The Flying of Falcons by Ed Pitcher and Ricardo Velarde
Dear Falconer. Here I will share the beginning of a couple of chapter to give you an idea of the style and flavor or out book. I hope it makes you reflect on how we go about doing things, wether it is by "Training a falcon or by allowing the falcon to develop in a more natural way" .
THE BEGINNINGS 1969 changed my life; it is still changing my life. I watched a young prairie falcon land on a lure, a dead pigeon in fact. The falcon was out to hack. She was not tame but she would tolerate the falconer and me without notice. Something awakened in me. I couldn't take my eyes off this falcon. Every feather, every move, everything about this bird captivated me. My life was changing right then. I was to become a falconer. Unable to pinpoint the origins of my basic philosophy towards falconry, I had early on accepted the belief that anyraptor brought to my hand, should do no worse by me than if left to its own devices. My hope was to fly these magnificent birds as they were described in the literature, not just the falconry literature but also in the works of naturalist, egg collectors, and the fans of Peregrines around the world. My favorite piece is the following from The Hawks of North America.
"The Peregrine Falcon is perhaps the most highly specialized and superlatively well-developed flying organism on our planet today, combining in a marvelous degree the highest powers of speed and aerial adroitness with massive, war like strength. A powerful, wild, majestic, independent bird, living on the choicest of clean, carnal food, plucked fresh from the air or the surface of the waters, rearing its young in the nooks of dangerous mountain cliffs, claiming all the atmosphere as its domain, and fearing neither beast that walks nor bird that flies, it is the very embodiment of noble rapacity and lonely freedom. It has its legitimate and important place in the great scheme of things, and by its extinction, if that should ever come, the whole world would be impoverished and dulled." G.H. Thayer, 1904
If the falcons I fly don't take dominion of the atmosphere, if they don't claim the sky and fly with the boldness of ownership I look to myself with guilt. I feel I have robbed the bird of its natural talents. I have failed myself in not realizing my own goals and the commitment I had made to the falcons.I see each hawk I've flown as an opportunity to witness its singular talent and finesse. Every falcon given the opportunity to develop its own talents surpasses my ability to train it. Every falcon I have "trained" has been diminished. My interference with the falcon’s natural development by using a rigid training program has only led to mediocre flights of limited space, time and intent......
Falconry is rich with both history and tradition. Many falconers cling to traditional methods and immerse themselves into upholding and requiring adherence to traditional and historical methodologies. “No man is an island“ in this sport. This reality is self-evident. None of us can practice this sport without applying traditional techniques. My ability to safely handle a bird of prey stems from knowledge passed down through thousands of years. The traditional customs and techniques provide the simple basics, the foundation of the sport.
I see this foundation as something to build upon, not something to be stymied by. Many falconers insist that tradition be upheld as the standard. They are reluctant to accept new approaches to the sport. They are reluctant to expand their ways of thinking. I find it curious that falconers practice their sport in this limited way with such a highly evolved species, whose ability to adapt to change is the key to its survival. Species reluctant to change are no longer with us. Yet as a group of people, falconers are mostly rigid in their thinking. Part of my goal in this writing is to introduce a greater worth to this sport by providing a different perspective......
Over the past forty years, I have enjoyed several seasons of flying my falcons at nothing but pigeons. I have used pigeons virtually to train all my falcons, with the exception of two youngsters in the summers of ’74 and ’75. Throughout these am convinced that a well-developed pigeon hawk will out-perform style and the amount of game taken. Game hawks are frequently marred with failure early in their development. The dictum, ‘nothing succeeds like success’ applies to falcon management in young falcon or to maintain the mental strength of a wild taken falcon, daily success is best accomplished with the use of pigeons. Serving a falcon, a mile wide and a mile high plus ensuring the can frequently be used to replace pigeons but seasonal regulations restrict their use at the time of year when young falcons need to be routinely successful.....
What I found interesting, as I began to key into the developmental growth of individual falcons, was the remarkable similarities between raptor and human development. “Nothing succeeds like success” is a basic survival tool and was etched into the genetic structure of all life forms eons prior to our ability to discuss it. Human infants behave in whatever way needed to bring attention to their needs of food and comfort. To be alive is constantly pursued on this planet. To stay alive is a force none of us can escape. It drives us all. As children learn, so do the falcons. First impressions are so overlooked as important introductions to new activities. We all want our children to do well in this world and to eventually claim their independence as Individual responsibility is the hallmark of the adult human. The same applies to falcons. They all strive to stay alive long enough runs deep into our being and is the genesis of our concept of freedom. It is also why we consider all wildlife as ‘free’. Somehow and in a way that is successful. We all want the opportunity to individual falcon has an agenda, a ‘genetic push’ to become a successful predator. Our job as falconers is to recognize and allow the falcon to develop its natural potential.