Asper. Doesn’t mean much to you. But to a falconer, it could mean the death of a beloved hunting companion. So what is it? It’s Aspergillus. To you, it’s the genus of many species of mold. To me, a falconer, its a spore, one that is ever-present and very deadly to birds of prey. I’ve heard of a lot of struggle and death from other falconers this season. The truth is we don’t know if the occurrences are higher or if we are just starting to compare notes. But I tell you what, Asper has taught this falconer a little patience. I haven’t had a bird get it yet, I don’t ever want one to.
You see…Asper tends to take hold in our birds when their condition is weak. Unfortunately, the stress of training for hunting alongside a human can take its toll. I’ll admit to being one of those falconers who has typically gone from new bird to free flights in the field within 3 weeks. At two weeks I expect my birds to be outside doing flight training. At two and a half weeks, I start tall T-perch training on the creance to prepare them for the desert landscape.
Two weeks ago today I picked up two little boys, Cain and Abel. Harris’ hawks and brothers. And this falconer patiently waited two weeks to get two individual jumps to the glove (one from Cain, one from Abel). Milestone two in falconry as I call it. Milestone one is the bird being willing to take it’s eyes off of me to bend down and eat food, I got there a week ago. But the jump they weren’t willing to give. I’ve had some quick grabs and immediate take off, but that’s not the milestone. I kept feeding them, keeping their weight up. And…
I got it today. And I waited for it, for the health and well-being of these birds. Is that the answer to them not falling prey to Asper? Who knows. But it’s not getting them that way. Not these babies.
Tiffany M. White, Captain of the Sonoran Desert Falconry Team