Sunday, July 3, 2016

Lost and found

Long story short: We went away for Father's Day weekend, camping and fishing on Verdigre Creek, and returned to find the mews empty. Evidence left behind suggested that kids had broken into the mews, poked at Stekoa with broomsticks, and thrown flowerpots at him until he finally fled. (Not the only vandalism done, but by far the most serious.) This was devastating on multiple levels: he's the best rabbit hawk I've ever flown, Jessica is at least as attached to him as I am, and I don't know whether my circumstances this autumn will allow for trapping and training a new hawk. But by far the worst part was not knowing whether he had escaped his tormentors unscathed.

I was sure I'd never see him again, but last Tuesday evening Elaine Bachel from Raptor Recovery got word that a hawk wearing bells had been seen at a city park. She contacted Amanda Kaufman, my friend and former apprentice, now a general falconer and working for Animal Control. Amanda stopped by the house, gathered up Jess, and went to the park, where they maintained a vigil until I arrived from work. By that time, Stekoa was settled into a pine tree for the night, but Jess and Amanda assured me he was flying well, and that he had been on the ground eating at the time of the original sighting.

Dawn the next morning found me at the park, just a couple of miles from home, ready to call Stekoa down for a large feeding of rabbit. He showed some indications of interest—small intention movements and the like—but my hopes for a quick recovery were disappointed. Not too surprising, considering he was last flown nearly four months ago, not particularly hungry, and most likely a bit traumatized by his recent experience. After a few hours of constant mobbing by angry songbirds, he left the park and flew into a residential neighbourhood, where of course I was bound to feel much more conspicuous.

I knew this in a vague, academic sense, but a red-tailed hawk's capacity for doing nothing is quite impressive. After twelve hours of mostly doing nothing while I fretted and fidgeted below, Stekoa finally came down to the fist and we went home.

Needless to say, I'm grateful.

Stekoa's been staying inside, and will at least until the fireworks have ended and security around the mews has been beefed up. The little bastards who broke in have not been found, and will likely never face any consequences for this particular crime, but I'm confident they'll end up in prison for something else years from now...

3 comments:

Chas Clifton said...

What an ordeal! I am happy that you were able to find him and entice him back.

Steve Bodio said...

How rare and good it is to get a stolen bird back!

Mark Farrell-Churchill said...

Thanks, gents. An ordeal indeed! And I think the fact that this was juvenile vandalism rather than a more intentional/traditional theft worked in our favour. Still, I'm understandably anxious about putting him back out there...