Apollo and Harriet

 

Ever since I saw a group of Harris hawks hunt together in the Mexican desert, I wanted to fly a Harris and a gyrfalcon together on crows.  Some people shook their heads, but I figured that I could manage if only I would get a real young Harris hawk and raise her by hand together with some young gyrs.  In the spring of 2003, I finally succeeded.  Harriet was born at the "OWL Rehabilitation and Education Center" in Delta.  At three weeks, the bird stood up quite tall beside its nest mates, a 7/8th gyr-prairie male, a gyr-peregrine cross male and a gyr-peregrine cross female.

It went well, and we put the whole crew to exercise in a big 50 foot fly pen.  After awhile, Harriett did not get along with the male gyr-peregrine, so he was flown separately.  The female gyr-peregrine broke her wing and only the 7/8 gyr-prairie was left with the Harris hawk. 

Apollo was born from stock that I raised for several generations.  His great grandfather was Tuka which I obtained in the summer of 1975 at the Hudson Straight in northern Quebec.  He looks almost 100% gyr but anyone with the right experience can detect a little bit of prairie in him which he got from his great grandmother, a bird named Susie, which I picked up from Dave Hancock.  While he possesses a lot of common sense and cool, like a gyr, he also has a good dose of determination and craziness from the prairie side.

Apollo and Harriet turned out to be total imprints and their behavior is more like dogs with feathers than hawks or falcons.  Especially Harriet got quite attached to the dogs.  

From the start, I made sure for awhile, that both fed together on the lure.  While some scenes on the glove or lure look scary and horrendous, there were never any feathers lost during skirmishes over food.  I hardly ever weigh the birds and the right flight condition is nothing to worry about.  After the day's flight, there is a full crop waiting.  This in itself makes flying these birds a pleasure.  In the beginning the noise was quite annoying but today at the beginning of November there is hardly a tone being heard the moment both birds are turned loose.

The emphasis of training these birds was so far (Nov., 2003) not to obtain a big bag of game, but to study the interaction of the birds, dogs and humans.

The serving of bagged game was strictly avoided.  On the daily walks through open fields and bush land, the birds chase each other playfully without actual contact.  I figured that the real test would come when one of the birds would make its first kill, and I got a pleasant surprise.

Visiting a rancher friend of mine in the upper reaches of the Fraser River, east of Clinton, BC, I ran into lots of chukars. The dogs pointed some of them.  The birds were turned loose and soon after the chukars took wing, Apollo chased the first one he had ever seen with enormous determination.  The hunt went over a small grassy hillside towards the gorge of the Fraser.  Walking down the road around the hill, I noticed Apollo sitting near the top giving off short warning screams towards Harriet who sat ten feet above.  Looking close, I saw that he had a chukar.  I was greatly surprised that Harriet did not move in immediately and start a feeding frenzy.  The situation got critical for me to retrieve Apollo.  Just opening his wings, he could have carried the chucker 1000 feet below on the other side of the Fraser River gorge, where there are no roads.  But like so often before, I worried more than necessary.  The rest got well illustrated by my wife, Ginny.




 
 
 


 
 



Harriet, one year later.  She is a perfect surrogate mother and raises several sets of young falcons.

    
 

The wintertime is spent with whatever she likes doing best.  2007 flown by Emily Fisher 3  squirrels and 19 rabbits.