Thursday, July 29, 2010

Falcons and gulls...

Out today gulling with the local pest control crew. Bloody marvellous! Super set-up, beautiful birds, fascinating insight - learned loads and had a brilliant time! You know, I'm a lucky bugger really. I get to meet some really interesting people and to experience stuff that other peeps would probably give their proverbial for. Today it was flying falcons to scare off gulls.

Arrived on site and was introduced to the birds...

Tubs - a female Peregrine x Saker cross

Archie - a Gyr x Barbary cross

Bert - young male Lanner

The gulls tended to frequent the roof-top of an extensive empty warehouse and had bred there again this year. The 'remit is basically to cause as much nuisance with the gulls as possible' using a variety of means including pyrotechnics, distress calls and, of course, birds of prey. Today we were flying Tubs and Archie and training the wee man, Bert, up a lil.

and training the wee man,

SO, first up, the absolutely gorgeous Tubby. Falconer in residence J, popped on her hood and she hopped on to his glove ready for weighing. Popped her on the scales and she was just the right weight for flying. J chatted to her as he took off her swivel and jesses and gently replaced these with a couple of bright orange flight jesses and a small radio transmitter. I was curious how the telemetry was gonna be attached. I'd fitted radio harnesses myself to Goosander many moons ago and watched my mate do a far more professional and quicker job with Hen Harriers not so long ago, but both took time. Even tail mounting wasn't an especially 'portable' process in my experience. Working bird telemetry though was simplicitty itself - leg mount, cable clip - sorted. Elegant and efficient. Impressed!

Took Tubs out. Showed her where to go and let her fly. Off like a shot on to roof of a nearby office block. About 20-30 gulls, mostly Lesser Black-backed with a few Herring Gulls thrown in spotted her immediately and one or two LBBGs decided to have a pop. Pretty tame stuff though, despite their racket... a few fairly long distant swoops in her general direction. I can see why they didn't get closer. Tubs is a big bird. Powerful. And J told me she'd taken Lesser Black-backed Gulls before. I could easily believe it. Somehow I think the gulls knew too. She took off on a low sweep across the roof top where the gulls had come up from. More erupted from its depths... 40... 50... 70... 100. They were pretty freaked. She landed on the roof briefly then dropped out of sight - cue mayhem. the gulls behaviour changed immediately. We couldn't see Tubs, but the loud steady beep...beep... beep... from her transmitter was telling us she was still on the roof. Suddenly gulls began to dive bomb her position in a steady stream... she'd got something! For a few minutes gulls rained down on where the Yaggi was telling us Tubs had settled. Then gradually they eased off. The signal stayed strong and the gulls drifted away - she'd made a kill.


Or so we thought. A little while later she reappeared. Low along the roof line then banking north toward us. I thought she looked heavy. Full. Not so. Tubs alighted on the nearby roof and J quickly got to work with the lure. A few skillfull swings and she was on the ground. If she had indeed whacked a gull on the warehouse roof, as their behaviour had suggested, it had gotten away because her crop was empty. J fed her a chick as she hopped onto his glove. Good girl.

Bert on the lure

Next up some traing for Bert. Bert was new to all this. A wee Lanner, just a couple of months old, but what a handsome chap. Gorgeous silky chocolate browny and peach. Until now he'd not had any experience of flying from glove to glove or to the lure so J wanted to try him on the creance. See if we could get him to hop 3 feet, then maybe 6 feet. What a little star! Despite the wind and the numerous distractions he did just that. Surprising what a flick of a day-old chick leg and an encouraging whistle can do :)


Now it was Archie's turn at the gulls. A quick weigh in and furniture adjustment and he was ready to go. Hood off and... wow! Fast!! He was off into the wind. Much faster than Tubs, then high. Quickly. Gulls were off! No mobbing, just got the hell out. The whole lot headed straight east as he climbed and wheeled and climbed and wheeled. A dot in the sun... then gone. Telemetry showed he was still around but my eyes had stars everywhere and I couldn't spot him. J wheeled the lure. Nothing. Scan of the sky through bins. Gulls. Gulls. Pigeons. Goldfinches. Swifts. Gulls. NO Archie... but there WAS a steady beep... beep... beep from the roof top. Then suddenly... whoosh... he was back. SO, fast! Again J swung the lure and with a scything stoop Archie was down and quickly to hand. Bloody marvellous!


More training with Bert followed, then another flight with Archie (though this time he was happy to sit on the roof tops and blow raspberries at us for an hour lol) and I got to feed Tubs with a few cold, bloody, gutted chicks - yum! Talk about wolfed em down! I reckon 30-45 seconds each... shredded and gulped. Luvvly!!! All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable day.

Me in Tubs

Thanks so much to all involved.

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