The little male Kestrel hovers high above the grassy pasture. His falcon wings rapidly paddle the air, keeping him perfectly stationary while he gazes directly at the grass below. Finally, he pulls in his long wings and falls into a dive, disappearing in the tall grass. An instant later he rises, clutching something in his right talons. I was watching with a pair of binoculars, but whatever he caught was smaller than a mouse or vole. His prey was probably a cricket, grasshopper, or large beetle, and I watched to see where he would take it.
These beautiful little Robin-sized falcons are in the middle of their nesting season and the male does much of the hunting when there are extra mouths to feed. Sure enough, he headed straight for a very large soft maple tree near a nearby farmhouse. Kestrels nest in cavities and big, old soft maples are notorious for having lots of hollow limbs with 3-4 inch holes in them.
As he neared the big tree, he started to call his high-pitched greeting—a rapid "Kee-kee-kee-kee!" He then landed on a large high limb, then flew into the green, leafy cover of the tree. A few seconds later, he was out and flying high towards the pasture again. He had just delivered a meal to his lady-love, who will eat it herself, or feed it to her new family if they have hatched.
It's always nice to know where the Kestrels are nesting, and it's not so hard to figure out if you just watch and are patient. It's just one of the many things you can do when watching birds this time of the year. A bird who is carrying something in his feet or beak, may be taking it to a hidden nest. Putting 2 and 2 together, and a little patience really pays off when learning about wildlife.
Learning is what it's all about, and will be an essential part of life for the future. The things we learn now about the natural world may all add up to saving ourselves. The Earth will provide a future for us if we allow ourselves to hear what it is saying.
I stopped the car this morning when I saw a snapping turtle in the middle of the road. There was no traffic, so I pulled over to give him a hand getting off the road. Snappers are slow movers on land, so of course the road is a dangerous place to be. He may have just stopped to take in the warmth of the pavement, but he's liable to get hit. The 5 to 6 pound turtle can give a nasty bite, so I always pick one up by the tail and hold it away from my leg when I carry it. Their necks aren't long enough to reach your hand or arm, but the first one you pick up will be the hardest. Snakes, too, make the mistake of stretching out on the warm artificial trail of roadway and often are not easily seen by a motorist until it is too late. Ah, yet another good reason to slow down!
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