It's time to revive this blog a bit. I've been serving the North American Falconers' Asociation as a regional director for quite a while now, and I'm very happy volunteering my efforts, but it has taken much more time out of my daily schedule than I had anticipated. Thus, some of the "fluff" like this blog, and other things, have taken a back seat.
I'm back, with updates.
I haven't written about it on this blog because it was kind of a private and personal trip, but back in March, Emily and I got married in New Zealand. We spent a few weeks down there extensively exploring the north island and had such a wonderful vacation and experience that it would be difficult to do it any justice in this format. It was amazing, and even better than we had hoped it would be.
I recently scanned some old photos so that I could add them to a lecture that I gave. It's fun going through old shots like this. It was a real "blast from the past." I spend most of my life planning the future and looking ahead. Old photos remind me of so much that I've forgotten about, and that's where the intrigue in them lies for me.
This is the last photo that I snapped of my peregrine on the day that I released her. I caught her at my trapping station back in October, manned her with the aid of a strobe light, trained her to wait-on with a kite, and hunted ducks with her all winter in the same system of marshes that I caught her in. Months later, here she is, being released back to those same tidal marshes. I wish her well out there, and I'm extremely happy to no longer have her in my care.
Flying a passage peregrine falcon this past season was a privilege that I unfortunately didn't enjoy. Merlins aside, I simply don't enjoy flying longwings from a waiting-on position. It doesn't give me the rush that I get from other forms of falconry. My friend Ben Schwartz recently opined that it doesn't appeal to me because watching a peregrine hit a duck from hundreds of feet above is too esoteric to really "blow my hair back" as opposed to the experience of sneaking in on a tidal ditch with a gos at attention and throwing him from the fist as the ducks rise. Goshawks pull me into the action in ways that falcons never can. You nailed it Ben!
This year, Pete and I spent more time hawking together than in years past, and consequently, we had a really fun season. I think all passions are improved through sharing. We shared equally in the successes and failures of our respective birds, and had a lot of laughs while out hunting ducks and crows together. It was reminiscent of the days, long ago, when we were both flying redtailed hawks together. Thanks for a great season Pete.
Finnegan just keeps getting better. He just finished up his third season of hunting, and despite being flown much less than the previous two years, he managed to catch and kill more ducks and crows. His confidence is strong and his manners in the field are extremely good. He's one of the nicest goshawks I've ever been around.
Decent shot of an 18 month old peregrine falcon, showing a nice mix of first year (brown) and adult (blue) plumage. Tundra peregrines are notoriously slow to completely moult into their adult feathering. Most similarly sized raptors get it done during their first 16 months of life. Northern peregrines usually take more than 2 years.
The last "big" project of our home renovation was having custom book cases built in to my library room. Pete and Miles Spadone built and installed the cases, and I loaded them up with all of my falconry books which have been in storage for so many years. It has made me very happy to have access to them again.
Thanks to my old Vermont co-worker and friend, Rob, I finally have an action shot of my goshawk. After three years of hunting with this bird, I've accumulated only a small hadful of pictures of him, and none of them are as good as what Rob managed to capture during a brief visit. Finnegan doin' his thing! Thanks Rob!
In this picture, you can see me being about as happy as I can possibly be! The gentleman at my side is Dr. Heinz Meng of New Paltz, New York. He is a world renowned raptor biologist and also the person who first exposed me to the sport of falconry, forever changing the course of my life. I'll always feel that I owe so much to this man. I have a very short list of "heroes," and in my book, Heinz is right up there with my grandfather and John Muir. I got to share lunch with him last weekend at the annual field meet of the New York State Falconry Association, in Cobleskill. Although I've spoken with him over the phone, I hadn't seen him in person for twenty years, and it really made my day. And if that weren't enough, he took me over to the car and presented me with a cardboard box full of old falconry publications and correspondence from the late 1950's and early 1960's, that will now reside in my library. Thank you so much Heinz!
Here's the pumpkin that Emily carved this year. She did a great job with it, and unlike me, she was excited to make our house look inviting to the neighborhood kids. Unfortunately, she only got to hand out candy to two children, as they were the only ones that came to the door. Maybe the rest of the kids in the area were afraid that the "bird man" would give them a frozen quail or a live pigeon in their little treat bags. There's a very unequal ratio of tricks to treats on Halloween around here.
I carved a pumpkin for my girl. She was very happy with it. And that's about as far as my interest in Halloween goes. Anything to do with decorating, or dressing up, or welcoming small children into the house, goes onto my long list of "Things I Don't Give a Flip About." Apparently, even Halloween brings the curmudgeon out of me. It's not just Christmas that annoys me.
I had to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to update my address, and get a new driver's license, so I brought along a magazine and assumed that I would have to sit there waiting for 45 minutes before getting to talk to a DMV employee, which seems to be par for the course with them. I walked through the buzzing door, grabbed a numbered ticket, and stepped into the waiting area to find that I was literally the ONLY person there, besides the four employees that were staring at me, wondering which of them I would choose to pester. I couldn't believe it!! Still don't....