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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Stubborn and smart birds

I arrived a bit earlier today.  It was cloudy with a threat of rain, 60"s.  My favorite kind of weather.  The blackbirds were greater in numbers today. Many animals increase foraging activity prior to stormy weather.    I flew my second oldest harris hawk first.  A nice Ford 4WD arrived and it can old two hawks.  I drove it around to get the 'feel'. and learn it's limitations, and I even got it stuck. We got it loose with digging and rocking it back and forth.  Thanks guys.  The muddy areas are really muddy and I have to stay on the drier ground, even with 4WD.  My harris' hawks did move the blackbirds around and they move but it takes time.   The blackbirds see the hawk and eventually realize it's not going away and they move on.  But I need a more immediate response of them to flee. I discussed with the farm manager that having the 15 foot poles for the hawks to fly back and forth with would really help.  For when the hawks fly and land on the ground due to not having a perch to land on.  The effectiveness greatly diminishes.   I was very, very tempted to fly the falcons, but they are still just a bit to heavy.  Also they were acting non-ready for flying.   I took time to see what the attraction of the damage to the peppers was.  They break into the top, around the seed crown.  They pick the seeds out and move on to another pepper.  As the rains started, I stayed and walked around with the falcons on the glove.  For them to get familiar with the area. I went down to where the coots/moorhens hung and and the gyr hybrid showed great interest in chasing them.  Rains started to get steady, a light farmers rain.  And I was forced to leave to make sure I can get my truck out.  I described driving in on the mud and soft sand as driving in the snow.  I keep a steady speed of 20-25mph leaving to keep from getting it stuck.  Wildlife seen on the way in:  Caracaras, bald eagle, were the highlights and the resident kestrel on the farm is always a joy to watch.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Day two. Pepper farm

Got up early, and ready for the day.  I took time to weather the hawks behind the camper.  For they needed some time to bathe and drink.  I kept them there until about 8:00 then put them back in their enclosures.  I was planning to weather them prior to dawn under lights, but the lights were out.  I got to the farm at 9:00.  I did not get stuck today.  I drove quickly through the sugar sand areas, then did not drive around the farm. I parked by the equipment and left the truck there.  I walked around for my abatement tasks with the hawks.   My truck is a highway towing truck not set up for off-road conditions.  The grackles are smart and stubborn.  I set up all 4 t posts (love the extra height of the 16 foot one) and th e 8 foot high rotating rings.  The hawks use them a lot.  I saw this morning a wild kestrel, hunting bugs around the farm equipment.  She also made the grackles move.  When I put up the hawks, the resident red-shouldered hawks often get territorial, always vocalizing.  Sometimes diving at the hawks or falcons.  Smaller raptors are a peril with the RSH.  I have had a barbary falcon lost for 4 days from the RSH chasing him around on his initial flight.  I flew the hawks and the grackles move --- well eventually.  They do move but it takes time.  They mostly shift around then when the hawks don't leave after a while.  The grackles do move one.  My one 'silly' harris hawk who is a clumbsy flyer was taken to the back standing water.  Some coots were flushed and flew after them  I was surprised at her doing that.  For she is not a confident hawk, but she sticks with me and is very reliable.  The second oldest hawk was also being flown and she decided to visit the local red-shouldered hawks.I want to fly the agile male HH and flew him some, but with his weight up.  He was just sitting around.  He HATES the red-shouldered and will chase them if challenged.  When I got the telemetry out.  The farm will be providing me a 4WD so I may get quickly to the areas where I am needed rather than walk.

Note:   These things make the most effective falconry abatement business model.   Housing with electric and drinkable water  and sewer (or portable toilets) at the flight fields and areas.   I discussed this with some western abatement falconers and they agree.  Staying at the flight field is crucial for effectiveness.  A shaded weathering area for the hawks to take break, bathe and drink.  And a 4WD vehicle for taking the hawks quickly to where they are needed.  Some farms realize that abatement is part of their pest management and have set up quarters for the falcones and a fenced, covered weathering yard, and even some falconry mews at their farms.  This is thee first abatement job I've ever had to drive to to start my day.  Not just step out my camper in the morning at I am at work.

For abatement is a very time consuming profession.  Personal time, even shopping for supplies, laundry and meals are very limited during abatement hours.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

New assignment, pepper farm, south florida

It is the specialty peppers being damaged by grackles.  The typical eating one hole in a ripe pepper rendering it useless for market.  After going to the fields (way out in the middle of nowhere).  I brought the hawks out mid-day.  My husband left at 10:30 to head back home after helping me set up.  I flew 2 harris hawk to see how the grackles react.  The challenge here is not perches in the fields for the hawks to land on and intimidate the grackles.   I have told the grower that putting up 15 foot high telephone poles in the fields would also bring in the wild hawks to help with the bird issue.  The grackles sit on the stakes and pick the peppers, and socialize.  I flew two of the Harris' hawks.  For they are easy to fly.  The falcons weight are still too high in weight.  With the warm spell we had last month, it was hard to get them back to flying weight.   Also, I will need access to a 4x4 to get around the fields more efficiently.  My 2wd truck got stuck 4 times.  So I will have to remain parked between the two fields in the equipment area, the truck is a 7.3 diesel and is very front heavy.  But great milage, 23 driving 16 towing.     The equipment has places where I can stick the T posts and move the hawks around.  One hawk made a pass at the grackles and scattered them further down the rows.  So, I walked on foot with her on the perch.  She did very well and stuck with me.  I did not get a chance to weather the hawks at all.  So, I will weather pre-dawn in the morning and get them out as early as I can.  If I don't offer them water in the morning and a bath.  They take off looking for water to bathe and drink from.  I prefer to control how the quality of the water they come in contact with.