Friday, April 3, 2015

Release

Yesterday was sunny and 60 degrees, the perfect day to catch a thermal and soar. I released Italics at a large farm in Cambridge, and it was a bittersweet moment of growing up as a falconer. For two seasons this bird had been a part of my life. He taught me to trap, train, chase rabbits, and see the world a bit different. He showed me a community of people that I would have never met. I am so grateful to him for that, and always will be.

Hawking in general made me stand taller. I'm proud that I manned and hunted alongside this amazing animal for such a time. The woman on the other side of falconry–the one who was just toying with the idea and emailing her local DEC office for a beginner's packet–was not a better woman. Hawking has taught me so much. I became more patient, more quiet, and more mature as an animal in my own right. I learned the dedication it takes to put down a gun and pick up a gauntlet on a day of rabbit hunting. And I am damn proud that a healthy, eager, adult male hawk is back in the breeding population. Had we never met, had I never trapped him, he only had a 10% chance of reaching his second year. It worked out for us both. Maybe I'll meet one of his sons or daughter's someday.

The actual release was private. It was just me and him. I asked Miriam, the amazing photographer and good friend, to come along and capture the moment if she could but I told her I would not pose for  it. I admitted that a few years ago I would have been tempted to stage a Free Willy moment of release, but I didn't want to do that. I wanted me to walk into an open field and let him choose any of the four directions to fly. He chose North.

Miriam hung back while the release happened, and because of her amazing talent and eye she caught a real moment of freedom. That photo was taken seconds after the last anklet was cut free and he flew without fetters for the first time since trapping day. That is his away flight from me. That is my turning to watch him go.

I will continue with my Apprenticeship in Falconry starting in September with another wild bird. But till then I will be a hawker without a hawk. Which means I can focus even more on the farm and all the new and amazing things coming my way!

Good luck to you, little hawk. Soar on.


24 Comments:

Blogger renate said...

bittersweet for sure. good luck, italics!

April 3, 2015 at 2:56 PM  
Blogger John Wooldridge said...

Wow....just wow.

April 3, 2015 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger PansWife said...

A very beautiful portrait of both of you. Bravo to all.

April 3, 2015 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger mel said...

that is quite possibly the most brilliant thing. ever. wow.

April 3, 2015 at 7:15 PM  
Blogger Ruth Dixon said...

So proud of you!

April 3, 2015 at 9:38 PM  
OpenID rawketstarling said...

Wow, I've got goosebumps. What a beautiful photo--i hope you get it framed. I actually teared up little bit--i remember you actively working on your application and the joy you shared in his trapping. What a beautiful thing you have done. I am honored to have shared this journey with you. Well done, Jenna.

April 3, 2015 at 9:48 PM  
OpenID rawketstarling said...

Wow, I've got goosebumps. What a beautiful photo--i hope you get it framed. I actually teared up little bit--i remember you actively working on your application and the joy you shared in his trapping. What a beautiful thing you have done. I am honored to have shared this journey with you. Well done, Jenna.

April 3, 2015 at 9:49 PM  
Blogger Kelsie said...

A great photo and a great moment. Also, I couldn't help but notice that you're looking really fit!

April 4, 2015 at 12:01 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

I'm curious about two things:
Why did you let him go?
And
Why did he come back to you before while this time he kept going?

April 4, 2015 at 1:20 AM  
Blogger aart said...

Absolutely amazing photograph!

I was wondering if you would feel sadder than you feel relieved for the reduced everyday responsibility.

What an amazing chapter in your life, a dream at least partially fulfilled, an experience never to be lost, an education on many fronts.

Did you ever catch any game with him?

Congrats on this fantastic completion of a cycle of life.

April 4, 2015 at 6:04 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Thanks to you all!

April 4, 2015 at 8:46 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

to Kathleen questions: Why did you let him go?
And Why did he come back to you before while this time he kept going?

I let him go because as an apprentice falconer you are not allowed (legally) to purchase captive bred raptors. You have to trap a passage bird (meaning, a bird who is migrating south in the fall and is juvenile). This is because so few reach adult breeding age(70-80% don't see their first birthday) that the falconer isn't messing with nature by taking an animal from the wild that would probably be dead anyway. Also, beginners need to learn the art of tracking, trapping, and training young birds - it is part of the sport. Since he was taken from the wild it was always my intention to return him to the wild as a healthy, fat, adult bird. He was never a tamed pet, he was always a wild animal that just learned I was an safe way to get food.

HE didn't come back this time because he was FAT! Only a bird who wants dinner and is at a "flying weight" meaning a bird hungry enough to come to a human it trusts for food but healthy enough to hunt and fly all day - returns to you. And sometimes even a hungry hunter chooses to fly away. I let him go at a heavy weight, so he flew up into a tree and then headed off into the woods.

April 4, 2015 at 8:51 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

For Anne's Question: Yes, we hunted! He caught some rabbits with me, but he was very large-prey driven for rabbits and squirrels hoping for better hunting with a larger female next fall.

April 4, 2015 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger Robin Follette said...

I wish more people understood how few birds of prey survive their first year. You've done him a wonderful favor. He was fortunate to spend the fall and winter with you.

April 4, 2015 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger damnyankee said...

Beautiful shot. Good job Jenna...

April 4, 2015 at 9:38 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Thanks for answering the questions Jenna. I was curious about that also.

I just love this picture!!

April 4, 2015 at 11:21 AM  
OpenID dagnygromer said...

A nice moment. It's interesting that her can revery back to being wild after living with you for a time.

April 4, 2015 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Per the last comment: Hawks are never "tame" the reason they hunt for people is because over weeks of conditioning they learn that their handlers are not going to hurt them and feed them. So Italics never was "trained" just taught that I was a safe food source. Some birds of prey really do tame down, but not red tails, soon as I let that fat hawk go he was wild as the day he was born. He'll find a mate and start breeding soon.

April 4, 2015 at 6:32 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Robin, yes! So few people understand how many 'tails die each year and how horrible a wild animal's life can be. An apprentice makes that hawk their life for a season and makes sure it is sheltered, safe, and fed. Nature doesn't do that. Not that I think all hawks should be in falconers hands but you understand that because of falconry very healthy haws are returned to the wild.

Remember DDT? It was falconers who saved the Peregrin from extinction. It was falconers that bred and saved those raptors nearly killed by man made drugs. I am proud to be one of the sports heirs.

April 4, 2015 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

Thanks! What sort of Hawks tame down?
And here's something you might enjoy, there's an "eagle nest cam" near the Susquehanna river in PA. Live feed 24/7. Here's a link of a clip that someone shared.
https://www.facebook.com/peopleoflancaster/posts/886541848055926

April 4, 2015 at 8:14 PM  
Blogger Cary said...

Amazing capture. Amazing moment to share. Thank you..

April 5, 2015 at 9:27 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

great moment, great phot, wonderful hawk!

April 6, 2015 at 9:25 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hello Jenna,

In the course of writing a novel with a character who has trained a hawk and lets her go, I found this blog entry very useful. My book will be published this fall with a small press here in Amherst, Mass., where I live, and I would like to add your name and your blog to the acknowledgements at the end of the book. Hope that is OK with you! I'd be grateful to hear back from you.

Many thanks for your hawk expertise, and your very moving description of Italics' release.

Kitty Florey
www.kittyburnsflorey.com

July 23, 2016 at 10:12 AM  
Blogger Kitty Florey said...

Hello Jenna,

I'm the author of a novel featuring a character who trains a hawk and lets her go, and your moving and informative description of the release of Italics was very useful as I imagined my way into the scene. The novel will be published this fall by a small press here in Amherst, Mass., where I live, and I would like to add your name and blog to the acknowledgements at the end. Could you let me know if this is OK with you?

Many thanks--

Kitty Florey
www.kittyburnsflorey.com
kittyburnsflorey@gmail.com

July 23, 2016 at 10:17 AM  

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