Conversation with a Kestrel, 3/11/12

Sunday was the kind of day when my dad used to gather us up and go for a drive. The beach was a favorite destination when we were kids, an afternoon of swimming, beachcombing, and sunset-watching. In later years he and I would go birding out to Orient Park. So in the spirit of a spring day, I took a meandering drive up to the Winter Raptor Fest.

The Hudson was quiet until I crossed onto one of the many River Roads, this one across from Schuylerville. It’s a few miles of dirt road, river on one side, fields and sloughs on the other. A half-dozen Snow Geese shone out among thousands of Canadas in an embayment. I’ve been watching a shallow pond thinking it would be a great duck stop, and this week the migrants had arrived including my FOY Green-winged Teal.

The best part of the Raptor Fest was the chance to see birds of prey up close. This Broad-winged Hawk had been wing-shot. Sorry for the horrible lighting, but she was inside a yellow and blue circus tent on a brilliantly sunny day.

The rehabber had the difficult task of answering questions ranging from the complications to the bird’s respiratory system from a broken bone, to one person who couldn’t seem to get that ‘healed’ did not mean ‘all better’, and why this bird would sadly never fly again.  Add the inevitable bored fractious infants with parents determined to stick it out to the end, and it was a frustrating presentation redeemed by the chance to see the Broad-wing up close.

Inside the barn the rehabbers had Barred, Screech, and Saw-whet Owls, and this little charmer:


Rufus is an American Kestrel, “rescued’ by a well-meaning but uninformed person who found him fledged, out of the nest on the ground, and assumed the poor little thing would die without human intervention. Which consisted of feeding him on hamburger and lamb, leading to metabolic bone disease. That’s the avian equivalent of rickets. Rufus’ wing bones are strong enough for limited flight, but his feet are deformed and he would soon starve if he had to hunt.

He is very socialized to crowds, but doesn’t like certain handlers. Whenever the woman holding him spoke, he glared at her and screamed KIKIKIKIKIKIKIKIKIKIKI loud enough to be heard outside and down the driveway.

I like this picture, showing how huge his eye is on a Robin-sized bird, and the notch in his beak for severing the spinal cord of a mouse. And yes, he was KIKIKIing here.

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Mallard, Canada Goose, Hooded Merganser, American Black Duck, Northern Pintail, Ring-necked Duck, American Widgeon, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Snow Goose, Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Black-capped Chickadee, American Crow, Blue jay, European Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird, Tufted Titmouse, Dark-eyed Junco.

26 species, 1 new for 2012.

Categories: Bird photos, Field trip, First of season, OMG bird, Species count | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Conversation with a Kestrel, 3/11/12

  1. How wonderful to witness. betty F

  2. Upstate Ellen

    Nice photos of the kestrel! I didn’t make it to the Winter Raptor Fest this year, but I did get to see a screech owl – in the wild.

  3. This popped up in my Reader yesterday and I thought of you and your Kestrel Hill. I’ve never seen a kestrel in the wild, myself, just in a raptor recovery presentation. So beautiful though, and I like your story here. Here’s the link to another piece on kestrels:

    • Oh, thanks for that link! They’re just impossible to photograph — so flightly. In fact I think that’s the quickest way to tell a Kestrel from a Merlin — if it stays put, it’s a Merlin.

      I should write about our resident birds, shouldn’t I, even if I can’t get a picture.

      • You’re welcome, and good to know the trick to telling one from a Merlin. Yes, please do write about your resident birds sometime, when time and inspiration intersect.

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