Cyrus knew he had a good thing going. He was in the best shape of his life, muscular and full of energy. He knew the system, had honed his skills, and most of all knew who he could count on. He could assess an opportunity and calculate the risks verses the investment in an instant. He could afford to let lesser opportunities slip by seeing as they came so often in those days. When the big one presented itself, he was ready to jump on it with a tenacity and fervor like nothing you’ve ever seen. Crashing through the forest, barrel rolling, stalking from above, tearing nests to shreds with his sharp and powerful talons, he would pursue his prey with vigor. Cyrus was an athlete and a relentless squirrel hunter. Cyrus, my husband’s falconry partner, was a Red Tail hawk.
Cyrus no doubt thought his life was over when he was acquired as a first-year bird. He didn’t know it, but in reality, his chances at long-term survival had just increased by an order of magnitude. Most Red Tail hawks do not survive their first winter. Cyrus would not only survive, he would be afforded the opportunity to perfect his hunting skills over the long winter. By spring, he would have conditioned himself to such a state that his long-term outlook would be quite promising. His training began immediately.
To be prepared for the first hunt with his human partner, Cyrus was going to need to build his flight muscles as well as his recognition of the falconer as a faithful and steady food source. Lengthening flights to the glove, repetitious short vertical flights, and simulated hunts, all of which faithfully ended in success for Cyrus in the form of a full-bodied meal, comprised his training. Before long, he was ready for an authentic hunt. That’s when the real fun began.
Using his developed flight muscles, Cyrus was able to lift himself high into the forest canopy. He could make the best use of his keen eyesight from above. He knew that following the falconer was his best chance at cashing in on a big catch so he would stick near to us, flying from branch to branch and tree to tree as we moved along the ground attempting to spook up prey.
“A mouse?” Cyrus calculated. No, too small for the effort. Besides if he was just a little more patient, the falconer would rustle out a squirrel. In a most unfortunate turn of events, a squirrel would make itself seen to Cyrus. Unfortunate? Maybe but maybe not. The squirrel is a pretty incredible athlete himself. With a bag of tricks bigger than Santa’s sack, the squirrel is quite a match for the hawk. The contest ensued. More fierce and action packed than the best of football rivalries, these two creatures scheme, strategize and perform like no other. Come and see some of the acrobatics yourself, in this video.
I have seen these beautiful birds in action many times. I am fascinated by their ability to achieve that magical balance between sustainability and gluttony. They are masters of contentment, perched on a branch in the condition of an Ironman triathlete, but acting like fat pigeons on a park bench watching all manner of prey go by below, having eaten their fill. They seem to know when it’s time to start looking for that big opportunity again, not waiting until they are desperate, as they sense that they need to maintain their good condition. Just as the need arises, their intensity for the hunt rises alongside. This got me to thinking, if Cyrus held the key to this balance between sustainability and gluttony, what were they and are they the same for us humans?
How to achieve that magical balance between sustainability and gluttony.
1. Get in shape to take advantage of big opportunity.
Cyrus was prepared physically, mentally and emotionally to seize an opportunity the instant it presented itself. I too could benefit from these forms of fitness. I could add to this list financial and social fitness as well.
2. Know who is helping and who can be counted on.
Cyrus learned to recognize the falconer as a helper that could be counted on to deliver. He would stick close by at all times to benefit from this positive relationship. I too could learn to recognize those who are dependable in assisting me on my journey. I could make sure to nurture these positive relationships in my life.
3. Learn to calculate risk vs. capital.
Cyrus had the ability to calculate his chances of success related to the energy he would spend in pursuit of his prey. Never willing to take more risk than he could afford to lose if he failed. What a financial lesson we could learn from him in that regard.
Get in shape, recognize and nurture positive relationships, learn to measure opportunities, and you’ll be better prepared to seize the good things in life when they reveal themselves.
Thanks to Cyrus for great times, awesome acrobatic shows, and teaching us how to better find balance in life. Fly strong, live strong.
Would you like to read more stories like this? Please visit my website for more Mental Morsels with Dr. Cearley. Learning life principles from the farm.
Note: Curt Cearley is a Master Falconer licensed to practice by the Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the state of Alabama. He is also the Executive Director of Rise Raptor Project Inc., an educational non-profit dedicated to teaching good stewardship, science, history, and culture by connecting people with the most powerful birds in the world.