HAWK Part Two
don’t quite know how I managed it, but my landlady Mrs Jackman came up trumps and I set to, to build Harry his home behind the shed window, overlooking the roof of the coal shed with a view of the garden beyond, and some chicken wire on a frame to keep him from getting hurt.
I was apprenticed at the Engineering company where a young American was working in the sheet metal shop. At lunch we used to sit under the bicycle sheds and he turned out to be a crack shot with a catapult. When the pigeons came down for the sandwich leftovers he would pick them off with ease firing steel nuts as ammunition.
He gave me the pigeons for free so I could butcher the birds and wrap some of the feathers in the flesh to act as the necessary roughage for the hawk to regurgitate as part of its normal digestive process. Unfortunately we ended up with what’s termed ‘a screamer’ as Harry associated me with his mother and proceeded to scream for food every time I appeared. But that was a small inconvenience for the joy of being able to care for this wonderful feathered friend.
A quick trip to the library yielded a Manual of Falconry that gave me how to care for Harry down to making a pair of leather Jesses and a Leash, with a recipe for the special beeswax cream to keep them supple, that I made and kept in an old Marmite jar courtesy of Mrs Jackman. He was also fitted with a hood of his own embellished with blue Jay feathers which I found on the downs behind my digs.
One day I came home from work to find a distraught landlady wringing her hands and dragging me to the shed where Harry was looking very sorry for himself. It seems the ginger tomcat from next door had been basking in the sun on the coal shed roof and had upset Harry who leapt up at the window and bumped his head on the window frame causing a huge bump sticking through his fluffy feathers. Not being able to afford a private vet on an apprentice wage we paid a visit to the PDSA. (The Peoples Dispensary for Sick Animals). I had secured a piece of sacking in the base of a cardboard box, for Harry to grip, and with plenty of air holes carried him to the surgery.
The first thing the vet said after reaching down into the dark box and lifting Harry into the bright lights of the treatment room was, ‘Oh look a young female Kestrel. What’s her name?’ Quick wittedly I replied ‘It’s Harriet!’
So, after a quick sex change, Harriet was prescribed an iodine type salve for me to bathe her bump and an antibiotic pill to give each day. On leaving the clinic the vet said to his receptionist, ‘What happened to the sparrow that died earlier?’ She replied, ‘Oh that’s in the dustbin’. ‘Well go and get it’ said the vet, ‘It will do for this one’s tea!’
How on earth do you give a hawk a pill? With extreme craft is the answer and by wrapping the ground up pill inside her normal sandwich of feathers and flesh. Bathing the bump though was something else as invariably a sudden flick of the head would deposit the salve on my hands, head or face instead!
I had the greatest joy though in teaching Harriet to fly, when her adult feathers had all grown through the fluff, and as she sat on her perch in the garden she would inspire great nervousness in any passing members of the feathered fraternity, bating off the upturned flowerpot and landing on the lawn, being pulled up short of her intended target by the jess and leash. But she didn’t have to move to cause frantic warning calls from any bird that happened by. It seems just to see her outline was enough to set them off.
As part of my apprenticeship, visiting a large factory in Switzerland with huge picture windows to their first floor office suite I noticed that the black silhouettes of hawks were pasted on the panes of glass to divert any other birds from flying into the glass. So, just the outline is recognisable and enough to send them packing rather than becoming the next meal of a bird of prey, or in that case flying headlong into what seemed like open space, but would end up knocking them out on the window pane.
However, the time came when teaching her to fly quite a distance for a titbit, the leash came loose and she soared into the sky. The first real flight on her own was absolutely faultless. She managed a grateful loop of the garden, of which any spitfire pilot would have been proud, and then headed for the distant woods. As you can imagine there was a great hole in my life after that, but soon filled with the love I sent to her and which I know I received back.
God Bless you Harriet.
Fly like Harriet in your chosen life.
With Love and Blessings to all flyers, Hanukah & the Angel