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  #881  
Old 14-02-2018, 08:35 AM
Sharpster Sharpster is offline
Dave Sharpe
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Default Re: Zeus- a muddled diary in pics and words!

Well I never, its all going on here
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  #882  
Old 14-02-2018, 09:24 AM
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Gods County Hawker Gods County Hawker is offline
Mark Hilary
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Default Re: Zeus- a muddled diary in pics and words!

Will a moderator remove the post above as this tread is one of the few worth logging on here for
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  #883  
Old 14-02-2018, 11:02 AM
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Dave Sharpe
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Default Re: Zeus- a muddled diary in pics and words!

Thanks mark, mind you i more than anyone feel my inserts are getting rather samey, the above contribution made a welcome bit of scandal and gossip, hehe

13-02-2018

Weight: 8lb 4oz
I have continued to gradually lower his weight to see if it improves his drive to chase properly. No telling if this would help or hinder today as it could be he would lack stamina flying on an empty tummyand lower weight reserve. During Zeus’ first season I experimented a lot with weight. Finally settling on 8lb 8oz as a good start weight and reducing to about 8lb 5oz as his fitness really kicked in each season and his hunting drive increased. The lower weight to keep recall and lesson self hunting!
Then last season I couldn’t seem to get Zeus fit really and I ended up flying him well over 8lb 8oz and instantly his fitness was good. This season we started high and took three hares in half a dozen outings. Five seasons in and I’m still modifying weight to essentially train his brain to my way of thinking not his! Despite our hunting ground being undulating and not hill country Zeus has very much gotten into the mentality that all these overly windy days are for soaring across fields looking for sitting hares. He most definitely doesn’t think chasing nature’s land-missiles into a head-wind is a good use of calories. Equally he knows that trying to actually bind to his quarry at the end of a fast downwind flight is tantamount to suicide. I saw this last outing as he approached a hare from the highest point on the estate; Zeus had height and the wind behind him, as he approached almost vertical the hare jinked to one side and Zeus’ wings straightend as he aborted the attack a foot or so above his target. Exactly the same as you won’t be landing downwind in the jet that’s taken you to holiday.
At 8lb 8oz Zeus is on his threshold weight. At this point a small amount of food will hold weight and a big feed will push weight up well and it will be slow to reduce. Once below this weight food will be turned over faster. This is my preferred point in the weight scale to fly my hunting hawks. But only if you have top recall and prey drive. My last male gos was the best goshawk ever at 1lb 13oz (parent reared) that was three ounces over his threshold weight. He had perfect recall and the ability to catch almost every rabbit with the most lore possible at 2lb in weight, but at this weight he wouldn’t look at gamebirds. If you can attain the right mental attitude your hawks can be flown perfectly at higher weights, the downside being I think it can allow bad habits to form easier too. Which brings me back to Zeus’ recent weight management!
Today at this weight the eagle was a vast improvement and also put some serious air-miles showing he still retained stamina.
Weather? Could it have been wind so strong blowing across the estate that it deafened your ears and buffeted against you on open ground? Yes indeed it could! It’s getting farsicle now!
Todays planned route around the fileds was hastily altered when I realized I had left my hunting knife, a souvenir from the Osuna sky trials a few years back, at the site of the eagle’s last kill, idiot. My son was with me for company without his hawk or my pup.
As we cut across the first field I turned my phones video camera on as I headed to a position upwind of a brush-pile in the field near the edge. Well before I was ready a hare broke from the pile and was off into the wind and uphill. I slipped Zeus anyway just to see what he would do. Zeus went low and fast across the wind, the hare’s headstart meant Zeus could never catch it on its current trajectory but it was a good strong effort. Zeus stayed airborne and recalled to the glove without a second thought. It was looking promising.
In the next field we walked up to a ridge that ran the length of the field, to our left the field was a huge more or less flat expanse and to our right it sloped down to the hedge bordering its side. Before we walked further Kyle pointed out a hare down near the field corner below us. I say pointed it out but I couldn’t actually see it! Kyle suggested I walk another fifty yards along the field and upwind and he would walk down the slope and flush the hare. I walked forward and the hare got up, he ran to the nearby corner hedge and broke through running downwind. Zeus was over the hedge and above his target in milliseconds due to the fast moving air; he folded and missed the hare by millimetres. I ran to collect the eagle but he got up and let the wind carry him over into another field. I walked to a gap in the hedge and could see him on the ground. With no guests to worry about I stood my ground and called him back and wasn’t going to pander to him at this point. He battled the elements and was on the glove, I slogged uphill back to where we had begun.
Now walking along parallel to my son, Zeus and I along the ridge with Kyle walking the slope down to my right. The defeaning wind was blowing at us head on. We had gotten maybe a third of the way along the field. I was looking right at the land fifty plus yards ahead of my son, with him just in my peripheral vision over my shoulder. This interspersed with putting my head down and pushing on into the cold wind! Did I just hear something? I looked back over my right shoulder and Kyle was shouting loudly ‘HARE!’ I could hardly hear him but saw the hare already running behind him as per the direction of the previous one. Zeus was away with a lot of ground to make up. He wasn’t floating, he powered away and then pulled his wings back so primary tips were against his tail making his wings half the width, and he was in warp drive, the wind fully harnessed. As the distance shrank between the two animals the hare turned hard right and across the wind, Zeus slotted in behind him and the impetus nearly took him all the way but the wind pushing him away and the steep slope left him grounded maybe six feet from target. He got up and battled the wind but the hare kept to his safe course. The landscape now hid Zeus from me. I slogged my way back across the field. Zeus was in the first field on the deck. I recalled him into the wind and just waited for him, he came back in two attempts. So far he was an improved bird.
Zeus had so much air-time today I had just one piece of food left in my pocket after all the recalls from todays slips. Some really good low level high powered courses that saw a few bristles of hare fur on his talons. One being a superb flight as my son pushed through a thicket, a hare breaking close to my awaiting position and tha big hawk flying it properly and the hare turning into some furry oozing mass that seemed to still keep up its speed and somehow evade the talons all around it. Walking along a hedgerow up popped a Muntjac sixty yards in front. Zeus again powered hell for leather at this target and although he winged over hard the living tank shouldered sideways into the hedge and went away out the other side, again avoiding those big talons by almost nothing. Damn.
We did have some self-hunting, today however it was the normal stuff for this time of year. Zeus getting up after an unsuccessful flight to chase hares he could already see off in the distance. One such incident did end up with him taking another sitter, much to my relief this one escaped from the clutch of death as the following photo will testify to.
As we walked back I slipped Zeus uphill but downwind at a hare that was through the hedge well ahead of the bird. Zeus used the hillside and wind combo and rang up in huge circles to maybe thirty or fourty feet, two hares sitting together gave their position away and Zeus used his height to again try and take them from their forms, each hare jumping in opposite directions at the critical moment.
We were now walking downwind over a flat field. Like all the fields on this part of the estate the dark earth had been ploughed, finely tilled and was now growing long straight rows of two inch tall bean plants. This sodden soil was back breaking to walk over. It sunk an inch under each step and then clinged and sucked each welly to itself. As you pulled each step upwards the weight of mud attached to your welly grew and grew before finally falling away under its own weight. And the process began again. Back, knees and hips were aching badly at this point. ‘HARE!’ I slipped Zeus and then asked Kyle where it was. He said it’s just gone over the dip way ahead of us. Zeus had seen it as he was low and his wings were blurring. He flicked left and vanished too. We ran ahead and there he was in the next field all alone, but another commited effort.
Despite plenty of self hunting Zeus was much more on line today, thankfully. I am getting fed up of writing these diary accounts with nothing in the bag much. Two outings left to go and then our season will be over. There is a little hope now though.

And yes, my eagle eyed lad found my knife in the middle of a stubble field!!

Look at those furry talons, how did that one break away?!
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  #884  
Old 14-02-2018, 02:00 PM
Sharpster Sharpster is offline
Dave Sharpe
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Default Re: Zeus- a muddled diary in pics and words!

Zeus leaving the fist after the first hare plus a couple of recent pics
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  #885  
Old 14-02-2018, 02:16 PM
JEF12Y JEF12Y is offline
Jeff & Vicky
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Default Re: Zeus- a muddled diary in pics and words!

Always makes me wonder Dave how anything ever gets away when you see the talons and feel the grip they have
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  #886  
Old 14-02-2018, 03:54 PM
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BradazTheFalconer BradazTheFalconer is offline
Bradley Church
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Default Re: Zeus- a muddled diary in pics and words!

I'm enjoying the updates & photos Dave!

Bradley
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  #887  
Old 14-02-2018, 05:29 PM
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Dave Sharpe
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Default Re: Zeus- a muddled diary in pics and words!

Cheers Brad, and Jeff, yes, indeed, i wonder how he fails to snag so many and then when he does how they get away is a mystery! those two back talons are like sickles now and razor sharp points. I think the only reason it got free was because it was another sitter, actually taking them is tricky as they launch out their forms at the critical moment. and i think he would have got a bum hold maybe! combined with the fact they are full of unspent energy so go ballistic!
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  #888  
Old 17-02-2018, 07:50 PM
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Dave Sharpe
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Default Re: Zeus- a muddled diary in pics and words!

15-02-2018

Weight: 8lb 4oz
Weather: bit warmer at 8 degrees and in the sun you could feel some warmth, wind speed: ridiculous as per the norm!
Eagle: back on track!
My son and I headed over to the falconry centre with two eagles and a female Harris’ Hawk in the van. We met up with a young couple Sally and her soon-to-be hubby Ben, Diana and Damien. Damien has been out with me a few times for the experience; He runs a lot around some of these fields but has no time to practice falconry despite being fascinated by the sport. The other three guys were all keen wildlife photographers. Damien was ten minutes late as he had first stopped off to buy his first pair of wellies!
Without drinking tea or coffee we promptly headed out. We walked a fair way to begin our sojourn in the countryside. The start point being the same as the last meeting we had with Travis and the hybrid along. As we neared the first hunting field I stopped to advise the necessity for quiet and then noticed Steve the keeper bumbling along in his all terrain vehicle! Of course the hares were used to this and it made no difference. Chatting to Steve I found out that I was not standing on the estate boundary as I had always thought but behind me was in fact several more hare filled fields! It has only taken me five years to be privy to this information...
We set off and pulled a line out to walk the first long field, me above on higher ground and walking just ahead. A hare broke a long way off and I let it run. Two thirds of the way along another hare broke and I slipped Zeus he flew straight at it which meant the wind pushed him wide as the hare was running up the slope and into the wind. Zeus could have used his brain and flew a cutting-off path but he just flew straight to where he’d first saw it in the distance, Wally. At the end of the field two more hares ran away some distance ahead in the next field along. The wind was so strong here that I had to face Zeus into it to slip him; both times he went off into the wind not seeing the distant hares in the opposite direction. Both times he quickly landed and then recalled a little vacant looking!
Short pep-talk later and I headed off in the direction of the big dip and my companions to the opposite end of this next field. It took me a while to slog across the mud into the strong wind but once in position I phoned my son to tell them to start walking towards me. The line started in the wide cover strip next to th hedge and came out 40 yards into the wheat. I was mostly looking at the cover ahead of the line;one hare broke outunder the hedge to the ‘fruit-bowl’ field beyond. I waited, the line was getting nearer and then I could hear the shout of ‘HARE!’ I could see no hare. I scanned around way ahead of the line, to their right, behind them. They were shouting and waving arms so I presumed the hare was running up the hill infront of me and out of view. I stood up (I had been crouching to keep a low profile) for a moment nothing, a few seconds later the hare appeared into view heading straight for me! I shouted and it it turned to my left; Zeus was away. It was a terrible launch and straight downwind meaning he had to beat his wings violently to keep himself from grounding but once upto wind speed he flew hard to this hare and as it turned a really tight left so did the bird and once more that turning circle saved the hare by an inch at most. It was good to see the eagle fly fast and low and mean business. Zeus sat on the hill for a minute and didn’t recall instantly so I walkd towards him and then I saw the same hare run through the track where we had chatted to the keeper and appear now in the open two fields further over. It amazes me how quickly a hare just jogging covers ground. Zeus turned around head over his shoulder fixed on this ridiculous long range target, facing the wind his huge sails spread out and he casually lifted off like some animated super-hero figure, the wind lifted him high and powered him across the land at a speed to make the hare’s progress appear slow.
I watched and soon the eagle’s trimming took his flight path directly above the running hare but at the height he had and moving fast downwind he didn’t fold and the hare went through the hedge into the next field, a sheep field. Zeus now lost height and came and the two paths crossed as the eagle attacked from a shallow angle, the hare dodged and kept running. Zeus was up again and chasing into the wind and this time he didn’t get close before the hare this time went into and stayed under the hedge.
I rang my son and told him to where to head for (the ‘new’fields) and fly Zara, should Zeus look like he could make it back in that direction I would phone again until then good luck and I will meet you at the barns. Now I had not only a long long walk but a walk almost back to the very beginning way before we began hunting! Zeus hadn’t moved much however as I approached the sheep field the hare spooked and ran from the hedge towards a tall tree line, Zeus was off in pursuit but the hare easily made cover and the big bird once more landed among the very many sheep in the field. Our training field is often full of sheep so Zeus paid no interest to them and strangely these sheep didn’t seem to notice this slightly larger than average crow sitting amongst them!
I called him in and he lifted up with an auto-pilot reaction and then changed his mind, he flew nearer the tree line and used the updraft to circle up and above them in a manner I would like the Bald Eagle to learn. Zeus was now doing what a Golden Eagle was designed for; he was now a master of his element not handicapped by it. I waved him over to me and still scanning the ground left and right he came to me with a height he very rarely attains. Directly overhead I pulled three reward pieces from my pocket and waved them visibly, he looked down, lost a little height but then turned away! Fortunately soon to land a hundred yards away back among more fluffy land clouds. I walked over and didn’t call him to the glove until almost next to him; He sprang up and came for the now single ration in my palm.
I phoned the gang, told them to hawk another field and then I’d meet them at the barn.
I walked back into the hunting fields for the second time today. I cut across two of these newer fields on my way to the rondezvouz point and there were indeed plenty of hares in them but the hood stayed on as I had no exact idea where the others were hawking. I arrived at the barn and it was deserted thankfully mobile phones are handy things and I soon found the guys huddling behind a hedge out of the wind.They excitedly told me how well Zara had chased tow hares and how close she was to taking each one…
The new plan was for Zeus to fly any potential hares in a close by little hill of a field and then Zara to fly a wide cover strip along the side of the following field whist we watched fom the hill. I instructed the line to walk around the hill as I walked over the top. I was in position and could see two hares a hundred and fifty yards below and one on the slope a hundred yards ahead; beckoning the line to start walking and myself moving closer and slightly upwind of the first sitter my hand moved above the hood. The hare’s back and haunches were proud of the soil and his fur could be seen moving in the wind, he suddenly swelled to full size in the blink of an eye and was already twenty feet from his form; Zeus once more was low and fast and in hot pursuit. This end result was a replica of the last, a tight left turn in unison and the eagle’s talons falling short by almost nothing. The big hawk came back the short distance instantly.
Next we were to take a break as Kyle and Zara walked alone halfway across a field ahead of us all staying back on the small hill field. Once at a gap in the hedge he came through into the next field to walk its wide cover strip back to us and downwind. As he stepped through a hare ran out instantly and was already on the short wheat. Zara’s hood was off and she went low and he wings didn’t stop the small hawk reeled in the big mammal; the hare turned one eighty back to cover. Zara was still on its tail and a few feet from the cover strip the hare literally ran ring around the bird; maybe three times she attacked but was dodged until the hares fancy foot work in such a tight area stalled the bird! I think this bit of the course took place in about ten metres square if not less.
We then watched this hare run the width of the field and up into our field, I shouted loudly ‘EAGLE!’ and slipped. Zeus was away with the wind to our left and soon was in range but the hare swiftly ducked under the hedgerow he was running parallel with. Zeus lifted up into the wind to-rechase across the other side of the hedge but this hare stayed put, Zeus ignored me and then his wing shape changed to attack mode as he vanished from view below the hedgeline and away into the field. I phoned Kyle to say stay in position for a munute while I find my hawk.I walked uphill to the hedge gap and expected to see the big blob sitting out in the open somewhere, but no, he had vanished. I walked out into the field but still no sign, I unshouldered the receiver but then replaced it as I could see Zeus wings folded right next to the hedge. He looked non plussed until I approached nearer and could see his hackles slightly raised; sure enough he had chased a hare and taken it under the hedge. Way better than taking a sitter but still from self-hunting so far from ideal although normal behaviour for this time of year.
I phoned my son once again and asked him to bring the photographers over as I knew they would like to get some naturalistic images. They seemed to take forever and by now Zeus had plucked a carpet of fur all around to the point wisps of it were drifting in the wind and tickling my nose! The photographers snapped away and all it seemed were in awe to see a Golden Eagle on its kill. I told the guys once he decides to break in and feed they wouldn’t have much longer as I couldn’t let him gorge due to a field meet on Saturday. Zeus duly ate too much rocket-fuel and I had to pick him up now to short rations. Usually I help him to feed well and then pick him up from his kill with a hares leg. This time I had to short change him with a couple of day old cockerels! This was only possible without a fuss by first spreading my coat over the hare to hide it. Zeus had eaten more than I would have liked but should be fired up well for Sarurday.
A few more photos and then we moved into the next field, another new one. We didn’t actually get further than the gap in the hedge and Kyle spotted a hare squatted down way out in the short wheat. We watched while he stalked. Kyle tried to get in position to take some of the hares advantage away by taking the upwind side. The hares ears sprung foreard as the rest of its gangly form followed them and Zara’s hood was off and she was well on her way! The hare arced around into the wind and the bird was still fifteen paces behind, she flew on but to Kyle’s commands she swung off and returned to the glove. Kyle straight away signalled to us he had seen another sitter, and it had stayed put. He walked further out across the field and another huge animal appeared from the flat earth. Zara flew her heart out once more;this hare jinked and turned and pulled its lead back andthen it too went into the strong headwind. Zara was beat and sailed to the hedgerow top fifty yards to our left and the hare now with the ressure off slowed to a trot and headed for the gap into the next field. That gap was filled by us humans standing still. The beautiful beautiful creature a deep ginger brown slowed as it’s senses told it something was wrong with this familiar spot, at fifteen paces he turned away and trotted to the safety of the hedge instead. He vanished into the hedge directly beneath the bewildered Hawk! Seconds later Zara was up off the hedge into the next field! A hare was heard protesting very loudly, I turned to run with the sound track of Kyle shouting at the top of his voice across the wind noise ‘HELP HER, RUUUN!’ I noticed Zeus’ hood had fell off, I stopped and searched the ground, saw it, re-hooded him and ran around into the next field. Silence;I thought the worst and felt a sad feeling in my gut for this deserving bird. No, the hare protested loudly again and I ran, stopped, listened, ran again and located them. Unbelievably the hare had come through the hedge and jumped a water filled ditch onto the bank that was sparsely covered with the long stems of dead grasses and whispy arches of thin briars. Zara must have hit him almost as he’d landed and there she was; panting and wings stretched back with just one of her talon clad feet holding the hare by one ‘ankle’! I gripped the hare tightly and three seconds later my son who had ran his legs off was behind me and dispatched this large hare that absolutely dwarfed his hawk. Zara was hunting today at 2lb 7oz the hare 7 ½ pounds! I felt sorry for the hare, I just can’t help it but I also knew just what this meant to Zara after flying so hard this season and yet not actually holding a single hare this season! My son? He threw his hat high in the air with a loud ‘YESS!!’ They have both worked so hard for this all season and he has made me proud with his commitment and training and attention to detail. He is flying a hawk at a really good weight that has been commited and flying her heart out at these big brown hares despite being kicked off more than once by them and despite catching much smaller rabbits in between times! Zara was very well rewarded indeed on this her last day of the hunting season.
One interesting remark was made at this juncture; Diana said she was really worried about how she’d feel if we did indeed catch and kill a hare. She said she was full of apprehension when she realized the hawk had caught her prize but as she watched the hawk take her pleasure and satisfy her blood lust she said she felt so pleased for the hawk and understood the meaning of it all. After seeing and having the pleasure to appreciate so many hares in a short space of time and seeing just how hard the hawks work and how low their success rate is she realized two hares taken is exceptional and hardly going to affect the population.
Later in the evening my wife passed me her phone and showed to me Kyle’s Instagram post and it showed his real understanding of hare hawking and his appreciation of the fact that he is able to be a falconer. His words made me feel very proud of him.
Last day
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  #889  
Old 17-02-2018, 08:15 PM
Sharpster Sharpster is offline
Dave Sharpe
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Default Re: Zeus- a muddled diary in pics and words!

Last day for Zeus on Saturday and we’re promised plenty of hares and some big game too…
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  #890  
Old 17-02-2018, 08:31 PM
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Dave Sharpe
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Default Re: Zeus- a muddled diary in pics and words!

Few pics

More

Another one
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