Quick Trip

At the end of March through Easter Monday, we took a quick Roomba excursion up to the Richmond area. Jack had some errands to run in the “big city,” and I partnered with other Virginia Falconers’ Association members to do an educational presentation.

On the falconry front, our sport is governed in Virginia by our Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. They asked us if we might come and teach a few of their newest Law Enforcement Officer recruits about the sport—to help them understand what they might find us doing in the fields and forests of the state, and to know a bit about the regulations they will help enforce.

Jack and I drove up in two cars (mine filled with birds and dogs) to camp for the weekend at Powhatan State Park. Friends headed back to Williamsburg from a trip they’d taken to Asheville planned to stop by and spend a night or two camping across the road from us. We were in our fave site, #5, and were glad to have the dogs with us and robust cell service. We shared a couple of meals and even more campfires with our friends, and had a very relaxing time, after my obligation for the educational event was passed.

It was hot and the wind was constant and dusty—not even remotely ideal for a hunting demonstration for these young men—and troublesome for any of our group’s birds that had to be left in the cars. The group had brought lots of different species of birds for the recruits to see up close (including a great horned owl chick), and we tried to find some rabbits or squirrels after the classroom session, flying two Harris’ hawks over their heads.

But to no avail. The birds were not “into” the experience, and the human population was uncomfortably sweating in our briar clothes. There wasn’t a squirrel nor a rabbit to be found anywhere. It was, after all, the penultimate day of the legal hunting season for us (March 30), and most of us had long since “put up” our birds for the season. My two were fat and ready for the molt—CJ had even begun shedding his down feathers.

The group seemed to have a good time, however, and left with a broader understanding of the smallest slice of their new enforcement duties for hunting oversight in the Commonwealth.

I had prepared my red-tailed hawk, Skye, for release by allowing her to have (nearly) as much as she wanted to eat during the prior couple of weeks. Once I knew of this event/trip, I decided to use the time and space away from home to return her to the wild.

On the day of release, I chose a nice spot with some thick evergreens for her to roost safely during her first night of freedom in 3 years, and our friends took some photos and video. Some of you have seen these already, since I posted them on FB last week. But here are the pix of Skye’s last up-close encounter with her business partner (me).

I let her eat a nice morsel while I used the scissors to cut off her leather anklets and bell bewit.
Nearly done with the “off side” gear, the video below takes it from the removal of the “near side” equipment, and my giving her a final large lump of food that I want her to carry with her into the woods. Which she does as she flies away from me for the last time.

Jack and I took one of the days to pull out the kite and fly it. Unfortunately, we chose the only day of this short trip during which the wind toned down significantly; so it was difficult to keep the kite up, even after we’d removed its colorful tails. It was still fun, though, and we had gone to the part of the State Park where few people were enjoying the trails, and also let the dogs off-leash for a while.

It was the weekend, if you might recall, when we had a spectacular full moon—it’s impossible to capture the magnificence of the rising globe with a phone camera, but I tried anyway. It was quite a sight, and for the rest of the evening/night, we didn’t need flashlights to navigate our way around the camping area.

The next day, we had a fun experience, listening to and watching a gang of about 12 bluebirds cavorting around our campsite. They were loud (we call it “burbling and twittering”), and feisty, and dancing in the branches of the trees around ours and a couple of other campsites. Still have no idea if they were mating or fighting, or maybe a bit of both. But it was truly magical to see so many of them so closely for so long.

Determined not to be left behind, Mischief takes up residence in the back of the truck, on top of our kit bags.

Our trip home again was cloudy and threatening, but the rain decided to hold off until after we were back and settled back into the unpacking routine. This trip was the first we’d ever taken with an additional car, so I captured this photo of Roomba from behind, just as we got close enough to the mountains to see that we were nearly home again. That moment, when we’re in the low country looking up at our home region atop the blue ridges, we both get a warm glow inside.

Virginia Falconers Association Picnic

It was so fun to see falconers new and old at the VA Falconers’ Assn picnic yesterday. We saw Brian who came up from South Carolina, and the great news is that he’s moving back to VA. Lud and Lisa were there, Tony and Tony Jr. were there, Bill and Claire, and Kent — all of whom I’ve not seen for at least a year, and some I haven’t seen in far longer than that.
On the “new” side, all of my 3 apprentices showed up, and there were so many curious nonfalconer but “interested enough in knowing more” guests that we held a brief “Hawk Talk” to help inform them about how to get started, and to answer some of their questions. While we often hold “Hawk Talks” at our Open Field Meets, doing one yesterday was a first for the picnic.
My longtime friends, Julia and Pam, came to the picnic to see us and we haven’t seen them for a very long time. It was excellent fun to catch up, although I had official duties to perform for the business meeting portion of the event, so I had less time to play with good friends than I’d expected.

We had begun our bylaw-permitted election process to get licensed falconer/member input on nominations for the Association president back in June, and so I was pleased to make the announcement yesterday that Andrew was elected by acclimation to succeed me as president of the VFA.
Jack and I had also arranged to meet a total stranger, whom we’d “conversed with” only virtually, from our online group of Alto trailer enthusiasts. Scott and his family are Alto “wanna-bees” as they are doing their research on teardrop trailer options, and haven’t decided yet what type will suit their needs the best.
They were there as we drove up, and so Jack was able to show them the roof opening procedure while I started doing my presidential best to greet friends old and new. I didn’t see Jack again until lunch was almost over and all the forks were gone.
It was a good venue for our event, and Ken and Jen did a great job of making all the arrangements for the event. Last I’d heard, they had 40 reservations for lunch, and I spoke to at least 10 additional folks who had either eaten en route or brought their own instead of participating in the catered meal — so it was a very big turn-out at Massanutten. The only drawback was that there were few places to perch the birds that were brought along, so they’d be accessible to both handlers and guests. I saw three or four birds only, and every time I saw them, they were perched on their falconers’ fists.
And it was hotter all day than I’d expected, being at a ski lodge. But I guess we weren’t all that high up the mountain. In the shade it was okay, but it was better to be inside the air conditioned “nature center” where we held our fundraising auction. Gene did a fantastic job as our auctioneer, and kept the audience laughing and spending their money. There was some great stuff on the table and I think the Association made a goodly amount of $ to offset annual expenses. Overall it was a great event and I’m so glad we were able to go.
After things wound down, Jack and I took Roomba to Shenandoah River State Park near Luray, VA. En route, we took a quick grocery stop for provisions and dinner, and still found a very nice spot (#20) at 6:30 on a Saturday, with a tad of afternoon shade. Since we didn’t have to unhitch, we quickly set up without having to do very much leveling at all. We turned on the air conditioning because outside it was 88 degrees. 
Friday night, before we left for the picnic, we’d picked up the bike cover we’d commissioned our local yurt business to make for our bikes while mounted on the Roomba. Early Saturday, we’d had to remove it as there was too much “flap” in the material, and the Velcro had let loose. So one of the things we did before settling down for a chicken salad dinner Saturday night was to re-attach the cover, and with a couple of packing straps, we secured it better for tomorrow’s drive (we hope). 
Tomorrow, we’re on to World’s End State Park in PA.