Update - Lost & Happily Found 8 Days Later Dec 6, 2008 19:24:15 GMT -5
Post by joekoz on Dec 6, 2008 19:24:15 GMT -5
On Black Friday the day after Thanksgiving I experienced what I expect is a major concern of every falconer, especially apprentice falconers. The loss of your bird on her first free flight. This story started on October 17 when my sponsor and I trapped Jane my female passage red tail. She was impressive weighing in at 49.75 ounces. Over the next 41 days, training went pretty much as would be expected culminating with flying an estimated 250 – 300 feet consistently on the creance, and aggressively attacking the lure. In anticipation of her first free flight, my sponsor and I scouted out numerous sites and we found a location loaded with rabbits. So on Black Friday we drove the 25 miles to this location expecting to have a very positive experience. Jane’s weight was down to 43.20 ounces and my sponsor’s assessment based upon his 20 years of flying red tails was that she was very keen to hunt. We arrived at the site at 2:00pm. Parked the car, removed Jane from her Giant Hood, walked to the edge of the cover we intended to hunt, showed Jane the trees in the hedgerow, and I released her. Our expectation was that she would fly straight at the trees in the hedgerow, she didn’t. Instead of flying directly to the closest tall tree in the hedgerow which was 75 to 100 feet away, she headed left and landed in a tree perhaps 300 feet down the hedgerow. Immediately, I became concerned. If she landed where we expected her to, we were sure we would quickly flush a rabbit in the cover to the right of where I cast her off. However, based upon the position she took, I new we didn’t have much of a chance to show her game. So I showed her the glove and blew the whistle. Once, twice, (now I’m really starting to get concerned), three times and no response. So I pulled out the lure. And she looked at it and then took off in the opposite direction. With that, my sponsor went back to the car which was very close and pulled out the harnessed pigeon. When we showed it to her, she decided once again to fly further away. At this point, we noticed for the first time a pair of mature red tails. Were they the ones responsible for Jane’s behavior? I’ll never know for sure. Jane’s elusive behavior lasted until dark and I wound up going home without her. The next day was Saturday the 29th and my sponsor and I in separate vehicles were waiting before daylight to start searching for her. We spent the whole day. Between the 2 of us we counted over 30 red tails. But no Jane. While looking for her I put up dozens of flyers I made the night before. I notified the local police departments, animal control officers and the state police. Sunday was a repeat of Saturday. Sun-up to sun-down searching. More flyer posting. Placed lost and found ads in several papers. Nothing. I was out every day before work at sun-up. Nothing. I started my search today Saturday – December 6th at 6:15am. At 7:00am I saw my first red tail. Turned out to be a haggard. At 8:00am I spotted an immature bird and decided to use the BC I built which was equipped with 2 very active gerbils. Dropped the BC and headed down the road and around a bend about 200 yards away where I was still able to watch with my binoculars. About 5 minutes went by and the bird started to fly from her tall tree perch toward the trap. Seconds after she started to fly, a car passed me in her direction. The car caused her to fly up into another tree which left her even closer to the BC. Oh, did I mention it was 18 degrees out and my sponsor cautioned me that I really didn’t want to leave the gerbils out in the cold more than 15 minutes. We’ll after watching the bird sit in the tree less then 40 yards from the BC for 30 minutes, and not being absolutely positive if the bird in question was Jane, I decided it was time to retrieve the BC. As soon as I stopped the car, the bird bolted. Between 8:00am and 1:00pm I spotted 10 more red tails all but 1 of which were mature birds. At 1:00pm I spotted another immature bird. I watched it for a few minutes through the binoculars straining to look for anklets and bells, and it decided to fly. I drove down the county road in the direction it flew and made the first right turn into a small housing development. As I did, I immediately spotted the bird with her back to me up in a tree. She was about 75 yards from the road and as I passed her on my right, I through the BC out of my drivers side window onto a residential lawn. Once again I drove drown the road and waited. Still not sure if this was my bird. As I watched, the bird looked over her shoulder in the direction of the BC. Five minutes later, she decided to fly off in the opposite direction. We’ll, I decided to get back onto the county road and drive in that general direction. As I was driving, about a half mile from where I saw her last, I almost missed seeing her again. This time on a telephone pole along the busy county road. I drove past then turned the car around, held the BC outside my drivers side window, drove passed her in the oncoming traffic lane over the double line as I through the BC almost immediately below her, continued up the road several hundred yards, turned around and pulled into a driveway to watch. As I did, she came down off of the pole onto the trap. However, once again a car passed me and I was afraid she would bolt before getting snagged. She didn’t and I new it when the driver of the car started to slow down because he saw her struggling to get loose. When I got out of my car and heard the bells, I just couldn’t believe my luck. When I got her home, she weighed 42.50 ounces and I feed her a full quail on the fist. Despite the cold weather, and 8 days being back in the wild, she appears to be in good health. I captured her about 5 miles from where I lost her. Later in the day, I drove to the convenience store and bought a lottery ticket.