They Say.. "Things always come in Three's"

*Posting this article is an exercise in utilising ChatGPT to extract content from “The Falconers Magazine,” Issue 1, 1989. I acknowledge that reading articles directly from JPG images can be challenging, so I’m exploring this method as I progress with publishing digital versions of the magazines. This process is time-consuming, but I am committed to enhancing accessibility for our forum members.

We’ve all heard the stories, everything goes right, no problems with the birds, and a bag full of game at the end of the day. But what about the days when everything goes wrong?

It all started while hawking down in Warwickshire with two friends. For a start, we had been watching Chris flying Bess, his female Harris Hawk, at rabbit and pheasant, and then we moved on to a field approximately 20 acres, with a small pond in the middle which usually harbors moorhens. Paul, flying a female sparrowhawk at 8 3/4 oz and myself with Bella a female spar at 7 1/4 oz. Once at the pond, Paul and I went round to the back and this time it was my slip.

We moved along the bank beating the reeds, when a moorhen took to the wing and flew out towards open fields with the nearest available cover some distance away. Chris, being on the other side of the pond, didn’t realize that I had slipped Bella and thought the moorhen was unseen. Unfortunately, by this time he had slipped Bess. Just as Bella reached the moorhen, the inevitable happened, Bess took her side on with both feet.

We all ran towards Bella and found the Harris attempting to make a meal of her, it took quite a while to get those powerful talons out of Bella’s tiny body, without causing any more damage. When released we found her to be in a terrible state, feathers missing and blood on her back and breast, “but still alive.”

She had a very severe fit and didn’t know where she was, her head went back, eyes closed tight, no response at all. She was immediately given quails liver dipped in glucose powder, I gently prised open her beak and pushed it down her throat. I repeated this before rolling her up in a scarf and putting her up my jumper caressed against my bare body to keep her warm, until we got home. Once home, she was placed in a dark box with a towel in the bottom, next to a radiator. Later that evening I opened the box and to my surprise she was standing, still in a daze, but managing to sit on the fist, I chopped up more quail and fed her by hand.

Within a few days, she was back to her normal self, and to my amazement went on to fly and take quarry. Some time after this incident, with Bella fully recovered, the same party of us went hawking in Northamptonshire. I had several slips on this outing but still nothing in the bag, Bella wasn’t as sharp-set as usual because I had fed her a little over her normal diet, as the day before was very cold. We decided to leave her for the remainder of that day and fly Chris’ Harris Hawk instead.

Whilst walking along a brook, looking for rabbits and moorhens, we could see the Harris had something in her sights. She was slipped only to double back over our heads and strike Bella off my fist in a flash. Obviously, I feared the worst, but after the initial shock, we realized the damage wasn’t as bad as we had first anticipated. As she had another fit, I treated her as before. She had been very lucky once more, but it didn’t end there…

Our next excursion was an invitation to a field meeting in the Cotswolds, surely nothing could go wrong this time? Bella was still a little overweight, she kept banking off her quarry and was slow to return to the fist, so I decided to leave it for the morning and try again later in the afternoon. I was taking Bella back to the car and was far away from the rest of the party when I came to a fence at the top of a steep bank. As I clambered over the fence, I slipped and Bella bated off. As she did so I heard cries of “Gary!”, “Gary!”, suddenly the weight on my fist got heavier and I looked down to find a Harris Hawk deep in Bella’s body.

It took the strength of three of us to prise open the Harris’s talons. Once Bella had been released I checked her over, to find she had had another bad fit, with more wounds and feathers missing. The Harris’s back talon had submerged as far as it could go. The same successful treatment was applied in the manner described before. She still didn’t die… and they say “Cats have nine lives!” Considering her size, I have never known such a plucky little sparrowhawk as this one.

Jeff, the owner of the Harris was very upset at what had happened, but accidents do occur, and don’t they say “things always come in threes!”.

On all three occasions, there was nobody to blame, it was purely bad luck. Bella has gone into an aviary with a musket with one eye, so if they breed I would like to think that their offspring will be strong birds. She laid this year but unfortunately, the eggs were infertile.

If anyone has heard of a spar being taken by another bird and surviving, I for one would like to hear about it. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all admit to things going wrong once in a while?

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