While this is the first time Canadians will be patrolling Baltic skies in support of a Portuguese Air Force contingency scheduled to arrive September 1, the animal team attracted the bulk of attention from Lithuanian media Monday.
Four Polish MiG-29 aircraft have been deployed at Siauliai since May, but as of July their mission has been joined by falconer Mihail Benys with his trainees – the hawks York, Bolt and Millie, the falcon Hussein and German pointer Shani. The hunting birds’ mission is to scare away surrounding seagulls, sparrows, ducks and other fowl that could potentially fly afoul of the NATO jet engines and cause a catastrophe.
Aviators around the world are concerned with the problem of birds being sucked into jet engines and use sound recordings of birds of prey or their captured victims to scare them away. But Mihail Benys feels the use of real birds works more effectively than sound effects, to which birds tend to adapt quickly. Only when the hunting birds have learned to return to the falconer can they be trained to do airport duty.
Shani’s job is to scatter the birds out of their grassy fields, leaving the scaring-away work to York, Bolt, Millie and Hussein. The team will work at the Siauliai base until September, when Poland completes the term of its participation in the BAP mission.