Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Black Rock Blast II: Gyrfalcons

One thing we didn't know about our visit to Black Rock Mud is that their property is also home to a falconry operation of sorts. These gyrfalcons were bred and born in Reno, then whisked away to Gerlach to mature, learn the ways of the world, and then be sold to their new owners all over the globe.

So many sharp parts

The whiter the pricier

This particular batch of gyrfalcons was roughly 50 days old, and they were just learning to fly. Some could only hop around, some could fly for a minute before getting tired or screwing up, and most of them could glide just above the ground where the boundary layer provides a nice buffer to the laws of physics.

Close enough, thanks

They're vulnerable when they can't fly too well; the coyotes know this and stalk them though the sagebrush as they hop around. Alberto spends a good bit of time chasing them around in the sage to get them back to the open field where they're safer. Also on their side are the salukis, gorgeous dogs that coexist peacefully with the falcons. And relentlessly kill coyotes.

Air weapon

They seem to be social beasts, congregating in the shade of their big roost/house/whatever it is. They had 19 falcons at the time, and they were all spoken for; pre-sold to clients (mostly in the Middle East where they're prized possessions) for 50k-100kUSD apiece. Call me crazy, but that's a lot of cash to lay out for a bird.


Had we been there a scant few weeks later, they'd have been flying like old pros and we may have been able to witness more of what makes them the amazing predators that they are, but it was also pretty cool to be able to get close to them when they were just learning the ropes.


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