Well, it’s official. Until now, Gracie had been a bit of a mystery to our dogs and myself, but now it’s a whole new level of real.  Most of the time she’s been in a dimly lit room with my H, just he, she and ESPN spending some good quality bonding time together. We’ve had glimpses here and there, a few furtive photo ops and daylight sightings.  However, last night, my H set up a place in our living room just for Gracie.  It’s the next step in her training and socialization, getting familiar with new sights, situations and sounds. Her new special area is composed of a metal perch, AstroTurf, a tarp, towels, a dog gate and a sheet against the living room wall… a vision of loveliness :)

AstroTurf is used by falconers for their hawk's perches

Moving past the obvious decor issues, it was her first introduction to the entire family inside the house and it was a great success!  Our Lab and Golden obeyed perfectly as commanded and curiously lay on the carpet with eyes alert and quivering noses pointed directly towards her.  After a while, they abandoned any real hope of investigating this new visitor in our home and dozed off.

We all watched Boardwalk Empire with the volume down low and Gracie was perfectly at ease. She even rested comfortably on one leg, stretching it out every so often as if this was the norm. I think she’ll be disappointed that next week is the season finale.

As an aspiring blogger, devotee of the english language (grammar not included) and lover of lexicons, the skill of the poet is much admired in my heart.  I found this delightful little poem and hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.
Barred Owl - Strix varia

A Barred Owl by Richard Wilbur

The warping night air having brought the boom
Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
“Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”

Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.

If you listen to the Barred Owl’s hoots, cackles, caws, and gurgles, you can understand the poets desire to allay the fears of a young child!  Visit (then scroll down page) to hear for yourself: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Barred_Owl/sounds

Barred Owl Facts:

  • Only the Barred Owl and the Barn Owl have brown eyes, all other owls in the U.S. have yellow eyes.
  • It’s called a Barred Owl because of the bars of brown and white across the bird’s chest (not because it’s excluded from anything).
  • Its hoot actually sounds like “who cooks for you, who cooks for you all.” (particularly if you’re hungry)
  • They’re homebodies and don’t migrate. 
Big Eared Bat

Ahh, the joys of country life…

Nature
Fresh mountain air
Starry nights
Old barns
and… bats?

My H was telling me of his progress with Gracie tonight in the barn. As a passing comment, he mentioned that there may have been a bat in the attic with them. It sounds like a simple, straight forward statement, but why did it seem like there should be more to it? How could it be that uncomplicated? Where’s the bat drama? Do I have to tell it like I see it? Ok.

Big Eared Bat

Big Eared Bat (public domain image)

Imagine a pitch black, Blair Witch-type foggy night with the creepy sound of coyotes yipping in the distance. You and your hawk are alone in the attic of an old barn. Training is the main purpose for your evening activities, but all of a sudden, you hear a whirling sound around your head and it’s getting closer and closer with each pass. WTF? Although the hawk on your glove is a force to be reckoned with, I still think I’d still be a little trepeditious (yes, it is a word, see The Grammarphobia Blog) about your collective efforts to slay the winged rat (sorry bat lovers). One: even though you and your Red-tail have basically been hand-in-claw for the last two weeks, it’s not like she’s your BFF. Two: an exit strategy seems like a better use of the potentially short time you have left.

What’s wrong with an innocent little bat just trying to make a decent living? Well, rabies, histoplasmosis, mites, ticks, fleas, sharp little teeth and guano, to name seven. However, as I write this, I feel that I’m being a little unfair to the flying mammal classified in the order of Chiroptera. Shouldn’t they have qualities worthy of redemption just like everyone else? Is it really their fault that Bram Stoker sold them out and capitalized on their unfortunate creep-factor?

Obviously, not being an expert, I can’t answer those questions. However, I’ll leave my dear readers with a few batcrumbs and you can form your own opinions:

And, lastly

  • Bat Word origin & history (which will be of particular interest to falconers): “to move the eyelids,” 1847, Amer.Eng., from earlier sense of “flutter as a hawk” (1610s), a variant of bate (2) on the notion of fluttering wings. Dictionary.com
  • Chiroptophobia is the fear of bats

My husband is teaching Gracie to fly from the perch to his gauntlet. He fed her a little mouse for breakfast, which she quickly Houdini’d and I was able to catch on film. This is the first chance I’ve had to take some candid photos of her in the daytime. The morning light was in my favor and I enjoyed the results as the hawk is so captivatingly beautiful. Here are a few of them…

Close-up Series

What a stare!

MMMouse

On the glove

Inquisitive look

Now, off to breakfast and needless to say, I won’t be having any Mickey Mouse pancakes!

Last night, Gracie flew from a perch on the floor, to my H’s gloved hand – almost 17 feet.  Great progress!  He gets up bright and early each morning to spend time with her, again at lunch and late into the evening.  It’s exciting to start to see the results of his efforts. It seems that this sport, like anything that you want to become good at, takes time, patience, commitment and consistency.

When I awoke this morning, I heard a hawk’s call loud and clear in our house.  But, as I ventured to the kitchen, it was a Youtube video playing for our two dogs.  They are becoming more accustomed to the eery, but beautiful sound.  They looked  at me for verification that everything was allright, I gave them the nod, and then they assumed their normal positions on the floor.

The hawk’s call is such a unique sound.  I read that often in movies, they mistakenly use the hawk’s cry for that of an eagle.

Here’s an informative bird site where you can listen to four types of calls that the Red-tailed hawk makes (scroll down a bit when the page opens):  http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-tailed_Hawk/sounds

fpic

Flamingo IMG_3236At breakfast this morning, my H explained to me that Gracie, while perched on his gauntlet (glove), stood on one leg, but the other leg was suspiciously suspended in midair.  It was 5:00 in the morning, he was sleepy, and for the briefest of moments, he thought, “Is this a good sign or a bad sign?”

In his dreamy state, he reasoned to himself that standing on one leg could mean one of two things:

1. She’s getting ready to do a Karate chop, talon-swipe-ninja move

2. She’s chilled out flamingo-like and tropical isle style

Number 1 = husband may end up with talons for earrings.
Number 2 = happy family.

Luckily, it was just part dream, part reality and he explained to me that when the hawk rests on just one leg, it can be seen as a sign that they are comfortable around you.  This makes sense as it seems they would be more vulnerable in this position.

I always wondered why birds stood on one leg.  Usually, when I do, it’s because my feet hurt or I’m in a Yoga tree pose.

I found this explanation from Birdnote.org:

“Birds’ legs have an adaptation called “rete mirabile”  that minimizes heat loss. The arteries that transport warm blood into the legs lie in contact with the veins that return colder blood to the bird’s heart. The arteries warm the veins. By standing on one leg, a bird reduces by half the amount of heat lost through unfeathered limbs.”

So, the moral of the story is, if you see a bird standing on one leg, it either only has one leg or it literally is chilling out.

Received txt msg from H at 7:12 a.m.:
She got the carpet, slice.
If u have can u bring
carpet clnr? Pls LU

Since Gracie graced our home, I’ve only just peeked in the doorway of the “hawk” room, not wanting to startle her.  But this morning, my H invited me to come all the way in the room to see her.  I cautiously crept in, edging around the outside of the room, trying to make myself look as small as possible and then slid down along the wall to the floor.  Her wings and shoulders arched up hunchback-esque to make herself look badder than me… and she was.  I kept on telling myself, “Don’t look her in the eyes,”  but it was like trying to avoid Medusa.  Where’s Perseus when you need him?

After my drama moment passed and my peripheral vision began to work again, I started to relax.  It only seemed to take a moment or two for her to let down her guard as we all sat in silence together.  The rule is: she can stare, we can’t.  A silent truce had just been made.

As I began to look around the room, I noticed a few spots on the towels that covered the carpet (and the one that had missed). Could this be what I had heard so many rumors about?  Is it slice? I asked my H and he said it was, and began to educate me about the intricacies of hawk poo.  Let me convey my limited understanding to the curious reader:

To Slice (verb) is the act of pooing at an angle by a hawk.  The speed of the slice (sph) depends on the type of raptor (i.e. if it’s a Velociraptor, watch out).

Mute (noun) describes a falcon or hawks poo, particularly the more solid ones that fall down (again, watch out). 

Mute (verb) The act of pooing. (also means to be silent, which is probably what I should have been on this subject)

Chalk/Whitewash (noun) white pee-like substance. (gag)

I invite any whose knowledge and expertise surpasses mine (the bar is set really low here) to further elucidate my readers on this fascinating topic.

P.S.
My H hasn’t had to use our “safe” word yet (in case something goes terribly wrong), which is “meatloaf”
He forgot what it was yesterday and thought it was “watermelon” which would have been really bad, because I would have ran to the grocery store while he was being wing-slapped by a wild hawk.

As the next few weeks are a critical time of bonding and introducing Gracie to the world of man, my H spent almost the entire day with her.  She seems to be relaxing more and more in his presence, but she is still a wild animal.  He said it takes time and patience to create a mutual bond of trust and respect and he wants to expose her to new things in a careful and controlled manner.

P.S.
I’ve heard rumors about when they poo – it’s officially called slicing – ugh!
Ruining pie for me.
Happy to say that after day 1, the whole topic is still a mystery.
No visual violations occured.
Some things just can’t be unseen.

Husband and hawk survived their first evening together.  They sat in a darkened room with just a sliver of light to see eachother with.  She was perched on his arm for about 4 hours.  He fed her two little white mice that were at the end of a skewer and said it was a good sign that she was relaxed enough to eat near him and even better that she bent over a little to eat the other one. The mice are frozen and boiling water was added to warm them up (not my idea of a culinary delight).   Luckily, our cousin, and proud owner of the other new hawk (named Scout), came over to lend a hand with the icy denizens in our freezer.

P.S.
There are no prerequisites for being a falconer’s wife other than love, appreciation and support.
You don’t have to skewer dead mice unless you’re really into it.

So, this is how it went:

6:30 a.m. husband and brother meet up to go trapping

10:47 a.m. txt message received: 1220 gram-ish
1:39 p.m. txt message received: boy
4:56 p.m. arrive home with a Redtail hawk

What that means (I had to call to get the juicy details), is that the first one they caught weighed approximately 1220 grams and is probably a female (due to size).  Evidently, it’s not that easy to tell if it’s a male or female, but the female’s are usually bigger.  And then, 2 1/2 hours later, they caught another one, possibly a male (again, this is thought because of its size).  The second one is for our cousin who is also a first-time falconer.

Redtail Hawk

A beautiful Redtail Hawk

Redtail Hawk

Safely wrapped up for the ride back home

I made my H some dinner as the rest of his evening is going to be spent bonding with his new Redtail.  He has the lights down low and is keeping the room quiet.  I’ve got the dogs upstairs with me, keeping them away, as this is a critical time for husband and hawk to get to know one another.

Being Hawk-eyed

Being Hawk-Eyed!