Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Old School Hawking With Batman


Batman explains the facts of life to Robin.

I have no idea what issue this single panel comes from, but here in Virginia, hawks and falcons used to be caught with tethered lived pigeons. In the Fall, along the barrier beach islands, folks would drive down the beach until they saw a migrating falcon, then they would leap out, bury someone in the sand and put an apple basket over their head and a live pigeon in one hand and a string attached to a bow net in the other. No doubt, others will illuminate the mechanics of what I have only heard told in story. Still, a great and odd little bit of Batman and Robin art. More research into this panel is clearly needed!


Mark Churchill said...

Okay, Patrick, since you asked (or at least anticipated)...

The migration of large numbers of falcons, and in particular peregrines, along Assateague and other barrier islands first came to light in 1938. Falconers, beginning with Al Nye and others from the DC area, began trapping there the following year. The dig-in or "headset" method is much as you describe, although the bushel baskets employed were more typically used for blue crabs than apples. The bow net, however, although occasionaly employed as an alternate technique, was not usually a part of the dig-in. The trapper buried in the sand would instead simply bare-hand the peregrine by the legs while it fed on the pigeon.

The dig-in technique was eventually eclipsed by the harnessed pigeon method, introduced to Assateague by Brian McDonald. A pigeon wearing a specially-designed jacket bearing monofilament nooses and attached to a light line would be tossed out, taken by the peregrine, and eventually snare the feeding falcon in the nooses. This method is still used by falcon researchers at Assateague and other migration hotspots.

Incidentally, the Assateague falcon-trappers were the first to realize that the "beach birds" were a separate subspecies of peregrine from the more familiar "rock peregrines" (Falco peregrinus anatum) that nested on cliffs in the eastern U.S. The paler "beach birds" were eventually described as F. p. tundrius; their nesting grounds are in the Arctic.

PBurns said...

Exellent Mark -- thanks for this. I recall being told folks used to be woried about getting run over by other jeeps when they had those bushel baskets over their head. What a way to go!


Mark Churchill said...

Funny you should mention that... In his new book Falcon Fever, Tim Gallagher recounts an episode from his California boyhood in which he inadvertently happens upon (and spoils) a dig-in by two of his friends trying to catch a kestrel. Instead of a bushel basket, the headset was a cardboard box. "Hey, you should thank us," notes another friend. "A box on the shoulder of the road is just the kind of thing people like to hit with a car. If I had a car, I would've run you over."