Two Tiny Owls, and a Red-tail in a Bare Tree

After a very long trip wherein we counted plenty of wild RTHAs hunting from scraggly winter trees along the side of the highway, the long-eared owl and short-eared owl have arrived. They are teeny, gorgeous, and (as expected) terrified of everything in the universe. It will be a long training process. Unfortunately, the short-eared’s life with us did not start out very well. We had to do an emergency band removal due to a too-tight leg band, with very few tools on hand and little time to experiment. Although she’s safe and sound now and the procedure was under control the entire time, using a rotary tool that close to an owl’s leg is something I hope I never have to witness again.

I haven’t gotten a mental ‘grip’ on the new arrivals yet, so nicknames and further details will have to wait until tomorrow. Hopefully, photos will follow.

Due to the long drive there and back, setting up the owls, and the drama surrounding the bands, I only had the chance to train one bird today– it was dark by the time I was ready, and One-eye was definitely ready to work!

One-eye:

Pretty standard session– I’m still trying to get him to ignore the glove unless he’s given the cue, and I’m still not seeing a lot of progress… that said, he was so keen today that I’m not sure it was a fair trial. Today also marked the first time he has flown to a perch before I’ve called him, and I’m wondering if that wasn’t also a function of the late session and him being slightly too responsive because his dinner was overdue. We worked on the cue/no-cue issue for half the session, and then for the other half we went to moving from perch to perch.

On a whim (which is bad, I really need to write out a training plan and stick to it), I decided to see if I could get him to go to a perch when I pointed to it, instead of by tapping on it. He had it after a few repetitions, although was more reluctant to move from the high perch to the low perch without a tap than to move from the low perch to the high perch. Weird! Still, he did it reliably by the time I was finished, and on his last jump I jackpotted him with a whole chick. In typical red-tail form, he ate it so quickly he almost choked.

Among other things (foremost among them targeting to the giant hood), I would like to get him flying long-distance to whatever perch the trainer points at. He is so responsive that I think it’d work if his weight is managed properly. Already, he’s a completely different bird now that he’s working every day than he was when he was freelofted. Calmer, sweeter, and he’s lost the minor neurological behaviours he used to show when left to his own devices for too long.

I really love this bird.

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