2015—A Real Crowd Pleaser

I can’t resist featuring Mariposa again. This talented Harris’s hawk was a real crowd pleaser at the California Foundation for Birds of Prey Open House this past Sunday. Kate and Marya of Westcoast Falconry flew Mariposa back and forth over and between the onlookers and low over their heads. Mariposa has been trained using operant conditioning, also known as positive reinforcement or “clicker” training. I’ve used that technique myself to train Bobo. It is effective but must be reenforced (hence the name positive “reenforcement” training). I admit to being a slackard when it comes to training Bobo. Maybe I’ll take her with me next year to watch Mariposa in action.

The photos show how low and close to the onlookers Mariposa flew. In some of the photos, Mariposa’s blue and yellow telemetry device, used to track her if she flies off course, can be seen on her back near her tail feathers. Mariposa seems to enjoy this activity and although she flew into the trees a couple of times, she immediately responded to the commands from her handlers and returned to their gloved hands so the telemetry wasn’t needed. The repeated fly overs gave me an opportunity to practice photographing birds in flight and I was thrilled to get quite a few that are in focus. Of course, unlike wild birds that I attempt to photograph, her flight path was predictable, but practice is practice and I especially love watching raptors flying so this was another great experience for me. In the next to the last shot, Mariposa is concentrating on watching the treat that her handlers have tossed in the air for her to retrieve. Yesterday’s post showed her retrieving the treat.

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