It is days like today that makes living in Ireland tolerable. After the rain last night, today dawned a beautiful crisp clear morning and a more perfect day for flying falcons would not be possible. There was a good stiff breeze blowing as I gave my Saker falcon his daily exercise; stooping him at the lure to tire him out and build up some muscle. I gave him about five or six minutes of that and he was panting hard as I let him catch the lure.
My Lanner falcon then had her turn on the wing, and it being such a perfect day she wasted no time and headed for the clouds; those big fluffy cumulus clouds that kids love to draw. Within four or five minutes she was just a dot in the sky overhead and when a plane came past pulling a large-winged glider I took my eye off the Lanner. It’s not until you are looking for something that you really realize just how much big blue sky is up there. After a few minutes fruitlessly scanning the part of the sky I knew she was in, I noticed one of the local buzzards was up soaring around, using its broad wings and the rising air or thermals to climb higher and higher without all the effort of flying. I was cursing myself for forgetting my camera when I noticed a falcon shape high in the sky over the buzzard. It was a peregrine falcon and it was slowly drifting south in its hunt for prey. Off to the north a kestrel was hovering in its search for beetles and somewhere even higher again, somewhere in that ocean of blue was my little Lanner, enjoying herself as she drifted and soared around the sky. Four raptors above me at once and three of them were wild species. If you are a bird watcher or falconer you would appreciate that sight.
My bird was wearing a small radio transmitter and the constant beep of my receiver confirmed she was overhead somewhere, probably throwing me the odd glance and wondering why I was wasting my life running around on the ground. Falcons have unbelievable eyesight and I wasn’t worried she would lose sight of me standing in the middle of a field, surrounded by thousands of other similar fields in what must look like a patchwork quilt of a land from where she was above.
After thirty five minutes I swung the lure to signal her to return and it was a minute or two after that she appeared in a high speed dive or stoop before hitting the brakes and floating the last thirty feet to earth. Beautiful!
Using the thermals like she did, she was not even panting after being up there for over half an hour, whereas the Saker was panting hard after his five minutes of hard flying.
As I am writing this a female Sparrowhawk has just zipped past me, obviously on the lookout for some tasty little bird.
All in all another raptor filled day!