Tag Archives: shortwing

Falconry on the Black Sea coast

Neat short piece on falconry with sparrowhawks in Turkey. It’s a different form of falconry than is practiced in the West – the hawk is caught, manned in a few days, hunted for a month, and then released to complete it’s migration.

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I’ve been a pretty hopeless blogger recently. At least part of the reason is that I’ve been working on a long piece that has occupied far more of my time than it perhaps should have done.

It’s a 15,000-word article about atmacacılık, a falconry tradition practiced mainly within the Laz community in Rize and Artvin provinces. It’s about other things as well: the different kinds of cultural and environmental destruction to have afflicted that region over the past century, the tea industry, the allure of birds of prey, and the Black Sea itself. I first began working on this story nearly a year and a half ago, on and off in the background, so it’s been a long time in the works. I’m now doing edits and it will hopefully be published sometime this summer in London-based literary magazine The White Review (I wrote a piece about Gezi Park…

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March 7, 2014 · 12:57 am

“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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“The Passage Cooper’s Hawk and Those Who Fly ‘Em”

I stumbled across a thread on the NAFEX (North American Falconry Exchange) forum a few months ago advertising Bill Boni’s new book “The Passage Cooper’s Hawk and Those Who Fly ‘Em”.

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Front cover

I’m intrigued by Coops and would like to fly one some day so decided to get the book.  The book is self published and in the thread Bill gave instructions on how to get a copy (basically mail him $20).  The thread can be found here:

http://www.nafex.net/archive/index.php?t-16979.html

Overall I’m very pleased with the book.  It’s set up as a series of chapters written by different austringers who have had success manning, training, and hunting passage Cooper’s hawks.  The book is pretty professionally made for a self-published book, though the pictures are a bit grainy.  There are also some mistakes as far as basic grammar, punctuation, and spelling that should have been corrected before publication, but not so many that it’s distracting to read.

Being set up as chapters of different people’s experiences has pros and cons.  There’s no single method of training spelled out in discrete steps, which might be annoying if that’s what you’re looking for.  However, after reading more than one or two chapters you start to see the commonalities between successful training and hunting regimes.

Many of the take away messages seem pretty self-evident to me, but perhaps they’re not to everyone:
1. Treat the hawk like an individual and respond to what it wants.  Don’t force a hawk to hunt from the fist if it would rather hunt from a tree.
2. Some people have success training Coops the same way they train a RT.  Other people deviate from that in various ways, such as using a strobe light in initially manning or start hunting them before they’re fully manned and finish training in the field.
3. Birds trapped at different times of year are very different.  People have had a lot of success with birds that are just out of the nest not being fed by their parents but also haven’t left the family group/nest area yet.  They have some traits of imprints in being easier to train but not the bad qualities like screaming or attacking the falconer for food. Conversely, birds trapped later in the season are still trainable but much more difficult or impossible to make do what you want; they are much more focused on hunting how they want and will not be good falconry birds if you try to force them into hunting how you want.
4. Weight control is important.  They’re small birds with pretty tight windows, though some people have had success increasing their weight as they become better trained through the season.
5. The most important point is that Cooper’s do make good falconry birds and aren’t the hell beasts some people make them out to be.  They take a lot of work and aren’t for everyone, but can be rewarding if you have the time.

All-in-all I think it’s well worth $20 (which includes shipping!), even if you’re not interested in fly a Coops.

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Bill Boni and his Cooper’s hawk, from the last page of the book.

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