Calverton man embraces ancient sport of falconry

02/01/2015 10:22 AM |
Chris Paparo with his red-tailed hawk, Emmy, on a farm in Baiting Hollow. Mr. Paparo, a licensed falconer, has trained the bird to catch prey and come to him on demand, an activity that dates back thousands of years. Emmy has caught more than two dozen animals so far this falconing season. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Chris Paparo with his red-tailed hawk, Emmy, on a farm in Baiting Hollow. Mr. Paparo, a licensed falconer, has trained the bird to catch prey and come to him on demand, an activity that dates back thousands of years. Emmy has caught more than two dozen animals so far this falconing season. (Credit: Paul Squire)

High over the wooded hills just north of Lewin Farm in Baiting Hollow, Emmy the red-tailed hawk sits in her tree, watching me intently. Somehow, I sense her disapproval as the thick underbrush snags on my jeans and jacket. I fumble my way out of the thorns. 

Up ahead, Chris Paparo, Emmy’s handler and partner of sorts, walks ahead through the fallen branches and briars that catch on our clothes. He simply expects me to keep up. In my defense, I’ve been doing fairly well for a first-time falconer and someone who’s more of an indoorsman than an outdoorsman.

Paparo takes the long walking stick he’s been carrying and smacks it against the underbrush.

As I step over a branch, there’s a sudden gust of wind. Emmy leaves her perch behind us and soars overhead, the bells attached to her legs jingling loudly. A blur of brown and red, the red-tailed hawk flits past us, dodges between branches and crashes into brush about 50 feet away.

There’s a commotion as Emmy flaps her way airborne again and the rabbit hiding in the twigs jumps away to safety.

“She missed it!” Paparo cries out.

He stomps over the thorn bushes toward where Emmy made her attack, hitting the brush to flush the rabbit back out into the open. The rabbit would ultimately get away, one of many lucky critters to have dodged Emmy’s wicked talons that morning.

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