Wednesday, April 24, 2013

victory declared

Well, it seemed poised to get into the endless-polishing stage, but I think I'm pretty much done with the weight app.  (Although I would kind of like to draw a steampunk scale.)

This has pretty specific requirements. You need to have a Drive account and you need to have a spreadsheet with the macro installed.  It is also designed on the assumption that it is used to record a single weight at a time.  For these reasons I won't be putting this in the Play Store.

Main screen. It will remember the last
weight you entered.

Change background image

Of course, the enter date can be
changed anytime
List of weights and upload button.
Individual weights can be deleted by
swiping away. The menu option lets
you delete all the weights.

If you haven't signed in before, it will
bring up a picker to choose your
Google account. It will remember the
account for all subsequent uploads.

File is always uploaded to LatestWeights.txt on the root (this is not configurable).  The app will
always overwrite an existing file.  Technically speaking, you can use the text file simply as a way
of backing up the database on the phone.

The Google Spreadsheet uses a macro written to find LatestWeights.txt and add its records to the sheet.

Monday, April 22, 2013

concerns about piracy

Update (5/10/13): Google took this pirate down and I feel gratified. He may just pop up somewhere else, but he'll have to pay the developer registration fee again.  Twenty-five dollars may not seem like much, but it offsets some of the ad revenue, which I've heard is pretty tiny.  Heck, my friend's book has been up for over 4 months and our combined profit hasn't hit that yet.

I was browsing Play for a game to download, when I came across this one. I thought it looked familiar, downloaded it and started playing.  Sure enough, it was this Flash game.

The Android version had a fair number of ads and started to annoy me, and I knew I'd played it before, so I deinstalled it and took a peek at this "developer's" other offerings.  There were a few Japanese games, a bunch of games in English.  All different styles of artwork. Then I came across one, then two, that had been written by a friend.

I had already seen this friend had ported a couple of his Flash games to Android under his own name.  This so-called "developer" was pirating other people's Flash games and posting them under his name, presumably for the ad revenue.

I looked up the Flash versions of several games and contacted four developers. One didn't respond, and the other three said they had not given permission to this guy to port their game.  I gave them the link to complain to Google about copyright violation. Hopefully this guy will get taken down.

But this leads me to ask what protections I have as a Play developer?  If someone installs my app, how easy would it be for them to take the app from their file system, load it into their IDE and add code to pull in ad networks, and push it back out to the Play store as their own?

Google recently won a case against Viacom wherein its subsidiary YouTube was found to be protected by the DMCA for hosting Viacom TV shows uploaded by its users.

Google also protects copyright in other cases, such as copyrighted music being used in user videos.  It has, as far as I understand, a fairly sophisticated algorithm to search for and match to copyrighted material.

Is the same effort put into protecting people who may not even know their work has been ported to Android?  Or at least work that already exists at the Play Store and is pirated into another Play Store app?  Or is it up to developers to constantly search for theft of their own work?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The weight project part 2

Eclipse vs IntelliJ and The Google (Drive)

I started programming Java, then Android with IntelliJ some 10 months ago.  I like IntelliJ.  However, the Google Drive example assumed you were using Eclipse, a popular and also free IDE.  It has its own plugin to incorporate Google libraries.  I admit I don't understand more than the rudiments of code libraries, so when I started working on the example I could not figure out how to make it work in IntelliJ.

I downloaded Eclipse, and after some struggle with the newest version and learning that it and the Android SDK don't play all so well together, downloaded the next-older version and got it working.

I also learned enough about Eclipse to realize I didn't like it all that much.  It's slower, even when you tell it not to automatically compile, and seems delicate.  It keeps track of projects in a completely separate folder, so if you delete a file from outside, or rename/move the folder, then try to load/run it, Eclipse has a hissy fit and faints.  IntelliJ just looks at what is there and deals with it, even if your project is open.  Robust.

I struggled for days trying to add the libraries to IntelliJ the way I was guessing they were being added in Eclipse.  (On the Drive example page, there was no description of what the plugin was doing under the hood.)  I finally broke down and asked the collective wisdom of StackOverflow.

After some wrangling with a guy who initially didn't seem to understand what I was asking, he built the example himself and presented me with exactly how to add the libraries. Bless this sweet Russian guy's heart.  Once I had this, I placed it straight into the weights app and it worked beautifully. Yay!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

tackling Google Drive

The boyfriend steps on the scale every day, records his weight on the whiteboard, and every once in a while enters those into a Drive spreadsheet, which has a little chart showing his progress.  (At 177 +-2, he's quite reasonable, but he feels tracking helps him keep it that way.) So I wrote a little database app for his phone.  It saves weights to a comma delimited text file and uploads it to Drive.  A macro in the spreadsheet grabs that file and puts the entries at the end of the sheet.

The fun (/sarcasm) part has been learning to upload or update this file on Drive.  The API is less than well documented, a lot of the code is compiled so you can't read it in the IDE, and that makes it extra painful since I'm barely versed in these sorts of things.  However, there's some nice sample text at the Developers site that show the basics in Java (see "Manage Drive Files").

Interestingly, Drive commands are not so much like a file system as a database.  One updates and inserts files instead of copying them.  Drive files have an ID, which is a separate creature from the name ("title").  Inserting a file will create a new file, and it could have the same title as another file that already exists -- it won't automatically overwrite it.  It's got a different ID, so it must be a different file.  So you have to look for the file and grab its ID, and from there you can update it, or do other stuff like delete, change its title, etc.

Drive requests do not ignore the Trash folder, either.  During testing, I deleted the uploaded file from Drive, expecting the upload to create a new one, and was frustrated for quite some time because my "new" file wasn't showing up. It had been happily updating the deleted file.

The other thing to watch out for is how much you're trying to do.  I followed the Developers sample code to list the files, and it grabs *all* the files, Trash, subfolders, everything. You have to add a query (yeah, database again) to restrict the file listing to where you want it to look, and better yet, the name.  After adding the query

request.setQ("'root' in parents and title = 'LatestWeights.txt' and trashed=false");

the whole process speeded up remarkably.

Monday, April 1, 2013

memory lane - 23 years of falconry

I've been birdless for a couple months now, so I'm feeling sentimental.

I will start off by being disappointing; there are no photos of my very first hawk. They were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire or something.  Seriously, I'm sure they're somewhere in an album I can't find due to the state of my desk. (Note to the wise: a messy person should never have a 6x4 foot flat horizontal surface, for they shall never find anything again.)

The Apprentice Birds

FRT #2 on the arm of a bystander
My first red tailed hawk I trapped along the San Mateo coast flyway. She was a midsized female, and I didn't have her for very long.  I had just started freeflying her a few weeks earlier when she got into a tiff with a resident hawk.  They spiraled up into the sky, each trying to get a height edge, and after a point I couldn't tell who was who, and I suppose by then it didn't matter.

It was a long wait for the next season, and in October I trapped another female on the coast. We named her Pumpkin, it being close to Halloween, and I got her hunting... eventually.  I think I took about 15 or so jacks with her before losing her in a situation identical to the first.  That time my sponsor was with me, and while I gawped at the two birds spiraling up, he jumped in his truck and tried to follow where they were going.  Eventually he came back, probably puzzled as to why I hadn't followed.

Patience is a falconer virtue.

Yes, I named him Fluffy.
The following season I found my new hawk in the hills north of Livermore. It was really early in the season, or perhaps he was a late hatch, and perhaps due to the remoteness of the area, he was the calmest passage bird I had encountered so far.  He figured out the glove quickly and when I approached him on the perch, he would look like he wanted to bate but held steady for a much longer time.

I knew he was bold: he had a large bloodstain on the trailing edge of a wing which I was certain was not his.  And when the weather turned wet, he started smelling really, really bad.  Before I'd ever met him, he'd tried to catch a skunk. And may have succeeded.

His first kill with me went like this:  I had spent weeks walking the field with him, 4 or 5 days a week, showing him jackrabbits, encouraging him to go after them.  He simply watched them.  Once in a while, he'd launch and cruise by, then land, watching them run away.  I was getting frustrated, naturally, but I hadn't had to bag the female, and I didn't think I should have to bag him either.  But I was contemplating it.

One afternoon, it was cold and drizzling, and just plain depressing because I knew it was going to be more of the same: watch, cruise, land, watch. I trudged around the field, not seeing much under the low grey sky.  Then he launched off my fist and cruised low, barely 2 feet off the ground. Just as I was wondering what the hell he's doing, he did a tidy little wing-over, and nailed a sitting jackrabbit in the head.

From there it was golden.  By then I was more experienced and had learned a bit about how hawks think.  We developed an amazing bond and an ability to communicate.  He was incredibly tenacious, and more than once got dragged 30' under a tree and still held on long enough for me to get in there and secure the rabbit.  During that wet season he also learned he could drown them by dragging them to a nearby puddle.

I don't know how many jacks we caught.  I hadn't bothered keeping track in those days, but if pressed to guess, I would say 40 that first season.  To me, that was a lot, plus I was feeding him up every time we caught.

Late in the season he broke a leg due to a bungee leash. We had it splinted and hoped for the best.  The final X-ray showed it was pretty close.  There are two bones (like the fibula-tibia pair); the larger one had broken, the smaller one managed to keep things in place. As always, he was calm at the vet's, and I think he rather charmed her with his tameness.

We used to take hawks out for evening coffee.  It's a great way to let the public see hawks, and it's great manning for a passage bird.  Just sit with them someplace where they can feel somewhat safe, like next to a wall; they get nervous when threats can come from every direction, and a wall eliminates half of them.

The following season we started slowly but soon he was back up to speed.  The field was a bit thinner that year; we lost part of it to a building, and the jacks were warier.  But we kept catching; it just took a little longer.

It wasn't until years later, when I had my own apprentice, that I realized how lucky I'd been to have a field  full of jackrabbits five minutes from my house.  I would run home, throw on my boots, get the hawk in the car and get 15 minutes of hawking before it turned too dark.  The place was actually a series of 4 fields, the largest of which was maybe 15 acres.  It was surrounded by business parks, so the jacks had nowhere else to go.  A vast field with no boundaries sounds nice on the surface, but a small, defined place is a better setup for a falconer.

The enamel pin I designed, and the photo that inspired it.
At the same time I had also been made a general falconer, which meant I could buy a Harris's hawk or other such captive-bred bird.  I loved Fluffy (so named because I could scritch him on the breast and he would fluff it up and preen it), but I was looking forward to that.  And I was also thinking he was such a great bird that he should have the opportunity to make more great babies.

I was driving over the hill in San Mateo between 101 and 280. It was one of those days that's rainy, but the sun comes out every once in a while and blasts every droplet into a ball of focused light.  And I realized that Fluffy deserved freedom. This was his world, the sun and the sky and the rain, he belonged there, and I was going to give him back.  Yeah, there were tears in my eyes.

About three years after I let him go, a falconer friend happened to mention he'd spotted this tiercel redtail who was catching jacks in his field (which was one of mine, but one I didn't fly often).  He'd walked up to the redtail and it looked down at him, unafraid.  I'd like to think that was Fluffy.

The Flying Wolf Pack

My next baby dragon was a tiercel Harris's hawk. Originally from Bill Murphy's stock, he has the distinction of having been raised by a pair of harpy eagles at the Peregrine Fund.  The P-Fund didn't know how the harpies would react to babies, since it was their first year captive-breeding, so the fertile harpy eggs were rolling safely in an incubator, and eggs of lesser value had been substituted.  The harpies raised their Harris hawk chicks just fine.  Despite this unusual parentage, he was always afraid of large, eagle-shaped objects in the sky.  This would be prophetic.

Squeaky was a great bird -- compared to redtails, he was psychic.  After a long training period (my choice; I was still thinking I was training a passage RT) we caught everything: cottontails, jackrabbits, ducks.  Even, after some struggle, a pheasant or two.
Squeaky spent a year at a breeder's, and came back with the Conan anklets.
It's hard to fold eight years of a hawk into a few paragraphs. But he was my best buddy, my go-everywhere bird, my falconry ambassador to my mom (who finally accepted falconry as a part of my life after he charmingly nibbled a bit of ham from her fingers, and politely looked at her expecting more), my bunny-catching machine who would gladly step off for a quail thigh.

He got knocked around some by the jackrabbits, one time breaking off the outer shell of one talon, then later tearing a flexor tendon on his center toe. When he put that foot up, the toe wouldn't close, so he was flipping me off all the time.  It took some years to heal, but heal it did.

I tried to breed him, but he was pretty much an imprint despite his first 50 days in the chamber.  I took him home after a year or so, where he joined the slightly mental tiercel Harris I'd acquired while he was away.

Polya was a hand-me-down bird, given by a friend who wanted to focus more time on his peregrine.  I was his third owner and was told he was good on game, but tended to go after jackrabbits only in heavy cover -- i.e. moving slowly with potential for stuckage.

He was a character, rather still and reserved, and often seemed grumpy even when he had one foot tucked up.  From this we named him Napoleon, which quickly became Polya -- which is also "field" or "glen" in Russian (поля).  More aggressive than Squeaky, as well as slightly bigger, he did okay in the cast, but just okay.  When bored he would go after Squeaky, who was Ghandi when it came to HH aggression.  Squeaky, slightly smarter than Polya, learned that if he got quarry he could not count on Polya to assist.  Instead, he would flush up a jackrabbit then hang back while Polya came in to do the dirty work.

They caught one pheasant together
Three or 4 years of cast flying started getting wearisome, though.  It wasn't twice the work, but it seemed like a lot of to-do getting both birds ready, loading the truck, keeping track of them in the field, and trying to make sure everyone was happy and staying focused.

I gave Squeaky to a friend who had recently turned general.  This turned out to be a bad idea; the friend flew Squeaky in a cast with a female. In the past I'd occasionally flown Squeaky with my sponsor's female and she behaved aggressively toward him, so his experience had not been good. Squeaky would hang back from the two.  One day an eagle went after him, and though he tried to get away, he didn't fly toward his new owner, who would have scared the eagle off.  He lost sight of them, but came back the next day to find Squeaky's remains.

At this point in time, my husband David, who had cystic fibrosis, was spending more and more time in the hospital. I decided it was better to fly closer to home, so I wouldn't be hours away.  This brought me to a completely new chapter in falconry: crow hawking.

Polya's first owner originally trained him to take crows from the car.  I had never seen it done until a chance meeting with that owner, and I asked him to show me. It was more than slightly crazy driving down empty dirt roads looking for crows, U-turns, pulling onto the wrong side of the road, tossing the hawk out the window and screeching to a halt.

It was really exciting.

It took a while to overcome the chicken in my right foot and the other chicken in my right hand.  Part of driving is programming yourself to believe that there is only one way to do something.  It took a while to coordinate the sequence: how to make a U-turn that isn't going to alert the crows of hawkish mischief, when to drop the window, when to let the bird go.

Polya taught me.  He had been raised to car-hawk. Four-footed furries were just a sideline he had been forced into by stupid owners who didn't understand his joy in catching crows, his mission from God to eliminate the noisome race of corvids from the face of the earth.  When crow hawking he had a stance of alertness and excitement I *never* saw when we were hunting rabbits.  He did have his quirks, though: he would only go out the driver's side window.  A plump, juicy crow could be blissfully grubbing in the grass six feet from the passenger window, and Polya would lean and whine with desire, but he wouldn't go and destroy it.

It's hazardous. Polya got bumped by cars twice, one time hard enough to make him fly up to a building and not want to come down.  I thought the flight up was a last-ditch firing of neurons just before death, and he had collapsed on the roof.  I circled around the building, trying to sense where he was.  The crows circled around one spot for a while, got bored and flew away.  I spoke with people inside the warehouse, but none of them had roof access or a ladder long enough to get up there.  They were all incredibly supportive.  Finally, I called the fire department, explained the situation, and they sent a full-sized truck over.  By amazing coincidence, the captain had known a falconer in the past who had a Harris hawk and had flown the field two blocks away. He knew exactly what kind of bird Polya was. I was not allowed to climb the ladder, so I gave the captain my glove and a crow wing (plenty to hang onto).  He walked the roof, looked all around the HVAC and didn't see Polya. Not dead? Maybe.  Just as I began wondering if Polya have moved while I was inside, he spotted the bird in a tree right next to the building.  Called him back, brought him down.  The FD never charged me for the call, they were wonderful people, but it's not something I want to experience again!

Crows are very smart, and it had gotten to the point where they would alarm-call, flush, and chase my car as soon as I showed up to an area.  We still caught plenty of crows but it was taking hours, and I wanted a break.  I gave Polya to a friend who wanted to breed him, and set my sights on an accipiter.

I had always loved goshawks: their coloration, their reputation for speed and tenacity. During this time I briefly possessed a hand-me-down passage female goshawk about 5 years old. She was almost a rehab, since she came to me terrifically hood-shy and afraid of people as well. I spent a couple months working out those kinks, and her speed and power were amazing. One time I swear she pumped her wings three times and did a nearly-vertical 30 feet up to pull a duck from the sky. We took jacks and ducks, probably about 15. Since she would sometimes just snog off in some random direction, I dropped her weight, in retrospect a little too low, and she began to talk -- a surprisingly loud 'pew' -- quite often, even at night. I gave her to a more experienced falconer who raised her weight some 30g and just carried a live pigeon with him everywhere. Sadly, I heard she died not long after that, due to a heat wave, but I was left with a good enough impression to try another accipiter.

Accipiter Fever, part 1

This cute ball of fuzz was a six-day-old musket pulled from a nest by a friend.  We met up at some ungodly hour, and lugged a 16-foot ladder about half a mile uphill to get to the nest.

I somewhat followed the "Imprint Accipiter," and for my first time raising an eyas he turned out decent.  A sharpy is very small, and requires careful measurement.  Weighing three times a day became normal.  It was an excellent experience watching him grow and develop real feathers, and waiting for that last tail feather to dry up so I could really fly him.

I was admittedly afraid of eyases who smack you in the head because you trained them wrong.  Thankfully, the sharpy hit me in the head only twice before he figured out that he was supposed to be hitting other birds.

He was the author of one of the most amazing flights I've ever seen.  He went after a junco.  If you've never seen a junco, they are these small dark-and-white birds who like a low perch out in the open.  They fluff up to get comfortable, and look deathly ill.  But flush them and you'll see just how sick they are.  The junco went up, the sharpy hot on its tail, looking like a pair of fighter pilots -- and did a full loop in the air.  The junco got away.

The other cool maneuver he did was fly straight out, high up (we're talking 35-40 feet), then stoop like a falcon to mash a robin on the grass below. The robin didn't know what hit it.

The sharpy got asper, though, and x-rays showed it right where the windpipe branches to the lungs.  One day I noticed he was breathing unusually hard after a chase, and within two days he was wheezing loudly. The cure would have involved weeks of meds, he would have to stay at the bird hospital, where he'd be manhandled twice a day and probably fed by hand.  In less than 20 days he'd caught 10 quarry, mostly sparrows and towhees, and it seemed a bad time to do something that would completely change his relationship to people during this formative period.  I didn't know about pine needle infusion at the time. Someone mentioned it but it seemed so new-age and unscientific, and the person who described it didn't mention any efficacy studies. I chose to put him down rather than a) ruin his training and b) letting him go to die a slow death.  I'd never had to put down a hawk.  He was a beautiful little bird.  I never really gave him a name; he was just "the sharpy," like he was the only sharpy I will ever have.

Accipiter Fever, part 2

The next year I thought it better to get a hopefully less delicate bird, and I opted to buy a 22 day-old goshawk from a breeder in Colorado.  He turned out to be the most amazing bird ever. I had the good fortune to have a half-time job that paid well, so I could devote tons of time to him.

It was the same as raising the sharpy, just more food, and avoiding some mistakes I'd made with the sharpy.  I got a ton of good advice from three longtime falconers, each of whom had flown several goshawks.

Is this the face of a killer?
Once he had gotten to the point of flying and bagging, one of the friends gave me an open invitation to fly a field loaded with cottontail.  Pretty soon I was hanging out there the entire weekend, catching a Friday afternoon hawking session, sleeping on the couch, and up Saturday morning to fly again. The house had nothing but working falconers living there -- falconers, hunting dogs, hawks, pigeons, hawk food in living and dead forms, and enough firearms to start insurrection in a small third-world country.

It was in this chaotic environment that Alfie got manned, and in that field where he caught his first bunny.  He ended his first season with well over 100 bunnies under his belt. He too got to meet the crows and he took over 75 of those as well.

Hell yeahs

As we were coming to the end of the season, tragedy struck, big time. The first one he ran into: while flying past a mirrored-glass building to hit a crow, he got distracted by his reflection and tried to hit it.  He bounced off and landed on his back on a grassy strip.  My heart nearly stopped at the sight of him blindly paddling his feet in the air.  I gently picked him up, got him to turn rightside up. He was clearly dazed for several minutes and his right eye didn't want to open all the way.  Nothing broken or bleeding, but someplace dark and quiet would be really good.

I let him rest up for some days, and tested him with hopping to the glove, easing into tiny vertical jumps.  The right wing had a problem as well, but I was pretty sure it was a hard bump, probably bruised up badly but not fractured.  It behaved like tendonitis: it would gradually get better, then one vertical jump would stress it into pain.

It took weeks but he was getting back to nearly full-height vertical jumps and I was contemplating whether we could get a few more hunts in before he started dropping feathers. I never made that decision. One day while vertical jumping, I tossed the lure for him (my signal that we're done), he caught it, took about 3 bites, and simply stopped. And stared into space.

Hawks simply don't do this.

He wouldn't eat.  I managed to get a few bites in him, but he needed at least 50-55g per day just to maintain his weight. Overnight his weight dropped scary low and he was at the vet that day.  She wasn't sure what was going on, but his WBC was high (infection).  She was intending to x-ray him, but he opened his mouth and she saw some blood, making her think he may have eaten a rodent poisoned with anticoagulant.  She threw the whole black bag at him: antibiotic, vitamin K, VFend (for asper), and subcutaneous ringer's solution to keep him hydrated.  She sent me home with all the above, with instructions.  I had never done an injection and that was the hardest one, but fluids are more important than food.  Between antibiotics and ringer's, we poked that poor bird full of holes for four days.

Within a few days he'd regained an appetite, and seemed willing to hop to the glove again, though the wing was still touchy.  We switched to oral meds (not a ton of fun, since they're all sorts of weird flavors that goshawks find icky.  I forget who gave me the tip, but I ended up buying a jar of chicken baby food, mixed his meds with a blob of it, and smeared it on the real food.)

Fifteen days after the first vet visit, she felt he was stable enough to x-ray.  And he had a blob of asper in his right lower air sac.  We put him back on the VFend.  I contemplated and decided against the surgical option, which involves sending an instrument into the air sac and directly spraying asper medication on it.  I phoned Steve Layman to talk about the pine needle infusion treatment.  Half a cup of pine needles steeping in boiled water in the hawk box, twice a day.  Alfie didn't really care for it.  He'd put up with it for a while, then start bouncing around inside the box.  I made a dark box and that helped a lot.  I kept him in there as long as I could, which ended up being a total of maybe 2.5 hours per day, considerably less than Steve's recommended 6 hours.

And slowly, he got better.  The second x-ray showed a definite reduction, and the final x-ray, taken two months after his first visit, showed only a slight mark that might or might not be asper.
The hawk should have an hourglassy shape, as in the last picture.
Ultimately, there was a tradeoff: Alfie was alive, but he barely molted.  We started the next season with two mature decks and a smattering of grey body feathers, but his flights were tipped from the first season and weren't getting better.  I had imped two tail feathers the first season and he broke another next to the decks. He was starting to look bad, though not as wrecked as some goshawk trains I've seen.

And he was alive, and was catching crows like nobody's business.  (The bunny field went rather sparse.)

Sometime in November or so, I'd heard that Polya had not bred (like Squeaky, too imprinted or, in Polya's case, a misprint) and he had been given to another falconer.  But she had gotten a taste of Polya's quirks (I didn't mention that he hates children, and tries to kill dogs, did I?), and at the weight he was at, he was in no condition to have his head on straight.  A fat hawk has no sense of self-discipline.  She asked me if I wanted him, and I said yes, more to get him out of that situation than a desire to have a second hawk that would not fly with the first.

I hung onto Polya for a couple of months, but at that point I had an 8-to-5 job with a 1-hour commute each way, a boyfriend who tended to stay up late, and two hawks that I was forced to fly only on weekends.  At my third moving violation I knew I was doing too much, and the only way to fix it was to stop doing things.  I gave Alfie away, then Polya.  A while later, for reasons unrelated to stress, I dumped the boyfriend as well.

Alfie and his new falconer
Alfie's falconer patiently molted him out, and they are currently having a blast together.  Polya's falconer gave him to an apprentice falconer, who is as far as I know having a blast with him.  Between them, they should depopulate California of crows.  And I found the best boyfriend ever.

Accipiter Fever, parts 3a, b, and c

This one is brief -- I was never able to get to the point where we had an understanding of what the other one is supposed to do.  We had multiple strikes going: one, he was the first passage bird I'd had since apprenticeship; second, the first thing he did in my possession was break a hallux toe from bating; third, he was a Cooper's hawk; fourth, he was a Cooper's hawk, and fifth, he was a tiercel Cooper's hawk.

He spent his first three weeks mostly hooded with a splinted toe.  That never healed quite exactly right, but he was a bold little guy with a grip like iron.  I had him catch sparrows in the living room a couple of times and his agility was breathtaking.  But it was hard even getting decent behavior from him in the house, and our few times in the field together were complete failures.  I fed him up and let him go after about five weeks.

I've been assured by friends with significant Cooper's experience that this is not unusual. Only a small proportion of passage Cooper's hawks are capable of working with people. Experienced Cooper's people will trap several, and keep them for a few hours to suss out if they have one of the 10% that are wired to be a falconry bird.

After this gentleman I acquired a female Cooper's. She was a dream from day one: eating on the glove right away, cooperative, and a lightning fast learner. She went from wild to hawking with me in a mere 7 days, and caught wild quarry with me in just a few more days. She hit pigeons and crows like nobody's business. There were only two blots on the picture: she had a case of roundworms that resisted my efforts to treat it, and, as we continued nailing crow after crow, I began noticing she only wanted the close, easy slips. She wouldn't fly the distances I'd expect from a Cooper's.

These were totally, directly related. Apparently ivermectin is not that effective when it comes to roundworm. I switched to Panacur, but I was simply too late. The roundworms had damaged her intestines sufficiently to kill her.

One more female Cooper's was given to me. She was rescued from a warehouse and the top of her head was bald from bashing against the ceiling. Her rescuer had brought her to a fat 500 grams. I started to trim her back but it quickly became clear she was not one of the 10%. Not as nutty as the tiercel, but definitely not the cooperative sort. As soon as I had fattened her up again I let her go in a county park which is loaded with small birds and has water year round.

Going south

I was still interested in a Cooper's sized bird, but the last one told me that me and Cooper's hawks were probably not meant to be. It takes a special falconer to work with their reptilian brains, and that falconer was not me. A breed that had less potential for fatal health problems was also desirable.

This came in the form of a Peruvian Harris hawk. I acquired him at 12 weeks old from a pair that had originally come from Peru. I've had him about a month now.