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Spent what must have been two years of my life accompanying a very good friend flying a large female "spa" when I was a youngen. Someone left the very young bird in a box on his step, he hand reared it as a full imprint and it was the feistiest thing i ever had the fortune to witness. I had spent years with him flying goshawks, red tails, harris and the like  for all manner of fur and feather and nothing ever came near that bird for sheer tenacity and speed. It was astonishing to watch that bird close and bind to almost anything within a 30 yard flush, corvids , rabbits, partridge, pheasant ,duck all appeared game for it, most of these  adult quarry species would not be on the wild spa list of fodder. I recall it once binding to a large hare that flushed as it was cast for another quarry and it bound to the hares back it was like a bucking bronco.  Old Hartley Hare soon had her off. 

Magpies and crows were it's specialty and he would chuck the bird from the palm of his hand like a dart towards the flushed quarry. It is a old  technique for flying small hawks.

That bird accounted for literally hundreds of corvids and getting two or three in a morning a few times a week was normal. One thing I did note that the bird would be spent quite quickly after two or three successive flushes so our hunts with it could sometimes be short. Crows equally did not fair well if we happened upon one within the "lethal range" , this only occurred on the odd occasions though.

I once sat with that bird on my lap whilst we "imped in" new a new tail feather for one that had broken in the course of pursuit.

The bird suddenly went off the boil in it's 3rd year and it was retired to the aviary. That is the thing with imprinted spars they have absolutely no fear.

That is approaching 40 years ago, ahh the time.

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47 minutes ago, NatureBoy said:

Great story 7days. Didn't realise they suh fiesty hawks. Do many falconers fly them?

What do you think  of Gary Wall getting a licence to take perigrenes from wild for "breeding" keeping pure blood line of British birds?      NB


In the wild they usually "wed "to a certain prey species that the individual bird becomes accustomed to such as woodies, doves, others blackbirds starlings etc. As far as I aware hardly any Austringers (A person who flys hawks as opposed to a Falconer who flys falcons)  flew them at all as the only way of getting a legal bird of that genus at the time I was led to believe would have been importing from Europe ,which in the early eighties would have given you a  real headache getting one. Obviously taking one from the wild would have been illegal. I still don't think many people fly them now. Hand reared Beutos (harris) & accipiters (spa) are much more aggressive than natural parent reared birds and in the bird of prey world that can be a real problem for aggression towards the owner. I had a friends full imprint red tail wack me once when he was calling down to the fist with a chick out of a tree form a unsuccessful hunt. That was the end of that and I gave that bird a wide birth from then on.

Most people getting into the game at that time went for a Harris because they are a whole world easier to "man" (train) to a large extent. My friend had one of the first Harris hawks in the Uk and I myself bought a male Harris from one of the few early Harris hawk clutches in the Uk, that was in the mid eighties well before they became popular. It was a male that cost me a stack of money that I had worked for months upon months, the bird cost me £750, yes, that's how expensive a Harris hawk was in the eighties. Sad thing is I only had the bird for abut 6 months and it was stolen, I was heartbroken.

I had another Harris after that a huge female that ended up being what appeared an imprint and she went back for a full refund very quickly as it was too aggressive and we could not man it safely. The chap who sold me it took it back without a glance and we strongly suspected afterwards he knew what he was selling, I was naive at the time and never took my friend with me when I went to purchase the bird and no sooner had I got it back he noticed the warning signs.

Having a 2 and half pound , 18 inch  "Beuteo"  with feet and talons the size of a medium hand square up to you is a bit scary. So she went  back and that was my ownership of hawks over with. So to sum up,I have had a lot of what you could call second hand experience at manning and flying hawks alongside my friend who was so much more successful and diligent in his approach to the "art". I just was very lucky to go along for the ride for many years watching him train and hunt with hawks. I suppose practise would have changed from nearly 40 years ago and imprinting and non imprinting techniques may now be different for hawks.

Back to sparrow hawks they are notoriously difficult to man. A chap who was a brief acquaintance in the early 90's had a African sparrowhawk (Accipiter melanoleucus) , he had it imported in with the proper paperwork, it cost an arm and a leg. He flew it regular but I never got to see it hunt, if I can recall correctly he used to say that it was "bad news for magpies" and that was what he solely hunted with it and it really would not entertain much else.

I see wild sparrow hawks regular around my neck of the woods and get a large female regularly coming through our line of gardens as she "buzzes" the woodies. Oddly enough I was on a patient call out a few years back in the afternoon in a extremely busy street in Liverpool, I do not know what drew my eye to it but not 5 foot away from me was a female spa that had snaffled a docker pigeon, she was underneath the front of a parked car. I stood and waited while she finished her meal, and was not daunted at all by the comings and goings. I wanted to make sure no one bothered her, a few passers buy pulled a few faces but on the whole the sight was well greeted when educated on what the bird was. 

Re the peregrines I will have to take a look at that article

Apologies for the derail

Right I am off to bed.

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Great interesting info 7days. Ta!

A mate of mine flys few different birds including a couple of eagles. Just amazing to be in there presents. Same with his gos. Not been out with him yet. Something i could get in to.

Yep, me two.       NB

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Imprinting is great if you get it right but if you don't you get a very  aggressive   Hawk or falcon back in the eighties i used to AI (artificial inseminate ) my goshawks .

My Harris Hawks was always parent reared no need to imprint them as they was such a gentle Hawk if handled right My red tail hawks which is the american Buzzard 

is much more aggressive than our Buzzards so they was sought after for hunting i was a member of the Welsh Hawking club for over 20 plus yrs 

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