Khan, our Peregrine Falcon, took free-flying to a new level last Monday. We went off-site to fly him down at Balmoral Oval at 10 am and recovered him later that day at 3:50 pm, just in time to knock-off work. After a day off to recuperate, we jumped straight back into routine this morning, with very interesting results.
On Monday, we decided to fly Khan off-site as the wind conditions on our Bird Show amphitheatre were not in the right direction for us. We prefer southerlies and westerlies and had neither, so we headed down to Balmoral Oval. This is a common free-flying area for us. However the day was not like most other days and after a few loops around the oval, Khan was gone! We usually wait Khan out and he returns after a short while but this didn’t happen! Most of the crew headed back to the zoo whilst Claudia, Sarah and I remained to search for our wayward falcon. He wears a small tracker, similar to us wearing a bracelet, to help us locate him using a tracking receiver.
Claudia headed off with Sarah in our van searching the area and I headed up towards George’s Heights Reserve. We had a little luck and heard him once whilst at George’s and some of the residents were kind enough to let us know which direction he headed in. So off we went again. I was unfortunately heading through bushland and in trying to make my way back to the main road, got tangled in a maze of lantana. I have never itched so much in my life!
Soon after the Noon show was finished we were joined by the rest of the team again and another vehicle but soon realised Khan was no longer on the Mosman side of the water and had headed to Manly! Off we went. We were receiving signals strong and weak but still hadn’t located him. After an hour searching Manly it looked as though Khan had headed back up the Spit and into Mosman shopping village near the Zoo, a few kilometres away. It would seem Khan was very keen on making it as difficult as possible; tall buildings, major roads and loads of traffic.
Getting closer to the start of the 3 pm show, we were still without Khan but right as we were about to split up, we saw a lone bird high on an apartment block. Fantastic! There he was! Half the team headed back, whilst Erin, Matt and I waited for Khan. Upon seeing us he made great effort to come down but was having difficulties; rain was setting in, the buildings were making it hard for him to manoeuvre and it was very windy.
Khan went from rooftop to rooftop. We scaled fences, climbed ladders, pulled ourselves onto garage roofs, got caught in the downpour and even were let in to scour the rooftops of friendly Mosman locals.
Finally Khan landed low enough that we had a fair chance. He landed on a balcony one level off the ground. Unfortunately that person was not at home. Their neighbour was though, and after a small chat, a shimmy across the rail, some fine hand work and an eager falcon, Khan was recovered!
Jump forward to this morning. Wind conditions were right so we flew Khan on stage. He did two loops … but then … a pair of wild Peregrines came in and chased Khan off. We were only slightly hindered. Five minutes and Khan had dodged his counterparts and come right back to Bird Show. Phew! After a six hour chase on Monday, we were not keen to repeat. They are fun every now and then, but not every day!