View Full Version : A Few Observations given at the 2015 NAFA Meet

01-07-2016, 10:02 PM
We thought there might be some material and or perspective from these comments presented at the 2015 NAFA Meet that might be useful to those who were not in attendance:

Acknowledgements: In the Audience tonight is a name well-known to all of us. We owe him a debt of gratitude for taking what was an early concept developed by Bill Cochran, and Bob Berry, and turning it in to a viable, affordable and available product all those years ago, and he should have us acknowledge this tonight while he is here. His very name is synonymous with Falcon Telemetry. Louie Luksander, would you stand and take a bow?

Some History: In 1972, an American named Bob Berry had a female gyrfalcon shot but a Pheasant hunter after being lost from his sight for only a few moments. His private wealth and this experience led him to look for an answer to lost birds, so he contacted a fellow biologist researcher Bill Cochran who was making small transmitters to track migrating songbirds from a Cessna 182 airplane.

At a Pennsylvania Field Meet the next year, history was made when the following year he turned his falcon lose for a public display but this time, his was fitted with falcon transmitter on its leg. The transmitter actually fell off the bird in flight, and while some Falconers were still laughing, he simply simply carried a blue box with a big yagi antenna back out in to the field and found the lost transmitter. People were amazed and age of falcon telemetry had begun.

He had more of them built and gave them away to friends and soon a few little companies began making them in numbers.

Early critics would say,

"This is the beginning of the end of our art, as we know it, this is electro-falconry."

"This is a dangerous tool because it will make people lazy. A real falconer knows how to find a lost bird."

"I think the only thing that should be attached to a bird is a bell. Dangling a long antenna is ugly"

(And more)

But what actually happened over the next 40 years was something very different and unexpected from what Bob Berry and other pioneers at the time thought it would be. They were looking for just a new tool to recover lost birds. What happened is that we saw falconry improve to new and higher levels:

- Instead of "the best birds" always being lost the first year, birds were now being kept and flown for many many years, we we seeing the abilities of a third and fourth year bird building experience year after year because Falconers were keeping them.

- Instead of flashing a pigeon or pulling out the lure as soon as a bird started to fly out and away, we started to let them fly higher, and longer and with more confidence. The normal 40-50 meter alturas became 300, 400, and 500.

- Certain types of falconry, like hawking sage grouse in North America that had never been considered safe or realistic, now became possible.

Our little company, along with several others, have come along working to improve that basic technology but for the last 40 years, not too much has changed. Things certainly have improved since Bob Berry's first days, more power in smaller sizes with greater reliability, but it's the same basic concept: a beeping transmitter and a Direction Finding receiver to sniff it out. Primarily we use our telemetry as a “Plan B” recovery device, that's how we understand it.

Introduction to a new concept: Three or four years ago, some of you will remember we were asked to come forward and discuss briefly the state of telemetry development, and what was new, what was coming. Many wondered at the time, if GPS was coming anytime soon. And the questions have been non-stop ever since then:

- When are you going to do this?

- What’s taking so long?

- It can’t be that hard, there’s a GPS in almost everything I own.

- There’s several of them already working now in Europe. What, are you guys just not interested?

Frank Bond pointedly said, with his characteristic smile, that actually conveyed a personal challenge: “I can’t wait," he said, "until you can show me my bird’s location on my iPhone!”

Time went by. As you know the questions persisted. With no news, many thought we had given up.

Well, as you now know, it finally happened and we’ve been asked to explain it, answer questions about it here tonight. Last year, we solved a few key engineering challenges that were holding us back and finally allowed us to make the design we had always hoped for.

We are a funny little tribe and we create things unique to our activity, we share ideas, and . . . . we like to argue concepts, training methods, equipment, on almost moral grounds at times. Everyone has their reasons but this causes blind spots to better ideas by some. Some 20 years ago while carrying the cadge of peregrines for Jefferey Pollard over the moors of Scotland, I noticed his birds still had the long permanent jesses he’d used since the fifties. I tentatively asked why, and his reply stayed with me: “Well, I knew Guy Almer (the inventor of the Almyri removable jess we all now use), and I didn’t ever particularly care for his methods.” In that vein, we would hope no body here would resist what I say tonight because of something I’ve ever done or argued in the past. That you would keep an open mind and consider what is shown.

GPS has become so familiar that all of us have wondered at the idea of putting it on our birds, both long wings and shortwings. But how? What are the limitations?

1- What it is, what it isn’t
2- How it works
3- Some of the people behind the effort
4- And what a few of those with some time in the field are saying about it.
5- leaving time for questions.

We flew our first true production sized performing unit in February, and kept it under wraps pretty well through the spring. An Eagle named Orry, a Passage Prairie Mary, Passage Peregrine Mesa and the “Bob Berry Gyrkin” comprised our team, and as the hunting season ended in March, we just kept them on the wing chasing “other things” through the spring and summer. Then more went out to several testers in Bird Abatement who were flying them heavily every day through June, July and August

By June we felt confident in the design and that we could reliably make them in numbers so on June 4th we uploaded an announcement that put us on record to the outside world, confirming we were working on it, showing it really existed, with 3D views in Google Earth that were kind of epic (the second one you’ll see is the Eagle a mile high) which kind of started a wildfire out there. As of last night, there have been 36,000 views. And yet I’ve talked to several here at the Meet who have still not seen it.

(The Introduction Video) (https://vimeo.com/129807173)

Of course there were many people involved and here is a second clip, about ten minutes in length where MRT people introduce themselves and explain the design and thinking behind the various components

(The Product Design Video)

What we’ve Learned: The “development process” was not limited to the product, but upended our own preconceived notions. As the product design changed and evolved from what we originally conceived, and as we accumulated time in the field immersed in it, we had our eyes opened and our understanding changed in unexpected ways. There’s more to this than we thought:

1- This is not just a better recovery tool but something utterly new. It’s extending our vision like some pair of magic binoculars that see around corners and stay locked on the bird which is a really great new sensation.

2- Our birds’ flights are much less random than we once thought. We began seeing patterns, the attack strategies, the various speeds “necessary” and straight lines to areas of lift that we now are convinced they “see” and pursue.

3- Our birds athletic achievements amazed us, the distances they covered, rate of climb, these new speeds both confirmed some suspicions and changed prior certainties. Like our Israeli guide: “If I’ve done my job while you are here, you will leave a lot less certain about all your opinions as to this place and it’s problems.”

4- We had to admit in shame we have no doubt been making no shortage of “strategic errors” in timing and movement due to losing sight of them, not knowing, and due to the limitations of our weak eyesight down below.

5- That familiar anxiety of looking away and temporarily losing your bird’s position, and not knowing was quietly, just . . gone. The whole time out had more of a Buddhistic calm about it as we enjoyed what was happening, made our decisions based on knowing. And we discovered the fun factor was much higher than originally imagined.

And it’s no small thing that for the first time in history there are hundreds, soon thousands of little “data collectors” out there now, gathering actual numbers, not guesses, about what our falconry birds are doing as to speeds and strategies and distances. Our collective understanding cannot help but take a big leap forward as well.

We’ve noticed that, true to form, skepticism runs deep with most falconers until they experience GPS in the field and better yet, in an adverse situation. We hope to upload a series of 2-3 minute videos during the season, where users can talk about their experience. . letting them explain their experience using this new tool, and why it's been so significant.

Here's the first one, for you to get a flavor, tonight.

The Steve C Interview (https://vimeo.com/142185670)

Other Customer Comments:

Ed Pitcher: “With the Marshall GPS: What we have now is the opportunity to dramatically increase our understanding. You have offered the opportunity to everyone, regardless of excuses, naysayers, these two words: greater understanding.”

Tony James: I'm absolutely loving the GPS. It's wonderful. My falcon had her 40th kill of the season this weekend, and is pretty much 'clockwork' --- but I'm left wondering how much of the credit needs to go to a piece of kit that's made doing the right thing at the right time so much easier?

No doubt some, but as yet, to my knowledge, it does not train and manage the falcon, or consistently find quarry, or provide a pleasant female voice suggesting just what you should do with the information. In other words, you are doing the strategic work here.

Tony James
: That's true, but it occurred to me today that this new tool has enabled me to get closer to my dream of every flight being perfectly managed, and in the process helped create a falcon that behaves as though she has no doubt that that will happen, and flies as such. The success of some flights can be directly attributed to it.

Of course, when flying at wild quarry, things can never be managed with 100% certainty, but a tool that increases successes by just a few percent, can make the difference between a reliable hawk and a very reliable one, a safe hawk and a lost hawk, even a live hawk and a dead hawk.

For instance, looking back at flights after the event is not just interesting, but gives the opportunity to identify mistakes and learn from them --- I've been able to recognise mistakes of mine that would be difficult to spot in any other way, and make efforts to rectify them. It's improved my falconry in ways I hadn't anticipated.

I suppose it has to be recognised that it's not possible to transform second rate falconry overnight into first rate falconry, but as a tool it has the potential to improve anyone's falconry, and help anyone who wishes to orchestrate the best flights (whatever they conceive them to be) to do so. Some people will struggle to make good use of it, in the same way that some will struggle to manage their hawks or their hawk's flights.

I'm sure in time more and more people will discover that their falconry can be enhanced and improved by the intelligent use of this new tool.

Best wishes, Tony.

A Test
Who here tonight has already been using the Marshall GPS this season, could you please stand?

(8 to 10 falconers stand up)

To get an idea of how useful, how important it has become to you, let me ask a question: "Would you take not double, but triple your money back right now? And promise not to rebuy it or use somebody else's, for two years?”

(Nobody takes the offer. Comments are made as to why.)

Closing Arguments We are all beneficiaries of this particular time in history, giving access to the technology now available to us. This new product is only made possible by a confluence of products coming together in this spectacular way: Google Earth and the availability of satellite images for free, Mobile devices that are really super computers running the graphics right in our hands, WiFi networks giving access to huge amounts of data, tiny and power efficient GPS engines and then necessary radio transmission components so small and efficient thanks to the mobile phone industry that we can finally make something small enough, magical enough to take advantage of as falconers.

As significant as telemetry has been to our sport, to saving birds, to flying them over multiple seasons, to the quality of falconry enjoyed today, we feel this development will prove in the coming years to be an order of magnitude more. One user said it this way: “What telemetry was to falconry, GPS will be to telemetry”

But to Frank, we say tonight, you left way too soon. And we are here again tonight, here at another NAFA Meet, except that tonight, we have the answer to your plea. The technology now exists, and our little shared obsession will be forever changed. And for the better. And in big ways. I think you’d be proud of us down here for pushing ahead to see your vision through to reality.

Q&A time