[Tweeters] In defense of Falconry and Hunting
baro at pdx.edu
Fri May 27 13:02:54 PDT 2022
I read Mark's Predator vs. Prey analysis with interest & enjoyment. Here
are a couple of observations I have made over about 60 years of birding.
1. Merlin vs. Mourning Dove
This was observed in a residential area SE of Portland In the distance I
observed two birds approaching fast, about 50 feet in the air, one behind
the other. As they got closer the lead bird was seen to be a Mourning
Dove, and the pursuer, a Merlin. It appeared neck and neck with the Merlin
keeping up but not gaining in all-out flight. When they were adjacent to
me the Mourning Dove dove into a large, dense pine, 50 feet up. The
Merlin, chagrinned, started madly circling the pine, looking for an
opening. After several circles the Mourning Dove, sensing an opportunity,
headed on through the sky while the Merlin was on the 'wrong' side of the
tree. Not discouraged, the Merlin rounded the tree in pursuit. They both
disappeared out of sight, 50 and then 100 feet in the air. (This was on the
side of a hill). Clearly an endurance race, outcome unknown. But, like
the dog that caught the car, what would the Merlin do if successful? They
are approximately the same size.
.2. Peregrine vs. Rock Pigeon
This was at the (formerly?) famous Nehalem Sewage ponds. As I was birding,
a Peregrine casually flew in at about 100 feet, circling the
shorebird-laden ponds. Two Caspian Terns immediately went up from the
ponds and, screaming, ran it out of the area. 30 minutes later, as I was
driving down the country road back to Hwy 101, I observed (as in #1) two
birds flying at high speed towards me. As they approached I saw that the
lead bird was a Rock Pigeon and the pursuer, the Peregrine. We were on a
collision course. It appeared my car would collide with one or both. I
started braking, the two birds did not. As I came to a stop the Rock
Pigeon flashed in front the windshield, crashing at 50-60 mph into the
large, wlld, blackberry hedge that lined the road. The peregrine swerved
upward, immediately disappearing. I got out of my now stationary car and
photographed (sort of) the pigeon deep inside the blackberries. It wasn't
coming out for anything.
I've had the pleasure of observing many such interactions over many years,
but these seemed most pertinent to the current discussion.
Actually, here is another, this time not involving prey (directly), but
A few years ago, on one of the Princess Cruise 'birding' trips from
Vancouver BC to Los Angeles, the seabirds were pretty sparse. This was
made up for, to an extent, by a Peregrine Falcon that came aboard 60 miles
off Santa Barbara and stayed on the ship for the rest of the day,
occasionally flying out of sight and returning with a storm petrel that it
consumed on the ship. Easy pickin's I'd say.
The falcon would perch on the upper deck, about 50' above the water,
and this is where I observed it. This wasn't any old Peregrine. First, it
old, it was a first-year bird, a male, not much larger than a Kestrel.
And it wasn't 'any' Peregrine -- it was of the Tundra Race ( Falco
peregrinus tundrius )
a race very rarely seen on the NW Coast, but the one occasionally seen
around the world, far
offshore, miles from land. For a while, I spent more time on this 'land'
bird than on
the seabirds. And it was worthwhile.
Now since I was a kid I've heard of their putative 200mph dive. I know
they are fast and powerful but I have always been skeptical of that
figure. Especially since it has been so frequently quoted long before
there were accurate methods of determination. But, of course this applies
to a dive,
not level flight, I assume. I'm no longer skeptical of that speed..
After watching it coming, going, & perched for an hour or so, it casually
took off, flew upwards to
200-300 feet, turned and dove straight down. It was incredibly fast. I
thought it was going to submerge but no; barely above the sea surface it
planed out and did it again. 3 or 4 times. I came out of shock and managed
to get a photo of it at the bottom of the vertical dive, just as it was
turning. See below. (I was 50' above the water myself, on the top deck).
I'm sure there were no prey-petrels at the bottom of
the stoop, not any other sea bird. Just practicing I guess. Or trying to
teach me a lesson, in which it was successful.
Bob OBrien Portland
P.S. The easy and permanent availability of this photo(s), sent several
years ago to OBOL, and now in the archives, illustrates the advantages of
allowing 1 (or more?) photos to be appended to a Tweeters Tweet.
On Thu, May 26, 2022 at 4:55 PM Mark Borden <markbordenmd at gmail.com> wrote:
> I’m glad you read my posting Larry!
> Many people feel that the birds of prey are these powerful omnipotent
> undefeatable creatures. Far fewer realize that there is a very close
> balance between the aerial predators and their aerial prey.
> There are very few birds that cannot outfly every Raptor in a fair chase.
> Those that are slower, such as the English sparrow and coot stay close to
> cover and can avoid their predators by seeking shelter.
> As I was telling Rachel, I release my racing homers twice per day here on
> Whidbey. Depending upon the time of year they deal with many predators, and
> yet in 17 years I have only lost eight birds to predation. They are faster
> than any falcon, as are wild rock doves, they are also faster than any
> species of hawk, and can only be caught by a hawk that has attained an
> advantage through tactics.
> Robins, blackbirds, mourning doves and collared Doves (and other similar
> sized birds) are even faster and dodge better, and can only be caught in
> very rare circumstances.
> About 10 years ago a wild mature female Cooper’s Hawk discovered that by
> coming upon my dove loft at full speed she could catch a racer before it
> could get up to speed. She was not, however, large enough to carry away a
> dove, so I saved many by being there and scaring her off.
> Once she realized I was part of the equation she left and never returned.
> They are a secretive species and do not like to be exposed.
> In 17 years I have had hundreds of episodes with peregrines. Many of the
> flights have been very spectacular but in 17 years I’ve only lost one dove
> to a peregrine.
> Sent from my iPhone
> On May 26, 2022, at 4:34 PM, Larry Schwitters <leschwitters at me.com> wrote:
> Tweeters and Mark,
> I found your statement "my licensing fees alone accumulated would fund an
> entire wildlife conservation program.” difficult to believe.
> Washington State Fish and Wild at
> https://wdfw.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2019-01/requirements.pdf says
> "Permit Fee: At this time there is no permit fee. Legislature may consider
> a direct fee to the Department at a later date.”
> Did I look in the wrong place?
> Larry Schwitters
> On May 26, 2022, at 1:50 PM, Mark Borden <markbordenmd at gmail.com> wrote:
> I will preface this statement by reminding you that I am a Falconer.
> Testing requirements, license fees, and facilities construction and
> maintenance make Falconry a challenging sport. It is a sport to which one
> must be dedicated 365 days a year.
> As a master Falconer of over 40 years, my licensing fees alone accumulated
> would fund an entire wildlife conservation program.
> Birders should be aware, that Falconry is the least efficient method of
> hunting. Whereas a (gun) Hunter can sometimes return with a limit, a single
> duck captured is considered an excellent day for a Falconer. Most
> Falconer‘s are lucky to catch a few ducks in an entire season. Almost every
> winged species that is pursued by a trained bird of prey, is faster than
> that bird of prey in almost every circumstance.
> Several years ago I spoke to the wildlife officer in charge of the
> Okanogan region of Washington. At the time I was endeavoring to capture a
> wild Turkey with a trained great horned owl. Eleven years of pursuing that
> goal and I have still not found success. He was particularly concerned that
> I might accidentally capture a Sharp Tailed Grouse. I reassured him that I
> would have a better chance of winning the lottery without purchasing a
> ticket, than of capturing a Sharp Tailed Grouse with my owl. Only a handful
> of Falconer’s with the most highly trained and fittest Falcons, and the
> best pointing dogs, ever manage to catch a grouse.
> The Houbara Bustard is a challenging quarry, and thus is treasured by the
> Falconer’s of Saudi Arabia. A brief Google search will reveal that
> programs are in place to protect and restore the bustard, and that as in
> our own country, those programs are funded mainly by hunters and
> Falconer‘s. It is far more likely that a Falconer seeing the report would
> attempt to observe the bustard than to capture it.
> Falconry is considered by many to be “the ultimate birdwatching.“ Even the
> casual birder will experience an occasional thrilling moment when he/ she
> hears an alarm call, and sees a bird of prey attempt to capture a prey
> species. As Falconer‘s we are privileged to hear those alarm calls, and
> witness the birds of prey in an intimate association. Many Falconer’s try
> for years before capturing their first prey with a trained Raptor. Along
> the way most will learn to identify many birds, spend thousands of hours
> observing them in their natural settings, and develop a deep love for the
> birds and the places that they inhabit.
> Falconers should be considered a resource for the birding community.
> Remember the recovery of the Peregrine? Falconer’s were responsible.
> If there are birders on this list that are interested in learning more
> about Falconry, I would be glad to talk with them. The Washington
> Falconer’s Association has several annual field meets at which you would be
> welcome. At these meets you will see many trained raptors pursue game, but
> let me warn you ahead of time that you will see very few game animals
> Mark Borden
> Coupeville, WA.
> Sent from my iPhone
> Tweeters mailing list
> Tweeters at u.washington.edu
> Tweeters mailing list
> Tweeters at u.washington.edu
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