The other day I went out of the zoo to fly my female Peregrine Falcon, Nike. I’ve been training Nike since October now and everyday she’s becoming a more and more competent flier. Usually when I fly Nike, she is with one of the other trainers to start with. When I’m ready to fly her, she is released and I start swinging my lure. Nike tries to, and eventually, grabs it mid-air, claiming her prize. This day I decided to try releasing her myself … this, funnily enough, did not go as expected and a short 10-minute flight session took well over an hour.
To begin with I held Nike up in the air to release her. She looked very puzzled as she was already at her end point … me. It made me laugh. She looked at me and then hopped down to my feet, looking back up waiting for her prize. Unfortunately for Nike this wasn’t to come unless she worked for it. So I picked Nike up and gave her another opportunity. This time she did take off … over the hills and far, far away!
I waited a little while, still swinging the lure hoping she’d come back. She has looped out far before and readily made her way back. She didn’t. I was slightly disheartened but the team sprang into action to start locating her. We then spent the next hour wading through bushland around George’s Heights Oval, all the way down to Clifton Gardens.
I ended up with a few scratches from running through the bush, but it’s nothing really when you’ve got a stray bird. It was really hot too, but spirits picked up when my supervisor Matt said he had a visual of her in a eucalyptus tree by the water’s edge. I made my way over, started swinging the lure and … nothing. It wasn’t my bird! It wasn’t even the same species. Matt and I were stoked all the same. The bird in the tree was an Australian Hobby. From a distance they look very similar.
The search was on again and our strongest signal, being emitted from the telemetry she was wearing, was back up the hill. No worries, off I ran. In fact as I ran closer towards the strongest signal it was sending me nearer and nearer to where I had originally let her go! I walked out back onto the oval and zooooooooom; she flew right past my head.
My hands were full with a radio, a tracking receiver, her hood, my glove and a lure, which I swung all the same. She came to claim the lure, I sent it out to her and she grabbed it. Yay! The problem? I let her have it completely! When lure flying you always hold one end of the lure so the falcon can not fly off with it, because I let her have it she didn’t land. She was slowed though. I was able to run half-way across the oval and claim the lure myself. Nike landed next to me and then she was given her prize.
All in all, a very different but interesting and fun morning. Matt is still very excited about seeing that Hobby.