
After Dusting: No noticeable parasites or flat flies

First Time on the Glove

Trapping , ,