Tuesday, June 03, 2008

So: when did bowperches get crap?

I don't know. I really don't.

They used to be awesome. But something went wrong, and I'm not sure why.

Pluvialis' guide to what you need in a bowperch (apart from it 'not breaking' of course):
  1. Smooth bow-shape allowing the ring to travel smoothly across to the other side should the hawk bate.
  2. Padding that will neither hurt the hawk's feet, nor impede the passage of the ring.
  3. In indoor bows, a ring that falls to floor level when the hawk bates. Tail feathers always get broken by a leash that travels at an angle up through the train to an attachment point higher than floor level.
That is all.
It's only three things.
Why can no-one get it right?
Seriously, pretty much everything out there fails to fulfil at least one of these.

Broken tail feathers!

Ring won't travel freely when the bird bates: too high an arc

I just have no idea what this is.

It's as if as soon as falconers start designing hardware, they've forgotten about the bird. None of them seem to have watched a hawk on a bow for very long:

Is it that we're all flying Harris' hawks these days? Oh no, it can't be. Or is it? Is it? Is it that Harris's never bate, so no-one worries about these things?

No, it can't be. Can't be. For starters, American perches seem to be better. Mike's falconry supplies do a nice one:

See? Harris' hawk!
Northwoods' one is a good shape, though it's let down massively by the wrapping. Now, where did that talon go? Also, has anyone any experience of this kind of strange double bow? It might work. It might not, but it might. What happens when the bird jumps down on the wrong side of the bow? Do you have to make the leash extra-long to stop it getting brought up short?

No, the more I look at this the more I'm just confused.

The best bowperches I've come across in the UK are Martin Jones' ones. They are bloody expensive, but worth saving up for. Which is what I'm doing, right now.

The coolest goshawk perch I've ever seen involved the bird being able to fly down the length of a steel cable between perches about twenty feet apart. One of the perches was under cover. That goshawk was muscly as a pitbull and in perfect feather. I wish my tiny town garden was big enough for a perch like that...

Rant over. Anyone any theories, though? Why and when did they get so crap?

Update: my god, I have never, ever sounded so self-satisfied and snotty as in this post, have I. Sheesh.


Rebecca K. O'Connor said...

Falconer by day, welder by night? (Far better than dancer by day, welder by night.) I'll buy your first bowperch. :-)

dr. hypercube said...

"The coolest goshawk perch I've ever seen involved the bird being able to fly down the length of a steel cable between perches about twenty feet apart."

I saw a picture taken at the Festival of Falconry (I think) of a diorama of some weathering areas. I think it was brought by the German contingent - same idea - perches connected by a piece of cable, though not quite as long. Now, of course, I can't find the photo - was sure I'd faved it on Flickr, but... Too bad - I'm planning on building a knock-off this summer.

Matt Mullenix said...

Ok, so I do have a Harris. And he only bates toward me, if at all. I freely admit to being on the easy side of the street with husbandry concerns. And true, I have seen Harris hawks sitting comfortably on just about every imaginable contraption...

But I still think the bowperch I use is a good one. The measurements and angles are borrowed from Tom Coulson, who has been using the same style for 35+ years and is dedicated to it. (His hawks are tethered 24/7 during the hunting season and free-lofted over the summer.)

Here it is: Coulson-style bow

It should be noted that Tom couples this perch with a unique leashing system, one I also use.

It looks like this: Coulson hook-up

Although the Coulson perch is more narrow and taller than the traditional, and the angles are sharper, it very rarely tangles and in my experience never dangerously so. I have never found a hawk hung up, although sometimes they are standing on their leashes.

We fly mostly Harris hawks, but I've seen the same design scaled down to kestrel-size and up to eagle-size with good results.

My personal preference for kestrel perches is closer to the traditional (low and wide) style. Accipiters too may need special consideration (then again, I've seen a Cooper's hawk kept feather perfect on a block perch...!)

For my Harris hawks, at any rate, this is a design I trust.

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of possibilities when it comes to bow perches. The one you mention the "trolley system" with the cable strung between two perches is a good option but not without some serious flaws. A friend here in NM had his passage gos tethered to one for years without incident, one day he went out to feed and the gos was dead on the ground. The leash had wrapped around some tiny bit of woody grass and trapped the gos in the sun - dead gos. Derry Argue is a big fan of these perches, there's a pic on Lydia Ash's website of Derry's setup, towards the bottom.(http://www.themodernapprentice.com/mews.htm)

The best bow-type perch for a gos is the least intuitive design out there - the Meng tail saver perch (http://www.themodernapprentice.com/perches.htm)scroll down for a pic. It has what appears to be a fatal design flaw - a high tie off point for the leash, so that the leash goes right through the tail when the bird bates. But, you have to use the proper tie off gear and you'll never break a feather. Basically all that's required are jesses and a jess extender long enough to put the swivel beyond the end of the tail. The best type of leash to use is the Fox leash, Steve Layman makes an 8 strand braided spectra jess, jess extender, Fox leash setup specifically for these perches - his gear is far and away the best available - you could tow an 18 wheeler with his sh!t.

Anyway, the big advantage of the Meng perch with its high tie off is this - imagine the bird bating, they generally fly up when they bate, when they reach the end of the leash and swing in an arc towards the ground the high tie off points pulls their legs out from underneath them which causes their tail to flip upwards, and the angle of leash eliminates stress on the legs. Read Lydia's description it's better than mine.

Sorry for the War & Peace comment...

indigoGlyph said...

Have a Harris-sized bowperch (Double-R, I think) of the screw-in-spike type lying unused - can send a pic when I get home - yours for the price of postage?

Oh, and I took some pics of the German weathering models too - http://chalkonwater.blogspot.com/search?q=weathering

dr. hypercube said...

@indigogylph - BINGO! That's the picture - no wonder I couldn't find it on Flickr. Many thanks.

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