By GILLIAN FLACCUS
BREA, Calif. (AP) - As trucks disgorged garbage and bulldozers pushed the trash into neat rows, Daniel Hedin stood in the middle of the dump and scanned the gray sky for dirty birds. When a small flock of seagulls drifted in, he looked at the falcon perched on his wrist.
"You ready, baby girl? Hup! Hup!" he said, and blew a whistle.
Zoe exploded into the air, swooping low before rising into a stiff wind to scatter the nervous gulls. Mission accomplished. She returned to Hedin's gloved hand for a reward of raw pigeon meat.
"The ground and the sky can be covered in gulls," Hedin said, stroking Zoe's breast feathers. "For these people operating heavy machines, it's like operating in a blizzard."
The Olinda Alpha landfill has declared war on the nuisance birds, but rather than using air cannons or high-tech scarecrows, it's fighting fliers with fliers. The dump on a plateau high above suburban Orange County is part of an explosion in falconry for profit in recent years, with one-time hobbyists launching their raptors into the skies above vineyards, farms, landfills, shopping complexes and golf courses nationwide.