I tossed down the lure in front of Mabuhay and she immediately went for it. She grabbed it and flew back up on the perch, looking at me as if to say, “finally you gave me something to eat”. Actually, there was no food on the lure because I wanted her to trade off and feed on the glove. This way I could fly her to the lure numerous times and not have to give her too much food. For example, if the lure were garnished (had food tied to it), she would eat that food when she went to the lure and then I’d have to give her more food to step her off the lure onto my glove. Food intake is very important and would dictate how many times she or Imbulog could be flown and still be attentive enough for the following filming days. Both eagles would be filmed for seven straight days — the first days would be a snap, it was the last couple that would be a challenge. As I said before, falconry is a simple sport, hungry birds come back and fat birds fly away.
With Mabuhay sitting on the screen perch holding the lure I made my way into her. I held onto the rope tied to the lure and pulled just a little more to get her into a better position to see the meat in my glove. But she was having none of this… she jerked the lure back, flared her crest and reared her head back, telling me that she had no intention of giving up anything. I don’t think she shares well. I will admit I was slightly intimidated; this eagle could do serious damage to me. Go to the hospital kind of damage! Up until now, with her tied to the screen perch, I could stand just outside the ‘circle of death’, as I called it. This circle was the length of the leash and I knew I was safe as long as there was no equipment failure. But now I needed to move into the ‘circle of death’ in order to get her off the lure and onto my arm. She was not sure what to make of me moving in on her and, with her crest still flared, she now had both wings and tail open. In eagle language this means, “I’m not happy and I’m about to show you just how unhappy I am about you coming close to me”. And, to think, I agreed to be here!
I moved in closer, pulling the lure rope through my gloved fingers, all the while still holding the juicy, and hopefully, very tempting rabbit leg. I knew that the only way I was going to get the lure away was if she let go of it; there was no possibility of slipping it away from her, none. I thought that as the meat came closer and she started to eat, she would let go of the lure. She did eat the rabbit on my arm but stayed locked onto the lure. When she jumped back to the perch the lure was still in her grasp. I needed to get the lure away from her before she destroyed it — I still needed it for Imbulog.
I tied the lure rope to the door of the chamber, walked around Mabuhay to the other end of the perch and placed a chunk of rabbit meat on the perch. I then went back and grabbed the lure rope. She wanted that meat badly and the only way she could reach it was to let go of the lure. I could see the wheels turning in her head and saw her starting to release her death grip. As soon as she let go to grab the meat, I jerked the lure away and quickly shoved it into my falconry vest, out of sight. I just stood there. Mabuhay swallowed the meat in one gulp and came at me with bad intentions. But I was standing just outside the ‘circle of death’; this was not my first rodeo. We both looked at each other for a moment and I said, “I have no idea where that lure went, it must have run away”. Mabuhay must have believed me because she closed her wings, moved a few steps to the side and shook all her feathers. She was content.
Now it was Imbulog’s turn…how could it go any worse. I entered his chamber and the second he realized that I was bringing him food, he became very vocal and spread his wings and tail, acting like an imprint. I found this strange because he had spent two years in the wild until he was found eating farm animals, probably dogs and cats. So for him to make such a dramatic personality change was odd to me. If he truly was an imprint it could either work in my favor or go horribly wrong. Improperly raised imprinted raptors can be very dangerous, so a massively powerful Philippine eagle that has a taste for primates could be a very big problem. I thought, oh boy, here we go!
I pulled out the lure and he instantly went for it; he was on it before it even hit the ground. Despite their size, Philippine eagles are very quick and fast. Now that he had the lure, it was time to move in and see if I could trade him off. For me, this was the moment of truth because I was at my most vulnerable. I did not have control of his feet so he could grab me anywhere, including my face, as I bent down to pick him up. Here goes… I bent over, placing my glove on top of the lure with another enticing morsel of rabbit leg in my gloved hand. Imbulog leaned back and raised one leg up at me. To this day, I don’t know if he was going to strike at me or what, but as his leg came up I moved in closer. He saw the meat, grabbed it, came up off the lure and finished his meal on the glove. I proclaimed, “I’ve got them, send over the film crew!!”
Now the fun would start…………