Tag Archives: mews

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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Introducing Jebe

Allen and I drove down to Little Rock for the telemetry scrimmage today.  On the way we passed an enormous red tail; Cody and/or Bob said they thought it was a balloon caught on the wire before they realized it was a hawk.  I thought about trapping it but decided not to as I didn’t want to sock a bird for 3 hours during the scrimmage or drive straight back to Fayetteville.

After the telemetry scrimmage while driving to lunch Allen and I (following behind Cody and Bob) passed a red tail hanging out on a power pole next to an industrial park.  I thought it looked like a juvenile and after a bit of hem-hawing for twenty or thirty seconds decided to turn around.  As I was turning Cody called, confirmed it was a RT, and asked if I was going to trap it.  I told him I would and would let him know how it went.

After passing the bird and turning around again, Allen tossed the BC trap with Russian hamster 5′ off the highway on a side road to the industrial park.  We turned around and waited.  The bird was obviously interested, bobbing it’s head and looking at the trap.  It swooped down onto the trap after a minute or two.  I eased the car up because the trap was on the far side of a small rise in the road.  The bird was oblivious to us, the cars on the highway, and the truck that rumbled past it on the  side road.  The bird footed the trap for a minute and Bam! was caught.  She immediately tried to fly off and drug the trap into the highway.  I was out of the car and running as fast as I could because I could just picture the hawk splattered on the highway.  I got to the bird and a truck was slowing down at the spectacle we were making.  In retrospect I need to add more weight and a drag line.  I got lucky, but it could have ended in disaster.

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I trapped a bird!

Allen and I socked and hooded the bird and drove to lunch.  Everyone thought it was a relatively large bird and worth keeping.  After lunch I cuffed, jessed, and leashed the bird so it could stand on the fist and slice.  Which it did while bating.  All over my arm.

Instead of socking the bird again, Allen was kind enough to drive my car back to Fayetteville while I held the hooded bird on the fist in the back seat.  She sliced onto the seat cover and Allen’s shoulder twice while we traveled.  The feces were brown, so she’d eaten relatively recently and there weren’t any bloody specks or other oddities about it.

After three hours of driving and five minutes from home the bird started making a hacking noise.  I smelled something rank and, worried she couldn’t get whatever she was throwing up through the hood, I struck the braces and unhooded her in the backseat.  The bird cast up some more rancid-smelling meat and, realizing where she was, promptly bated toward the window.  She hung from the fist, thankfully, and I laid her on her back where she stayed for the rest of the trip with that freshly-trapped hawk stare.

After we got home the bird I stood her up on the fist.  She bated a few times, but then stood on the fist without bating for two or three minutes.  She’s chilling out in the mews with cardboard over the window to keep it dark while she mans.  She weighed in at 1195.5g.

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She’s not sure about this situation at all.

I asked Cody and Heath about the smelly meat.  They suggested she probably gorged on Thursday and didn’t put all of it over yesterday.  There was less than half a tidbit’s worth of meat that came up, and she’s a healthy (if a bit stressed right now) bird, so should be alright.  I’m going to keep an eye on her to make sure it doesn’t develop into sour crop, but I think she’ll be alright.  I have pedialyte and apple cider vinegar on hand just in case though.

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Sitting on the bow perch

Over dinner I decided to name the new hawk Jebe (pronounced Jeh-beh) after one of Genghis Khan’s generals. It translates to “The Arrow” in Mongolian because he shot the Khan in the neck during a battle.  He voluntarily confessed to the shot, saying “if Genghis Khan desired to kill him, it was his choice, but if he would let him live, he would serve Genghis Khan loyally”. Jebe went on to become one of the best (top 3) generals in history.

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Look at those feet!

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Releasing Ögedei

I’ve been meaning to write this post for the last few months but just haven’t gotten around to it.  I applied to a job and Cleveland at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, which took some effort getting to material and letters together, and then we found out my wife is pregnant, so I’ve been putting in as much time at work as possible trying to get ahead of everything.

Anyway.  I stopped hunting Ogedei at the end of February when rabbit and squirrel seasons closed.  I started feeding him one and a half to double rations a day in two feedings.  He put on a lot of weight and got quite sassy after three weeks.  I didn’t really realize how much he’d reverted until it was the day I was going to release him.  I could not for the life of me get Ogedei into the giant hood.  I ended up removing all of the perches except the window perch.  I chased him and he ran around on the floor, landed on my head, flew to the perch.  Rinse, repeat.  Finally he made the mistake of flying into the equipment room, which is only 4’x8′.  I closed the door to the mews and finally cornered him.  I ended up grabbing him around the wings and body and putting him head first into the giant hood.  I closed the door enough he couldn’t get out but left enough room and light he could turn around.  After he was situated I closed the hood and loaded him into the car.

The release spot I picked was a 45 minute drive away along an overgrown power line cut in the Ozark National Forest.  I opened the giant hood and expected him to bolt out, but he didn’t.  Ten seconds rolled by and then Blam!  A rush of feathers and he was off.  Ogedei perched in a tree 50 yards away or so and seemed quite content.  We watched him for a few minutes and I said my goodbyes.  I whirled a dead quail around, made sure it had his attention, and threw it to the base of the tree he was in.  We drove off after that; I don’t know if he decided to take my last gift, but I like to think he did.

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The last shot I have of Ogedei

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Here he is if you couldn’t tell from the last shot

Since I released Ogedei, the summer has been pretty boring, at least as falconry goes. The only thing that really happened is that I cleaned the mews, which took the better part of the morning.  I pulled out the rubber mats and wetted them down to loosen the dried whitewash, then scrubbed them off in the yard.  After they were set out to dry I did the same thing with the inside of the mews.  I did all of that with a paper mask on to reduce the chance of catching a respiratory illness, what with the aerated water droplets floating around after contacting bird poop.

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Scrubbing the rubber matting and perches down

Other than that, there’s reading books, waiting for the AHA summer picnic, cruising the falconry forums, and waiting until next season.

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Perches

There are many different kinds of perches you can use for your hawk or falcon.  Some of them are better for longwings and some for shortwings – it mostly depends on the general way the bird stands while hunting in the wild.  Most hawks hunt from tree limbs or other round structures, while most falcons hunt from cliffs or other flat surfaces.  There are of course exceptions – kestrels, for example, are falcons but can stand on either round or flat perches.  This makes sense as they often hunt from tree branches or power lines in their native habitat.  The Modern Apprentice has an excellent section on different perches.

A bow perch is perhaps the best perch for an apprentice falconer if they only have the money for one perch.  It looks, as the name suggests, like a strung bow that has be stuck in the ground.  They are small enough to be used in the mews or moved outside when the bird is weathering, and can be used for red-tails and kestrels (though must, of course, be sized appropriately).  They are relatively simple to make with a welding machine.  If you don’t have your own welder it might be possible to find a metal shop that will make one.  That’s what I did; it cost me $78 after taxes and only needed a few modifications.  Prefabricated bow perches are also available online, but they of course cost more.

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Bow perch before modifications

The Arkansas Fish & Game Commission falconry coordinator was nice enough to send blueprints for a bow perch in the falconry packet.  The base is 1/8″ thick stainless steel 5″ x 32″.  The bow is 1/2″ stainless steel tubing 24″ wide and 12″ high.  The guy who built my perch said he formed the tube around a 55 gallon drum with a hammer.  The captive ring is 3″ in diameter.

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After grinding off the corner and widening the stake hole.

A perch still needs a covering where the bird will stand.  Many people use long blade astroturf.  I couldn’t find any around town so went with manila rope.  Each end of the rope is zip tied into place and then I wound it around the tubing.  This will have to be replaced in a while after it gets soiled too heavily.  Both the astroturf and rope serve to make an uneven surface for the bird to perch on.  An even surface will eventually cause sores than can lead to bumblefoot, a catch-all term for a bacterial infection in the foot of the bird.  While bumblefoot can be cured with antibiotics the best defense is proper equipment.  That’s always cheaper than a vet bill.

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Finished bow perch

I also made a second perch for inside of the mews.  With just the bow perch the bird is near the ground and wouldn’t be able to see out the windows if it so desired.  I have to admit that the design isn’t my own, but one I saw in my sponsor’s mews.

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Bow perch below the window. It’s not high enough to allow a bird to see out the window.

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T-perch

It’s quite simple to make, just some 2x4s and a 4×4.  The 4×4 is 6.5″ tall, the 2×4’s for the feet are each 18″.  The 2×4 for the perch is a single piece of wood 2′ long.  I measured out where it would attach to the 4×4 and cut one side into a round shape 1.5″ in diameter.  This will allow the bird to choose if it wants to stand on a round or flat surface.  I wrapped manila rope around the round and flat ends and attached the rope with staples.

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Bottom of the t-pech

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Each foot is secured with two screws to the main post and one screw to the adjoining foot.

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Top of the t-perch

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T-perch with manila rope added. Note the individually stapled strands across the middle

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Mews IV

Parts I, II, and III.

I may not have said it before, but I wanted to have the front of the hawk room be mostly windows so I could get away with weathering the bird outside less than if the windows were small.   I decided to have an “open” and a “not-so-open” window.  The “not-so-open” window was made with vertical 2″x6″ boards spaced 3/4″ apart.  This will allow some light and air flow, but is relatively concealed if the hawk wants to hide.  The “open” window is made with schedule 40 1/2″ PVC pipes spaced 3/4″ apart.  The 3/4″ spacing is the largest recommended by The Modern Apprentice for small birds such as a kestrel or merlin.  If you only plan on flying a red tail or other medium to large birds 1.5″ is fine.  I’d like to eventually fly a kestrel or Cooper’s hawk, so went with the smaller spacing.

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Unlike the 2x4s that stuck out the back the PVC fit entirely into the car. It just had to touch the windshield to do so.

The PVC was a bit flimsy by itself and I worried about it breaking under the strain of a red tail crashing into them.  I added the crossbeam to strengthen the pipes.  It seems to have worked well.

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Detail of the PVC window during construction. Screws were driven through each pipe and the top, center, and bottom to make them more secure. I’m hoping this doesn’t weaken the structural integrity too much.

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All the pipes in place. They pass through the crossbeam in the middle

After the panels were build I carried them into the back yard.  I’m stubborn and didn’t ask for help doing this.  I was sore for a couple days after – the panels are pretty hefty, especially pieces with extra 2x4s such as the door and window panels.

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Most of the panels laid out in the yard waiting to be assembled.

I did get some help installing one panel.  We had Josh, a guy from church who is going to watch out dogs in a few weeks, over for dinner and I co-opted while the steaks were cooking.  I needed the help with the panel too, it was the only one that I couldn’t hold both panels and drill or tighten a bolt.

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I don’t own a ladder so I used a bucket. This will have to change before I put the roof on.

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Josh stood on the bucket behidn the mews so I was left reaching for the bolt as he tightened it.

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The first set of panels assembled.

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More panels assembled

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The roof panels were screwed to 2×4’s bolted to the inside of the walls. I didn’t want to screw them directly to the walls so it’s easier to disassemble.

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Mews with a partial roof

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Finished mews

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Finished mews, right side
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Mews, left side

All in all the mews cost:

Number            Item                                                                           Price

    115                   8′ 2×4                                                                      $350.06

    4                     8′ 2×6                                                                       $18.76

     6                    8′ 4×4                                                                       $43.02

    12                     3/8″ 4×8′ plywood                                              $193.32

     3                     15/32″ 4×8″                                                            $55.11

     12 lbs               3″ and 2.5″ wood screws                                     $74.58

     29                   3/8″x5″ bolt                                                           $121.03

     25                  3/8″x6″ bolt                                                            $18.97

      8                   3/8″x8″ bolt                                                             $7.74

     69                   3/8″ Hex nuts                                                         $7.68

     100                  3/8″ washers                                                          $18.84

     15                   10′ schedule 40 1/2″ PVC pipe                            $26.40

     2                     Window bolt (for doors)                                      $5.92

     3                    Utility door handles                                               $9.84

     4                    Door hinge                                                               $10.32

     1                     Locking door clasp                                                 $7.29

     5 gallons white paint, paint roller, brush, paint tray            $87.71

     1 gallon white paint                                                                      $10.97

              TOTAL                                                                                            $1060.27

The actual cost is just a bit lower than this as I bought way too many washers and have some bolts left over.  Additionally, longer scraps of 2×4 have been used to build a perch.

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Mews III

Mews I, Mews II

The mews is coming along, albeit slower than I’d like.  The wall panels are all assembled and the last few are being painted.  I’m shooting to have some guys over next week or weekend to help me bolt the walls together – I’m sure beer and burgers will be a suitable bribe offer to get them to come over.  I should probably decide on the floor substrate sometime soon….

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We got a second car – a Hyundai Santa Fe – as I’ll be using our first car for hawking when I finally get a bird. Oh, and the whole baby thing will probably happen sooner rather than later, so we needed a vehicle with more space. It was pretty nerve wracking driving 50 mph down a major road with only a set of ratchet straps holding three sheets of plywood in the back.

I should admit before someone catches it that I’m an idiot.  The main room of the mews where the bird will live needs to be 8′ x 8′.  In my head I planned on having two 4’x8′ panels side by side on the front and back walls (making an 8′ x 8′ wall) and one panel for each side wall.  That obviously only makes a 4′ x 8′ x 8′ room, but I didn’t catch that for some reason.  Now the big problem is that the side walls have a slope to them, a 1′ drop for every 4′ to be exact, so I couldn’t just build the extra panels and put them in.  I therefore decided to extend the back side of the mews up to 9′ and had to construct 1′ x 4′ spacers for the back wall and sloped spacers for the side walls to make up the extra room.

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Spacers being constructed.

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I rained today and I was forced to paint inside. I’m basically out of floor space in the garage and have some panels I haven’t started painting yet.

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Mews, part II

If you missed the first post I made about mews and building my own mews, you can find it here.

This is only a brief update about how my mews are coming.  It’s taking a lot longer to build it then I thought it would take and I have less free time than I expected. I bought some more 2×4’s, enough to finish making the wall panels.  It’s taking awhile to get all of the wood because it’s pretty expensive and I can only fit so much in the back of our Elantra.

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Sarah and I buying 21 2×4’s

I still need to buy the wood and plastic for a roof, as well as the 4×4’s for corner posts, but it’s certainly coming along.

I only finished one panel and half-finished two others since my first post about mews.  The two that are half finished are the front panels that will have barred windows.  I don’t have to 2×6’s and 2×3’s to make the windows, but the frames and bottom panels are assembled and both are painted.

The panel that I finished I’m actually rather proud of.  Sarah brought home a piece of glass, 36″x24″ or something like that.  I thought I’d frame the glass and install it on the side panel for the equipment room to allow some light to get in.  I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it when I realized the simplest solution – cut a channel into the mid-brace 2×4 and then cut a second brace and two side pieces to frame the glass.  Cutting the channels wasn’t overly difficult with a radial arm saw, though I was a bit worried the whole time about the blade catching the wood and shooting it out into the driveway.  I ended up having to offset the blade just a hair from the center line and making two passes, flipping the wood around for the second pass, as the glass was wider than the saw blade.

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Cutting the channels in the window framing.

This left a thin strip of wood, perhaps 1/64″ to 1/32″ thick between the blade cuts.  It was easy enough to remove with a wide wood chisel.

After cutting the channels I painted the window frame pieces and the rest of the partly assembled panel – didn’t want to get paint of the glass once it was installed.

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Window framing, after painting

I had to cut the section out of the panel where the window was going to be installed.  I ended up propping the panel up on some 2×4’s and using a circular saw.  It may have not been the safest way to cut the hole, but it worked.

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Painted panel before cutting the window hole.

After that the panel was as easy to assemble as all the rest of the panels, predrilling some holes and zipping screws in.

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Panel with the framed window in place

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Closer detail of the window

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The cordless drill died after I predrilled the holes but before I could put in most of the screws. I laid a screw next to each hole so it would be quicker to finish when the battery charged. Sarah kept calling it my art project, and I thought it was even more so when it was illuminated by the car headlights.

So far the total cost of materials breaks down like this:

35 2×4’s – $136.53

9 3/8″ 4×8′ plywood – $146.01

5 lbs 3″ wood screws – $30.16

5 gallons white paint, paint roller, brush, paint tray – $87.71

TOTAL = $400.41

As I said earlier, I still need to buy material for the roof, as well as hinges for the doors and figure out what I’ll do for the floor, so this price will go up a bit more.

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