Heckled By ParrotsBlue Sky WritingRebecca K. O'Connor

Lift: The Audiobook


YouTube -  

If you haven’t read Lift, my falconry memoir published by Red Hen Press — I would love for you to!  And if you haven’t, perhaps you would rather listen to it? Audible.com, now an arm of Amazon has created a very forward-thinking site, Audiobook Creator’s Exchange (ACX) which facilitates rights owners ability to connect with producers and voice talent and most importantly get their finished product distributed on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

Ultimately deciding I should read Lift myself, I looked into the cost and though not a crazy amount of money $1100 on studio time was a pretty big chunk of change. So I decided to start a Kickstarter campaign. There are a few more days left of the campaign and if you would like to support me, get an advance download of the audiobook or just keep updated on the project all you have to do is pledge on Kickstarter. Check it out!!  Oh and spread the word? Please?

Happy Hawking!!

Monday Morning Falconry Fix

Falcons at the Eyrie by Gregg Thompson

What to Do with your Photos

These days bloggers get asked from time to time to try out products to review. I almost always say, “no”.  I barely manage to get my own blog posts done. It feels like a burden to write something for the sake of commerce. Also, it makes me feel a little bit like a fraud. This last month though, a couple of opportunities crossed my email that I thought I would pay for regardless.

Anakin at Sunset

Falconers take a lot of photographs. What do you do with them though?

I love the idea of putting photos on canvas and when I was offered the opportunity to buy one, discounted for review, the hardest decision was figuring out which photo to use. The print on canvas was easy to order and arrived quickly, packaged dilligently to protect it. I ordered a 12×18 inch with a .75 inch wrap and it was ready to hang on arrival. Not to mention gorgeous!

Of course, wall space is limited and when my friend Jessica Lawrence put a call out for art by friends to hang in her new digs in New York, I knew just what to send her. I hope she likes it! (Although once I saw it on my wall, I almost reneged on the deal…)

I would highly recommend putting your prints on canvas if you have something you would really like on your wall. The service is very reasonable and I was very happy with the results!

The other opportunity I was given was a perk through Klout. If you aren’t on Klout, I’m not sure you necessarily should be. No one needs one more proprietary algorithm to obsess over. It’s bad enough I consistently consider my Amazon numbers, Google Analytics for all my sites and try to figure out my Feedburner stats. I can’t help it. I am fascinated by what people connect with and don’t.

Klout is just the icing on the cake. It’s an algorithm that figures out your influence on the web and then companies decide whether or not to offer you perks based on your score and what topics you are “influential” in. You are not  forced to review any of the trial products, in fact, you are welcome to hate them. The Klout disclosure is here. So when Moo offered up free MiniCards, I jumped at it.

Moo MiniCards

MiniCards are such a cool idea. Half the size of business cards, they come in orders of 100 or more and you can choose as many 100 images to put on them. It’s like making trading cards! (The nerd in me squeals). This seemed another great opportunity to put some of my falconry photos to use. So I chose 8 images for the front and used the lovely logo my webdesigner created for me and put my web information on the backside. I was so excited when I got them in the mail. They are just gorgeous and I can’t wait to pass them out at readings, lectures and workshops. I’ll have to make a set of parrot ones as well. You can get your own Moo products here.

So if you collect some really awesome falconry photos this season and aren’t sure how to put them to use, those are two ideas that worked out well for me!   — Oh, and I’m always looking for great photos to use for the Monday Morning Falconry Fix. (hint. hint.) So get your cameras out!

Isn’t it Ironic?

This blog started as Operation Desert Dove. Those of you who read LIFT will understand why. My first foray into flying falcons was with a Merlin and what I wanted was to hunt doves. I didn’t know a whole lot about pursuing this possibility, but I gave it my all. My merlin, Anza, did indeed catch a dove. Once.  And as I approached, slowly, my glee carefully harnessed, the dove slipped from the falcon’s feet leaving her with a foot-full of feathers and a near-tantrum.

Dove Feathers

I decided I would have a better chance with a peregrine. I did have a better chance, but you also have a better chance of winning the lottery if you buy two tickets instead of one.  Watching Anakin chase doves was the most beautiful breathtaking race I had ever witnessed all the same. He knocked them down. They got back up. In fact, we never actually caught a dove. We switched to ducks.

I buy an upland game stamp every year anyway. It could happen one of these days. It could. What can I say? I believe in miracles. I also believe that bad things happen sometimes and you can’t always stop them.

On Friday night at 2AM, someone busted the driver’s side window to my truck and broke in. My truck is parked 20 feet from my bedroom window, which was open and I heard the glass break, but half-asleep, didn’t put it together. There wasn’t a whole lot to steal– a couple of small things tucked away in my center console. My Maglite in the glove box. The hawkbox and the small tackle box with all my transmitters, bells, clips and emergency equipment making tools behind the driver’s seat.

They took the tackle box.

I put it all together when I heard the door to the truck close. But by the time I jumped out of bed and ran outside, they were running down the street.

I suppose I should have taken the tackle box inside, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s gone. There were bits and pieces in that box that had been with me for 16 years now and they won’t be replaceable.  Whoever stolen them, won’t even be able to sell them. They are simply lost.

And I won’t fly a bird without telemetry. So I can’t fly the hawk until I replace it. Talk about ruining your weekend. I was crushed. I had decided I would not name this Cooper’s hawk until he had caught game on his own. I would let him name himself and was certain that this would happen any day now, any next night. Tonight! But now it wouldn’t happen until I had a transmitter again.

Unfeathered

Then this afternoon I heard a ruckus in the weathering yard and came running. The Coops and the peregrine aren’t exactly friendly and I worry about this. I expected to find something disastrous. To my surprise, the commotion was all about the hawk mantling over a meal. Dirt clod? Stink bug? No.

It was a mourning dove.

Mostly plucked, but a dove all the same. Thank goodness I have my upland game stamp.

Before the BBQ

After recovering from the shock of something so seemingly impossible, I became a falconer again.  I grabbed the lure, garnished it and stepped my bird off for meal on the glove. He had broken in and had essentially cleaned the dove, feathers and entrails gone, the breast intact. In my mind, this was my reward, my earnings, a neatly cleaned dove breast. At last, I would have dove for at the very least an appetizer.

I called my friend Holly to tell her why I couldn’ t take her out hunting with me and to ask the best way to cook a dove. Then I followed her partner/superstar game chef Hank Shaw’s recipe as close as could, but stuffed the dove with rosemary, the only bright fresh spice I had. I served it on a bed of spinach and shared with the neighbors next door. I had never eaten dove and wanted to see my joy mirrored in another face and I wanted to tell the story of the hawk who found a way. My neighbors and I and their two very young sons nibbled on dove and grinned.

Nibbles

  

The falconry gods are hooligans.

They fly you high and drop you, pleased when you break into so many pieces on stone cliff bottoms and crawl away. The pull pranks and laugh in the moments when you are too brazen and bold, believing you are beyond bad luck. They punish you, providing long streaks of bad hunting when you forget game in your vest and become wasteful.

But the falconry gods are touched with humanity, I think, and have a great deal of clout. So every now and then, when the cards are stacks horrendously against you, they cut a deal with nature and give you a gift. They throw a dove in the weathering yard for a young hawk to catch.  If you’re smart, you accept with stunned grace and say “thank you.”

And maybe you find yourself with a hawk named Irony.

Five on Falconry: Jeremy Bradshaw

Jeremy and Fresh Merlin!

Jeremy Bradshaw began his falconry pursuit in Gridley, California and has been a falconer for 17 years. His hands-down favorite falconry partner is a merlin and his favorite merlin was a jack named Spike. He is a full-time hoodmaker and passionate craftsman who appreciates and supports artisans in our sport, but notes that the falconer who inspires him most is Randy Fiscus for his unwavering enthusiasm and infectious joy in the field. When Jeremy is not making hoods, snacking on rice cakes (no more M&Ms for the smaller Big Jer) or avoiding washing dishes (do all falconers hate washing dishes?) he’s planning his next adventure traveling west with merlins.


1) So partial disclosure blah blah blah. We have a few mutual friends and the hood I bought from you exponentially raised my expectations for hoods… but I don’t think there’s much more to disclose about how we know each other. So on with it! Every landscape has a quality and a voice that’s unique Alaska’s one with which most falconers are not familiar. You’re now in Moscow, ID, but what is about hunting in Alaska that stands out to you?

I actually did not hunt while I lived in Alaska.  I went there to take a break from falconry and seriously consider whether or not I wanted to continue with it at all. I took that time to focus my efforts on making hoods and examine what falconry means to me, where it has taken me, what it has added to my life, what I have sacrificed for it, and how it might fit in my future. I actually have to say that it is this “Five On Falconry” project of yours and the interview with Matt Mullenix that brought some clarity to what I have felt has been a bit of a falconry identity crisis.  The reference to falconry as being comparable to a long term relationship is a perspective that I had not considered.  It was enlightening for me really, and has allowed me to accept my little philosophical hiccup in better stride.  Anyways, I am not in Alaska any longer because I ultimately decided I needed some hawking.  Living in a town carved out of the rainforest on an island wasn’t going to work for that!

Makin' Hoods!

2) I made a hood once (the-hood-that-shall-never-be-seen) and am no stranger to the attention to both intuition and detail that hood-making requires. As a full-time hood-maker, what has changed in the way you see your falconry and its nuances?

This is the question plaguing me a bit. There are a couple of applications where being a hoodmaker can and has changed falconry for me.  As far as my actual falconry I feel like I should have some deep answer about how being a hoodmaker has brought greater insight and depth in my falconry.  I just don’t think it is so. I have been a small bird hawker in one form or another for most of my falconry, and dealing with the little guys in this sport required me to refine my attention to the details…gear, weight, food quality, etc. Hood making certainly magnified that attention to detail but didn’t necessarily change the way I see it.

Where hood making has really changed my whole falconry world is in opening up so many new relationships and opportunities.  Customers have become friends and travelling to meets to pedal my wares has opened up a whole new sense of community to me.  There is an interesting mix of responsibility to my craft and business in how I represent it and then how I maintain it along the hopefully extended relationship with a customer.

It isn’t just about making one hood for someone, it is about becoming their hoodmaker. That is ultimately what I am after. I have a responsibility for what many falconers consider a key element to the successful manning and training of the bird that is their hope for that coming season. I know, probably over-stating the importance of a hood, but when I get overwhelmed with too many orders I keep my head in the game by focusing on how important that one hood is to that one falconer that placed the order.


3) Speaking of full-time hood-making and living what would be considered the dream for many, what does it take to balance a passion like falconry and a business without losing either?

It is funny for me because with the success of my little hood business has come a serious reduction in free time…free time that was part of my hawking time. I struggle to find balance not just for falconry, but for all of my interests, passions, and hobbies. My friends, and maybe even strangers in the periphery know that I have a touch of “Peter Pan Syndrome.” One of the symptoms of my disorder is a constant desire to find more ways to play. I am the first to admit that I have too many hobbies.The struggle is that the level of hood that I strive to make for falconers takes time, careful consideration, passion, and a commitment to the customer and their bird.

I love making hoods and I cannot seem to say “no”. Orders stack up to the point that I don’t get to go outside enough. I have really had to remind myself this summer that the world won’t end if I don’t work on hoods every day. And for this hawking season I will actually be taking a little breather. I have big plans to travel around the west flying a couple of passage female merlins and my tiercel aplomado to the extent that a new travel trailer and truck are in the works as I write.  Pretty much the only folks that will be able to order hoods from me this fall and winter are those that have my private cell number –if they can get me to answer it.

The Wedding...

4) You and your wife triked (yes, like with adult-style tricycles) down a portion of the Pacific Coast. Then you got married in Las Vegas on your Pugsleys (snow bikes). –And, um, Larry the Cable Guy witnessed, but that’s another interview. I actually see a connection. Falconry is very much about blood, sweat and calories burned, not unlike journeying on a bike. How do the two fit together for you?

The trike trip was actually very much like a falconry season. Each season with a new bird is filled with hope and expectation that then is actualized successfully or not in a series of small victories and failures.  We were swimming in anticipation and expectation of our adventure training ourselves like one would train a falcon to meet the goals of the coming season. Like a hawking season some ideas worked and some did not.  We learned things that we will apply on future touring trips, just like falconers build on their experiences with each season with an intermewed bird or new bird of the same kind. In the end it was a grand adventure that left us wanting more.  That is what I want to feel after each hawking season.

5) Okay, truth be told, I’m still stuck on Larry The Cable Guy. Did you and Stephanie vow to “Git-R-Done”? And will that entail “’til death do you part”?

Larry actually officiated our wedding in Vegas, and surprisingly didn’t say “Git-R-Done” once! I mean come on! A wedding and no “Git-R-Done” from the guy himself.  I guess it was just too obvious even for redneck humor.  If I am lucky enough to get Steph to stick it out with my “til death do us part” the sky is the limit.  She enjoys my crazy ideas way too much and that is all the encouragement I need.

 

Thanks, Jeremy! This was a great interview. I have to admit, going into my 17th year too there is much relief in discovering many of my peers seem to have had crises of “faith”. And I’m also relieved to hear that we seem to come back to the sport on new refreshed terms. I’m also thrilled that you are there for my falconry hood needs… so about that cell phone number…

Seriously, when Jeremy is off hiatus or if you see him at a meet, buy one of his hoods! You can check out his website here. And keep an eye out for a blog on his next grand adventure. It will be a must for merlin lovers!

Spellbound

The Gloaming

Eight years ago when I started Operation Desert Dove to tell the tale of flying my first falcon, no one was reading and I knew it. I figured a few people would come along for the ride, but I knew I was only going to be speaking to a handful of interested falconers. Those few people would be enough to keep me honest while training my first peregrine and enough of an audience to encourage me to think poetically about the experience. I wanted a record.

~

That was what I wanted and exactly what I got.

I’m by no means famous, but more things have changed than the name of the blog. I have  friends on Facebook and on Twitter and all kinds of people read the blog, not just a few net-savvy literary falconers. I LOVE my audience, but this is no longer a cocktail party, it’s a stage. It’s a stage for all of us, not just me. We’re not talking amongst ourselves anymore. This is wonderful and terrifying and simply different. People keep asking why I’m so mums-the-word about the Cooper’s hawk I’m training, a first for me. It could be another ride just like the peregrine nearly a decade ago. It could be another book and must be full of so many tales. And there are tales indeed, but the truth of it is, I don’t want to share with you.

Weird, huh?

I’m not failing, I’m thriving, but I don’t want to broadcast the intimate details. These precious moments belong to me. I’m sure the experience is changing me in a thousand ways– this wholly different hawk who is all amygdala and no critical thinking, no practicality. We are running wild in the last hours of summer light, a time with which I’ve never been intimate. I flew my hawks in afternoon thermals and my falcons in the crisp air of autumn dawn. The warm and swarming last light of the fading heated months is a new world. And the little accipiter is making me feral.

There is a magic in these hours that I barely want to share. Two nights ago when the Cooper’s hawk was fed, tucked in his transport box after corkscrew flights and touch-and-go promises, I rummaged for the now-warm Tecate can I had tucked in the back of my truck and I popped it open. I stood scratching the dog’s head; swatting mosquitos and watching the orange tones fail as the darkness rose dense from the crops of clover and corn. Sandhill cranes trumpeted their rising and a coyote sang for his earthbound pack. The sounds made the dog and I still, listening for direction and an appropriate exit.

Nightshift Coming

Perhaps it was our stillness that made us invisible to the barn owl that swooped by too fast for me to flinch. She twisted, rose, plummeted and lit into the brush five feet from the truck, lifting with a mouse in her feet, not a sound, a silent slice of the coming night.

I swore under my breath, heart pounding too loud for comfort and then finished my beer in breathless gulps. I was torn between my human wonder and a primal resonance of danger, the perfectly tuned piano string of an accipiter’s sinew. The hours of reacting to the tiny live wire on my glove had slipped my reason from me. I was certain the gloaming had worn away the day, opening a door to the nightshift where none of my party belonged. I had been there just long enough to bear witness and run.

This is hunting with a Cooper’s hawk. I could tell you about training him to a flashlight and regaining him after dark. I could explain how he fought his way back to me far in and at the base of an eight-foot tall crop of feed corn. I could describe to you how I think I eased the aggression and have kept the tips of his tail intact. Or I could tell you about all the little failures, how I pulled out a deck feather, set him loose in the weathering yard, met tiny talons and bled from my shins. Or I could just tell you it’s magic and leave it at that.

In fact, that’s what I think I’ll do.

Five on Falconry: Stacey Huston

Stacey Huston

Stacey Huston began her passion for falconry in Wyoming with a red-tailed hawk named Kiva. Eleven years later she is still passionate about the sport and practically all outdoor endeavors. Stacey and her husband owned a log home restoration company for over fifteen years, but now Stacey is a “kept” woman free to engage in her side jobs of outdoor writing, photography and video work. She spends her free time on long treks in search of her favorite drink, high mountain water sipped from her cupped hands while reminiscing about meeting Jack Hanna and wondering if he ever figured out why someone would want to be a falconer.

1) First question is partial disclosure. I met you on Twitter and we now run in the same cyberpack. In a world in which women have only recently been welcomed (or pushed their way in), how do you think the Internet has added to your “outdoor” experience?

The Internet really has added to my outdoor experience in making it easier for people with common interests to meet. I am a girl who loves and has always loved the outdoors and nature. In school I got along better with the boys because they did all the cool things (outside) and had little in common with girls (shopping, makeup, cloths and drama in general) but the internet has introduced me to many women who enjoy the same things I do. I am a falconer and long bow hunter. We are few and far between, yet the internet doesn’t make us feel so alone in our passions.

2) I read a tribute you wrote to your 19 year-old son on his birthday that brought me to tears. Mothers do the best they can raising their sons and falconers don’t always make the perfect decisions when flying their birds – but we give it our all on both accounts. What do you think you bring to falconry as a mother of two sons?

Don’t really know how to go about answering this, but as a mom the one thing I have noticed is when I have gone out flying with other falconers (usually men) they just “go”. It’s great and I have had some fun times and learned a lot when out flying with them, but for me leaving our kids at home has never been an option. I got my falconry license when our youngest was 2 and he has always gone out with us. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think raising kids “IN” nature is the best gift we can give them. Now that they are older I let them decide if they want to come or stay home and am very thrilled that most of the time they choose to come. My sponsors and fellow falconers have taught me a lot, but nothing compared to what I learn from my children every day and maybe I have helped to light a spark in them that will keep the falconry fire burning for another generation or two.

In Flight

3) Your whole family hunts. The love of your life and husband, “Hawk”, hunts avidly and often with you right by his side. Yet, death and the whimsy of nature is not an easy thing for a mother to digest. Has hunting gotten easier over the years, harder or is it just different?

I laugh at this, because I was raised in the woods. I was the little wild child with dirt under her fingernails and sticks in her hair, that was always in trouble for wandering off and making friends with the wild creatures, but if I had to choose an answer, I would say just different- but I think it is different for everyone, depending on where they are in life. Hunting and death are all just a part of nature. Nature is a beautiful and breath-taking thing, but it is also messy, but necessary. That is what is so amazing about the natural world. I think you need to fully understand and embrace the good as well as the bad before you can truly appreciate what is there. There has to be a balance.

4) What I notice most about your photography is your love and keen eye for capturing the perfect photo of spring babies. As a woman, your love for the cute and fuzzy is encouraged, but what do you say to that person who says, “Please. You’re just going to kill that jackrabbit later”?

I probably wouldn’t say anything to them at all~ Some people aren’t worth arguing with :-) besides.. Cottontail tastes MUCH better than Jack Rabbit ~

A Focus in the Wild

5) So is it true that anything boys can do, girls can do better? Because Hawk could never train a raptor as well as you, right? ;-)

I don’t know about better. Girls just do things different and sometimes that works out in our favor, but after 20 years of marriage I do have to confess that some “Hawk’s” are not trainable :-)

 

Thanks so much Stacey for taking the time to answer my questions and waiting patiently while I got this series back on track. I love that there are falconers out there dedicated to getting folks outdoors and connected. This is so vital to the future of the wilderness. And I wonder why it is that us girls always favor the hawks we can’t train…

Find out more about Stacey and check out her fantastic photography on her website!

Monday Morning Falconry Fix

Yet-To-Be-Named Cooper's Hawk

Monday Morning Falconry Fix

We can’t get enough of Lauren McGough! If you haven’t read her “Five on Falconry” go do it!

Monday Morning Falconry Fix

Falconer to the King by Chris Fry

Be sure to click on the image and give the photog some love on Flickr.