Tag Archives: facilities

Dropping Weight

Jebe weighed 1195.5g the day I trapped her.  Since then it’s been a waiting game as she drops weight.  The second day I found a 22g casting that was made of fur and grasshopper legs.  She weighed 1145g, so had dropped 30g after taking the casting into account.  She had healthy looking slices, with brown fecal material and no specks of blood.  Over the next few days she continued to drop around 30 grams every night and had multiple slices per day.  On the fifth day she started dropping 16 to 25 grams per night and her slices became smaller and green as she ran out of food to process and unused bile started coming through.

That trend kept up until today.  I weighed Jebe tonight, expecting her to be around 950g as she’s been at 976g yesterday.  She was unexpectedly heavier and weighed 1026g.  Her response to tidbits, even though she hasn’t jumped to the fist yet, is markedly lower than yesterday – while yesterday she could barely stop herself from jumping today she barely gave the tidbit a second glance.  In retrospect, the bow perch was in the middle of the mews while it was closer to the wall this morning and the falconer’s knot that secured her to the perch was really tight.  The only thing I can figure is that a mouse or some other small animal got into the mews and she drug the bow perch to get at it.  I guess tomorrow’s mutes and any casting will tell the tale.

I’ve been told by a few experienced falconers, my sponsor included, not to weigh a wild-trapped bird until it first jumps to the fist.  While this is probably an anomaly (eg, catching something in the mews), it seems like a good reason to at least take note of daily weight prior to jumping to the fist.

Also, it goes to show that the mews should be well secured no matter where you live.  I assumed that since I live in the middle of suburbia and have two dogs that nearly always outside in the fenced yard I wouldn’t have problems with small mammals or venomous snakes.  Obviously I was wrong, though I still don’t think I have to worry about copperheads or rattlesnakes.

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Mews modifications

The untreated plywood I used for the mews roof developed some black mold on the underside this summer.  I thought it would last at least two years, but I guess with the spring rains it got wet and didn’t dry fast enough.  On the suggestion of some other falconers I switched to a tin roof.  It’s $25 or more a sheet new, but after posting an add on Craistlist I found some used sheets for $10 a piece.  Three of the sheets were quite rusty on one side, so  I spent a few hours with the angle grinder knocking the rust off.  I also painted the sheets to stop further rust development.

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Removing the rust. You can see the section at the top that I’ve already worked on and the still rusty section at the bottom.

I had to add additional roof beams to the mews as the sheets are only 2′ wide, not 4′ like the plywood was.  I used two L-brackets, one per side, on each end of each 2×4 to secure the beams.  The roof tin went up relatively quickly and without hassle.

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New metal roof. I wonder if the next bird will like the sound of rain on a tin roof as much as I do.

I also added some vents to the high side of the walls right under the roof.  Changing from wood to metal should take care of all the mold problems, but the extra ventilation can’t hurt.

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Vent

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2014 Apprentice Workshop

The Arkansas Hawking Association held their annual apprentice workshop a few weeks ago.  I left at 5 am in order to be in Little Rock by 8:30.  Unfortunately for me, I read the announcement wrong and the workshop didn’t start until 9, so I sat around for a while.  They had coffee though, so it was alright.  People started drifting in – I helped Francie and Rusty unload equipment and supplies from their vehicles – and we all BS’d for a while.  In total, 3 new apprentices/pre-apprentices and 3 second year apprentices came.  Francie started the day demonstrating how to make cuffs and jesses, followed by how to mount a tail bell. I drifted in and out as I’d make cuffs and jesses last year and there was only so much room at the table for the new apprentices.  Francie did show them the set of cuffs and jesses I made for a kestrel; she thought they were so cute and couldn’t get over how small they were.  She also showed the new apprentices how to make a lure.  I cut down some of the leather she provided and made a kestrel-sized lure (I still haven’t decided what I’m trapping this year and want to be prepared for either species)

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Francie and the new apprentices

Cody had an excellent demonstration on building his self-righting bal-chatri trap during/after lunch.  I plan on making one for this season and will provide plans when I do.

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Cody demonstrating how to make a BC trap

The apprentices were also shown how to make leashes, both braided and from paracord.  The paracord leash, which I prefer, is quite simple to make, but I messed it up four or five times in a row.  Rusty gave me a hard time about not being gentle enough, but it was in good fun and I eventually did make the leash.

Heath outlined how to sew and block a hood, and provided pre-cut leather pieces to each new apprentice.  I still have my (unassembled) pieces from last year…really need to get one that.

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Heath and hoods.

We had three birds at the workshop this year, which was quite nice.  Heath brought Gretel, his wild-caught goshawk; it’s turning out quite nice, I can’t wait to see it’s adult plumage next year.  Rusty brought his Harris’s Hawk, who’s name I can’t remember at the moment and didn’t get any good photos of.  Finally, Jim brought his newly acquired CB aplomado falcon.  She is absolutely gorgeous and should be a killer on doves and other feathered game this season.

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Gretel

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Jim and his aplo

All-in-all it was a great day.  I’ve only seen most of the Arkansas falconers a handful of times (Bob and Cody being the exception), but they’re all so nice in person and available on the AHA forum that it feels like I’ve known them for much longer than the last year.  I’m excited and reinvigorated for this upcoming season and can’t wait to get back into the field.

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Falconry Equipment

Besides passing a 100 point written exam any perspective falconer must also possess certain equipment and pass a facilities inspection.  In Arkansas the required facilities and equipment consists of the following (laws in your state may vary):

  • “Indoor” facilities (mews)  – Indoor is a bit of a misnomer and confused me for a while.  Mews can be outside – most are – and not necessarily indoors.  What they mean by indoor is really enclosed.  The mews, sometimes refereed to as a hawk house, is where a bird will spend most of it’s time when it is not hunting, training, or leashed within a weathering area.  The only requirements for a mews (mews is both singular and plural) is that it contain adequate perches, an easily closed and secured door, at least one vertically barred window (it does not need to have glass, and actually shouldn’t, as an open window(s) promotes good airflow and ventilation), and a well drained floor which can be cleaned easily.  Not required, but a good idea, is that a mews be big enough for a bird to spread it’s wings without touching the walls; if a bird is free lofted a mews should be big enough for it to take a wing flap or two along the longest side.  A mews 8’x8′ is about the minimum for a red-tailed hawk and will suffice for smaller birds.
  • “Outdoor” (weathering) area – A weathering area is a fenced in facility where a bird is leashed to a perch during the day.  The idea is that a bird can get sun, which is good for health and feather growth, but be protected from other raptors, stray dogs and cats, and nosy neighbors and children.  It is also good to have an enclosed area even if the falconer is present to ward off danger as equipment such as leashes and jesses sometimes break.  When a hawk is in an enclosed area is cannot escape if equipment breaks.  The only requirement for a weathering area is that a bird should not be able to strike the wiring if it flies to the end of it’s leash. *EDIT* (19 Sept 2013) A weathering area isn’t required by Arkansas law.
  • Jesses – Alymeri jesses consist of a strip of leather that is folded into a “button” at one end and a slit or small hole at the other end.  The jesses are threaded through a grommet hole on the leg cuffs of a raptor and used as an attachment point for a swivel or French clip, which are attached to a leather or rope leash.  Only one pair of jesses is required by law, though you should have at least two pairs – field jesses with only a small hole and training jesses with a slit.  Field jesses are used, as would be expected, in the field as a small hole is less likely to get hung on on a branch than a slit.  A french clip is used with field jesses.  This is not a secure enough system for weathering or training, but works well in the field.  Training jesses have a slit  through with a swivel is passed.  This is nearly fool-proof and used when the bird is outside of the mews but not in the field.  Ideally a falconer should have multiple sets of field and training jesses as the leather wears out, especially during hunting season.  Jesses should be switched out at the first sign of wear to prevent loss of a bird.
Training jesses.  Note the slit.  These jesses are made of kangaroo leather and have been dyed brown.

Training jesses. Note the slit. These jesses are made of kangaroo leather and have been dyed brown.

Field jesses.  These jesses are made of kangaroo leather and are undyed.  Note the small hole instead of a long slit.

Field jesses. These jesses are made of kangaroo leather and are undyed. Note the small hole instead of a long slit.

Harris's hawk with jesses, indicated by arrow.

Harris’s hawk with jesses, indicated by arrow. © Dr. Mike Jones, via lafebervet.com

  • Leash – One flexible, weather resistant leash.  Leather was historically used but most falconers have switched to synthetic material.  One of the best leash materials is braided nylon construction line.  Three pieces of line are braided together with a loop in one end, resulting in an incredible strong, sun- and weather-resistant leash.
My braided nylon leash.  I picked bright colors so I can find it if it's dropped in the field.  It's rather short and I should probably make a second leash for the weathering area.

My braided nylon leash. I picked bright colors so I can find it if it’s dropped in the field. It’s rather short and I should probably make a second leash for the weathering area.

  • Swivels – The best swivels available now are heavy saltwater fishing swivels, such as is available from Sampo.  These are also available through various falconry supply dealers [1] [2] [3] [4].  While it is possible to make your own swivels it really is worth the peace of mind to buy commercial swivels as they are relatively cheap.
  • Bath Container –  “A suitable container for each raptor two to six ( 2″- 6″ ) inches deep and wider than the length of the raptor”.  I’m planning on using an unused oil pan – it’s the right size, easy to clean, and doesn’t have any sharp edges that might damage weathers.  Other containers are of course available and work depending on your situation.
  • Outdoor perch – Apprentices are limited to red-tailed hawks and kestrels (red-shouldered hawks and great horned owls are also allowed, but I won’t be considering them as there is little information on them as concerns falconry, especially for apprentices) and so should stick with the bow perch.  A bow perch looks like an archery bow planted in the ground string down.  A ring is welded onto the bow onto which a leash can be tied.  The diameter of the bow is dependent upon the size of the bird – too large and it will be uncomfortable, too small and the talons with wrap around and dig into the foot.  The bow should be wrapped in natural fiber rope or astroturf.  The angle of the bow is important as  too steep or shallow of an angle can prevent the ring from sliding unhindered, thus increasing the chance a bird will become hungup.  A bow perch can have spikes on the bottom so it can be solidly planted into the ground, though I find that welding a solid plate to the bottom to be a better idea.  This allows the perch to be used indoors, inside the mews, or on ground that is frozen solid.  The bottom plate should be heavy enough to keep a bating bird from tipping the perch over.
Harris hawk on bow perch

Harris hawk on bow perch. © Western Sporting.

Gyrfalcon on a block perch.  Block perches are suitable for falcons and some broadwings.

Gyrfalcon on a block perch. Block perches are suitable for falcons and some broadwings. © Western Sporting.

  • Weighing device – Many people prefer digital scales.  These can be highly accurate and easy to use.  I prefer a triple beam balance.  It doesn’t have any batteries that can run out and shouldn’t go bad after continual daily use.  Apprentices flying a kestrel should have a scale that measures accurately to one tenth of an ounce.  Apprentices flying a red-tail would be wise to use such a scale and they won’t have to buy a second scale for smaller birds if they switch species later, but can get away with a scale that only measures to one forth of an ounce.
Ohaus triple beam balance, accurate to 1/10 gram

Ohaus triple beam balance, accurate to 1/10 gram. I still need to add a piece of PVC wrapped in astroturf to the pan for the hawk to perch on while being weighed.

That’s it for required equipment.  There is some other equipment that, while not required by law, is a good idea to have.

  • Glove – Unless you want your bird to continually punch holes in your hand, use a glove.  Even with a kestrel a glove should be used as it is easier for them to perch on a glove than your skin which will keep moving under their feet.
  • Hood – I can’t personally comment on the use of a hood.  Some falconers who fly red-tails don’t use them but others suggest hood training is the only way to go.  I am going to try it and would suggest other apprentices at least give it a go.  Falcons must be trained to the hood, though falcons aren’t available to apprentices.
Peregrine falcon in a Dutch hood.

Peregrine falcon in a Dutch hood. © Western Sporting.

  • Lure – A lure is an essential piece of falconry equipment.  Though a lure can be elaborate and realistically mimic prey it can be as simple as a piece of thick leather.  The lure is attached to a string so it can be drug along the ground or swung around the body.  Meat is tied to the lure and a falconry bird is taught that any time it sees the lure it will get a full meal.  This ensures that the lure becomes the best safety device for recalling a bird from dangerous situations or calling the bird from a tree at the end of a day of unsuccessful hunting.  A bird should respond to the lure every time it is shown.
A cheap, yet effective lure

A cheap, yet effective lure

All photos by Michael Skvarla and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license unless otherwise noted.

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