Day 13—Angry Bird

This morning, I participated in my second creance session with the red-tailed hawk I featured on Day 10 of In Focus Daily. My vet, Vickie Joseph, who founded the California Foundation for Birds of Prey and at whose home the creance sessions are held, led the team. The hawk is flown up to ten flights in a session, or until it starts breathing through its mouth. Today, the hawk flew ten times and only started mouth breathing on the last flight. However, it held its mouth open most of the time it was being handled by one of the team members. The creance training’s purpose is to strengthen the bird’s flying ability but because these creatures are wild, they do not understand being man-handled and show their stress and anger with an open beak and exposed tongue.

Today I handled the hawk several times and under Vickie’s tutelage I improved my technique for retrieving the hawk after its flight. I am feeling much more comfortable after four more launches today. I also redeemed myself with the creance line, but not before getting my glove caught in the line and jerking the poor hawk up short about 50 feet into its flight, almost a repeat of the other day’s faux pas. I exchanged the bulky glove for a sleeker one, received counsel on what I did wrong and how to avoid it, and then managed the line four times without incident including for the bird’s longest flight of 125 feet.

With the opportunity I have now to be near these magnificent birds, one of the things I hope to do is improve focusing shots on fast moving raptors. I took a few today as the hawk was launched, using shutter priority but I didn’t have a fast enough shutter speed to get good focus. Also, it always happens so quickly, framing the bird completely in the view finder is a challenge. At least I will have more opportunities to try. I hope I succeed.

Here are a few shots from today’s session.

I took this photo from outside the flight chamber through the netting that surrounds it. The team inside the flight chamber caught the hawk in a large fishing net and here they are extricating it from the net.

The team examines the bird’s wings and feet before every training session. Here they are noting the health of the wing feathers and identifying any that are broken or damaged.

I included this photo because of the reflection in the hawk’s eye. I’m reflected at the left of the pupil and its feet are reflected to the right of the pupil; the red at the base of the reflection is the handler’s glove. Click on this photo to increase the size for a better view of the reflections.

This is one angry bird. If there are any green pigs around, they better watch out!

Here the hawk is launched with the jesses trailing behind attached to the creance line.