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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Winter hawking with Teddy Moritz: multispecies interaction

This picture of Teddy's Harris hawk was taken at field trials in New Jersey in October 2012. It was enhanced to show the maximum of details and vibrancy of colors.

The below excerpt from Teddy's recent e-mail is particularly interesting to me as it speaks about interaction between her hawk and mini dachshunds.
Hawking has been good particularly since the weather has been open and fairly mild till this cold snap. There's been no excuse not to go out.

This Harris's doesn't take the cold as well as my others did. I don't know why but he starts shivering when the temps hit the low 30's. I used to fly my other birds down to the teens, if only for an hour. The wind is a factor here in Delaware also, making the cold harder on the bird. I've even brought him into the garage these last few nights. Carl keeps the garage at just above freezing to keep the water pipes, paint, etc. from the cold.

Anyway, the hawk is doing well. He is very gamey, meaning he hunts hard, watches the dogs like a hawk, shall we say, and the best part is he leaves the dogs alone. The last two birds I had would hit the dogs in frustration if we weren't putting up game. That is something I find hard to tolerate. The dogs aren't seriously hurt but it demoralizes them. They don't understand why they are being punished. After a few hits they'll just follow me through the fields, watching the hawk and not hunting. Fortunately this bird is very keyed to the dogs, more so than to me. If I yell ho ho ho when a rabbit gets up he may or may not look at me. If the dogs put up a rabbit he's right over them and after the rabbit. I can deal with that.

He's also decided my red stud dog, Bane, is the one to watch. He shadows Bane as Bane hunts. Sometimes Bane works out further than the other dogs. If I lose track of the bird I'll call Bane in and when he comes, so does the bird. When Bane is on a rabbit the hawk stays right with him, rather than looking at the other dogs. It's not that the bird doesn't watch the rest of the dogs if I don't take Bane, but if Bane is out, the hawk is with him. My previous female hawk eventually did the same thing, figuring Bane was the one to be near. Bane is a good dog but so are some of my others, particularly Fitz, the little one. And to my surprise, Bane, at 5 and a half, recently started running in on the hawk when the hawk caught a rabbit. The squeals of the rabbit are very enticing but my dogs are punished early for trying to take the rabbit from the bird. It's one thing when they simply anchor the other end of the rabbit, which some of them do, but it's another thing when they grab the rabbit and take it away from the hawk. Bane did that three hunts in a row. One time he got the rabbit and held it, one time the rabbit got away, and one time I managed to corral the rabbit when the hawk and Bane lost it. I was rather unhappy with Bane so he got to wear an e-collar for the next few hunts and I was able to remind him of his manners. I don't know what his thought process was as he hasn't run in on a bird since he was a pup. He's a rock solid, reliable hunter and produces plenty of game, but he has to leave the bird alone.

I'm out almost every day with the hawk and dogs so we've been having good sport. I like finding new spots especially and only take one or two reliable dogs when I check out a new area. Delaware cover is thicker than in north Jersey, vines being the biggest challenge. The little dogs can snake through the tunnels under the vines, just as the rabbit does, but the hawk can't always see the rabbit in the vines and it often moves way ahead, losing the hawk. Then the dogs make it move again and we start over. Much of Delaware is ditched or there are old tire tracks in the woodlots. That much of a dip in the ground is enough to give the rabbits a runway, then when the vines, greenbriar, Japanese honeysuckle, poison ivy, trumpet vine, etc. grow over the tire track or ditch, the chase becomes one of tunnel running. And because the weather tends to be milder, the vines don't get pushed down by snow or ice and they continue to provide cover. The honeysuckle really doesn't even lose its leaves so it almost always provides a hiding spot. Sometimes when I put the dogs down they disappear completely under the variety of vines and briars and I don't know where they are until one opens and the hawk takes off after the rabbit. And a dog has to face water to hawk here as many ditches, deep and shallow, have water in them.
There are also woodchuck holes to contend with. In these hedgerows the dens can be very tight, despite the sandy soil. The tunnels go through the maze of roots and the dogs sometimes can't get as tight as the rabbit. I don't usually bother to dig because I'd spend more time cutting roots than actually digging. However, my smallest dog, Fitz, at barely 6 pounds, can almost always make a rabbit vacate a den. She's provided many a chase for the bird this winter. She's nine and a half and I hope I can breed or find as small a dog to replace her.
Enough about me....I always look forward to reading your blog and enjoy seeing all the deer the trackers have recovered. Andy has good stories with plenty of detail. I know you work hard on the blog, so thanks!


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