A perfect landing!

For the first time in more than 100 years, our southern state saw a white Christmas. We all went out to enjoy the snow and our Lab and Golden couldn’t get enough of it! Although their play may look ferocious, they adore eachother and just had some plain old fun romping in the snow!

The old "over-hand right-paw" trick

Play-fighting

The chase is on!

I've got the prize! Is anyone following me?

Where'd that darn red-head go? Oh well, on to other things...

A final walk in the snow before the sun goes down

The day after Christmas, we woke to beautiful, white snow all around.  It was time for some lure training and my hubs brought Gracie out to work with her some more:

Gracie flying to the glove for a treat

Glove love

Flying to the perch

What a wing span!

A perfect landing!

 My H said that Gracie was “mantling” over her prey (below).  This is supposed to be a good sign as it shows she really valued her reward from the lure.

Mmmmm, cold baby chick

During Gracie’s snow training our neighbors came out to watch and we enjoyed hanging out with them for a few minutes. Afterwards, we all went to our respective houses to warm icy fingers and toes. We ended the holidays with some homemade Chicken Parmesan with fresh basil, Green Bean Casserole, warm Ciabatta rolls and some hot chocolate – a perfect ending to a perfect weekend.

Gracie Sleeping

Our Red-tailed Hawk is evidently a very deep sleeper.  Watch this video as my husband opens the giant hood (her crate) and tries to wake her up – slowly and carefully.  He doesn’t want to startle her – there’s nothing worse than a grumpy hawk!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpdsmZwACRo&fs=1&hl=en_US

After much prodding and poking, she finally wakes up and then glares at me – I didn’t do anything, I’m just the camera person!
Walking with Hawk in Box in Hand

The scene:
27.9°
wind chill of 18°
gusts of 14 mph

As you may have heard, a cold, bitter blast of winter weather hit the south this morning. Despite the cold, it was still a beautiful day and my husband decided to head to the football field for some lure training. I tagged along to observe and snap a few photos.

According to my H, lure training is one of the final steps before free flying. As I see it, Gracie needs to view the lure as her new BFF. The way this is described in falconry terms, (which by the way, they have a different word for everything) is that she has to be “made to the lure.” Apparently, the way that you do this is to put them on a limited diet (no more Micecream Cones) and convince them that the lure (a piece of leather served with rodent tartare that gets flailed around in the air) is their next Happy Meal. Once the hawk is convinced that you are their epicurean savior, you’re ready to set sail to the high skies and roam the countryside for rascally rabbits or squirrely squirrels. Yep, right up Elmer Fudd’s alley.

There’s a little piece of chicken in the grass that she’s looking at in the foreground of the photo. I’m glad I’m not a piece of chicken.
Lure Training Gracie

The last flight to the gauntlet of the morning:
Lure Training Gracie

Hawk on a cold blustery day
Lure training on a cold blustery day

By the time the training session was over, I was an ice cube. My hands were like little stiff stalactites inside my gloves. When we got home, I took the dogs for a walk and they enjoyed the cold weather. I might have liked it better if I had a fur coat, too.

Play time's over - going home

P.S. As I write this, there’s a cold weather advisory for our town and surrounding areas. It’s snowing sideways and hot chocolate sounds really good right now.

reindeer-hat

If you have one of these hats, I apologize in advance for any offense to your sense of fun, style or Christmas spirit by this post.  This hat came into my possession recently and unexpectedly as a gift for my H to wear during the holidays. In addition to its obvious charm, it also plays, “Gramma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”  It gets even better.  While belting out this novelty Christmas song, the hat’s antlers wave back and forth in rhythm to its country roots.  It’s truly a sight to behold, especially for a hawk.

If you were a predator, would this look like a tasty snack?

Gracie (enter hawk), was sitting on her perch in the living room the other evening. A few hours went by, the lights were down low, it was getting late and my H and the hawk were having a face-off.  Neither quite trusted the other to completely let their defenses down.  However, as I mentioned, it was getting late. In the duel between man and beast, beast was about to win.

The hat was sitting quietly on the arm of the couch between husband and hawk. It just happened to be placed there at an earlier date and time, and was one of those objects that you get used to seeing and then forget that it’s even there.

My H, sitting on that very couch had his peripheral vision glued to the hawk. As time passed, the eyelids on those green lookers started to droop lower and lower and then finally closed in exhaustion. Seconds ticked by.  Seconds turned into minutes, minutes turned into… an opportunity.  Then, the strike happened. It seemed to came out of nowhere as Gracie went for the hat… or was it the husband?

Being a hunter by nature, Gracie obviously had the upper hand in the waiting game.  She knows when a good meal is at stake.  My H didn’t have a chance.  We still don’t know til this day whether she was going for the hat or for his head. If it wasn’t for the short line connecting those long legs and sharp talons to her perch…

We later wondered, “Was she offended by the garish nature of the Christmas gag or was she waiting for the right moment to commit the perfect crime and off her captor?”

I don’t think we’ll ever know.

Hawk 1, Husband 0.

Happy Holidays!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IO4PAhndFO8&fs=1&hl=en_US&color1=0x5d1719&color2=0xcd311b

Gracie Gets a Reward (The mouse is in her mouth)

She was at the 30 and…
… to the 40 to the 50 to the 40 to the 30 to 20.

I’m faking it – I really don’t know anything about football, but I do know that I was on a football field yesterday afternoon.  Ok, fine.  I wouldn’t even have known that unless my H hadn’t clearly said, “I’m taking Gracie to a football field.”

Of course, I was fascinated and repelled simultaneously.  Why a football field?  Sounds so… sporty.

Luckily, it had nothing to do with dueling squads of  human battering rams, vexatious announcers, mouth guards or sweaty tattoos.  That being the case, I willingly went along as a first time official outing photographer.

The local highschool football field was vacant.  It was a brisk 32° with a wind chill factor of about 21° – invigorating!   My H, pockets filled with mouse cadavers, set up the perch and creance (a thin line attached to the hawk) and I followed along, excited about the chance to capture a Gracie-in-action shot.  She flew about 5 times from the perch to my H’s gauntlet and reached up to 50 yards.  By the last time, she had begun to lose interest as she was getting full.  The entire exercise took about 20 minutes.

I was only able to get a few shots as my hands were freezing (and hawks fly a lot faster than you think):

Gracie in action - low flying along the 30 yard mark towards my H

Gracie flying 50 feet from creance to glove

Flying right towards us - what a sight!

PICT0411

Her reward (I really having nothing to say at this moment other than the macro feature on my camera works great)

Gracie with part of mouse in mouth

Eating her reward - you can still see the mouse before it completely disappeared in her mouth (I just vomited a little bit)

Gracie in Mews

This photo is just eye candy to make up for any visual violations in this post - I took it in the mews before we left

White Mouse

My freezer, which once held the bounties of nature and pre-packaged delights, has forever changed. No longer is it a place to freely inspect, to gleefully rummage or to speculate about its hidden wonders. Where once I moved confidently and boldly in this frozen kingdom, I am now uncertain and timid. Mysterious disappearances and strange appearances have left me questioning the sanctity of this chow repository.

The frigidarium of delight as I once knew it has transformed into a frozen time-share coffin for anemic, lilliputian mice. Tiny, furry white creatures with little pink noses and feet appear at random for the unsuspecting visitor. Lined up as if caught in suspended animation, the mouse filled baggie may lay next to the waffles, the bag of frozen peas or the ice cube tray. There’s no apparent rhyme or reason to their appearance, location or disappearance. I know what they’re for, and Gracie needs to eat, but knowing that doesn’t bring back the freezer glory days.

As if this wasn’t enough trauma for the wife of a falconer to bear (drama alert), the surprise “donation” of the $7 organic, Springer Mountain Farm, boneless, skinless chicken tenderloin dinner-to-be to our lovely hawk, would have put any cook into shock. I know that there were good, valid reasons for Gracie to eat poultry on that day, but knowing that doesn’t bring back my future Chicken Scaloppine with Lemons, Capers and Tomatoes.

I am sure that this is just the beginning and that I’ll have many more culinary and cold storage adventures to share, but as a tip to all would-be falconers and falconer’s wives, don’t confuse a mouse with a chicken or you may end up with  White Chocolate Mouse Parfaits with Strawberries.

P.S. It’s late and I can’t stop thinking of mouse recipes…Italian Style Spaghetti and Mouseballs, Verminicelli, Greek Mouseaka, Ratatouille (obvious one), getting tired now, you probably have some, too!