Signal Hill has long been a communications point on the Southern California landscape. In an earlier era, Native Americans signaled their brethren with fire and smoke, from Santa Catalina Island to the foothills of the Coastal Range bordering what is now L.A.

Today the signals are electronic, connecting us--at the click of a mouse--to vast, new worldwide networks.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Falconer on the Hill

Deann was eager to share her passion for raptors with me, when I  passed by her condo on this cool day on the Hilltop, where her family has lived for 28 years.

She was standing near the sidewalk, "manning" her newly captured female American Kestrel Nikita, introducing her to her new captive world--getting her used to being around people, preparing her for the day she will go on the hunt for European Starlings, that prolific non-native invading scourge of birdom, imported to New York from England in 1890.

Deann has been working on this for three years, ever since the day she became enthralled by a pair of nesting Coopers Hawks, outside her office window in Huntington Beach.  "It changed my life," she told me.  You can read her story and see some beautiful photos on her Website .

"One of my reasons for this journey is to educate people about raptors," she says. "Raptors are important to the environment and often are thought of as 'mean' by the uninformed.  This is very far from the truth," she says, "as they help control the population of birds and rodents and rid those species of the weak and sick, helping with the process of natural selection."  She goes on to say "They take life to live, not for fun or sport."

She is now licensed by the State of California and the Federal Government, giving her permission to practice the art of falconry; and is completing her two-year apprenticeship, under the supervision of a master falconer.   She recommends the Website Modern Apprentice for anyone who wants to explore becoming a falconer.

Since trapping Nikita near the Chino Airport, she has been on the arduous journey of training the bird to hunt.  One reason she has chosen starlings as the prey is because of their size--larger than a sparrow, not much smaller than the Kestrel itself, making it unlikely Nikita will be able to fly off with the kill.

Watching raptors in flight is a beautiful thing and, adds Deann, "The interaction of bird and human just absolutely intrigues me."


For more Pleasant Encounters on Signal Hill click on "Pleasant Encounters on Signal Hill" on labels and scroll down, or check out the slide show at the right.

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