Our move to within walking distance of Mission Bay has been a windfall for the beasts: it’s turning out to be an awesome flying spot. Lots of open space along the park and out over the bay. They have covered a huge amount of territory, and it’s gorgeous at sunset.
Other exciting developments:
- Piper and Carly are flying together! It used to be an invitation to distraction to let them go together, and they’d inevitably end up going in different directions, or just go off exploring for awhile. They are a tight flying duo now, screaming and diving over beachgoers.
- We have an inflight contact call. I used to use my refs whistle as a “call back” signal, but it’s now morphed into an inflight update. I tweet — they let out a loud chirp — or vice versa, every few seconds. It is quite handy since there are buildings, trees, and hills they fly behind where I can’t keep them in view. I credit the idea to Carly, who often did this in flight before, and finally I took her cue and chirped back! They have been tiny specks on the horizon and I can still hear the callback. Really nice.
- Emergency descents are awesome. There are very rarely any type of raptor here, but occasionally a Red-tail or Red-shouldered hawk. They have had plenty of experience flying with these types, but I still like them to get out of the air ASAP. Carly has always been ridiculously responsive to my “urgent recall”: GET DOWN HERE NOW! I don’t really know why as it’s not something we specifically trained. Piper, on the other hand, had the more natural instinct to keep flying fast and try to lose the pursuer. Which sometimes meant losing me for a while after he landed safely, until he relaxed enough (I guess) to call or make his way back. But we had a hawk show up at the bay last week right after they started flying, when they are their most rambunctious, and he zoomed down right after he saw Carly respond to my GDHN! Nice.
- Recall training drills still work wonders. When we started flying here they were both quite “adventurous” — i.e., lots of exploring, horrible responding. It had been so long since we’d had a real flying routine, I’d gotten out of my habits too. So I paid more attention to the timing of their food (smaller breakfast on flying days), and started doing indoor recalls before dinner, and bingo — total turnaround. So much so that I wondered if it was just coincidence and perhaps they’d just had enough exploring and knew the territory to their satisfaction. (Since the training is supposed to have this effect, I guess I’ll go with that. I don’t know much about parrot exploratory habits… but an interesting question.)
- It’s official: Carly is a Porker. My scale has had dead batteries for at least 2 years, and through 2 moves. I decided it was time to do a weight check. Piper weighed in just slightly above his previous normal weight, at 511 g. Carly when young was a reliable 440 g. When we got into the flying routine several years ago, she settled at a very stable 465. (I attributed that to just “filling in” as she became an adult, though I’m not sure what the normal pattern is.) Now she is 495! I don’t feel fat on either of them, and wonder if maybe this is increased muscle…? They really are putting in some mileage.
- Regarding mileage… Here’s a map of some of their longer routes (approximately). They did the yellow one yesterday, with a few more loop-de-loops. I estimate the distance as about 6-7 km (about 4 miles). They were up for quite awhile!
And a sampling of this winter’s incredible sunsets, plus iPhone video of the beasts in action.
More pics here.