Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Female American Kestrel in the grasses and goldenrod...

Along with the Common Buckeye butterflies and the sweet Savannah Sparrows in the high meadow at VOA Park a few weeks ago, an American Kestrel was about, hovering and hunting for prey in the tall, golden grasses. When I first caught sight of her, she was hovering high in the sky, a beautiful sight as she hung in the same place, her wings fluttering to keep her motionless. It was a very windy day, and I watched her hovering in the sky over and over. At one point, however, while I was very still and listening for the chip of a Savannah Sparrow, I saw her perched at a distance on a rusty post. Her coloring matched the tall goldenrod and teasel stalks surrounding her, and she blended in to almost nothing, but the bright white on her face and the two two black bars by her eyes gave her away as the dramatic contrast caught my eye among the golds and browns covering most of the autumn field.

Using one of her preferred methods of hunting, the American Kestrel sat patiently on the old fence post, vigilant to movement, and watched for grasshoppers or small rodents. The field was thick with grasshoppers, so when she suddenly would swoop down into the overgrowth, I assume she was nabbing a grasshopper.

Our smallest falcon, the American Kestrel is beautiful and colorful. It is always a special day for me when I spot one. Every now and then a kestrel tears through our side yard--those gorgeous kestrel colors a flash in the sky as he or she whips past our kitchen window.

It was a windy day, and she used the wind velocity to fuel another of her favorite hunting methods--the hover! Looking like a giant hummingbird, she would hang in the sky for minutes scanning the field below for food.

I saw her hovering six or seven times--each time in a different spot. She covered territory across all four corners of the high meadow. The American Kestrel doesn't hover like a hummingbird, instead, it flies into the wind at the same speed of the wind, the result being stabilized hovering. (Click here for an older post that describes how a hummingbird uses a figure-8 wing motion to hover.)

19 comments:

Chris said...

Beautiful flight shots Kelly although they are not that easy to do, as they usually are very high in the sky... Here we only have the merlin and the gyr falcon, but I've never seen them hunting over here, only hanging on post and even lamp post!!

holdingmoments said...

Beautiful bird Kelly. Very much like our Kestrel here; same hunting technique too. Amazing to watch them hover.

rebeccainthewoods said...

Gorgeous photos - I love the autumn colors in the backgrounds of the first couple. This is my second year in a row without a real autumn and I'm really missing it.

Laure Ferlita said...

Nature's camouflage is so brilliant!!

LOVE all those autumn colors and tones and how they are a perfect foil for the Kestrel! Gorgeous!

Montanagirl said...

Beautiful shots, Kelly. Isn't it fun when you can finally catch them on camera?? They're rather hard to photograph I think - always on the move.

Out on the prairie said...

Beautiful shot, I really to watch this tiny predator in action.Had one near my work that kept the ground squirels in check.Many stay over the winter here.

Roy said...

Nice shots! I'm surprised you got even that close. Although I have a friend who insists that he ran into one that tended to hover in the air about 5 feet in front of him. I've never had one get that close to me. For that matter, I've never seen one perched; I tend to only see them as they flash through the landscape.

Susan W. said...

She is lovely! Very nice shots!

Shelley said...

Beautiful shots of the kestrel "on the job" so to speak! :-) It is my husband's favorite bird.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Kelly, I love the American Kestrels... I have never seen one --except in pictures. I love seeing them in flight... You got some fabulous pictures.
Hugs,
Betsy

Elaine said...

That fencepost was the perfect hunting stand for the Kestrel, and it gave you some great shots. The colors of the goldenrod make a lovely background.

NatureFootstep said...

such beautiful bird and you had some great photos. :) I realized that it was some time since I visited your blog. Too bad. :(

gwendolen said...

Thanks for sharing the info about the hovering.

ShySongbird said...

Lovely photos, Kelly. A very impressive bird!

Larry said...

Speaking of favorite birds Kelly, the Kestrel is one of my all time favs! So much so, it is the main feature of my blog header.

You have captured her beautifully amongst the goldenrod but the in-flight shots are gorgeous.

There is a good video on you tube showing the Kestrel in flight and hovering. It's amazing how they hover keeping their head totally still. The video is here.

Tammie said...

small falcons are so charming. they have the allure of the big birds but in a small package.... wonderful.

Heathen heart and vagabond shoes said...

She's fabulous!

Sarah Knight said...

Lovely photos, and sounds like an enjoyable experience. It's always nice to be able to push everything out of the mind and concentrate on watching nature in it's natural state.

Wren said...

Great photos, Kelly, and great word picture as well. I had no idea that kestrels ate something as small as a grasshopper.