Friday, November 22, 2013

Chasing Feathers

The past few days have been all about hawking. I wake up at first light in a cold house (around 55 degrees) and go about morning chores. Then when all the animals in my care are fed and seen to, I head out with my traps, binoculars, and big hopes. I am on the hunt for a hawk I can partner up with, and the first step is finding her. So I drive on lonely country roads, past farms and houses, and to the fields lined with trees that red tails sit in. Now that I am looking for them, they are everywhere. I must see 20 a day, sometimes more. Finding a juvenile in that lot is hard, most have passed through this area but some may still be around. There is still hope I will trap the bird I need to learn this ancient skill with. Falconry is old, over 4,000 years old, and it is the most highly regulated sport in America. Just signing up to try has taken a year, and that's only because of amazing people like Ed and Buddy, holding my hand along the way.

yesterday I caught my first bird, seen above. I was by myself, Ed having left to check in at home. Neither of us expected the trap to take, but it did and the bird I thought was a juvenile was caught. Sadly, it was an adult red tail and I of course let it go. It was beautiful, and handling this wild thing was a quiet, borderline reverent experience. I do not think of hawks as holy things, no more than I think of you and I as holy, but I do treat them with respect. I slowly and calmly approached it. I gently hooded it (for my safety), grabbed his feet, and untangled him. Not sure what to do next I set him on the ground gently and he took off for the tree linene. It was a rush and a tease. To have waited so long for a bird of my own, to train and learn from, and to have to let a finally-caught one go was a lesson in patience and trust. I'm not in this falconry world for a pet or a buddy, I am in it for the hunt and the partnership. To me it is like working with a draft horse in harness, or herding with Merlin: two totally different species working towards a common goal. It is special, humbling, and inspiring to know that this world never stops making me gasp. There is a hawk out there for me, and perhaps now that I know how to catch him, he will hold on tight next time.