In the spring of 2016 after spending time in correspondence with the originator of the Four Week Window method – Lyn Oliphant – it was decided that a ‘non-hacked version’ of the 4WW process where kiting/droning substituted the tame hacking element was a viable option. As with the original method the aim was to produce exceptional peregrines that seamlessly fitted in with the requirements of the ‘modern falconer’ in that they would be well adapted to their role as a gamehawk whilst retaining high natural breeding potential. Staffordshire Gamehawks required young hawks to form future breeding pairs and so a falcon from both the peregrinus ‘Bubble line’ (#2) and the brookei ‘Lela line’ (#1) were selected to begin the Key Window Framework. In addition a tiercel (#3) from an earlier ‘Bubble line’ was included with a plan for a future Staffordshire Gamehawks pairing where a high level of consistency in terms of performance in the field was envisaged. All three young hawks were given at least a full season in the field and entered to quarry and the result has been a resounding success that has encouraged Staffordshire Gamehawks to explore more deeply into the potential of the Key Window Framework. All three 2016 KWF hawks went on to breed successfully as part of natural pairings - Lali (#1) producing young in her third year whilst Pepsi (#2) & Aragon (#3) produced young in their fourth year.
Following on from their 2016 success Staffordshire Gamehawks decided to take the next step and produce KWF gamehawks for other falconers & falconer-breeders. Orders were taken for a brookei falcon (#5) from the ‘Lela line’ and a peregrinus tiercel (#6) from the ‘Bubble line’ and together with a falcon (#4) from an unrelated but high quality line of Spanish Brookeis which was required for Staffordshire Gamehawks breeding stock they formed ‘KWF 2017’. Minor adjustments were made to the previous year’s process in an effort to take account of the fact that that these were all first clutch peregrines as opposed to the second clutch hawks of the previous year. In addition it was felt that more pre-kite training should be given with the hawks still loose together in the pen in order to make the all important transition to flying loose to the kite smoother and more efficient and the introduction to game earlier. The result was that by the end of August all KWF hawks had made their initial flights off the kite with heights of 920ft, 455ft & 395ft recorded by #4, #6 & #5 respectively and were ready for game/ducks when the season opened. Two out of three 2017 KWF hawks went on to breed successfully as part of natural pairings - Max (#6) producing young in his second year whilst Arcadia (#4) produced young in her third year.
2018 was a difficult year for Staffordshire Gamehawks mainly due to the weather. Snow into April prevented both established pairs from laying on time and the peregrinus pair were so late that the usual clutch manipulation could not be carried out - ultimately resulting in the death of a tiercel chick. Although fertility was good, hatchability was down and so choices were limited when it came to beginning the third year of the Key Window Framework. We had earmarked the establishment of a third pure peregrinus pair out of our 'Bubble' lines but for the first time had to bring in a peregrine from outside of our experience just to make up the numbers required for the initial phase of the method. So KWF 2018 started amidst record summer temperatures as #7 - the outsider tiercel joined #8 - a tiercel out of my 2015 falcon, 'Milli' (she was paired with the brother of my 2014 tiercel, 'Stan') and #9 - a first clutch Bubble falcon and sister to 2016 falcon, 'Pepsi'. #9 made her maiden flight sans kite to 750ft and #8 to 364ft but he suffered electrocution injuries to both feet in late September when he was showing real promise which left us to concentrate on his future breeding partner who was now known as 'Ayr'. Ridiculous winds marred her early season opportunities in terms of establishing a high working pitch but nevertheless she acquitted herself very well on ducks from the outset and following the BFC International Field Meeting at Woodhall Spa she had made three kills from her first five duck-hawking flights. Poor weather throughout most of her first season held her back in terms of pitch but she finished with a creditable 363ft average and made 13 kills on ducks whilst becoming a delight to handle and having no vices. Ayr (#9) laid eggs in her second year and Robbi (#8) filled her eggs in his third year.
2019 was a breakthrough year for Staffordshire Gamehawks as it allowed us to use only our own hawks in the Key Window Framework for the first time. This was important in many ways as the 5 weeks of pre-KWF are as important as the actual KWF in terms of getting the best from the peregrine. Also 2019 was the first year that we didn’t need to keep back any of our progeny for breeding stock as that year we brought in quality peregrinus and brookei bloodlines to supplement our own quality breeding lines. Therefore 2019 marked the first year that our entire production was available to other falconers. The third exciting prospect for 2019 was the testing of our very first peregrinus x brookei hawks following the establishment of a new pair. So KWF 2019 started amidst the usual cool English temperatures for June as #10 - the older of the peregrinus x brookei tiercels (bred out of ‘Stan’ – our 2014 duck-killing tiercel peregrinus and ‘Lali’ – number one in the KWF process from 2016) joined #11 - a falcon out of our 2013 brookei falcon, 'Lela’ and #12 – the younger of the two peregrinus x brookei tiercels. #10 made his maiden flight sans kite to 391ft, #11 to 309ft and #12 to 417ft and all three KWF hawks were a delight to handle and post-kiting advanced training went very smoothly indeed. #11 was a fantastically precocious duck-hawk from her very first duck-hawking flights and was the best brookei falcon we have ever produced. She accounted for two mallards from good pitches in addition to knocking-down several others plus a hen pheasant in exciting flights as she dominated the skies wherever ducks were present before being passed to her new owner in October. As for the peregrinus x brookei tiercels they were both too small (17-19oz) for regular flights at ducks so needed to be given opportunities at smaller quarry. #12 went to an old friend who had embarked on a first season hawking snipe on the Somerset levels and was making fantastic progress on this quarry, accounting for one snipe, when after only three weeks disaster struck and ‘Traore’ as he was now called was electrocuted on a power pole. His brother, #10 – now called ‘Otto’ was required (on emergency loan) down in Somerset and whilst initially flying too high for snipe and being attracted to easier quarry he managed to kill two snipe in good style by the end of the season. In only nine weeks flying ‘Otto’ accounted for 2 snipe, 1 teal, 4 mallards, a red-legged partridge, a common scoter and 2 little egrets (NB – all except the snipe and teal were check items).
2020 was a difficult year for Staffordshire Gamehawks as it was for everyone. The COVID-19 pandemic meant that we had a lot of cancelled orders due to the unexpected reduced financial circumstances of many of our customers. However it was an exciting time for other reasons as we had two new pairs produce for the first time with one of our partners and 3 out of the four peregrines involved had gone through the KWF process. Also we introduced a non-peregrine into the process for the first time as another of our partners allowed us to use one of his gyr-peregrines from race-winning lines. #13 – ‘Fanta’ – a falcon out of 2016 KWF pioneers – Pepsi & Aragon was required for breeding stock as we brought in two quality peregrinus tiercels from Hargreaves bloodlines to enrich our own quality Hargreaves breeding lines. So KWF 2020 started amidst hotter than usual English temperatures for June as #13 was joined by her brother #14 – ‘Tab’ and #15 – ‘Hoss’ the gyr-peregrine tiercel. #13 made her maiden flight sans kite to 298ft, #14 to 833ft and #15 to 276ft and all three KWF hawks went on to enjoy flights at wild ducks. Fanta killed a 41oz mallard duck from a low pitch (225ft) in awful weather in early November and I was hoping that she would kick-on but after 3 weeks of near misses and high pitches she inexplicably decided to bind-to a greylag goose which she fought with for 5 minutes as I made my way around big water to reach her but ultimately failed to hold. The resulting soft tissue wing injury put her out of action for 3 weeks and by that time the season had ended due to the Avian Influenza Housing laws that began on 14th December. Hoss made a keen start to duck hawking and had killed 2 mallards and knocked down a further 5 plus a wigeon by the time that the bird flu curtailed his season also. As for Tab – he was pre-ordered as a trained gamehawk and after knocking down 3 mallards from good pitches he went to his new owner destined for life as a partridge hawk. Meanwhile one of two pure brookei tiercels produced by first-time breeders – Arcadia (KWF #4) & Ciro went to a snipe-hawker and caught 24 snipe and a teal in his first season.
2021 was another difficult year for Staffordshire Gamehawks as the COVID-19 pandemic continued unabated and the Avian Influenza outbreak in late November once more led to reduced duck and game hawking opportunities for our young hawks and for those of our customers. However it was a hugely successful breeding season as we had two new pairs produce for the first time and a total of 13 falcons and 6 tiercels were produced out of the five productive peregrine pairs and another pair showed great signs of bonding by laying two clutches of eggs and being seen copulating. Sadly - on the downside - one of our longest established pairs are no more as Henry the 2012 Southern Spanish peregrine died during the breeding season leaving his 2013 partner, Lela on her own. The KWF 2021 process started in earnest in May as #16 'Caracortada' was joined by her sisters' #17 and #18 'Alya' – marking the first time that an entire clutch of siblings made up the KWF line-up as the first clutch Spanish Brookei's out of Aragon and Ciro impressed during their first seasons. #17 made her maiden flight sans kite to 351ft, #18 to 342ft and #16 to 222ft and all three KWF hawks went on to enjoy flights at wild ducks and game - many from good to high pitches. Double figures of mallards were accounted for by the trio as well as a teal and cock pheasant plus numerous knock-downs before the duck hawking season was once again prematurely curtailed due to the Avian Influenza rules put in place. Alas #17 won't see her second season as she was killed in a collision with a barbed wire fence after binding to a strong-flying cock pheasant. Hoss the 2020 gyr-peregrine tiercel also returned as an intermewed duck hawk and added three mallards to the bag in a very short season before the AI regulations intervened. Meanwhile all of the second clutch Brookei falcons produced by Arcadia & Ciro went on to enjoy successful seasons when flown at ducks and game. Notable amongst them was a 26-28oz falcon which went to a duck hawker in the West Country where she put 37 mallards into the bag in devastating style whilst the same falconer flew the intermewed brother to this falcon and added a total of 17 snipe and a teal to his second season bag.