Hawk History

Wesley and I have been licensed falconers since 1981. I trapped a female Harris Hawk, Rusty, in Hebbronville on 23 Dec 1991 as my gift to myself for completing my master’s in biomedical engineering. Soon Rusty decided that she was Wesley’s bird.

We have flown several other Harris Hawks over the years. One we returned to where is was trapped as he did not adjust well to living with humans. One, Minerva, was just too smart and untied her leash before she was fully manned in flew off. We were able to keep tabs on her in the ‘wild’ for the next two years where she did fine. But we were never able to re-trap her to take her back to Hebbronville area where she was trapped originally. Minerva understood how to open the refrigerator (and would do so as meat came from there). As has been said, it helps is the grad student (or falconer) is smarter than the subject organism.

In 2002 we trapped to young males near Carefree AZ. One tended to bite the first few days – something most Harris Hawks we had dealt with in the past did not do. Wesley named them Beater and Biter after the swords found in the Trolls treasure in the Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.

Swords were forged by the Elves in the First Age and called Glamdring and Orcrist which translate as Foe-hammer and Goblin Cleaver (or Orc Cleaver). But the Gobblins (or orcs) called the simply Beater and Biter. The blades could detect the presence of Orcs and warn its bearer by glowing blue. Gandolf took Glamdring for his own and the Dwarf Lord Thorin Oakenshield took Orcrist. In 2003, Biter was footing more than Biting and I told him he should be called Footer.

Wesley was very sick in 2004 (see http://austringer.net/wp/?m=200404) and we decided to
that it would be best if one of our three hawks lived with Andrea – our San Diego Apprentice who turned General in 2004. Biter/Footer was the hawk most likely to attach himself to someone else’s kill. I felt he needed some time flying solo to encourage him to make his own kills. Also Glamdring had escaped once when Andrea was hawk sitting for us and Andrea had to re-trap him as he was too fat to recall well. Andrea claims that he has never forgiven her for the re-trapping and the beak coping. So we sent Biter/Footer to live with Andrea. Andrea and I wanted a name that was less dangerous sounding. I liked the author and civil war historian Shelby Foote, so Footer became Shelby. Shelby moved back to San Diego to live with Andrea in the summer of 2004. Sometime along a Project Wildlife ended up with a Harris Hawk that needed a home – they new Andrea and that is how Aidan came into Andrea’s life. She flew both Aidan and Biter/Footer/Shelby through spring of 2006.

My job took me to Wyoming for 2.5 months starting mid Feb in 2004. Andrea and her friend Terry came up for the California Hawking meet toward the end of January 2004. The hawking season runs through the 3rd week in March. So I asked Terry if she would like to hunt Beater for the rest of the spring season. She had Scamp, a captive bred Harris Hawk on loan. We had flown the boys together on our trip to San Diego in December and again in January so we knew they got along. Beater is a good game hawk and one of the faster/quicker Harris hawks I know. But he is very skittish and not as “sticky footed” as I’d like – which means he will let go of prey if he gets scared. Terry and Beater had a good end of season. And sometime along Terry had to return Scamp.

Andrea decided that she only wanted to fly one hawk this coming season. Possible because she has 2 horses, 3 dogs and a full time job in addition to hawks. Shelby is a great combination of game hawk and easy to handle. He is not as fast/quick as Beater. He seems smarter as he is not as fearful. He is nicely sticky footed. He was once more tolerant of dogs than most passage (trapped in the fall of the first year – on fall passage or migration) Harris hawks. I even took him to flyball practice during the manning period to get him exposed to more dogs. Unfortunately a Hoverwart (German guarding breed that in this case looked like an over grown Golden Retriever) got loose and thought hawk looked like dinner. John, the dog’s owner, and I raced over to find Shelby (then Biter) had Rocky’s collar and Rocky was willing to leave. But since then, Biter has been fearful of golden colored dogs (including vizslas). Wile living with Andrea, Shelby learned the value of JRTs (small and white). Andrea felt I should try flying Shelby as a really fun bird to hunt. We would see if he could adapt to Vizslas. Anyway so when we went to San Diego this July we brought Shelby back the Concord. Shelby has been living in our kitchen to acclimate to the dogs. He had to share the kitchen with Ritka when she came home from the hospital.

We have taken Rusty out several times in August and Sept. Unfortunately we have not made contact with game. Rusty ignores jack rabbits and missed the only cotton-tail she has had a chance to chase.

We went to the Byron Field twice. The first time, with Wesley’s sister, Emily and her husband, Mike. We did not see any cotton-tails that trip. Quite disappointing as we had always see several back in January. On second trip the Byron field, Rusty did see and fly after one cotton-tail, but it slipped under the chain-link fence and got away when Rusty had to go over. At least we had a nice flight. We took her to a Lagoon Valley Road one day and flushed only one Jack Rabbit (again a field with many jacks last January). Rusty ignored the jack rabbit. I think there is a pattern here. Male rabbits do get stupid in the spring when their hormones take over. They are much easier to find then. But in San Diego we can usually find them in the fall as well. sigh.

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