Weekly Eagle Journal

Archive for the ‘Journal 2009’ Category

Field notes from my 2011 hunting log

Friday, November 18th, 2011 Posted in Journal 2009 | No Comments »

Greetings from Kansas,
 

I arrived yesterday with three eagles in my truck, JH, Davis and the female, Washington. Chase has been in the area for the past two days. His eagle, Dexter, is just the slightest bit heavy so has not been too serious about hunting, but will come around quickly.
 

I left Oregon on Monday with the idea that I could get here on Tuesday in time to fly at least two eagles before the sun set. Chase met me and we drove to some close fields that he had looked at and said they were holding jacks. 

69′, very little wind….

Jackhammer was first up, a little road weary at first but after seeing a couple of flushes he got serious. The field was covered with tumbleweeds, quite thick in places, but towards the middle of the field they thinned out and that was where he focused our hunting. It is fun to hunt in tumbleweeds because you never know which one will produce the slip. With Chase on my right side we worked the field. Jacks were breaking all around. JH, however, remained focused and ignored them. As we moved closer to a group of tumbleweeds a jack exploded from under one running at an angle to our left, nearly straight away. JH came off the fist with power and speed-closed on the jack which tried to use a tumbleweed as a shield. But JH arrived much too fast and had the first jack of our little meet. 

Jackhammer on 1st jack of trip
 

I chose to fly Washington next. She has been doing well with the conditioning and her reaction to the lure has been spot on, flying it down at over 20 mph. She is molting rather heavily and I hoped this would not affect her flying. The plan is for both Chase and I to hunt her, thus cutting the load of me flying three eagles. We entered a field that had tumbleweeds in it but they were small and should not pose any issues with the eagle. Picking the right field for an inexperienced eagle is everything. Too much cover is not good, too little cover is not good; you need just the right amount to give the young eagle the opportunity for success. There were not loads of jacks in this field and Chase and I walked a long ways only getting a few flushes. Time was starting to become an issue so Chase broke off to fly his male eagle and I continued to hunt Washington. I began working the edge of the field that was boarded by completely plowed ground, not one stick of anything left. The open ground is not the place for a young eagle; that is JH country but not for this female, not yet anyway. But jacks like to sit on the edges of fields giving them options on where they can run. I walked along, working my way back and forth moving slowly through the tumbleweeds so as to not flush the jacks too far away.  Off to my left a jack burst from cover and flashed into the open field moving straight away from me. Washington locked on the running jack and launched on a coarse that was directly parallel to the running jack rabbit. As they both reached the end of the tumbleweed field the jack accelerated across the open dirt road heading out into CRP. Washington banked and came straight down the dirt road, slamming into the large jack sideways with a whole lot of attitude. She was quite pleased with herself after making her first kill. I was just as happy to see the light come on in her eyes, realizing that this is what she was made to do. All the preparation that went into getting her ready for this moment paid off. I traded her off to a nice chunk of quail and put a satisfied eagle back in the truck.

Washington with her first

Washington with her first

 

Next was Davis’ turn. Last year he took 4 jacks all in good style so I am hopeful he’ll do as well this trip. Time was running short, as the sun was going down fast. I never like flying late in the afternoon for this very reason… I hate racing the sun! But with no other choice I headed into the field, looking for another slip. At first Davis was showing affects of the travel. He wanted to chase everything he saw, meadow larks, sparrows, you name it, he wanted to fly it. I hunted the edge of a field just like with Washington and it was not long before a jack broke out and ran to the open field. Davis launched in perfect timing and closed as the jack went into a zig zag pattern of short turns with Davis matching him turn for turn. With the last turn Davis reached out and almost hooked the fleeing jack rabbit. As the light faded into darkness and with Davis still hunting I reluctantly put his hood on and called it a day.

Davis after a great flight

Davis after a great flight

 

I drove out of the field thinking not bad for the first three hours — two out of three eagles scored. So tomorrow is another day in Kansas…. more to come…….
 Greetings once again from Kansas,

 

 

Today brought stunning weather conditions, the wind has dropped down from
yesterday’s gusts of 60mph to a delightful 10mph.

We started the day early, skipping breakfast, heading directly to the
fields. First up was Simon with his very nice Finnish female goshawk who is
more than holding her own with the large Kansas black tails. We entered a
field that was mostly short tumbleweeds and worked in a line to see her take
two jacks, giving her some wonderful memories on the trip back to Canada.

 

 

Washington was up next. We reentered the short tumbleweed field, moving
slowly, looking for closer slips. Young eagles want to fly at any and all
jacks they see but that is a waste of time. They do not have the condition
to fly down speedy jacks on long slips and will quickly get frustrated and
give up. They need close slips and walking slowly in the field is the best
way to produce these closer slips. Washington was very focused. She was
dialed in, hunting along with us. Both Chase and I have been flying her and
she has handled this nicely. We cut the field into sections with Chase
hunting up one side and back the other, then we would trade off with me
taking over. I gotta say, hunting three eagles is not easy so having Chase
to share the load is a great help. We were moving slowly, no more than ten
feet apart, when a jack jumped up and ran not more than 15 feet in front of
me. Washington came off the glove perfectly. As she launched I was giving
her forward momentum and she went up high using the little wind available.
She quickly got over the jack, doing a very nice wing-over, and had her
second kill of the trip.

 

Chase wanted to fly Dexter later in the day so Davis was next up. I chose to
hunt the same field that we were just hunting as there was still plenty of
unhunted ground remaining. Davis has been showing signs of coming on as a
very nice eagle; he is quick and will nearly always give you a good effort
on all slips. We had walked a long ways almost reaching the end of the field
when a jack jetted out of its form and ran straight away from us. Davis
reacted instantly and closed on the jack as it pinned its ears and went into
high gear. As Davis arrived the jack went around a tumbleweed and Davis
pitched up some 20 feet in the air. Looking over his shoulder he spotted the
running jack and stooped straight down and nailed it. I traded him off and
continued to hunt, took about 20 steps more when right under my feet a
jack exploded and Davis’ reaction was so fast that it left us asking the age
old question ‘how can a bird as big as an eagle move that fast?!’ Davis
caught that jack 15 feet from where we were standing, very nice explosive
flight. 

 

Next up was Jackhammer (JH). After driving 1/2 mile down the road we walked
into the field with JH who was showing all the signs of having a big day.
The field was old wheat with small and large tumbleweeds growing in groups
all over the field, and jacks love to hide under the tumbleweeds. Again we
divided the field into workable sections so we could fly more eagles and
keep track of where we had hunted. We no sooner walked into the field when a
jack popped up, running into the wind going north. JH was off and in a flash
closed on the jack as it ran on the mostly open ground. JH came in low and
scooped up the running rabbit, taking it some 7-8 feet in the air. JH went
on to catch three more jacks bringing the days total to 7 jacks taken by my
team.

 

With time running short Chase broke off to go and fly Dexter while I
continued to hunt JH. Dexter was successful and caught his second jack of
the trip.

A look in the back of my truck

A look in the back of my truck

Eagle Team:

Jackhammer : male golden eagle  8.6 lbs

Davis :   male golden eagle     8.4 lbs

Washington:  female golden eagle  10 lbs

Getting Penny ready for release

Monday, April 6th, 2009 Posted in Journal 2009, Penny | No Comments »

 

Penny

Passage female golden eagle

Today starts the process of getting Penny ready for release; she is overdue for sure. Penny came to us by way of the Blue Mountain Wildlife Rehab in Pendleton, Oregon, hence the name Penny, and had come to them after being hit by a truck. Penny had a slightly damaged wing near the last joint and was unable to fly well enough to escape being captured. After spending time in BMW’s flight chamber she seemed to be healing up fine but it was still difficult to determine if she could fly correctly or, in the least, well enough to be turned loose. We were contacted and agreed to fly Penny to see how she did and determine if she could be released. So starts the story of Penny.

My plan was to start Penny right away in training and get her on the wing. It was late spring and if I could get her in condition and all went well I felt I could release her in late summer when the weather was still good. Plans don’t always go as planned. Shortly after we received Penny I came down with West Nile Virus and was laid up all summer unable to do much other than feed the birds. Certainly training and flying a female eagle was not in the cards for this summer. I recovered at the end of summer and restarted Penny’s training, still hoping to release her as she is an older eagle in the three to five year range, meaning she is a capable hunter and should be able to care for herself.

It is an interesting thing that happens with eagles that are new to captivity and training. At first, naturally, they are frightened and under stress but as they come to realize you are providing food for them they tame down surprisingly fast. The pattern goes something like this: the eagle comes to us scared, angry and wanting to fight any and all creatures that come close. can’t blame them. And in most cases, depending on how long they have been held in captivity, they have not molted due to fear and stress. As I begin to train them and gain some trust they change. Sometimes it takes awhile because to them people are something to fear and, having been netted and poked and all the things that it takes to get them healed up, their fear of man has been confirmed over and over again. Then I come along and, instead of chasing them around with a net, I just feed them, and food is the direct route to an eagle’s heart. Once they settle down to a more relaxed routine their stress level drops way off and they molt, sometimes quite heavily. Well, that’s what Penny did. She dropped three primaries on each wing, effectively rendering her flightless and temporarily ending her flight training. I did not want to continue working with a mostly untrained eagle that had new primaries coming in and risk damaging one or more, so I shut Penny down again to allow her to complete her molt. By the time Penny was finished summer was just about done and releasing her as winter was coming seemed unfair so I decided to hold Penny over the winter, get her going early this spring and release her sometime late spring depending, of course, on how things went

March 14, 2009

9.4lbs

I called Penny to the fist, something that she is quite familiar with having been started so many times already. Penny is a typical female golden eagle” not real pleased about working for food. This is not because female goldens are lazy, they are anything but lazy, it’s just that they are very smart and figure out real fast that you have the food and they want you to give it all to them now, all at once. They don’t see why they should have to jump to your glove over and over again for food. Penny, being a wild eagle that had been on her own for a few years, would have done what all female golden eagles do, find a male, follow him around and take food from him. That way they can put their energy into more important things like laying eggs. It’s a good plan but, for the purposes of training female golden eagles to fly and hunt, this attitude can be difficult to work through. So, Penny does things like this: she’ll fly over to me from about ten feet, gladly eat the reward and fly back to the perch, but then when I call her again she will turn her back to me and pout; it can take her three to four minutes before she finally decides to fly over again. Once she has thought about it she’ll come several more times nicely. Now, some would say drop her weight which would make her hungrier, but that is not the best way to train an eagle. Low weight equals significant health risk, most notably aspergilosis.

I called her six times, hooded her up, and returned her to the mews.

March 15, 2009

9.45lbs

Photo: Penny on scale*

Penny on scale

In the early stages of training I believe that the training sessions should be kept short and sweet. I want to give the eagle time to realize what I want from her so today, much like yesterday, I weighed her and walked out of the mews weathering yard and jumped Penny onto a large boulder in our yard.

The wind was up (9-15mph) as we have a storm coming in and there was a slight drizzle falling. Now, combining wind with an untrained bird could cause some problems, as Penny will want to go with the wind. However, I just dealt with it. She did try and fly off a couple of times, landing on the grass at the end of the creance, but I just picked her up and put her back on the boulder and when she settled down she flew to me. So, a little bit of a rodeo today with the wind but, we’re still moving forward.

*The scale that Penny is on comes from Germany and is simply the best scale I have ever seen. It will box up into the perch and be protected while traveling. It will weigh anything up to 55 lbs. which means I can weigh all my raptors on it, from the 9.5 oz. perlins to the largest female eagle. This scale will be sold exclusively though our website: more info coming soon.

March 17, 2009

Wt. 9.49 lbs.

For a couple of days I have been jumping Penny onto the rock which has brought on some interesting changes in her behavior. When calling her off a standard perch, from which she knows that she cannot fly away, she is fine but on a rock, which to her is a more wild-like situation, she over- flies me most of the times I call her to the fist. I just go and return her to the rock where she pouts for a few moments and then she flies to the glove. I do not want to drop her weight; I’ll just keep working through this. Once she settles down she will be more willing to come longer and longer distances to the glove.

March 21, 2009

Wt. 9 lbs.

Penny has been acting just slightly overweight, so I skipped a day and did not feed her which made a difference.

I reintroduced the lure today and I was pleased that she reacted well to it. I put two quail legs on it which got her attention. I jumped her to the rock, threw out the lure and she immediately focused on it and flew to it, grabbed it and hauled it up to the rock. I then walked up to her and transferred her onto the glove with her meal. She did well. I am pleased. My thinking at this point is that I’ll just get her coming to the lure and not to the fist so much. As always, all things are subject to change, to be sure.

March 26, 2009

Wt. 9 lbs.

pennys-first-flight-in-field-002

I did not work Penny yesterday as the wind was up over 20 mph and I thought it was best to wait for a day.

Today was a better day and my plan was to load Penny in the truck (she needs to get used to going for rides anyway) and take her out into one of our alfalfa hay fields where I can extend the distance she flies on a line. I take the block perch out into the field in the beginning because it is something they recognize and feel comfortable going to, plus I can place it anywhere I want. I walked over to the block which I had already placed in the field and unhooded her. She was excited about the breeze blowing in her face and bated off in the other direction, but regained the glove and then flew to the block. While I was getting all the lines in order she flew into the wind and landed about 50 ft. from the block. I tossed out the lure and she did not react other than to look at it. After a couple more tosses, however, she flew over and grabbed it. I stepped her up on the glove and walked her back to the block. I called her to the lure 6 more times and she responded nicely each time.

March 30, 2009

Wt. 9.3 lbs.

pennys-first-flight-in-field-006

I have skipped a couple of days due to high winds but today was gorgeous and I prepared Penny for another training session. I called her about 50 yards to the lure, 5 or 6 times, and she did super. Tomorrow I will fly her free. This is a huge step for her on the road to freedom. Truthfully, I could have flown her free the last two times but she needs a considerable amount of conditioning and if she was to fly off I think the odds might not be in her favor. One sign I look for before flying an eagle free for the first time is how it reacts when the hood comes off out in the field. For example, the first time they look around and then want to leave, but as time goes on and they figure out what the deal is, things change. The last couple of days when her hood was removed Penny flew out into the field, landed on her own accord and turned looking for the lure. That’s how I know she is ready for free flight.

March 31, 2009

Wt. 9.3 lbs.

Cordi and I drove out into the sage to an area that we hoped would be good for Penny’s first free flight. The wind was up a bit but I did not think it would be a problem. I was wrong.

The area we chose is wide open with some hills on the east side but there is a huge grassland area. After changing her jesses to ones that are thinner and less likely to get hung up, and zip tying the transmitter onto one cuff, I carried Penny out into the field. I unhooded her and she launched off down- wind landing about 60 yards from me. I pulled out the lure and started to drag it along, wanting to call her in. She turned and launched into the wind and turned quickly downwind heading for the hills. Suddenly a female ferruginous hawk came from upwind and stooped her, hit her, and Penny was out of there. She caught the wind, climbed up and over the now bigger hills, and was gone. Cordi and I spent the next three hours tracking her in and around the mountains with the signal going from strong to weak to nothing. We finally located her out in a sage covered area that is loaded with game ducks, pheasants, quail and jack rabbits, and one very pissed off pair of red tailed hawks. It was the red tails that showed us where Penny was. We just simply watch them for a few minutes and, sure enough, they started to stoop on Penny. Red tails are good that way” if there is an eagle around they will be after it. I walked out into the sage heading in her direction but the moment she saw me she was gone. I could not get within a ¼ of a mile to her. I did notice, however, that when she was in the air I was getting a signal from the opposite direction, which meant that Penny and my transmitter were no longer connected. I tracked down my transmitter not far from where I was standing. That quickly she had removed the transmitter and is probably working on the jesses and cuffs which will come off easily. I have always said I don’t mind loosing eagles that are going to be released; I just want my transmitter back. So thanks, Penny.

April 1, 2009

I went back this morning to see if, after flying around all day, I could call Penny in, cut off the cuffs and feed her. So I drove up on a high road which would give me a view of the area where I had last seen her. I watched one of the red tails thermalling over the sage. It went quite high, climbing in the sky, and suddenly broke off in an ever increasing stoop. This could mean one of two things  a courtship display while heading to the nest tree or the presence of an intruder which I hoped was Penny. The red tail’s stoop ended in a wingover going straight down, obviously on the attack. A second red tail followed the first bird with a stoop as well. This could only mean one thing, Penny! I drove over and stood on the tail gate of my truck, looking out across the sage and there, sitting on a fence post near the river, was Penny. I headed out in her direction and as soon as she saw me she was gone, flying strongly across the river, disappearing in the cover. I realized that any chance of calling her in was not going to happen. Penny had made herself perfectly clear, she is wild. And so it ends and I wish her luck.

March 30, 2009

Friday, April 3rd, 2009 Posted in Journal 2009 | No Comments »

March 30, 2009

Wt. 9.3 lbs

I have skipped a couple of days due to high winds but today was gorgeous and I prepared Penny for another training session. I called her about 50 yards to the lure, 5 or 6 times, and she did super. Tomorrow I will fly her free. This is a huge step for her on the road to freedom. Truthfully, I could have flown her free the last two times but she needs a considerable amount of conditioning and if she was to fly off I think the odds might not be in her favor. One sign I look for before flying an eagle free for the first time is how it reacts when the hood comes off out in the field. For example, the first time they look around and then want to leave, but as time goes on and they figure out what the deal is, things change. The last couple of days when her hood was removed Penny flew out into the field, landed on her own accord and turned looking for the lure. That’s how I know she is ready for free flight.

March 31, 2009

Wt 9.3 lbs

Cordi and I drove out into the sage to an area that we hoped would be good for Penny’s first free flight. The wind was up a bit but I did not think it would be a problemI was wrong.

The area we chose is wide open with some hills on the east side but there is a huge grassland area. After changing her jesses to ones that are thinner and less likely to get hung up, and zip tying the transmitter onto one cuff, I carried Penny out into the field. I unhooded her and she launched off down- wind landing about 60 yards from me. I pulled out the lure and started to drag it along, wanting to call her in. She turned and launched into the wind and turned quickly downwind heading for the hills. Suddenly a female ferruginous hawk came from upwind and stooped her, hit her, and Penny was out of there. She caught the wind, climbed up and over the now bigger hills, and was gone. Cordi and I spent the next three hours tracking her in and around the mountains with the signal going from strong to weak to nothing. We finally located her out in a sage covered area that is loaded with game ducks, pheasants, quail and jack rabbits, and one very pissed off pair of red tailed hawks. It was the red tails that showed us where Penny was. We just simply watch them for a few minutes and, sure enough, they started to stoop on Penny. Red tails are good that way — if there is an eagle around they will be after it. I walked out into the sage heading in her direction but the moment she saw me she was gone. I could not get within a ¼ of a mile to her. I did notice, however, that when she was in the air I was getting a signal from the opposite direction, which meant that Penny and my transmitter were no longer connected. I tracked down my transmitter not far from where I was standing. That quickly she had removed the transmitter and is probably working on the jesses and cuffs which will come off easily. I have always said I don’t mind loosing eagles that are going to be released; I just want my transmitter back. So thanks, Penny.

April 1, 2009

I went back this morning to see if, after flying around all day, I could call Penny in, cut off the cuffs and feed her. So I drove up on a high road which would give me a view of the area where I had last seen her. I watched one of the red tails thermalling over the sage. It went quite high, climbing in the sky, and suddenly broke off in an ever increasing stoop. This could mean one of two things — a courtship display while heading to the nest tree or the presence of an intruder which I hoped was Penny. The red tail’s stoop ended in a wingover going straight down, obviously on the attack. A second red tail followed the first bird with a stoop as well. This could only mean one thing, Penny! I drove over and stood on the tail gate of my truck, looking out across the sage and there, sitting on a fence post near the river, was Penny. I headed out in her direction and as soon as she saw me she was gone, flying strongly across the river, disappearing in the cover. I realized that any chance of calling her in was not going to happen. Penny had made herself perfectly clear, she is wild. And so it ends and I wish her luck. .