Thursday, December 19, 2013

Falconry Update!

I wanted to update you on Italics. Or rather, on our relationship. It's a whole new kind of challenge for me. Hawks are so different from any other animal I have had any experience with. They are nothing like our adoring cats and dogs, nor are they like the livestock or horses. They aren't even like the domesticated large birds I have known in my life, such as Macaws and Cockatoos. They are such focused and solitary creatures totally uninterested in being cute and cuddly or dependable. What a hawk wants is to not die, which means, to eat and not be hurt in the process. At our core, so do us humans. But humans are pack animals, we live in groups, hunt by daylight, and require social hierarchy and a very varied diet. Hawks (with exception to some desert species like the Harris) do not hunt in packs and want to be as far away from other living things they aren't eating as possible. So to take a red tail out of the wild and turn it into a wolf is quiet the task.

I am doing it though. Thanks to the amazing Falconry community around me. I have so many mentors both in person in my own little part of Veryork and online with the very active hawking groups on Facebook. I have been leant books, equipment, stories and advice. I have people I can call on the spot and it makes the difference at this time of training. Right now Italics has learned to eat from my fist, to turn towards me, to walk towards me, and to hop off the perch onto my hand to eat. Next up is flying to me inside the mews and then we'll start working outside with a long hawk lease called a creance. It's small, deliberate, steps and I admit I am doing this slower than most. I am okay with slow progress if it still means progress and I'm not moving backwards in training.

We have had some rough moments. Italics is not a domesticated creature who loves me. He's a hawk, and when I was stupid enough to put my guard down and not hold onto the jesses tight while trying to hood him (something he has recently decided he hates), it took him .078 seconds to grab onto the skin under my right arm and hold on for dear life. It still hurts, and bad. I am just glad I didn't freak out or scream when it happened. I just gritted my teeth and did what my mentor told me. Slowly back him into a wall and when he realizes something is against his back he'll let go. Which he did. And I promptly slid on his hood and ran inside to clean out the talon punctures with an abundance of peroxide and triple antibiotics and whimper, tail between my legs and licking my wounds.

I certainly learned my lesson: Hold. Onto. The. Jesses. When. Hooding. This. Bird.

Such stories are common among new falconers. You only learn your lessons through, well, learning and I don't know a falconer who hasn't been footed. It's like expecting to take up martial arts and not being punched (check), or horses and not being kicked or thrown (check, check), and you don't get into falconry without a talon in your hide every so often (sigh, and check!). I like a life with some offense in it.

So we are good, mostly. I'm excited about some craftsmanship involved in the sport as well. A gathering of falconers is being planned to teach us newbies the art of making out own hoods and jesses. I am really excited to learn to cut, sew, wrap and create my own hoods. You better believe if I make one it'll have antlers on it.

P.S. That is a photo I took with my beat up iphone, next to my lamp post, on our first or second night together. Luckiest. Shot. Ever!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The photo is gorgeous. I have a friend who says "Falling on your face is still moving forward". I think of that during painful learning moments.

December 19, 2013 at 8:58 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Fascinating, as always! Love that photo, and how you work to understand the nature of the animal as part of your learning process.

December 19, 2013 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger Dalyn said...

Just wow

December 20, 2013 at 10:53 AM  
Blogger Shanda said...

Fantastic photo! That is a one in a lifetime shot. I thought for sure it was a professional shot.

December 20, 2013 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

"What a hawk wants is to not die, which means, to eat and not be hurt in the process. At our core, so do us humans."

Yes. That's all I've ever wanted, but gets so hard to express. Time leading up to the winter solstice always makes me feel cranky, disconnected, irritable, and most of all feeling like a wild creature. Loved this post; I'm not at all familiar with falconry, but struck a chord I've been turning around in my head all day.


December 20, 2013 at 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ohh, I can't imagine the shock and the pain! I'm enjoying following your progress with Italics - most fascinating.

December 22, 2013 at 7:11 AM  
Blogger Brooke said...,a,b,c,z&r=cat48140738&rdesc=The%20Fantasy%20Gifts&pageName=Fancy_Flying&icid=CBF13_05498

Why are you going through all this work? You could just buy a complete falconry setup from Neiman Marcus! WTH!

December 22, 2013 at 11:50 PM  

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