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Tag Archives: American Kestrel

Lots of birds have successfully nested on our hillside this year – American Robins, Say’s Phoebes, Western and Mountain Bluebirds, House Wrens, Tree and Violet-green Swallows, Bullock’s Orioles and more. The biggest highlight has been our Nice Nests kestrel box hosting its first successful nest of American Kestrels. Four birds were raised and got out of the box and were standing around on branches up until a few days ago. That is the branchling stage. Now they are out doing flying and hunting lessons. I hope they stay here and work on our rodent population. And I hope they return next year. We have another kestrel box that hasn’t been used yet!

Yesterday a friend and I ventured out to the dryland wheat country south of here, across the Columbia and River and up on the plateau in search of Snowy Owls. It was a lovely sunny day. We saw quite a few interesting birds including numerous Rough-legged Hawks, a Prairie Falcon, Snow Buntings, American Kestrels and others. The landscape in that area is criss-crossed with a grid of roads every mile. The north/south roads have letter names – A, B, C, etc. And the east/west roads nave number names. That seems easy enough but often roads don’t go through or are not maintained so navigation can be a challenge. And don’t even think about using a phone app to navigate. No doubt, you will be sent down a road that has not been maintained in many years.

We were sticking to the rougher roads, thinking the owls would be off the beaten path but we were not finding them. We turned down a good paved county road and shortly my friend was slapping the door and saying STOP! There it was, maybe 20 meters off the road perched on the side of big rock outcropping. What a view! We were delighted. For my friend it was a lifer – the first time she had ever seen this species.

We watched it for a while and it seemed pretty unconcerned with our presence and when we left, it was still taking in the warm sun. Snowy Owls nest in the far north on the tundra. They eat lemmings and when there is a shortage of food they migrate farther south in the winter. This year there have been a few of them reported around Washington. It’s always such a treat to see these magnificent wild animals.

Following that we returned down to the big river and watched a variety of water birds and then we went to a park where she had seen  Northern Saw-whet Owls recently. We located the white wash on the ground and looking straight up we could see the tiny owl looking down at us.

It was a good day.

 

This is a male American Kestrel approaching a female on a delicate branch.

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After two years of lower than average snowfall, this season we are happy to see lots of snow on the ground with more on the way. We rang in the New Year with below zero temperatures and clear skies and glimpses of northern lights. I enjoyed time with our friends and did not try to get photos on that frigid night!

The skiing on groomed trails is wonderful and up until this week, skiing in the hills and backcountry has been marvelous! It made me wish I had some more rugged skis with skins for climbing the hills. A few days ago the temperature warmed over thirty degrees and it felt downright balmy at 34° Fahrenheit.  Of course, that sort of ruined the two feet of powder snow, leaving a one inch crust on top of it. It makes it very hard to get around once you are off the beaten path. Even for dogs but Sky seems to manage.

Speaking of dogs, Luna had to have surgery last week to remove a cracked tooth and an unusual growth on her side. The growth is benign so we can quit worrying about that. Whew. She has had to be less active and is missing her dog friends and skiing at Big Valley but the stitches need to time to heal. Hopefully in another week or so she can resume her regular fun activities.

Winters can be hard on the native birds so we put out black oil sunflower seeds, nyger seeds and suet for the songbirds. That also attracts raptors like hawks and kestrels who might try to take advantage of the situation. We figure that they all need to eat and are happy to see the diversity of species.

This male American Kestrel perched near our bird feeders this morning searching for a meal. Since most of our hillside is blackened and many of the small mammals were killed in the fire, it makes sense that birds of prey might be hanging around our house. Chipmunks, gophers and mice have found some refuge in our ‘green’ spot. I am happy to see the kestrel as well as the Great-horned Owls that we’ve seen and heard after dark. We don’t want to be overrun with these small mammals.

The American Kestrel also eats small birds and insects. It is North American’s smallest falcon. Its eyes are huge for the size of its head and that makes it an effective predator. They are cavity nesting birds and will use nest boxes. Our neighbor has built two or three boxes specifically for kestrels and this bird may have used one earlier this year. I know that at least one box was active. This species has sexually dimorphic plumage, meaning that the male and female look quite different. These images were made looking through the dining room window.

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