Thursday, December 24, 2009

Birds, not scared of birds

Some birds are just not too scared of falcons. I encountered some yesterday that had no fear of my white, male gyrfalcon, Skula. Quite the contrary, they seemed to enjoy being around him. It might have been a case of "keeping your enemies closer". While flying Skula at some pheasants in south Ada County, a blizzard of small passerines, horned larks I think, joined Skula in the sky. They seemed a little different, like maybe longspurs or something. I could not tell for sure. It was the weirdest thing. Big white falcon up there in a cold, clear blue sky with his swarm of little bird friends all around him. He quickly forgot about my efforts to flush pheasants from the weedy fence line and began to fly higher and higher with his tiny escorts.

At home, he acts like he wants to play with the sparrows that come in to my yard, turning his head upside down at their antics on the feeders. He seemed to be play- chasing these little migrants, just arrived on the frigid northwest wind. They were not bunched up in front of him like Starlings would be. They were all around him. A little like a shark swimming with remoras and other small fishes that follow the predator for bits of food and protection from other threats.

Of course, while this was happening, way up and away from me now, a few pheasants took the opportunity to flush and fly for a nearby canal bed. Skula saw this just as they reached cover and he landed on the dike after a pretty, twisting, thousand foot stoop. I called him back across the field to his lure and guess who followed him right back to me. That's right, all those little birds.

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