I like bunnies as much as the next girl.
But my friend and I and our kids had a rare opportunity to watch that whole "circle of life" thing take place on Saturday when we participated in - yes PARTICIPATED in - a sport called "falconry".
Falconry is the art and practice of hunting for wild quarry with a trained hawk or falcon. With my apologies to seasoned falconers out there, this is my own, amateur, "birds-eye" view of the whole event.
EZ is a red-tailed hawk, and Jim is her owner. EZ was obviously well-trained and knew where her bread was buttered. She clung to Jim's glove like a needy girlfriend. Jim distributed walking sticks to the kids and instructed them to head out into the field and beat the brush with the intent of flushing out some grub (aka rabbits). If they spotted one, they were to yell, "RABBIT!"
Give four boys some sticks and send them out into a field and you have, well, four happy boys. They did just that. Jim let EZ go, and she perched in a tree to watch... and wait. Finally, whether it be due to the kids' activity or her own "eagle eyes", she spotted one, and in literally a split second, she swooped down and had her prize.
This was the part I could have done without. Rabbits scream. "Can you hear the rabbits screaming, Clarice?" Yeah, I could. But again, I kept telling myself, "Circle of life. Circle of life. Food chain. Food chain."
Next it was Gypsy's turn. Gypsy is new to the whole "full service dining" thing, which means she hasn't been with her owner, Bear, very long. He placed a small telemetry device on her before he let her loose so he would be able to locate her in case she tried to move on to greener pastures. We flushed out several rabbits for Gypsy, but she was being stubborn. Finally, Bear held up his glove, and after 10 minutes or so of calling for her, ("Hey! Chicken Butt!!") she returned to her owner. More work to be done there, but that's what the training is all about.
If you can get past the whole screaming bunnies thing, this sport is actually quite awesome. The relationship between these hawks and their owners is truly unique. Apparently the falconers wear the same clothes every time they go out so the birds will recognize them. At one point EZ hopped from Jim's arm to his steel-tipped toe, sulking after she didn't get her fill of her kill. These are beautiful, well-cared for birds, and their owners are incredibly knowledgeable and respectful of them. And for all you bunny lovers out there, again, you have to realize, this is what hawks, falcons and the like DO.
This adventure will definitely go down in the Kennard kids' books as one of the coolest things they've done. And hopefully it gave them a new appreciation for nature, the beauty of these winged creatures, and the fact that everyone and everything has to work for its next meal.