Master falconer Kitty Marconi stood in the rain yesterday in Annapolis, tending to three falcons as she talked about the lure of falconry.
The demonstration, about the ancient Persian method of using birds to hunt game, brought about 30 people out in the drizzle. Wide-eyed children lined the porch of the Wild Bird Center on Annapolis Street, watching as Marconi stood in the rain and showed them how she hoods the falcons.
As she slipped blue-green leather hoods over the heads of the falcons, or hawks, one small boy explained the procedure to another.
"It's so the water doesn't get in their eyes," he said.
But a moreknowledgeable bird-watching parent intervened. "No, the hood calms them down," he corrected.
Marconi paused in her demonstration whiletwo county residents were honored for saving a Cooper's hawk severalweeks ago.
The somewhat rare bird flew into Kirk Young's Annapolis warehouse last month and didn't seem to know how to fly out, Young said.
"It was just beautiful, this bird flying around the rafters,with a 2 1/2-foot wing span and these corn-yellow eyes," said Young.
But the bird didn't know how to fly under the doors, and Young was ready to break the skylight to free it when he heard about falconerTom Blank. Blank lured the bird to safety, then kept it under observation to make sure it wasn't injured.
State Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad thanked Young and Blank for rescuing the 8-month-old bird.
"My wife and I were inspired that people would care so much about a bird of prey," said Winegrad. He presented the two men with framed picturesof the rescued bird and with Senate resolutions honoring them for going out of their way to save the hawk.
"We hope this will help create awareness in the community," said Winegrad.
"Birds of prey arehaving problems because we're destroying their habitat, and their prey as well."
Because it may be too late for the bird to fly south,Blank is keeping the hawk, which he's named after Young, until spring.
Falconry as a sport nearly died out after firearms were invented, said Marconi, but it was revived in England after World War II. Itremains a small sport, with only 3,000 licensed falconers in the United States and Canada, she said.
"The birds demand a mind-set to read their body language," explained Marconi, who had to train extensively to become a falconer.
Blank did his part to revive interest in the sport by taking the Cooper's hawk to Severna Park Elementary School two weeks ago to show the younger students.
During yesterday's ceremony, Young presented Blank with nearly 50 bird-shaped letters the children had made, thanking the falconer for telling them more about the exotic pastime of falconry.
"The bird is doing great," said Blank. "But we're building so much. If we could slow down the building and let the natural habitat of birds of prey come back, it would help a lot."