A little warning:
This is a rather bloody post, so iffff you are a bit squeamish, please skip this one…..
I am putting it here mainly for all my international students to get an idea, as to how to preserver the Birds wings that you so often see dressed up and used as smudging fans in my shamanic art posts.
Usually, you – or we drive down the country road – and there, on the side is a traffic victim, a little bloody, but in all rather fresh and you wonder, how you could save its feathers. .
Well, you will have to get a plastic bag and start plucking ….. and then respectfully put the remains aside for brother Fox to find the coming night. But what, if you want to preserve and use the magnificent wings?
Sure you could take your find home and then work on it there…. But so often I hear: ”Yeah, we found a Hawk, but we were on a road trip and we could only take a few feathers instead of the full wings and talons……”
First of all, equip your car with what you will need:
1 sharp poultry shears
2. a hefty end cutter
3. a sharp knife
4. large styrofoam plates – the ones from the meat department of the grocery store or from Styrofoam packing material you have recycled.
5. a box with medium sized safety pins – to pin down wings and talons onto the styrofoam plate- or, if need be, the carpet of your car……
6. some kind of string – to straighten out talons
7. rubber bands – to straighten out talons
8 .assorted sizes of plastic bags – for fresh items – and for feathers
9. bungee cords – to tie something onto the roof or the back bumper
This will become your Bird tool kit and come in handy for other “finds” as well.
On the little trip to Manitoulin Island that I talked about in the previous post,
leaving the Pow Wow and driving south we found first a Sharp Shinned Hawk.
Into a large bag he went and with bungee cords tied to the roof rack. Only minutes later there was another Bird on the road:
A perfectly beautiful Merlin! Only he was dead:(
We bagged him as well.
In the motel I went to work:
Sage and cedar for a fare well and a chant to find home and to come back 7 generations from now, in a little egg in a nest… grow up healthy and strong… far away from any cars and road traffic…..
Then, tears aside, out came the shears and the promise to make something beautiful and honourable from the parts I take……
I cut the wings right at the shoulder joints
plucked from breast and back feathers what I knew I could use,
plucked the tail feathers
cut the legs at the knee joints
took some cedar boughs from outside and drove to the next secluded wood lot to bury the remains facing East
Yes, there was another chant and some more tears…..
Then, back at the motel I went to work.
I washed the blood of wings and feathers and dried them off
We would be on the road for the next few days and so now I needed a secure place, where to pin the wings and where they could stay – undisturbed.
Out of the back hatch came all our stuff. Cars are upholstered these days and there was carpet material in/ on the bottom of the trunk. Into this I pinned my fully stretched out wings using the safety pins = one at the bottom of the first primary and one into the lower back skin, so the wing stretches straight out.
I put some newspaper over the wings and a floor mat on top of that. Then all our luggage and stuff could go on top and would not make any damage.
The talons need stretching.
Pin then into the styrofoam tray. 3 front claws , on back claw. Then attach a string to the upper part of the leg bone and straighten it 90 degrees. with a safety pin peg the string so this position is secured. You also can use rubber bands as I did later with my “wing box”
At home of course you have to retrieve your wings and pin them to styrofoam or stiff cardboard. When I got home I used my pinning box – an old styrofoam ice chest.
Inside the box you see the perfect Merlin wings at the sides and the smaller reddish wings of a female Kestrel, that, sadly,we found the next day. One of her wings is quite damaged and what I will do with it I will see, when all is dry. In the middle all the talons are straightened out using a central chop stick and string as well as rubber bands.
On the outside of the box I pinned the Sharp Shinned Hawk wings.
It will take at least 3 months, until the wings are dried enough to be worked on and inserted into a decorated wooden handle can begin their life as a smudging fan.
The talons may even take a bit longer and may then adorn a Hawk Medicine Staff
The feathers I harvest, I always put into a plastic bag and then they go into the freezer for 48 hours, to kill off any mites and other “critters” that live in feathers. After that they are ready to use.