So in this final installment of falconry photos we have the big falcons. Fast, strong and very difficult to photograph. Ray has a Saker falcon that I’ve featured here before, Chula, as well as a pair of Barbary/Gyrfalcon captive bred birds named Sophia and The Phantom.
These bird are hard to photograph on the wing. Chula is a bit easier, since I’ve been watching her for the past 4 or 5 years and kind of have a feel for habits in the arena. The young ones, Sophia and Phantom, however are maddeningly frustrating to capture in a non-blurry way. Phantom in particular, since he likes to live up to his name by vanishing in one direction behind the trees, climbing up and stooping from another direction.
Sophia kindly perched on the fence for a quick photo.
Here she just missed a pass at the lure
Braking and turning midair
Unfortunately for you the only good photo I got of Phantom was of him stuffing his face.
Last post I closed out with a quote from Ray, head falconer of Flight of the Raptor. “Falconry is based on respect and trust, if you respect the birds, you will earn their trust.” There is actually a follow up to that, “The bird will never respect you, and you can never trust the bird.”
Today we’re going to take a look at at the two smallest birds flown during the session, Ace the American Kestrel and Chica the Merlin.
To be honest, I didn’t really get anything too great of Ace, he is just too damn tiny and spent most his time on the other side of the arena. I suppose this means that I need to get a bigger lens. Kestrels are also known as sparrowhawks, though to be fair their main prey is grasshoppers and the like. They aren’t really too “useful” to a falconer hunting for his own cook pot, but are great little birds to learn with. Did I mention that they are as colorful as tiny?
Ace in flight-
Ace to the hand (you can see how tiny he is! Dare I say “Squee!”)
Next we have the lovely little Chica. She is a bit bigger than Ace, but not by much. Merlins are not hawks but falcons, meaning they hunt other birds and have long tapering wings rather than the broad blunt wings of the hawks and eagles. They capture prey in the air and bind to them, killing swiftly with a bite to sever the spine at the base of the neck. Here Chica was chasing the training lure rather than another bird.
I like this shot mainly because it shows off that wonderful camouflage as she comes in from a shallow stoop towards the lure.
Talk about intense focus! Remember the caveat Ray gave on the trust and respect of a falconer’s relationship with his birds? Well here you can see how he keeps tabs on his birds if they should choose to just fly off and not return. Which they do sometimes. The wire hanging down from Chica’s leg a little GPS transponder, if she flies off they can load up into a car and track her down. Once found she will most likely be willing to return to the falconer’s fist with the temptation of a food reward, something all the birds have learned to expect anytime the falconer asks them to return to the hand.
Next up will be the supersonic superstars of the show, the big falcons!
It is that time of year again! Welcome back to the Bristol Renaissance Faire, one of my favorite places on earth. I made a point of catching the falconry session twice in hopes of catching one or two good photos, I’m fairly happy with year’s turn out.
First let me introduce you via linky to Flight of the Raptor, please check them out. They provide the educational sessions for Bristol’s faire pretty much every year and no matter how many times I visit the show I am always impressed, enthralled, entertained and educated at the end.
I’ll start with the Harris hawks, always fantastic birds.
One of the more interesting things about Harris hawks is they will often work cooperatively. Here two of the capture the lure and battle it in an impressive display of strength.
One of the things I love about Flight of the Raptor is Ray, the lead falconer. His love of the birds and passion for falconry is magnificent. Here he calms his more nervous hawk before hooding her.
As Ray says, falconry is based on respect and trust, if you respect the birds, you will earn their trust.
So my brother called me and surprised me with the suggestion we go the Bristol Renaissance Faire on the last day of the year. Not having any Labor Day plans of note I figured I’d brave the crowds and go for it. Armed with my trusty camera and a few weeks worth of internet research on taking photos of birds I figured I’d give the falconry show another try. This time I walked away pretty damn happy with the results.
First I managed to get a shot of Jackson, a 4 month old captive-bred Harris Hawk as he took off from the pole I was standing under.
I also finally caught the moment of the lure strike, something that has eluded me every since I started taking photos. This is Chula, she is a 10 year old Saker Falcon.
Best of all, I was finally able to track, pan and focus on Chula in flight. Here she is turning to come back for another stoop on the lure.
While the new camera is better equipped to deal with the fast movement at the Falconry show, I still have a lot of learning to do to get the most out of it. The grand majority of the time my pictures are nothing but grey or brown blurs, when I manage to get the bird in the frame at all. This past visit was a little better, most of the time my pictures were slightly out of focus when I managed to get the bird into the frame. There was still a lot of “*#*$!@#@$#^&!!” going on under my breath.
Random photo from my Bristol Renaissance Faire folder.
I have been trying for years to get a good shot of the falcons and hawks at the faire, and just in the past couple of years have finally succeeded. Of course they usually have food in their mouths, but I’ll take it.
I love birds in general, and hawks in particular, so the falconry show is always good times for me, even though I can run through the falconer’s spiel with him at this point. Hopefully with the purchase of a new camera and better lenses this year I’ll be able to produce something with the birds on the wing.