I feel as if this update is slightly overdue because it contains a running story from about Friday that I've hardly mentioned since it started(at least over the internet; i haven't shut up about it in reality). Just like how I absolutely failed with social etiquette of "Guys I published a book
"*, I'm just going to have to go with:
GUYS I PICKED UP THE HAWK.
There. That wasn't so hard, was it?
We picked him up on Friday, leaving the house at 6am to get to Thorp Perrow Falcons by 8.30. It didn't really hit me until I actually saw him that here was my hawk, I was picking him up, taking him home, training him, working with him for the rest of his life and a fair percentage of mine, just like I don't think it's really hit even now that school is over. It probably won't kick in that I'm never going back to Ribblesdale until I start going to St. Christopher's, and maybe not even then - so in the same way I haven't really processed that, I hadn't been excited about the hawk since I finally managed to get in touch with the centre in February or so. And then we sorted out the paperwork and someone took me to see the parents, and when we went back into the office there he was, dangling upside-down from the glove.
I didn't realise how strongly I would feel about him so quickly. I was just kind of like, Oh. Wow. I... I love him.
Of course, by this point, what with the cherubs and holy music shining around us, I had forgotten that everything I possess is broken
. One dog has Alzheimer's and another one Tourettes, the third was sold to us as a whippet and grew to the size and shape of a lurcher, one of my gerbils was epileptic and had the ability to fly and the new ones can't dig but they can climb like fricking squirrels. My absolute most dreaded situation was that I was going to be taken into the aviary and asked to pick which one I wanted. Not being an expert on assessing hawk eyasses while they flap about in their housing, I had a feeling I was going to be reduced to closing my eyes and trying to search my soul for the call of my hunting partner. Then I knew I would point, open my eyes, and realise that he was the one standing on his head in the corner. Instead, however, here he was, already chosen for me - the breeder even took us through the basic health checks, which we had scheduled a vet appointment for later in the morning. His feet were good, his wings were healthy, his feathers were as intact as can be expected from a young hawk who hasn't quite learnt the difference between sky and ground yet, and he was alert and keen. He's a Superior, which basically means pedigree; his mother is 24 years old and his father 26, making them two of the first breeding pairs of Harris' hawks in the country, and still going strong. The dangling upside-down, while it did induce some frantically-stifled giggling, is entirely natural; one must remember that a parent-reared eyass has never stood on a glove before, and has only just been equipped for the first time, meaning that they still aren't used to the leather straps around their legs.
And then, of course, it came. It had to. I had been too cocky in assuming my luck would run so far. For then:
"Now, we know you ordered a male...
Oh shit no please no.
"... And it's extremely rare for a clutch to be all of one gender...
No no no no no.
"... And there were four eggs this time, which is quite a lot given the age of the parents...
Please no no shit no.
"... But the thing is, the only real way to tell at this age is by how big they are. Now, he might be a male, in which case he's one of the biggest I've ever seen - nearly 2lb. But, on the other hand, she might be a female, in which case she's 7oz smaller than all of her sisters. Sometimes we reckon she's a female 'cos of the wingspan and weight, but on the other hand some days he looks more like a male 'cos those feet are way too small for him to grow much bigger.
This from the man who earlier brought us: "The birds are copulating as we speak.
So it's not that I got a female when I asked for a male. It's not even that the only other way to tell would be to send off a feather for DNA next moult. It's not even
that he's a gargantuan, unholy abomination of humongous masculinity, or a bit of a lick-spittle runt female. Oh no.
Xe is gender-fluid.
I have a gender-fluid fucking hawk.
I recall the Tumblr text post:
I have a boyfriend, and I have a girlfriend. But I'm not cheating, because I have a gender-fluid partner! WHOO!
I have a male hawk, and I have a female hawk. But I don't have two hawks, because I have a gender-fluid eyass! WHOO!I HAVE A TUMBLR HAWK.
TUMBLR WILL LOVE THIS HAWK. THIS HAWK WAS MADE FOR TUMBLR.
I hereby propose that my hawk should be adopted by the whole Tumblr community.*i spent an hour and a half in the first rehearsals after this trying to bring it up, however the conversation never seemed to find the right avenue. then, just as everyone was getting ready to leave, i suddenly held seeking above my head and yelled "OH MY GOD GUYS SHUT UP I PUBLISHED A BOOK AND HERE IT IS."
i got a round of applause.
Seriously though, this does present some problems. Oh no, not like it was important or anything - the only reason I was looking for a male over a female is that they're smaller(making him easier to handle) and generally cheaper, as most professional austringers look to hunt larger quarry such as hares that small males can't catch. Because I was after neither a particular quarry or breeding purposes, gender is otherwise irrelevant.
No, the problem is pronouns
What am I supposed to do? Call the hawk by the hawk's preferred pronouns? What are the hawk's preferred pronouns? How will I know? Do I call the hawk she
when she looks particularly bulky, and him
when he looks lithe and slight? Is it insensitive to pick the hawk's gender based on my preference? Surely it is more ethically appropriate to leave it to the hawk to make up the hawk's mind when the hawk feels the hawk is ready?
At the moment I've been settling on "Who's a good b-- g-- hawk
". Apparently, the hawk's gender is now hawk
. I tried xe
as gender-neutral pronouns, but no-one knows what I mean when I try that, and I get funny looks if I go for they
. It's the same kind of look I got when I put white heterosexual couple
into conversation. It is Tumblr that has done this to me. Tumblr is making me uncomfortable around my own hawk. I can't even tell the hawk that the hawk is a good anything except hawk. When we got the fish and we were told that it was impossible to know their gender until eggs were laid, I called them he
because I wanted male fish. But now... Now I question
Hircine. Hircine is the name of a lithe, sleek male hawk.
Although also works as an empowered, tough female hawk.Is my hawk a gender-fluid femininist?My hawk is Tumblr.
One way I thought to decide it conclusively would be to weigh the hawk and discover, truly, whether the hawk was closer to a male or female weight - which would decide that week's pronouns. Perhaps I could go for the gender-fluid thing after all and just see what the hawk felt like being each day?
Obviously, though, the hawk still couldn't stand on the glove.
First things first, we had to take him to the vet's. The vet initially couldn't do much more than the breeder already had, however a second opinion is of course desirable and there's so much worry about getting a healthy eyass that it would feel wrong if I didn't get a professional opinion to double-check what the man who was trying to sell me the hawk
had told me(even though he said that if i wasn't happy, no questions asked, he would fully refund me). So we left Thorp Perrow Falcons at 9.30am, intending to arrive for an 11.20am appointment in Harrogate.
Visual map time. x
Easy, huh? Drive a bit to the left, then loop back up to Clitheroe home in time for lunch.
Except that somehow, our Sat-Nav confused Harrogate with... x
And quite importantly, we didn't notice
until the Sat-Nav declared that we had arrived at our destination at 11.15am, which was apparently the side gate of Huddersfield University.
I cancelled the appointment.
So we got home eventually and somehow it was only like 12.30pm or something ridiculous and painful like that and there was still half a day left to go even though we had crossed half of Yorkshire and picked up a gender-fluid hawk.
Fortunately, this did mean that there was more time for the manning as I could get in two sessions in the day, rather than one like I had expected.
I took Hircine straight into Hircine's house, and spent twenty minutes putting Hircine back onto the glove when Hircine fell off. In the end Hircine managed to stay on it for about two minutes without slipping, which was a better start than it sounds, with minimal screaming. I set Hircine down quietly on his perch, which Hircine promptly fell off of and started screaming again.
There is little better alarm call than the scream of a young Harris' hawk.
Apparently the hawk's voice will drop when the hawk gets a little older, which for some reason I find an unduly funny thought, and then it will be a little less piercing. Not kidding, I think that sound went right above my natural hearing range.
One is supposed to leave the hawk in a quiet, dark place until the hawk gets used to being tied down, which I did. There was a little more screaming during the afternoon, but fortunately not much; the main reason I decided against an imprinted bird was that they can become lonely if left on their own due to the feeling that the falconer is part of their social group, and this would be impractical during college time, when I will be away for most of the day. Hircine had been parent-reared, however, which means that Hircine had never been touched by a human before, though Hircine had seen them(making the manning process easier than with an entirely secluded hawk).
I came back in the afternoon and we worked again, me now introducing the hawk to my voice, first whispering, then muttering, then talking just below normal level in soft, neutral tones. When Hircine could stand safely on the glove, I touched Hircine's feet gently, working around them, getting Hircine used to being handled by humans.
The next day, I managed to get three sessions in; in the first, I kept my voice low and focused on getting the hawk comfortable with me touching first the hawk's feet, then the hawk's legs and then stroking the hawk's chest. There was more bating, but now the screaming had faded to a delicate chirruping click, like a songbird as opposed to a raptor. When I set Hircine back on Hircine's perch, however, Hircine fell off and then stood there with an expression of slightly offended confusion.
As far as I can tell, Hircine has two expressions: mildly offended confusion; and mildly confused anger.
The eyebrows tend to do the trick.
Later in the day, I set Hircine out on Hircine's perch in the garden because it was sunny, however this didn't seem to be much different to Hircine being in Hircine's house except that Hircine scared the shit out of next door's cat when she jumped over the fence(and then jumped right back again).
Hircine wouldn't eat, however - apparently one Harris' the breeder trained didn't start eating for thirteen days. They have to eat directly off the glove, at least at first, as this is the first link they will have to you; if they learn that they can get food by refusing what is offered to them on the glove, causing you to give up and feed them on the ground, then the first time you let them go they'll just fly away. And they won't eat until they're comfortable - hence why manning is so important. The hawk will need to be comfortable with having the hawk's feet and wings checked, the hawk's furniture exchanged, and the hawk's talons and beak coped, so manning is important to both build up trust and increase comfort and familiarity.
By the end of the day, the hawk could stand on the glove for about six or seven minutes without falling off.
On the third day, Hircine still wouldn't eat. For the first time, I tried weighing Hircine; Hircine completely freaked out and couldn't cope with standing on the scales and screamed when I let go of Hircine, so I took up Hircine again and decided to keep with walking around and getting Hircine used to things like cars and dogs and trees.
Later in the day, Hircine was also introduced to next door - the first person other than myself and the breeder to hold Hircine. Hircine wasn't happy about stepping off my glove and onto his, but Hircine did it with a little squawking and bating, and held Hircine's balance enough not to fall off. Hircine met two more people after that, but still wouldn't stand on the scales.
Hircine did, however, work out what the perch was for.
This was a classic instance of mildly confused anger; Hircine was displeased that the perch had so far hidden its secrets from Hircine.
Fourth day was more manning, some more people, and no eating or weighing. Hircine did manage to stand on the scales, but they weren't turned on at the time and I wasn't going to risk my luck by trying twice.
It was on this day that the hawk and the dog had their first meeting.
Over the past few days, Angel had stood at a distance and barked, and been locked away when I got Hircine out. That afternoon, I was out with Hircine in the back garden when Hubble opened the door, and Angel bolted out and jumped the back fence. I needn't have bothered to yell at her; she gave one high-pitched little yap, the hawk opened the hawk's wings to their full capacity and hissed, and she had an expression of absolute "OH MY FUCKING SHIT WHAT THE--
" and ran away.
She hasn't barked since.
This is good.
But, of course, no eating or weighing. The weighing was important because I was really struggling without any pronouns. The eating was important because the training can't progress until the hawk feels safe to eat on the glove. Of course manning is important and a hawk cannot and should not be rushed, but...Thirteen days?Really
J-sh came round this morning to finish installing the heat lamp, ready for when the temperature drops in winter, and brought a S-eb with him. This was a surprise. They were both introduced to Hircine, and both had turns holding Hircine. Let me define installing the heat lamp
: drilling a hole through a windowsill and re-wiring a plug.
They got here at 10am.
They left at 1pm.
Hircine had a very long session, then, because Hircine needed to be out of the house while J-sh and S-eb were arguing over which stupid idiot put the brackets on upside-down, and then Hircine needed to bout of the shed while they argued over whether or not the plug should be nailed in or hung loose, and then Hircine needed to be off the lawn while they argued over who put away the drill wrong.
It's like being back in Coaching.
So when they finally finished up, I went to the library. And then I came home.
And I took up Hircine with minimal effort, and took Hircine into the shed. And then I weighed Hircine. And then I proffered Hircine the usual offering of decapitated, limbless chick.
And Hircine stared at it. Hircine's eyes were narrowed, bates weaker, feet clumsy: Hircine was hungry.
The hawk ducked the hawk's head. I stayed as quiet as possible. The hawk stared at the chick. I didn't breathe. There was a noise outside; the hawk stood up and fluffed out the hawk's feathers. Then the hawk looked slowly down at the chick again.
After just less than ten minutes, the hawk ate.
Then I gave the hawk the chick's legs, and then its head, and the hawk ate those too.
There was some mantling and at one point the hawk tried to turn away, got the hawk's feet tangled in the jesses, and fell off the glove, and at another point the hawk started to choke on a chick leg and had to throw it up and start again, but the hawk ate off the glove.
And the joy and pride of this momentous occasion could be tempered only by the inescapable misery of the simple fact that Hircine weighed 1lb 11oz. Exactly halfway between the average weights for a male and a female.
Hircine is the bird of Tumblr.
On another note, Hircine produced a lovely cast(regurgitated pellet of indigestible material) which was mostly solid yellow roughage, however did also have a slight greenish part to it, also solid and roughage but as far as I could tell, given that the yellow roughage was from a chick, from a cockateel. The next day, Hircine also produced a perfect mute(defecated splatter of digested material), indistinguishable from that of a healthy seagull.
Very pleased with such work.