Wednesday, January 20, 2016

More of the South Street kestrels

Last Friday, I had another encounter with the South Street kestrel pair.  As luck would have it, I spotted the male as I was out walking.  He was perched way atop a water tower at Knickerbocker Village, about three blocks from where I stood.

South Street kestrel

I walked another block to try and get a better view.  To my astonishment, as I watched him, the kestrel leaped up into the air, dove straight towards me, and landed in a tree less that ten feet away.

Hello!

South Street kestrel

My ego believed he'd seen me and come right to me.  However, after a few seconds, I realized his mate was in the same tree.  She'd been there all along, but I failed to notice her.  In the photo below, he is on the upper branch and she is below him.

South Street kestrels

The jealous girlfriend:

South Street kestrel

After a few minutes, the male began to hunt.  He perched on a low branch and eyed a patch of grass directly underneath him.

Male kestrel hunting for mice

A note about cameras:  People often ask me what camera I use for my hawk photos.  Normally, I use a Canon 70D with a 70-200 lens.  I used that setup for the previous kestrel post.  It's heavy equipment, though, so I keep a lightweight Lumix FZ-200 on hand for casual/quick walks.  I used this camera to shoot Christo and Dora while they had their first nest on the Christodora, and it worked really well.  However, for small fast-flying falcons, that camera proved to be inadequate.  That is the camera I used for this post, and I think the difference in image quality is apparent.  I was also unable to get any action shots, which is really a shame because seeing the male kestrel go hunting was a real thrill.

Anyway, if I'd had my regular camera, I probably would have caught the moment the male kestrel dove down into the grass and pulled up this mouse.

Kestrel with mouse

It's a good-sized mouse, larger than a sparrow.

Kestrel with mouse

I recently read somewhere that hawks kill their prey with their talons, while kestrels crush the prey's skull with their beak.  Here he is doing just that.

Kestrel with mouse

Down the hatch!

Nom nom nom...

The FZ-200 takes really great video, but I was so discombobulated trying to deal with the maddeningly slow speed of the camera, that I resorted to my pocket camera to capture the kestrel in action.  You can watch him tear the head off the mouse in this video:



After eating, the male flew to another tree and the female flew to where he'd been and seemed to be looking for left-overs.  Finding none, she rejoined him in the tree.  Then, something I've never seen before happened (and I couldn't capture it with the slow camera!) - the female flew straight at the male, they met in mid-air, and they clashed talons.  There was a loud CRACK! as the tiny talons came together.

South Street kestrels

Afterwards, the male rested in a tree.

Kestrel

The female posed for pictures.

Kestrel

Kestrel

I really hope I see more of these guys as they are proving to be an extremely interesting and exciting pair.

See more photos of this particular kestrel pair here.