Weekly Eagle Journal

Jackhammer and Mini-me 2008-2009

November 6th, 2008 Posted in Jackhammer and Mini-Me 08-09 | No Comments »

Jackhammer and Mini-me

2008-2009

Jackhammer (JH) is my most experienced golden eagle. He is 5 years old and has caught a ton of game in 5 different states. He is not an easy bird to fly. He is a full imprint but not in a nice way. Having been sick as a youngster and being force fed medicine, he is not overly fond of people. He is very aggressive, is quite moody, and looks at everything as a target/food. Like I said, JH is not an easy eagle to hunt, but once past all that you get a very fast eagle that loves to kill things. Cordi said it best when she said JH has a completely different look than all the other eagles we have flown, like he is on fire.

 

Mini-Me (MM) has touched my heart from the first day I saw him when he was trying to grab me as I stood looking at him in a big flight chamber. MM is also a full on imprint with major health problems that I have talked about in other journal entries.  I have caught jacks with MM but he can be a little tricky to fly, as I never know when he might decide to come after me. But he does try hard at hunting and wants to be good.

 

So this then is the start of the 2008-9 hunting season for JH and MM 

Widow Nov 3, 2008

November 6th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

Nov 3 2008

Widow

9 lbs 10oz

After flying Widow all summer and up into the coming winter she still has not taken anything wild. I don’t think that this is all bad; she caught many wild jacks in California so the skill is there. Widow has mastered the art of soaring, that is for sure. She can stay in the air for hours and has on many occasions. Widow is in perfect feather and our plan is to start her up in the spring again, get her in condition and release her. She is ready. I considered releasing her now but frankly she’d have an easier time of it in the spring, so that is the plan for Widow. We hope you have enjoyed the journey, so, until spring or as far as Widow goes, see you then.

9/17/08

September 18th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

September 17, 2008

This past week Cordi and I have been filming Widow taking bagged pheasants in mid-air. Widow has given us some spectacular flights. Like today’s flight — she was at roughly 1500 feet when I served her. She came down with tremendous speed and bound to the pheasant which, in itself, was spectacular to see, but the thing that is unreal is the sound, which we got on tape. She sounds like a jet coming in, unbelievable. Widow flew for the better part of an hour and, in the process, dropped her deck feather with the tail mount transmitter on it. We did not know this until I reached around to take it off and, oops, nothing there. Luckily, I was able to track it not too far away and found it lying in the field.

Widow 9/11/08

September 18th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

September 11, 2008

 

 

Our weather has just the hint of fall in it. The mornings are cool and the daytime temps are not going over the mid 70’s. The last few flights with Widow have not gone well. I had come across some wild slips while driving in the BLM so I attempted to fly her on them. The end result was she didn’t fly well. So I went back to basics and took her back up on the big hill as a refresher. I was pleased to see her go up right away and as she was gaining height a large female first year eagle came in fast and bound to Widow. They both went cart wheeling towards the ground and, just before smashing into the ground, they released and flew off in opposite directions. Then, from out of nowhere, three more eagles showed up, two more females and one male. One of the females was an adult, most likely their mother. They all soared with Widow and finally the wild eagles went off and specked out, off on some adventure to be sure. Widow came over me and I called her down to the lure, and launched her off again, only to call her in once more. On the third flight I launched a pheasant which flew out over the valley. Widow was directly over me at about 2000 ft when I served her the pheasant. The second she saw the pheasant Widow folded up and stooped, hitting the pheasant and killing it dead in the air. I could hear the sizzle as she came in with tremendous speed and, whack, end of flight.

August 30, 2008

September 18th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

August 30, 2008

The wind was predicted to blow today so I was eager to get up on the mountain before it blew too much. Widow can fly in big wind but high wind will change how you can hunt and with the wind coming from the NE I went to a ridgeline where Widow could stay over me. It was so cool — I pulled up, wired her up, launched her off and she was instantly up and over the truck. I then got the dogs out, put the bagged pheasant in my vest, and walked out over the ridge.

Widow was in perfect position, watching the dogs work the brush. Wanting to reward her for being in position, I waited as long as I could, checked one more time to see that she was still in position and out came the pheasant. With the strong wind blowing up the canyon the pheasant flew well, going along the ridge and finally landing on the top. Widow was in a full tuck, coming in like a lawn dart, and just as Widow arrived Thistle got there and reflushed the pheasant which flew out across the top ridge line and then, suddenly realizing that all was not good, did a very radical dip and stoop to the ground. As Widow came in the pheasant went for a smallish sage bush but not fast enough. Widow came in and snagged the pheasant just as it tried to hide in the bush. Thistle, continuing to run up on the scene, came up on Widow just fast enough that she launched in the air carrying the pheasant. I was over on the next canyon and saw my eagle take off, gaining height with each turn. I gotta say, in all the years I have been flying birds, I have never seen a bird flying up in a soar carrying a full grown pheasant! I thought, at that moment, that I had just messed up my Saturday because Widow could go anywhere and would crop up and I would have a difficult time finding her. I went up higher to a more open area and began swinging the lure and calling her. To my great relief, Widow came in still holding the pheasant, grabbed the lure and dropped the pheasant at my feet! Talk about dodging a bullet! Cool flight, but man, it could have been nightmare. I went home.

Widow 8/28/08

September 18th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

August 28 2008

Widow

Temp 52’

Wind 1-2mph

My theory of why Widow has been reluctant or unwilling to fly is holding true. Her new feathers are almost all the way out and, not surprising, she is back flying once again. The last two days out she has started to look like the old Widow, hunting for thermals, finding them, and going up to ridiculous heights before coming over. Today I stooped her to the lure 3 times and then planned on serving her a pheasant. She was way up in a thermal with 5 ravens and an adult male golden eagle that made a pass at her thinking, I am sure, that she was carrying something (her jesses). The ravens stooped at her and were generally making a nuisance of themselves but Widow paid them little notice. I waited until she was in position to serve her but she was still way too high in the sky and by the time she got down the pheasant was already being retrieved back to the truck by Thistle. Two things: the domestic pheasants do not fly long enough and Widow is too high. I know how to get birds to go higher but getting one to go lower. I’ll have to think about that one.

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Widow 8/22/08

September 18th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

August 22, 2008

The last six days Cordi and I were visited by our friend Elizabeth Schoultz from New York. She was out here to see Widow fly and to observe the other eagles being handled. We flew Widow each day with little success. She spent most of her time sitting on the side of a hill. Her weight was down slightly; I had lowered it on purpose because I wanted her to be more focused on me. Since I thought she might be too hungry, hence her unwillingness to fly, I raised her weight back up to over 9lbs. This, however, did little as far as her flying. I still think her lack of desire to soar is due to the large number of new feathers coming in that are still heavy in blood. Widow now has three primaries on each wing and four tail feathers all coming in at the same time and it stands to reason they could be tender. I have said this before, but I have watched many eagles going in on jacks very carefully, making sure they dont hit their feathers while they are in blood.

So my plan was to give her some days off and hope that they grew enough that she would be willing to take to the air once again. On Thursday we went up to the hill and the wind was blowing quite hard. I took a reading with my wind speed instrument and it read 43mph; that is stronger than I have ever flown any bird in. We could barely open the truck doors. I launched Widow off my fist out over the cliff edge and she went into a full tuck with her wings just to stay near us. Widow had little trouble flying in the strong wind but, for us, it was difficult to stand and a little dicey walking on the rocks, trying to keep ones balance and watch for snakes at the same time. Widow did give us a great show flying in this wind.. Eagles are amazing birds.

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Widow 8/17/08

September 18th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

August 17, 2008

The last two times out Widow has not flown very well. I went up into the mountains last week and flew her in a valley that I have found jacks in before and all she did was sit on the side of a hill never really going anywhere or doing anything. Today was not much different. She was reluctant to fly much, just going on short flights and landing. The plan was to bag her on another pheasant if she flew well. I finally picked her up and we drove up on the bigger mountain and I launched her from there. This time she did go up and way out over the valley and we ended up having to track her, finding her an hour and a half later. She came down from the sky and had been in the air the whole time.

So I have several theories. She is slightly down in weight and more hungry than normal. I wanted to drop her weight; it is not a health issue. That could account for her reluctance to go far from me. Also, she is growing two primaries on both sides and I know feathers can be sore when they come in. For example, I have watched many eagles go in on jacks very carefully, clearly trying not wanting to hit or damage their new feathers, telling me that they are quite aware of them. If her primaries are tender, this could account for her not wanting to fly. In thinking about what has taken place the last two days another thing occurred to me. I am now flying her with dogs and, dogs being dogs, they need to be called back, keeping them close until Widow is in position. I use the same whistle to call the dogs as I do for Widow. Therefore, when Widow hears me whistle for the dogs she thinks I am calling her and that she will be fed soon. And lastly, maybe she just didn’t want to fly those two days.

Widow 8/12/08

September 18th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

August 12, 2008

After Widow having had a week off I was, and I don’t know why, worried that she would have forgotten everything. She didn’t, but I always do that; we go away for a few days and I think she’ll go wild. I do that with my falcons too, even Blackie who I have been flying for 12 years. I guess falconry is still a bit of a mystery to me even after a lifetime of flying birds. My plan is to continue getting Widow to come over, which she does, but to now get her dialed in on what the dogs and I are doing, namely flushing game for her.

The days start in the morning with me preparing the quail for the birds. I have, for years, removed the feet and intestines from the quail before I feed them. The reasons are simple: pen raised birds, in this case quail, walk around in droppings all day and any disease they might have could be on their feet, so I cut them off. As for the intestines quail are fed diets of corn and other grains which are still present in their system when they die and go bad and ferment. Not good, so I remove it. Anyway, I hood up JH, MM, and Widow and they all wait their turn to be weighed, worked and fed. In the case of JH and MM, they are flying to the lure. Widow, of course, is doing more.

While Widow was waiting this morning she felt it necessary to flop in her bath water.thus she was still a little wet when I launched her. She sat on the ground, rousting and fanning herself, and eventually flew off looking for a thermal. She went out and down the valley and caught one. Within 5 minutes she was a pin dot coming over me. With the two dogs running all around, I called her into the lure, gave her some reward, and launched her off once more. She went up faster, as is the norm on her second flight, and came over.

This time I was carrying a pheasant. The trouble I am facing is that she is going up way too high. Like today, she came over but was just a dot in the blue sky. I released the pheasant and I don’t think she saw it until it had flown a long ways and then she started to stoop. Both dogs were chasing the pheasant and when it landed they reflushed it. All the while, Widow was still coming almost straight down. The pheasant flew out over the grass and landed again. Maggie and Thistle were closing in at the same time that Widow was. Sometimes Thistle will want to help the bird with the catch, so it did occur to me that there could be a problem when dog and eagle both met at the pheasant at the same instant. I was much too far away to offer any help for either animal so I thought, Oh well, I hope Thistle realizes the situation and backs off. And even though Thistle might pull up and just be close, Widow could take offense to that and attack her, not good. But it all worked out. When I arrived on the scene all was well, Widow was plucking her prize and both dogs were safe.

Widow 8/2/08

September 18th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

August 2, 2008

With a bagged pheasant in the truck and both dogs, Maggie and Thistle, and Widow of course, I drove out into the BLM. I have found a place that is down from where I have been flying her on the big mountain. The road works its way back into the canyons and finally ends up on top of the hills in a huge open area of grassland. I thought Id fly her over the grass thinking that she would have a better chance at the pheasant, regardless of which way it flew. Not that I am worried about whether she could catch it or not, I just want a very positive experience for her. Surprisingly, a strong north wind blew in and I wondered if she would go up today or just hang around on the hillside. Actually, I felt she would try and go up but the wind would make it difficult.

Widow flew alongside of the hill and disappeared on the other side, flying downwind. I waited for a good 20 minutes and did not see her. I did, however, have a faint signal that told me she was way downwind to the south. I then drove up on top of the mountain she had flown around so I could get a better view of the valley below. The signal was gaining in strength, telling me she was in the air but where? I scanned the sky with my binoculars and still could not locate her, but I knew she was up over me somewhere. I decided to get the dogs and my hawking vest and start walking out into the field, thinking this would bring her closer. So, with my receiver in hand, I walked out into the grass. Not all that far from the truck the signal changed and was the same strength in all directions, 360. That meant Widow was straight over me and very high up. I kept looking and, like a shark, Widow appeared out of the blue sky, still ridiculously high but at least I could see her now. My exact words were holy shit! as I saw her position and pitch. I immediately reached for the pheasant, launched it, and yelled. Widow did one of those moves that eagles can do where they seem like they don’t see anything and suddenly they are on it, not quite a wingover but similar, with the end result being a streaking eagle looking to eat something.

The pheasant flew in a big wide circle, 15 feet or so off the ground, and went out a long ways with Widow in a full stoop but still very high up. The pheasant landed,

started to run, and then froze. Both dogs locked on point on the hiding pheasant and Widow was still coming! The scene was unfolding right in front of me. I hollered whoa to the dogs and checked to see where Widow was. She was still coming. I waited a moment and then sent the dogs in to reflush the pheasant. Maggie got there first and found the pheasant which took to the air in a flash. The pheasant flew in a half circle from my right to left, across in front of me, and then went in a straight line away from me. Widow, having been checking her speed, thinking she was going to catch the pheasant on the ground, hit the afterburners and came right over my head, closing on the pheasant quickly, and slammed into the bird, driving it to the ground in a cloud of dust and feathers. Both Maggie and Thistle came running up, doing what they have been taught to do — get close to my bird and sit down waiting for me to get there. Their presence at the scene of the kill has kept many an eagle away from my falcons. Now, instead, I need to be worried for my dogs with the eagle!