Heckled By ParrotsBlue Sky WritingRebecca K. O'Connor

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I’m having trouble finding ducks, well, anything other than mallards. It’s just the bane of a new place and a very odd winter weather pattern. The cold came late and the ducks have been slow to come down and arriving out of order. None of this means much to me because I didn’t hunt ducks when I lived here in the later 80s early 90s. I don’t know what duck season is supposed to look like for a falconer in the delta or the valley or the grasslands in Northern California. I’ll figure it out though. It’s just going to be a slow season. I’ve flown a lot of mallards, but haven’t caught a single one.

Anakin is flying in fine style up here. It’s weird, but the air is just better. His wings just snap through the air and he climbs up at a fast and furious pace. He flies equally well in the evening and morning. I sometimes bring him to work and fly either end of the day. We just haven’t been lucky or strategic. It hasn’t all be a loss of game. I found some pen-raised pheasant and have peppered our hunts with good lessons of remounting and flying over open land. The pheasants have flown high and fast and Anakin hasn’t turned a single one down or missed his mark. He’s powered through them in screaming stoops and the last flight he bound to the bird and rolled her. I found them with the pheasant on her back, the peregrine had her head cinched up and was safely away from feet and wings. I think he has a system now. I think if we find wild pheasant (and I see them often up here) he could catch one.

I am very much infatuated with the hybrid and still too scared or lazy or busy or something to fly her. I love her personality. Sister is going to be a good bird, even if she does want to eat Anakin. Surely I can put that aggression to use. Upland game extends until the end of February for falconers here. There is still time and I may gather my wits and guts. I just find myself exhausted with how much there is to learn about my job and the new landscape and the new animals in my falconry crew. The economy woes are also eating up my brain space. I am optimistic about how all of this will shake out, but all the thinking is making the days disappear into a whirl of information and ideas.

The new year is going to bring a new blog skin. Operation Desert Dove will become Operation Delta Duck (www.operationdeltaduck.com) , a blog of both falconry and conservation. I’ll have a lot to say, I’m sure. I have so much to learn and hopefully that will mean much to share. Working for DU is an extraordinary turn in my life. We’re doing amazing things. I want to tell you about them. I’ll be on the ball soon, promise.


  1. Oh, I wish I could help you find some non-mallards where you can hunt – the refuges are full of them. Even the rice fields have variety – pintail and wigeon, at least. How’s a flooded rice field for a falcon?

  2. rebecca says:

    If I could find a rice field that would give me permission…and preferably not somewhere that people shoot because

    a) the falcon might get shot
    b) I’m going to move ducks off the water and that is often frowned upon. –well, unless you’re at the club in the next check over

    If this can be done, and there were nice rows of dry land between the checks, I could maybe swing it. This would especially be true if there was teal there…

  3. JOJO says:

    wow. fascinating i’ve never realized people hunt with falcons. Are they actually doing the hunting or your eyes only and then you shoot. and retrieve. are they the retrievers? or you bring one too? very cool. Do you know of any down in S. Florida? i would LOVE to see them in action…

  4. rebecca says:

    Oh…now you have to read all of the archives to find out. 😉

    I lived in Winter Haven for four years, but I don’t whose flying down your way any more. You can check out the Florida Hawking Fraternity.


  5. Ken says:

    Hi Rebecca, I wanted to ask you a questin but didn’t know where to put it so I’ll just stick here and you can move it if you like.

    As an animal behaiviorist, what insite can you provide regarding the training of falconry birds that you think the average falconer might miss? I’m sure you are great at observing body language, perhaps something in that regard. Or anything you’d like to talk about. Just curious,


  6. Paul says:

    Hi Ken,
    I’m not an animal behavioralist, but I am a falconer and there are a large group of falconers who actively use operant conditioning methods in training/reinforcing various behaviors in our birds. You might consider posing your question here:
    It’s a yahoo group that deals expressly with the application of OP in falconry and raptor rehab/education situations. There are some very well versed folks on there who I’m sure would have some insights.


  7. rebecca says:


    This is a great question. I’m not sure I would call myself a behaviorist in so much as I don’t have a degree in behavior, just a lot of hands on. (which means I sometimes screw up my science and terminology) However, I would say all great falconers use operant conditioning and read body language whether they realize it or not. The challenge is that we tend to be such a superstitious lot. We often attribute our successes to odd things instead of breaking down behavior into an antecendent, a behavior and a consequence.

    Paul — I see Layman is active in that group, so it definitely has my seal of approval!

    That said, I’ll be talking about this a bit in the coming weeks I’m sure. I’ve got to write a paper about it for an August presentation at the Association of Avian Veterinarians conference. So it’s something I’m going to be thinking a lot about.

  8. Paul says:

    Yeah, Steve’s a great guy and the reason that I started that group. Also on there are Jim Nelson, Aplo breeder and hood maker, who uses OP extensively with his falconry birds and I saw that another CA falconer with lots of OP experience, Keith….can’t think of his last name, recently joined. There have been some really good threads with lots of innovative thinking.


  9. Barry says:

    I know little about falconry but would like to learn. I have a duck club near Los Banos. It shoots Wednesday, Sat, Sun.
    Do you have an interest in doing a Monday or Thursday hunt?

  10. Ken says:

    Are there still duck clubs at the north end of the sea?

  11. rebecca says:

    Yes, there are still duck clubs at the north end of the Salton Sea.

  12. Ken says:

    Could you give me the names of some of them please?