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Monday, 1 December 2008

Mending Megan



For the last seven months or so I have been training and flying a female Peregrine. Her background is that she came in to my hands via my friend and fellow artist Dave Scott. Dave called me knowing that I was not flying a falcon at that time and told me he had been handed the bird, but with his own falcons to fly he could not put the time into her that was needed. She had come from a well known and carefully watched sight in the area and had got caught up in anti Pigeon netting on a building near the site. She was found by one of the volunteers hanging and obviously quite distressed entangled in the netting . A quick phone call to one of the registered ringers and she was rescued forth with. She was taken to a local vet who then evaluated her condition as unreleasable because of feather damage. She then found herself being cared for over night and put through the chain of registered and listed rehab individuals one of which is Dave. I had also had the experience of flying a previous male peregrine which I'd released back into the wild. At this point I was, to be honest a little reluctant to take on such a bird knowing that the vast majority of birds that come into captivity have little chance of making it back out especially a very young falcon and the the work involved . However i agreed to look at her and then make a decision. As I pulled up outside Dave's place I had already started to think how i was going to manage such a bird. Dave took me into his studio where the falcon was being kept in the dark in a box. We very carefully opened the top and there staring at me was a beautiful dark eyass Peregrine (meaning from the nest) .Her cheeks flared in threat posture and puffing herself up like harassed cobra about to strike she hissed at us . At that moment something switched in me and I instantly knew that I should take her on and help her no matter what it took in time and energy. Some things happen for a reason and I'm a great believer in fate . Its kind of weird that I should get this opportunity to help an injured falcon after loosing Missy my last Peregrine to a fence line in 2006 . We took her out of the box and put a hood on her to calm her then set about checking her over to asses the damage to her feathering and body. She had numerous creases and breaks along the primaries (the long finger like feathers on the ends of the wings) on both wings and although not snapped of completely they had been severely compromised in strength and lifespan. It was clear that she would need some extensive Imping ( replacement feathers grafted into the old quills still in the bird) . She also showed a quite obviously dropped left wing with a cut on the leading edge where the netting had cut into her. We carefully attached anklets and jesses and I took her home. I slowly went about the process of taming her down and getting her used to the sights and sounds of human life. the Kids took their job of exposing her to the garden comings and goings very seriously. Children very quickly get a Falcon absolutely bomb proof tame. If a bird can put up with kids tearing past and shouting , bouncing on trampolines etc they can put up with anything! within a week I had a visit from one her majesties inspectors to ring Megan as she had now been christened by Maisie my daughter. Soon she was flying loose and it was'nt long before we needed to get the feathers imped as she would not progress beyond coming a 100 yrds . I took her to a friend in Cambridge who had imped birds before successfully and she soon had a new set of wings to play with. We used the traditional method of imping using bamboo as the splint that slots inside the replacement feather then is glued and slid into the remaining quill coming out of the bird. This is a painless operation as the quills have no nerves and are like our fingernails . The difficulty is holding the bird down steady (casting) and keeping the stress levels down as we had to do each wing and the tail separately. I could now really start to push Megan's training on. I decided as I had done with my last Falcon to Kite train her. This involves sending the falcon up to the kite to get a lure hanging from the line off the kite in no time the bird is going up to about one thousand feet and is a very effective way of getting a falcon supremely fit. It also has the benefit of giving you the chance of teaching a falcon the very important lesson of the advantage of height . Megan took to the kite with no problems at all and was soon doing 800 ft climbs to the lure. I recently changed my set up from running the kite line down to using a parachute method where the falcon gabs the lure which is attached to a parachute that releases from the line and drifts down with the falcon. Unfortunately the rapid progress that I had enjoyed with Megan was relitively short lived and soon she started to loose the imped feathers put in to her wings . I tried to replace them as they came out but seemed to be fighting a loosing battle. Megan loves a bath and as such I feel it unfair to deny her that pleasure so every day without fail she is offered one . This unfortunately was the undoing of the bamboo imps put in because of water ingress into the glued shafts the bamboo swelled and split the quills both sides then as it dried ,shrank , then they became loose and Megan in the course of preening removed the feathers completely. I have since found a more efficient way of imping but the damage had been already done so unless I wanted to continue stressing her by repeated casting to refit new imps I had to call it a day on this season and be content with having given Megan some really good conditioning Physically and remind her that she is a Killer of birds.
As far as her cut in the wing this healed but there is still a drop to that wing after a work out.
I have also noticed that she is showing some slight signs of imprinting on People. She talks to me when she is picked up and is a little possessive of her food. These are not real bad problems at
the moment but will have to be watched . I feel really good about her progress in general especially the physical development that is so crucial for a first year bird. We will have to see what happens next year . For now she is going to be left to moult into a new set of feathers and then we can pick up where we left off.

1 comment:

Christian said...

Andrew,

you might want to try carbon fiber rods instead of bamboo. You can buy them in shops for model aeroplanes in all sorts of sizes. You grind them down into a triangular or rectangular shape (to prevent turning) with a Dremel and cut them into the preferred length. I also had very good experience by using slighly elastic epoxy rather than glue - it is watertight and doesn't get brittle in severely cold temperatures (-10, -20 degrees). Done properly imping in that fashion will endure even the roughest season.

Regards,

Christian

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