Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Another Check Off The Bucket List

For several years now I have been wanting to try falconry. I love birds. I have cared for canaries, chickens, among other birds in the past, but the larger raptors I have always found particularly majestic and enticing. A number of years ago, I found a place that offered falconry lessons but, in my attempt to contact them I found out that they were no longer in operation. I didn't give up looking though. There were other places that were just too far for me to travel to at the time but then I found a falconry opportunity at Mont Tremblant.

Mont Tremblant is about 2 hours north of Montreal and is normally known for downhill skiing, but it has reinvented itself into a four season playground - which includes falconry.

This activity takes up to six people. Marjorie was our fabulous guide and taught us about the history of falconry, modern uses for falconry, and details about the bird we were working with this day - a Harris Hawk named Onyx.

After a 15-20 minute information session we went right to work.  Onyx was brought out of his box and his GPS tag applied in case he got lost. Marjorie left his bell on to discourage competitive prey while we were working with Onyx. We each took turns putting on the gauntlet and feeding Onyx. Onyx will eat 2 whole chicks and bits and pieces from our excursion to equal about 3 chicks this day.

We each don the gauntlet keeping our arm at our side while Onyx flies off into the trees. Marjorie keeps a close eye on him as she puts little pieces of chicken in the crease of the the glove before we raise our arm to beckon Onyx to land. Marjorie repositions the group so that Onyx - who is very clever - would have to navigate more skillfully through the foliage to land, basically making him work for his food. The speed and agility of this bird was amazing! Watching his wings avoid touching even a leaf as he navigated through the trees was mesmerizing. I informed Marjorie that she had the best summer job ever - to which, she agreed.

There were others where we were; hikers would pass by and some would watch a bit before moving on.  Onyx didn't seem to mind; however, there were times when Onyx would all of a sudden make a warning call when there seemed to be no one on the trail...As it turned out, there were people there that we didn't yet see and also dogs. Coyotes, being a natural predator to this bird, caused Onyx to instinctively respond to the dogs as a threat - a danger that caught us humans completely unaware! 
So, not only did we get to see and experience the talents of this bird, we also got to see the reaction to danger that this bird might encounter in the wild!

At the the end of it all, I was beyond thrilled by the experience...With a deeper appreciation for the raptor and for falconry, and the chance to share it with my family as well...I left fulfilled and grateful.

Another check off my Bucket List.

What is on YOUR Bucket List?

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