My heart is very heavy as i write this note Our beautiful, charismatic and stunning Lanner Falcon is lost somewhere. For the past 3 weeks i have searched endlessly, followed endless leads and driven hundreds of miles so far in vain.
It was a Wednesday afternoon and I simply wanted to let the falcons stretch their wings as we had no customers in. Acer, the Peregrine, flew like a dream and then it was Melody's turn. She did her usual of trying to get the food out of the bag herself and flew to my shoulder then she got the idea and swooped beautifully around the field. We were then joined by a juvenile Red Kite, easily identified by its lack of Red, its body a mottled light brown. This Kite had been around for a few days and had been very interested in the birds swooping in very low sometimes. However on this occasion it started to chase Mel around the field and she ranged further and further away. Before long she was out of site and i had to resort to the telemetry system she wore to track her. This is not the first time this had happened so i was not too worried. I tracked her to Wargrave and spotted her sitting in a tree. I swung the lure and tried to tempt her down but she is a stubborn your lady and i swear she would have blamed me for the kite and there for showed no interest whats so ever. By this point I had to get home to feed the other birds and the light was beginning to fade. Previously she has stayed out over night and come home first thing in the morning when i turn up with food so i was not too worried. The following day i quickly finished all the jobs on site with the other birds and headed out assuming that she wouldnt have gone particularly far. How wrong i was. From Wargrave I picked up a faint signal and ended up tracking it right through Henley and over towards Sonning Common. All day i hunted picking up signals, then losing them only to find them once I'd driven around a corner. The Radio signal is difficult to narrow down around woodlands and hills so i would drive a little way then check and drive some more. At one point i was in Henley and walked from the River right up above the town, talking with locals and asking some very kind home owners if i could check in their very very large gardens. I think Mel just kept moving though and everytime i got close she took off again. Eventually as the light was really starting to go I saw her sitting in a tree on a farmers land. After getting permission i tried to tempt her down again for well over an hour, but as the light went she took off again and vanished over the horizon. Gutted.
The next day Louise and I headed out and although we got a signal it was impossible to narrow down again loosing the light but never getting close enough to see her. We had walked miles and miles and i am very sorry to Louise who i know like me ached badly the next day!!
After that i didnt pick up a signal at all. My friend Jake came up from Guildford on Saturday and retraced my steps on friday whilst i had customers at the Falconry Centre and then we headed out after dark, hoping that the night allowed the tracking signal to travel further. Jake is a very experienced falcon flyer and helped keep me calm.
On Sunday afternoon i had a call from a gentleman that said he had seen the facebook post and told me that he had actually seen Melody sitting in the road at the Rugby Club in Sonning Common on Saturday morning and that people had slowed down and beeped their horns to make her move out the road where she then hopped up onto the hedge. Fearing that she may have been hit on the road, I drove like a loon in the dark and then proceeded to walk up and down the very busy road in the dark and rain with my head torch trying desperately to see in the undergrowth, hating the thought that she may have been dead in a ditch, the thought just made me sick to my stomach. But i found nothing.
Following Jakes advice since the rugby club was the last place she had been seen, i headed back Monday morning to swing the lure just in case she was still in the area. For 40 mins i stood on the fields looking like a complete weirdo when i thought i should just check the signal (i hadnt gotten anything the night before) Suddenly 'beep....beep!!!'. I couldnt believe it. So abandoning my car i followed the signal, walking though woodlands, across farm land, though a golf course and then into Caversham all the while the signal never seemed to get closer or fade in any way. I had walked so far i had to call Lu to come and get me as i needed to get back to the centre to feed the rest of the birds and since the signal was not getting any stronger or weaker i concluded that she was on the soar and way above me in the clouds. Back again 2 hours later and the signal was gone. And that was the last time i heard the beep. I have travelled all over trying to pick up anything, in my spare time and well into the nights. I have been on the radio and in the news paper. I have been gobsmacked and bought to tears by peoples generosity in giving up their time to help, from a couple with a black lab that stopped people in Sonning Common (a runner told me about you the next day) to the radio enthusiasts that have used their own equipment to scan the area, to those that shared our status on Facebook and to those that took the time to call and send in pictures.
Its been 3 weeks now and although i still follow leads, there is no point in trying to pick up her signal as the battery would have long died by now. All i can do is hope that i get a positive identification or she is picked up and handed to someone that will know to call the number on her rings and identification tag. She is so so loved and i am not giving up on her at all. Please please if anyone sees her or even thinks it may be her please get in touch.