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We even rescue birds at the falconers fair!

I was up at 4am.walked the dogs, fed the birds and ferrets and still had time to grab a cup of coffee before my lift turned up to take me on the 3hr. journey to that years' Falconers Fair. The weather was overcast and as I was camping overnight, things were not looking too promising. Traffic was light at that time in the morning and the further west we went the better the weather got and by the time we reached Chetwynd Park it was clear skies and sunshine. A great start after all. That is where this Falconers Fair changed from normal.

Charlotte Hill had been flying her tiercel Peregrine in the main arena and something spooked it and it flew off. At 6.30pm. she went out for the third time to try and track its telemetry.[an electronic transmitter attached to the bird.] Along with a couple of lads from the BHA I decided to help look for it and so we set out in the direction it was last seen going. After an hour we got a faint signal and having walked several miles already we got someone to bring a car out to us and we then spent the next two hours chasing around trying to pick the signal up again, with no luck. At 9pm. as it was dark we headed back to the site feeling very down hearted. We managed to get the leftovers from what I was told was an excellent buffet laid on by the Campaign for Falconry and after agreeing to meet at first light I retired to my tent.I set my alarm for 4.30am. but did not need it as two stands down from ours was a chicken and duck breeders and his cockerels woke me with an extremely loud chorus at 4am. It was just getting light with overcast clouds when I met the others at 4.45am.

We split up into two cars to cover more ground and set off. It was the other car that got the first signal and immediately we rendezvoused at the nearest high point. After confirming the signal on the receiver I was using the two cars set off by road in opposite directions to try and get a cross reference while I set off on foot across the fields. By now it had started to rain and the field I was walking through was very marshy and as I only had ankle high walking boots on I was soon soaked from head to toe. I climbed over barbed wire fences, crossed streams, pushed my way through dense thicket and crossed several fields, always following the stronger and stronger signal. At one point I had to make a detour around a stream that was too deep to cross and by the time I got back on line I had gone passed the signal, so I carefully backtracked and pinned the signal down to a small copse in the corner of a field.

I then called for backup and Charlotte and Grant, her boyfriend, were soon there with the BHA lads closing in from the opposite direction. By the time they arrived I had narrowed the signal down to one fir tree and Grant spotted the bird high up, wet and very bedraggled. It was 7.30am. great, he would soon be down and we could go home for breakfast. Charlotte called the bird and swung the lure and after a few minutes he took off turned into the wind and came down to the lure. But wait, he did not bind to it and went around for another go. It did the same again but this time ending up sat in a tree. Charlotte went over and tried to call it to the fist but it took off and this time disappeared out of sight. Out came the receivers and off we trudged across the flooded fields. At this point the BHA lads reluctantly left to go back and open up their stand, which just left the three of us. The signal kept moving further away and so as not to loose it we pushed on in a straight line no matter what obstacles we encountered, from fields ankle deep in mud and cow dung, fences and hedges of every description and a variety of streams. After about 30 minutes the signal became static in a wood in front of us. Unfortunately between us and our goal was a river and after much discussion we decided to go back to the car and circum-navigate it and reach the bird from the other side. We made the long walk back as quickly as possible in the conditions and drove off to find a way around.

The story of how we got past the large bull blocking the lane and how we avoided the full grown cock turkey that attacked the car will have to be told another time. After 20 minutes of driving around, stopping at every high point to check, we could no longer pick up a signal and so we decided to go back to where we had last got a signal. As we drove along we suddenly got a faint signal on the receiver fitted to the car aerial. I jumped out and confirmed it on my receiver.

After studying the terrain we decided to get closer by car, as we were all tiring by this time, and so we set off for the farmhouse in the distance.
We pulled up in the farmyard to find no farmer only a huge german shepherd dog that was barking and baring its teeth. We sat in the car but the farmer didn’t appear and as none of us felt inclined to tackle the dog we set off back to where the signal had been.
This meant a long haul once again over fields and hedges but although the grass was wet it was not marshy and the clouds were clearing also, turning it into a nice day. Once again we homed in on the signal and when we reached a wood on a hillside I told Charlotte to stay out in the open and swing the lure and call the bird. Meanwhile Grant and myself climbed over the barbed wire and entered the wood. The signal grew stronger and stronger until I finally pointed to a tree and said“ its got to be up this one.” I started scanning the tree and then Grant shouted, “look! Its on that log next to the tree” or words to that effect. Charlotte sprinted up the hill and with a tasty tit bit on her glove knelt down and called it. The bird instantly run the short distance to her and he was on the fist, jessed and leash attached in no time.

A great feeling of satisfaction came over me and I let out a cheer of “Yes!” as much in relief as anything. A round of high fives and mutual praise went between us and we took the long walk back with a spring in our step and a little light headed from the adrenaline rush. The time was 10am. A hard but gratifying five hours.

We arrived back to much back slapping and it was only then I took a look at myself. Soaking wet, mud up to my knees and both boots full of water. After a wash and brush up and a change of clothes I felt much better, although I did have to wear those wet boots all day.
Not the normal kind of rescue but it still counts.

Lessons to be learned:

1] Always fly your bird with telemetry and learn how to use it. This bird would not have been found without it and as it has no hunting experience it would probably have starved to death.

2] Telemetry is great but good eyes are also important to help pinpoint the bird at close quarters.

3] Never give up. What Charlotte put herself through and did, to retrieve her bird is a lesson many other falconers could learn from.
The rest of the day went back to normal and as usual I saw many new and old friends.
All in all a most memorable falconers fair.

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