A female American Kestrel and an American Pipit’s demise

Fluffed up female American Kestrel in low lightFluffed up female American Kestrel in low light

Yesterday I spotted a female American Kestrel next to the road at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area  in low light and with snow falling, she was a beauty perched on a rusty hunk of metal.

American Kestrel female and her preyAmerican Kestrel female and her prey

The second time I spotted the female American Kestrel had prey in her talons and when I looked at the prey I could tell it was an American Pipit. The light was still low but I took plenty of images any way. Here the falcon is plucking feathers from the pipit.

Female American kestrel with Pipit feathers on her billFemale American kestrel with Pipit feathers on her bill

The was photographed near a bridge with a boat ramp and some hunters with an air boat where making plenty of noise, I half expected her to take flight with her prey at any second. I could tell that the noise made her nervous.

Female American kestrel and her preyFemale American kestrel and her prey

The noise from the air boat was deafening but the little falcon kept plucking away. At times she would turn and look right at me as if she was saying “Do ya hear that awful noise?”.

Female American Kestrel dropping her preyFemale American Kestrel dropping her prey

After a bit I could see she was struggling to maintain a grasp on her prey and in this frame I caught the American Pipit falling to the snow-covered ground below.

Female American Kestrel after failing to get her preyFemale American Kestrel after failing to get her prey

When the kestrel went down to retrieve her prey she seemed to not be able to find it on her first attempt, this image shows her lifting off from the snow to land on the rusty metal, look at all that snow flying!

Female American Kestrel getting her balance backFemale American Kestrel getting her balance back

In this frame the kestrel was getting her balance back, she looks pretty ferocious to me! The feathers and snow were still flying.

The American Kestrel retrieves her preyThe American Kestrel retrieves her prey

On her second attempt to retrieve her prey the female kestrel grasped it in her bill and flew away from the noise of the air boat and the hunters.

Kestrel hiding with her prey under a concrete slabKestrel hiding with her prey under a concrete slab

She found a concrete slab and hid under it for a bit before she flew off which was interesting behavior.

I normally see American Kestrels with voles as prey but seeing her with the American Pipit once again showed me why American Kestrels used to be called Sparrow Hawks which is why some people probably still use that name.

I wish I would have had better light for this great encounter with the female American Kestrel and her prey, as it was all of the photos in this series were taken at ISO 800 just to have some shutter speed.

Mia

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Tiny but Tough – Female American Kestrel

Female American Kestrel and a VoleFemale American Kestrel and a Vole – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/500, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

I would describe American Kestrels as tiny but tough, they are North America’s smallest falcon but I don’t think that hinders them at all. American Kestrels are year round residents here in Utah and they have to tolerate some very harsh conditions during our long, cold winters.

When I photographed this female American Kestrel in the winter of 2010 it was bitter cold and as I recall,there was plenty of snow on the ground and the morning fog hung heavy in the air. I didn’t see the kestrel catch the vole but I did see her feed on it rather voraciously.

American Kestrel populations are declining in many locations, even here in Utah there numbers seem to be dropping. For more information about the declining populations and how you can help as a citizen scientist please check out the American Kestrel Partnership, a project of the Peregrine Fund.

Mia

 

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Hovering American Kestrel

Male American Kestrel hovering

Male American Kestrel hovering – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited, no decoy

Hovering Kestrel shots aren’t easy to capture without baiting or using decoys, part of that is because I can’t tell when a kestrel might get it in its mind to hover for prey, the other part is being in the right place at the right time. I can’t even remember how many times I have seen kestrels hovering that were too far away or hovering right over me in really horrendous light or how many times they are hovering close by but facing the wrong way. Seeing them hover and being unable to get the images is very frustrating.

Hovering American Kestrel

Hovering American Kestrel - Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited, no decoy

I photographed this male American Kestrel hovering while on the causeway leaving Antelope Island and I was able to get images with light in the birds eyes in fairly decent light but I still hope I can get images like this with some clouds in the sky and a little bit closer. I do think these images show the great poses of a hovering kestrel and how handsome our smallest kestrel in North America is.

It seems that I don’t just have “nemesis birds”, I also have “nemesis dream shots” too.

Mia

* Yep, I am on the road again, please feel free to share this post with your family and friends! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments.

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Female American Kestrel in the West Desert

Female American Kestrel perched on a mound of dirt in the west desert

Female American Kestrel perched on a mound of dirt in the west desert – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

A few days ago I spotted this female American Kestrel on the road to Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge, and I do mean in the road. She almost didn’t move even when the pickup was 20 feet from her as we rolled to a stop. I don’t know if we were in Tooele or Juab County at that point but it did seem to be an odd place for an American Kestrel to be, miles from the closest cliffs or mountains and in an area were the vegetation was almost nonexistent. She flew up from the road and landed on one of the trail markers for the Pony Express and from there across the road to perch on a small mound of dirt.

American Kestrel female about to lift off from a mound of dirt in the west desert

American Kestrel female about to lift off from a mound of dirt in the west desert - Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

I took four images of the female kestrel while she was on that mound of dirt last Wednesday and I hoped that my exposure was going to work because I didn’t have time to change it before she lifted off and flew out over the arid desert. This was my last image of her before she left and I love the pose she left me with along with the memories of an American Kestrel in the west desert of Utah.

I don’t know why she was there but I am very glad she was.

Mia

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Male American Kestrel in low light

Male American Kestrel in low lightMale American Kestrel in low light

Male American Kestrel in low lightI prefer the golden light that is often talked about but I also appreciate images that are taken in low light for the subtle tones and the mood that low light can add to a frame. This image was taken on a foggy, cold morning but it must not have been too cold since there isn’t hoarfrost clinging to the perch.

I’m hoping this post is published this morning, some of you may be aware that I have been having issues with my hosting provider and the service they are supposed to be providing which is 99% up time.

Mia

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