A couple of months ago Rich and I bought Groupons for each of us to have a 90 minute falconry lesson to be held at the Torrey Pines Glider Port. We made reservations for this morning, and it turned out to be the perfect day, with beautiful blue skies and warm weather.
The birds we worked with today are Harrris's Hawks, which are considered among the easiest to train, and most social. They are the only birds of prey that hunt cooperatively, so when they're trained, the human becomes their hunting partner...making the hawk much less likely to fly away during hunting. Our workshop leaders today, Eric and Denise, own four Harris Hawks and one red tailed. For our lesson they brought three of the Harris Hawks-one adult male, one adult female, and a juvenile. Denise and Eric are passionate about their birds, and their place in the world, and they were able to transmit some of that passion to all of us.
Someone in our group asked Denise how she got started doing this-her response was that she'd been interested in birds of prey since she was a child...which struck a chord for the teacher in me. We have so many opportunities as teachers to spark the curiosity and interest of the kids in our room. Something that is so much more important than all the testing and preparing for the test that is sucking up our classroom time now. I remember watching my kids become totally absorbed in studying birds of prey, and specifically owls and owl pellets, and I know another "Denise" could easily have come from that group of sixth graders.
Eric and Denise spent the first half hour or so giving us information about falconry and birds of prey. We learned that falconry dates to at least 10,000 years ago! Another interesting fact is that over 80,000 birds of prey are killed each year by wind turbines! Because of that, Eric supports some possible remedies like adding reflective surfaces to the blades of the turbines, so the birds are more likely to see them
We were each given a falconer's glove and were instructed on how and where to hold our arms in relation to the hawks, how to hold our hands, and how to call the birds. Eric then spread a little bit of "chicken paste" on our gloves, to ensure that "Dude" got a reward when he flew to someone's glove. We formed a circle with the participants (about 12) and had an opportunity to call the bird and have it fly across the circle to land on our arms...which was completely amazing! We created a couple of other configurations of the participants and had additional experiences calling the hawk, and eventually we stood alone for a "photo opportunity" and had the hawk fly to us. We also had the opportunity to count out 1...2...3...then throw a chicken foot (yeah, a little icky) into the air for the hawk to catch in mid air. Really amazing!
When I told a friend about buying this Groupon, her comment was, "Why?" My thinking is why wouldn't you take an opportunity like this, to learn about these beautiful birds and have an opportunity to observe them up close? What an interesting way to spend our morning! I'd do it again in a heartbeat.