They are saker falcons and of Italian origin, from Tuscany. Originally they were supposed to be two males because they were both small in size (in birds of prey, the male is always smaller than the female). I decided to name them Brunello and Morellino in honour of the two famous Tuscany wines but in the end it turned out that one of them was a female so Bruno became Bruna. Their story is very special because unlike Scirocco they are imprinted (which in technical terms means they are raised by humans). I went to pick them up at the end of my summer holidays and they were only about 20 days old each, basically two fluffy feathers. This phase is very important in the growth of a raptor both mentally and physically because this is where they are exposed to everyday life. If the impring process is done correctly, you will obtain a fearless and physically strong falcon. After this stage they will have to mature and gain experience and it is at this point that I decided to keep them free.
This process in falconry is called hacking where the falcon is given total freedom with of a small gps installed on its back. I found a field with a few houses around and here I created what in nature is the equivalent of a nest, which in this case was my car.
For the first nine days at the camp I had to stay up to 12 hours with them because they were not yet flying and the risk that other predators might harm them was very high. Later, gaining courage, they took their first clumsy flight, first Lino and then Bruna after 7 days (she is still lazy now). Slowly they began to gain confidence, exploring further and further away from their territory. I controlled every move on the GPS and regularly went to the nest three times a day to bring fresh food.
The stress was high but the satisfaction of seeing them free all day was great. They spent most of the day in the cool of the trees and every now and then they would change trees, waiting for me like clockwork for their meal. If I was late and were too hungry they would come and perch on my head. begging for food. This process is usually safe for about a month. It means that after this time there is a risk that the falcon will leave because that is what it would do in the wild. They reach maturity and independence and the parents push them to find a new hunting territory.
Obviously with my adventurous nature I decided to give myself no limits by pushing myself further and further. And it was here that the adventure began: On the fiftieth day of freedom I arrived as I did every morning at the camp on time to feed them but Lino wasn’t there, I fed Bruna which was waiting for me there and turned on the gps to check: no connection.
The signal had disappeared and no trace of the bird. My head began to tell me everything… they stole it, they ran it over and crushed the gps, you name it. I spent the whole day like this trying to get the slightest signal but nothing. After the whole day out at 7pm I returned to the camp and Bruna was there but no trace of her brother.I went home a bit dejected and around 1945 I turned the gps back on. At this point I got two news: good news and bad news. The good news was that I had the GPS signal again, the bad news was that Lino had started the migration and he was in Belgium.
I had to get the car ready quickly with everything I needed to survive for a few days and by 10 p.m. I left Basel for a journey that lasted five hours, the falcon had travelled almost 300 km in a single day and was in the middle of nowhere in a Belgian forest. I was able to rest for a few hours in what looked like a horror film, all dark in the forest I stayed with one eye closed and the other open until dawn. At 5.30 a.m.
I woke up and it was pouring rain. My dog ( django) who is always with me disappeared for twenty minutes. In the meantime I turned on the gps while I prayed that the gps charge was still decent. So I started looking for him and finally around 9.30am I managed to retrieve him….. what an adventure! I headed for the first bar to drink a litre of coffee and set off home.
Confident that I had recovered the falcon, I had a five-hour drive ahead of me, but I still didn’t know what would be waiting for me when I returned. After all day driving I arrived home around 3pm exhausted. I hurried to the camp to go and feed Bruna, thinking to myself that she would get stuck in my head because she had skipped breakfast that morning, and when I got there… she was not there….
With my heart pumping I opened the GPS to check the position and she too had left on a migration, a day after her brother. Luckily it was only 60km . I got back into the car and started driving again and an hour and a half later I was under the tree and she was waiting ravenously for me. The weather was so bad that I feared I would be electrocuted at any moment .
I was swearing in all the languages I know. Fortunately, Bruna came right back, I hurried to the car and the epic storm began. And so ended this incredible adventure that lasted two months. After, the classic training began and now Bruna and Lino live and fly together and are inseparable. I forgot to tell you a little anecdote.
During the freedom period I received a call from the ranger police. Good morning sir, are you Mr. Cilluffo Simone? Me: yes Police: Are the free falcon in the field near the church yours? Me: yes (although I would have liked to answer differently) Police: they attacked the postwoman…. I still couldn’t believe it, I don’t know exactly what happened, but the postwoman always seemed to me to be in good shape, so I assume that they had landed on her head too and begging for food.