“A Hawk for the Bush”

“A Hawk for the Bush: A Treatise on the Training of the Sparrowhawk and other Short-winged Hawks” was written by J. G. Movrogordato and initially published in 1960.  It quickly became a classic falconry work and a first-edition in good condition can often fetch $500 or more.  Thankfully a revised edition is currently available for much less and has more current information.  While Movrogordato wrote the book about training the Eurasian sparrowhawk the training techniques can be applied to any shortwing.

Movrogordato covers all of the basics of training a hawk, including the choice of hawk (he argues for the hacked eyass), rearing an eyass, breeding sparrowhawks, equipment, hood training, diet, and hunting. Most of this is applicable to North American austringers; some, such as hawking along hedge rows, is not, though can still be interesting to read.  I think his point about carrying the hawk is applicable to most birds – it’s either carry the bird on the fist and offer it no other perch during manning (quite difficult without friends willing to carry it throughout the night), or you must make it want to ride the fist and not carry it a second longer.  When it’s done eating replace it on the perch and do not pick it up until the next feeding.  Don’t try to carry it for long periods (even up to 18 hours a day, only to replace it on the perch so you can sleep, otherwise you will have the worst sort of bird.

He also included a chapter titled “Mishaps”.  While some of the information should be fairly common sense (such as change old jesses before they snap) it also includes things like imping feathers and how to find a lost bird (which is much easier now thanks to telemetry).  It is a good chapter for apprentices to read and take to heart.

While most of the book deals with eyass hawks Movrogordato does spend some time discussing sore hawks, which are hawks that are out of the nest and capable of flight (so older than branchers) but that haven’t left the nest area yet and continue to play with their siblings while they learn to hunt.  They fall somewhere between the eyass and passager as far as training and  temperament.  Not many authors discuss the sore hawk, though this interesting developmental stage is being rediscovered by falconers.  Many people cite Movrogordato’s discussion about it.

Included in the revised edition are chapters on health and disease, a chapter of short overviews of other shortwinged hawks, and appendices on how to make and Anglo-Indian hood and patterns for such a hood.  These definitely add to the book rather than detract. Some of Movrogordato’s hawking diary entries are also included.  Looking over these can be a good way to get a general idea of the speed at which a shortwinged hawk might be trained.

In addition, numerous drawings and paintings by R. D. Digby and G. E. Lodge are included as illustrations that were not in the original book.  I really liked many of these, they’re quite good and some art interspersed with pages of text always helps to liven up reading.

“Gasim Rizgala with female lanner Johara, Larry Crowley with tiercel saker Sindibad and Jack Mavrogordato with female peregrine Selema at Khartoum, Sudan”

One thing I enjoyed about the book is the dry humor.  For instance, he begins in the preface by stating:

“It has for some years been the lot of falconers to receive enquiries from would-be falconers anxious to train the sparrowhawk.  My own advice to all such has generally been identical with the famous piece of advice which Mr. Punch once gave to those about to marry*. Experience has, however, shown that well-meaning if negative recommendation has been almost as generally ignored…”

and down in the footnotes states:

“*Don’t”

Later on when discussing carriage training he states:

“Remember that sparrowhawks (unlike goshawks, in my experience) are most frightened of human beings, less so of dogs, and do not greatly object to machines.  Get them used to people, therefore, especially women and children.  Your hawk may be perfectly used to you and quite fearless in your presence but yet regard every other person she meets as if they were not merely a stranger but a different sort of animal altogether.  It is, therefore, a good plan to have the hawk carried by more than one person.

And, if your household is deficient in well-trained women and children, there is quite a lot to be said for the falconer getting himself up in “drag” and wearing skirts and fancy hats instead of the dull old clothes with which the hawk is so familiar.”

He later goes on to warn:

“Never forget that the relationship between you and your hawk is one of partners, not of master and servant.  Avoid the “I’m the master now” attitude.  Don’t swear at the hawk, however infuriating her behavior (easier said than not done, this).”

Great advice for any falconer, but it’s delivered in such a way that’s dryly humorous and serious at the same time.  I love it.

“Jack Mavrogordato, Renz Waller e Ernesto Coppaloni”

All in all, I really enjoyed reading “A Hawk for the Bush”.  There is a lot of information here, much more than can be had in one reading, so I’ll be picking it up again.

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Filed under Falconry, Literature

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