17 August, 2013

      An Out Of The Blue Encounter

Meeting fellow trekkers along the Grande Randonnée of the Catalan high mountains is already a rare event. But for weekend mountaineers Miriam Burballa and Paco Garcia nothing could have been more out of the ordinary than a face-to-face encounter with an imperious bird of prey high up the Matagalls, one of the highest mountains of the Montseny Massif, in Catalonia.   (41°48′31.66″N 2°22′57.86″E).
A leather strap attached to its leg and a transmitter fixed to its tail made it obvious that the raptor was a hunting bird of prey that’s lost its master. GOT ornithologists said it looked very much like a Saker Falcon, a prized falconry bird in the same league as the Peregrine Falcon and the hunting hawks.
Feathers remained quite unruffled as the raptor, perched on a rock on the ground, allowed the intrepid mountaineers to approach almost within arm’s reach. But conscious of the risks, neither got any closer.
Recounted Miriam: "We spotted it at the peak (1,697m) at around noon. Half an hour later or so when going down the GR 5 trail, we saw it again, and took the photos. A leather strap hung from its left leg, and it carried some kind of tracking device on its back.”
GOT’s Lluis Gascon says: "This is a trained hunting bird and is accustomed to human presence. It must have wandered far beyond its range of radio transmission and is lost. It would eventually be found by forest rangers and taken to an animal care centre.”
 Falconry is a hunting technique that involves breeding and training a raptor to capture prey in flight. In Catalonia, a licence is required and may be used only with captive species bred under strict regulatory control. All birds of prey are protected species.
According to Wikipedia the falconer's traditional choice of bird is the Northern Goshawk and Peregrine Falcon. “In contemporary falconry in both North America and the UK they remain popular, although the Harris Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk are likely more widely used. The Northern Goshawk and the Golden Eagle are more commonly used in Eastern Europe than elsewhere. In the Middle East, the Saker Falcon is the most traditional species flown against the Houbara Bustard, Sandgrouse, Stone-curlew, Hares, and other birds. Peregrines and other captively bred imported falcons are also commonplace."

        Saker falcon, Falco cherrug, Halcón sacre,  Falcó sagrat, Sakerfalke, Faucon sacre.               

  -Abul Fazil

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