On Sat., Sept. 22, 2012, the Yellowhead Flyway Bird Trail Association (YFBTA) held an event that gave people a rare experience of watching two trained peregrine falcons demonstrate their hunting prowess.
Forty-two people from numerous communities in the parkland area met at 8 a.m. in Saltcoats. The group then travelled west of Saltcoats to see YFBTA member, Lynn Oliphant, who is a falcon breeder and handler, his wife, Rhonda, and a male four-month old falcon named Ed, fly and hunt small water fowl as well as other birds.
The group then moved to another location, where there was a slough with many ducks. The Oliphants next introduced a second falcon, a four-year old female named Ember. With the aid of their three hunting dogs, the ducks were flushed from the slough which provided opportunity for Ember to prey upon them. She was successful and provided the group with a demonstration of the skills inherent in these birds. The prey of choice on this day was a green wing teal and was subsequently consumed in approximately 15 minutes. Oliphant explained that a meal this size would keep the bird satisfied for about thirty hours until it would eat again. They determine when to feed the birds by weighing them before and after they have hunted.
Lynn has been involved with increasing the peregrine falcon population for many years prior to its near extinction. He began working with the University of Saskatchewan in a breeding program that has succeeded in releasing many birds back into the wild across the Canadian prairies and south into the mid-west United States. Lynn and his wife also operate a breeding and training facility for peregrine falcons at their home in Saskatoon. They breed for their own hunting use, and to sell the trained birds to other licensed birds of prey hunters. Both the U of S breeding program and breeders like the Oliphants help sustain the falcon population. Lynn explained to the group that each bird has its own permit and then each handler must have a regular hunting permit. The birds of prey hunting season is open from the middle of August to the middle of February. The daily bag limit per falcon is one bird. When training a young bird, Oliphant explained that there is a four-week window of prime training time for a falcon. It begins about one week before the birds fly for the first time, and goes for three weeks after, when they generally will succeed in their first hunt. When in a hunt, the birds are fitted with a radio transmitter and the handler uses a whistle and signals to call the birds back during their flight. Even so, Lynn explained that birds do on occasion fly away and don't return.
This event is just one of several projects that the YFBTA promotes every year. A large membership base is required to be an effective voice for nature. New YFBTA members are eagerly sought. Renewals for 2012 can be acquired as current memberships expire at the end of December, 2012. The membership fees for individuals is $20.00, $30.00 for family, and $60.00 for municipal or corporate. Non-members can continue to provide support by being a YFBTA "Friend" for $15.00. YFBTA memberships could be considered by those with an interest in nature, for young people, friends and/or fellow nature supporters. Check out our website at www.yfbta.com