Day 58

Eagle Journal

Day 58

Jackhammer: 8lbs 5oz

Temp: 50′ / Wind: 3 mph

Hello everyone,

I started flying my gyr/peregrine falcons last week and as I’m writing this journal entry I noticed my hands, they look like I put them in a meat grinder. Gyr/peregrine hybrids are known for not liking their feet touched, for instance, while putting on transmitters, they will bite. My two knot heads take the biting part to new heights; they seem to take great pleasure in inflicting pain on me. It’s not like they are first year birds or anything; heck, Blackie is eight years old this year I think and Sputnik is 4 years old. They are flown every day during the winter, adding up to hundreds of flights. You’d think they would get over it by now, but no they bite the living hell out of me! They do settle down some as the season goes on, I have to say, but my hands still hurt.

 The new male eagle:

I have to think of a name for him, so if anyone has any ideas e-mail them to me; that’s how JH was named by the way. I have been feeding him in a way that brings him closer and closer to me. I’m not sure if that’s a smart move but, nevertheless, that’s what I’m doing and he is not shy about coming in on food. He does have a look about him that makes me a little nervous, like he’s one heartbeat away from coming after me. The other day he grabbed the food and landed on the perch that is next to the exit door with me still standing in the flight chamber. I would have had to open the door in such a way as to be very close to him, at eye level, and in a very exposed position, so I waited him out and when he finished he moved over. He is still trying to get a read on me and I do not want any confrontations with him where he thinks he has the upper hand. Seeing that he is free in the flight chamber all I could do would be to retreat. But so far he has not come after me.

 Widow:

She is fat as a pig and busy growing a new tail and eating large amounts of food, which is keeping JH working.

 JH:

The responsibility to feed Widow (the bottomless pit) and the new male eagle puts JH under a lot of pressure; but I think he is up to it. Something’s going on with the jack rabbits down in my flying area. I hunted 4 fields and only saw 5 jacks?  I am planning on going very early on Saturday to see if that produces more rabbits. I can not recall a time when I found so few numbers. A couple of reasons for this could be dogs/coyotes running around hunting the fields at night or another falconer or falconers hunting the fields. I have seen some stray dogs in the area; in fact, one was a female with pups and I know there are coyotes there as well. While walking the fields I did see a strange human track which is unsettling because if there is another falconer out with a bird I hope we do not cross paths might not be good.

 

After hunting the speed field and the FFH, I made a wide circle through the pole field. Up to this point I had only caught a fleeting glimpse of one jack slipping out the back side of the field. In the middle of the field however, JH launched, flew across heading for the road, did a wing-over, and caught a jack rabbit. I then hunted my way back to my truck and drove over to the goat field. Walking just about the entire field without seeing a single jack rabbit I was a bit concerned. As I turned towards my truck a jack popped up from a classic hiding spot and ran straight away. JH, not having seen a jack in the last 40 minutes, flew this one down with attitude. You can see from the picture he was not thinking about giving up his jack anytime soon. But he did give it up without much fuss.

 Since the release of our DVD Eagle Journal the Movie I have had some interesting feed back. Viewers have noted that they thought that handling and flying golden eagles was a lot more dangerous than what they saw on the DVD. I fear that I have inadvertently given people a false sense of security about handling eagles, particularly when stepping them up off a kill. The truth is that each time I step an eagle off something, I am but a heartbeat away from a trip to the emergency room. Now that may sound a bit dramatic but it’s the truth. I have, as you know, driven myself to the emergency room more than once. So I guess my point is that when I say that I stepped JH off his rabbit without much fuss, translate that as meaning I escaped without injury, because there’s a fine line each time you pick up an eagle.

 Hope all is well,

Joe