A Harris Hawk called Chaya

birds, Falconry, Harris Hawk, Hawk, nature, photography

On Pancake day this year I collected my very own Harris Hawk.  After over 30 years of waiting I finally got a Hawk of my own – so very exciting and nerve racking all at the same time!  I love my owls and always will, but a Harris Hawk is a completely different bird all together.  Much more like a working dog in the way a relationship can be forged – becoming partners in nature.  As a child I dreamt of this day.

Chaya Harris Hawk

She arrived angry and disgruntled – her previous aviary had it’s roof blown off by the storm Imogen 2 days before, and with her owners moving soon they did not want to rebuild so put her up for sale.  She had only been with them for a few months and had flown free just a couple of times, hunting but not caught anything yet.

Still a young bird, hatched in 2014 at the end of June, she had not been trained or flown as much as she could have been so it was going to be up to me to bring her ‘in to her own’.  I had briefly worked with her early last summer and I hoped she may remember me as the person who had encouraged her to fly to the glove for food, and on a creance too.  However with her strong feet and attitude I really wasn’t sure if she did, or ever would!

Feb 2016 yellow feet Harris Hawk

She needed a name – Birdy was all she had been called before.  After searching through my usual Google pages of goddess names and the like I chose Chaya – meaning Full of Life in Hebrew ,with similar words in Gaelic meaning hawk like, and in Mexican meaning life giving.  A good strong name for a beautiful, strong female Harris Hawk.

She showed good spirit [or temper!] and was very keen for food so I quickly got her flying in the field on a creance [long 30 metre leash] while we got to know each other.

Chaya on creance.JPG

Chaya loves playing in trees and chasing squirrels, though still hasn’t caught one yet.  She is getting used to the wind too, after the storm she really did seem quite unnerved by the wind, especially strong gusts, but with regular flying she is getting stronger and more confident by the day.  We go out every day possible, wind or rain as long as it is not too rough!

 

Chaya loves company, Harris Hawks are very social creatures, so she is by my side most of the day – watching me tend my parking area, visiting friends or on her bow perch in my garden as I type my blogs.

She will, hopefully, live to the age of about twenty, and I look forward to our adventures together.  She is now flying free every day and has started preening my hair [which needs it after our walks].  I have found a good friend.

Harris Hawk flies over willow

It’s All About BB – my Eurasian Eagle Owl

birds, Hoots, nature, Owls, photography

BB King – a very fine name for a very fine owl.

BB King

For I am BB King

BB came to be mine on the 14th of May last year, the day his namesake died.  He was looking for a new home as his keeper was retiring.  A local bird sanctuary had no room for him – but I did!  He did not have a name other than Owl….not good enough, I thought.  Now it has to be a fine name for such a magnificent creature so I started looking [or Googling to be precise] names of Gods and Kings.  The Eurasian Eagle Owls are one of the largest of all owls and have a wonderful soulful hoot.  Their Latin name is Bubo Bubo.

I struggled to find a name for him, then heard a news report on the radio announcing the passing of BB King – so it had to be.  BB = Bubo Bubo.  King of Soul = best hoot I have heard other than in the Disney movies!  Check out his hooting –

In Geneva earlier this year I spotted this guitar which was the real BB King’s, and it was signed by him!  I need to frame this photo and hang it in my BB’s aviary 🙂

BB King guitar

This Spring BB has certainly settled into his deluxe aviary and he is even trying to make a nest!  He is 5 years old [on April 19th] so is going to be looking for a mate – maybe I should put an ad in the local paper for him!

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As anyone on the dating scene knows it is important to look your best, and keeping an eye on his weight is part of BB’s beauty regime.

Eagle Owl weigh day

BB loves being outside in the field – enjoying the wind ruffle his feathers while he takes in the sights,

and in his aviary he sometimes looks so funny!

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We love you BB, you rock!!

So Far, so Shed

art, nature, Owls, Shed

I am loving my shed.  From a second hand purchase found in St Blazey last year, we took it down and put it back together in the field – in a bit of haste as the ground wasn’t really level, but it was a start.

Garden Shed

So now I have somewhere to shelter from the weather and weigh the owls – very important as this quickly tells me if they are healthy, hungry or fat!

Owl scales

 

 

 

 

 

Owl weight chart

I can also make cups of tea – and of course have a place for my Owl Advent calendar [thank you little brother].

Owl shed kettle on!

Owl advent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now, after a lot of hard work on a really windy day with my daughter’s boyfriend who wheelbarrowed loads of gravel up the field to make a solid base… …

shed base ready

…And with a big THANKS to the Fowey Lankelly Rugby team who incredibly picked it up and moved it last weekend for me the shed is now on solid ground – and doesn’t wobble when anyone goes inside!!

Shed on the moveShed halfway thereShed landing

Today I have made a good start on sanding down the outside and putting some colour on the old wood.  Beach Hut blue works well in the field, I think 🙂

Shed Beach Hut BlueOwl Shed in a field

 

Owl Selfies

birds, Hoots, nature, Owls, photography, Selfies

I seem to have gathered lots of photographs of my owls over the past 8 months – [WOW!!! I’ve had my owls for 8 months now!!] …… loads of Peanut…

Why is he so photogenic?!

Thought it was time I shared them with you – and a really close up video of BB hooting 🙂

Peanut  I love this photo taken by my niece, Zinzi…

Peanut with my smiley nephews and niece… and me in my hat…

…at Christmas and in the house..

Casper and Cam

Our son with Casper, a young Barn owl we reared…

Victor portrait.JPG

and Victor in portrait poise…

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and happily home again…

Now listen to BB King’s soulful double hooting – warming up for Spring!

 

Watching Owls

birds, nature, Owls, photography

“A wise old owl sat on an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke; The less he spoke the more he heard; Why aren’t we like that wise old bird?”

BB King

For I am BB King

Owls like to stare for ages – usually at something so far away it is impossible for me to see what ever it is they find so fascinating.

BB likes to spend quite a bit of time watching the sheep grazing, and a large oak tree on the edge of his field – looking for squirrels perhaps?..

Victor has a general good look around, blinking slowly, taking his time.

Peanut’s favourite spot is on his top rail where he can watch everything, snugly puffed up with one leg tucked away..

Good Morning Peanut

and Whisper just loves the camera – well, she is beautiful!!

Do Owls know its Christmas?

nature, Owls, photography

No of course they don’t, but if anyone asks they got new aviaries, a new weathering and went to a few parties. Yes, new aviaries and parties!  In between getting ready for Christmas and looking after my husband, who broke his hand at work and then a week before the feast day had a bone shaping operation on his foot [very painful and on crutches for a while yet], the new aviaries were finished enough for the two big owls to move into!

It was hard work in the cold, wind and rain but with the help of some amazing friends – especially the man with the larch! – we finished on the 23rd and Victor and BB were in their bigger, stronger and most importantly drier homes.

Side view In progress Box profile

We already had a lot of the materials and the steel roofing sheets and larch made it all good and solid.  The final push on the 23rd saw Pete, my son Cameron and me in the pouring rain taking out crucial panels from the old aviaries to put into the new.  The owls were put onto bow perches and it was a matter of having to finish or they would have no where to go that night.  The final netting was stapled by the light of the mobile phone – but we did it!!

Still need to get a load of gravel on BB’s floor [I have a ton of pea gravel at the bottom of the field to bring up via wheelbarrow as its so muddy!] and after a bit more trim and a lick of paint they will be done.  BB is now in residence in a 12×12 foot space and Victor has a 6x12foot area.  Both have rope swings and plenty of room to spread their wings.  Both also seem much happier, more animated and alert – my Xmas present 🙂

IMG_2964Victor is in

Then the following Monday we had another building day and an amazing weathering shelter was built from another old fence panel and the skillful hands of Owen – with Cameron helping too.  Meanwhile Trace and I moved gravel [again/still] and took more of the old down.  Now Peanut and Whisper will have somewhere to perch out of the wind at the farm – it is really taking shape.

Xmas Monday crewPortable Weathering Done

Ideal – and it has handles so I can move it 🙂

So that’s the new builds, big owls all secure and safe from the wild wind and rain.

I will tell you about the owl Xmas parties next time; here is a selfie from Peanut for now – belated Merry Xmas and Happy New Year everyone!!

Peanut Xmas selfie at Trenython

Victor’s Day Out

birds, nature, Owls, photography

Some days it has been so wet and windy it is hard to get the owls out of their aviaries.   When it is really rough I leave them in peace and quiet; in the wild they would stay put in a sheltered spot and wait for the weather to pass so it’s quite natural for them – just like we like to stay where we are warm and dry, and watch the rain pour down.  On those days I will spend some time standing with each of them, having a chat and giving them their food.

Victor still hasn’t made a sound but the other three hoot, screech and chirrup joining in the conversation!   Victor contributes through expression, his eyelids are the best and he winks and blinks – maybe it’s a kind of owl morse code…I will decipher it one day.  He is getting more confident when he is taken out, and much more interested in looking around rather than staring at me with a rather shocked expression!

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Here we are sheltering in the ‘spare’ aviary during a heavy shower – spare as in it is supplying the spare parts needed for the new aviaries and will soon be taken down completely.  We removed the door and front panel just a few days ago for the new, better and stronger aviaries – fingers crossed finished this week – wow!!!

 

Victor really likes my shed.  The first time he went in to be weighed was the first time I had seen him take a real notice of his surroundings – he had a good look around, visibly relaxed and happily looked out of the window while I made a cup of tea.

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I think he must have been in a shed with his previous owners at some point, as he loves it in there every time now.  IMG_2939

 

My brother and his lovely girls bought me an Owl Advent calendar  – Victor loved it too!

 

It gets a bit chilly in the field while spending time with Victor, so I decided to go for a walk around and see who else was about at the farm.

We visited Pete – who was out, but Victor liked the look of the caravan.

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So then we went down to the yard to see if my brother was about, though forgot that is was nearly 3pm so he would be doing the school run picking up his girls.  Victor quite liked the old cartwheel by his back door and I couldn’t resist making the most of this photo opportunity.

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Soon Victor is going to be guest of honour, with Peanut, at the Lankelly Rugby Club junior’s Xmas party.  This will be Victor’s first public appearance since he came to live with me so it is very exciting.  I am making him new anklets and jesses [or furniture to use the correct term] especially for the occasion, so he will look very smart and I am sure he will impress everyone there, blinking quietly in his way.

Time to put Victor back and feed the owls.

 

 

Owls by day

birds, cute, nature, Owls, photography

So much has been achieved since I started on my new adventure in the summer, yet there is still loads to do.  The owls need there daily care, of course, as does Blue and the chickens; the parking area and shed renovation are getting there, just not quite done yet; Victor and BB need better aviaries before the winter really sets in and the shed needs moving to a more level site…busy days!

Daily routines with Peanut and Whisper already feels like this is what I have always done.  Each morning starts with a quick check out of my bedroom window where I can see both aviaries – usually Peanut is on his top perch looking like a puffball.

Good Morning Peanut

Good Morning Peanut

If I call out he will answer with his little chirrup that sounds so much like he is saying ‘Alright’ – he is proper Cornish!

He is slowly developing his grown up call, a quick double ‘hoot hoot’ which we have only heard a couple of times so far.  I even played him a recording thinking that may encourage him to hoot…instead he looked confused and continued with his usual chirrup.

Hello!

Hello!

Whisper is often still awake in the morning, though not always.  I never knew that I would be able to tell if a Barn Owl is tired just by looking at one, but Whisper actually squints if she is up too early or stayed up too late.  You would think that she would go into her box, but no, she is often sitting on a perch on one foot squinting at the morning light!  If anyone goes near the aviary she then dashes into her box to hide – I wonder if she is thinking ‘No, I do not want to come out and play, it is bedtime’. Just like a teenager – she hates mornings!

Morning Whisper!

Morning Whisper!

I managed to record her sleeping a while ago – we had been to the farm for a few hours and she was obviously exhausted by this. Here she is – Sleeping Whisper – you can see her gently moving with her breath as she sleeps. Beautiful!

So, back to the routine.  Once I am up a quick visual check of owls and aviaries shows me if there is anything that needs attention.  The water is changed and the casts collected.  It’s important for me to note if each bird has cast and if the cast looks ‘normal’.  Depending on the diet the casts will differ in colour – day old chicks are quite pale where as rats and pheasant certainly makes my four owls’ casts much darker.  Any unusual changes may indicate the bird is unwell so this is an important check to make.

If all is well, and after a cup of coffee, I spend time working with Peanut in his aviary training him, at the moment getting him to go into his burrows on command with a reward of food.  He is learning well and is very quick to fly for a treat – a bit of beef or cut up chick are his favourites.  When the training is done, basically when Peanut has had enough to eat, I stay for a few more minutes as this is when he is very sociable and at his cutest – Cute Burrowing Owl says ‘Which way is up?’

Mid afternoon I usually head to the field to see Victor and BB.  I am working on building their confidences with being handled, or manned to use the correct term.  They were both hand reared but had not been handled much at all before they came to me this year.  As they are now both about 5 years old this may take a lot of time and patience on my part.  However as Eurasian Eagle Owls can live up to 60 years I figure it is worth it.

BB sitting on a glove!

BB sitting on a glove!

So now I spend time simply being near them in their aviaries and talking to them.  They are both free lofted – not tethered – so it is good that they usually remain sitting calmly when I am with them.  If I do catch them to take them out they still tend to flap but soon settle once on my glove.  BB struggles to stand on the glove, showing that he really hadn’t been handled much at all, and so he needs more practice but as he is such a large bird he gets quite heavy to hold for any length of time!!

Tempting Victor with food

Tempting Victor with food

My aim is to one day be able to fly them in the field – just got to get them to feed from the glove first, which they don’t at all at the moment…..like I say, I will keep trying.

So then after a few hours hanging out with my boys I head back home in time to feed the youngsters.  My days are getting much shorter now it gets dark by 5pm!  My lovely husband has put outside lights for me as it was getting tricky undoing the padlocks with one hand while holding a torch with the other.

I like to fly Whisper every evening, weather depending, and she looks gorgeous flying at dusk.  If it’s wet I bring her in to the house, which is much nicer for both of us!

Good evening Whisper

Good evening Whisper

Whisper evening flight

Whisper evening flight

A pretty good way to spend a day, I think 🙂

Playing indoors

Playing indoors

Getting Creative

art, nature, Owls, willow

So many ideas of what to do.  The space in the field is looking really lovely, especially since my sister-in-law cut the grass again.  I didn’t know that to have a go on a ride on mower was on Cheryl’s Bucket List, but as soon as she mentioned it I booked her in to mow –

Mowing a Meadow

Mowing a Meadow

now she can tick that one off and the field looks fab!

It’s beginning to take shape with the lawn appearing out of what was 20 years of grazing pasture – any gardener would be proud of it.  So now I am trying to decide where to put some colourful planting and keep bringing cuttings from home.  A lady in my village was giving away loads of bedding plants: ox-eye daisies, geraniums and aquilegia which will all help to fill the space, with some left over to brighten up the parking area too.

At the farm there is a load of willow ready for coppicing, so I did!  I took total advantage of a friend who was visiting my brother for a few days and, with Silky in hand went for it.  Blue supervised.

Cutting Willow

Cutting Willow

We then carried the willow into the next field and started constructing a large canopy/arbour/shelter in the top corner where the view is stunning and is the best place to sit to catch the sun.

Getting started

Getting started

We started with the main uprights to get the shape.  7 in all, tied with one bit of string and the rest we just weaved into it’s self as we went.  Jo dug the holes for the uprights while I secured them and trimmed off the excess.  Of course Blue made sure we were doing it right and Pete was on hand too – all in all it was a grand afternoon’s work – apart from the gas on my camping stove running out so we couldn’t have a cup of tea….doh!

Lazy Dog

Lazy Dog


Nearly Done

Nearly Done

Now we wait for the willow to grow and keep on weaving in the shoots.  I have planted an Americana Honeysuckle to grow over the top which will look gorgeous and smell wonderful too.  All it needs now is a large bench.

Willow Done

Willow Done

The ‘port-a-burrow I made a few weeks ago is now finished and Peanut was introduced to it just the other day.  He really wasn’t sure at first, I mean, why should there be a burrow on top of a table inside a house?  With a bit of food to tempt him in he soon got used to the idea and it will come into full use now that winter is finally on it’s way.

Spot Peanut

Spot Peanut


Burrow Inspection

Burrow Inspection

The burrow was really handy to take along to Fowey Hall Hotel for two Meet Peanut afternoon family tea parties over half term.  Peanut did really well too on his first public engagements, and of course everyone loved him.  It was wonderful to give the families a close up and personal experience with an owl; seeing him fly for food and being able to touch him and feel how soft his feathers are.  I also put together a craft activity: pine cone owls on the first day and owl masks on the next.  The pine cone owls turned out well…and I even did one in Halloween colours to be seasonal!

Pine Cone Owls

Pine Cone Owls


Halloween Owl

Halloween Owl

Owl