Kestrel Hunting a Sparrow

moon phase Week of 11/11/2007 Best days to cut firewood.

It's getting kind of nippy at night these days, but nothing out of the ordinary for the second week of November. It's the wind, though, that is the toughest to make peace with. You can bundle up to keep out the cold; boots and waterproof jackets will keep off the rain; a brimmed hat can also keep your head dry or shade you from the sun. There's lots of things a person can do to protect themselves from the elements, but a stiff wind can make you really uncomfortable, especially if it's cold with sleet or dust.

Kestrel Hunting a Sparrow

It's been windy the past few days, and I've been doing what I always do when it's windyŚliving with it. This is something we have in common with the wild ones: Outside, we both must deal with the wind. The turkeys don't seem to mind the windy days. Last night after sunset, I counted 14 fat turkeys in the branches of a tall Maple tree. They were silhouetted against the sky, and I could see the tree branches swaying in the breeze. The turkeys seemed OK with roosting in a moving tree and they no doubt spent the night there, having made their peace with the wind.

The wooded landscape is nearly devoid of any leaves. It looks lifeless compared with all the greenery on display over the summer. From now until next May, the only way to brighten up the subtle landscape is with a bright, white blanket of snow.

A beautifully-colored Kestrel caught my eye today, perched high on a highline. It was windy, of course, and his feathers were ruffled as he tightened is grip on the wire, and leaned into the wind. Then in an instant, he swooped down and glided over the top of a picked corn field. He made a couple of sharp maneuvers and a few quick wing-beats, then grabbed a small brown sparrow that was trying to make his escape. It was quite a sight, and the little falcon left me in awe of his speed and ability to adjust to the wind. It's not unusual to see a Kestrel catch his prey, usually a Meadow vole or a big grasshopper or cricket. However, the Kestrel is a very fast flyer, and is quite capable of outflying and catching small songbirds. One of the Kestrel's favorite ways to hunt for prey is to sit on a power line and patiently watch the ground below. It's a strange method of hunting for a hawk who is capable of catching small birds on the wing. Another method of hunting that works well for the Kestrel is to hover over a grassy field, while he peers down for movement below. Sometimes he will hover in the exact same place for several minutes, even in a stiff wind. The tall grass far below gets tossed around like waves on a pond, yet the Kestrel's sharp eye will spot a vole who scurries under the waves of grass. He will catch the vole even in such windy conditions, because he must. He's got Nature's perfect combination of speed, sight, agility and beauty, and a perfect example of how to live with the wind.

I was lucky enough to spot a high-flying kettle of migrating Hawks. They were hard to count as they milled around in a big circle in the sky, but I figured 50 or 60 hawks of various species. I've always thought it was interesting that so many different kinds of hawks will migrate together. Riding a good thermal together, you might see Red-tailed hawks, Broad-winged hawks, Red-shouldered hawks, Marsh hawks, Cooper's hawks, Goshawks, Sharp-shinned hawks, Peregrine falcons, Merlins and Kestrels and sometimes an Eagle or two. Large kettles containing hundreds, even thousands of hawks, may include all of the above. Not only have they made peace with the wind, they are a part of it.

Naturally yours,


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