Tag Archives: American Kestrel

Nature in a Minute – American Kestrel

Guest post by Julianne Mehegan

American Kestrel and Prairie Falcon by David Sibley, gouache on Bristol board. Mass Audubon Collection.

On my afternoon walk I spotted an American Kestrel. This handsome bird was doing what kestrels do, sitting on an open perch, hunting for insects and small rodents. Seeing the kestrel was a huge thrill for me, it really lifted my spirits.

Back at home I got out the Sibley Guide to Birds to refresh my knowledge about kestrels.  Kestrels are the smallest and most widespread falcon, ranging throughout North America. The kestrel I saw was a male. Its wings were bluish gray, the back and tail feathers were rusty-red, the breast speckled. When perched, the kestrel pumps its tail to maintain balance. The illustrations in the Sibley Guide show both the female and male kestrel and how the bird looks in flight.

David Sibley’s original art for this illustration in the Sibley Guide to Birds is in Mass Audubon’s art collection at the Museum of American Bird Art. To see more of David Sibley’s art, and to read about his new book, What It’s Like to Be a Bird, visit his website. MABA’s exhibition of original art from the book is expected to be on view again when the museum reopens to the public.

Julianne Mehegan at Arches NP

Our guest blogger, Julianne Mehegan, is a wonderful friend of MABA, a birder and a naturalist.

Springtime in the Valley, Part 2

This is from a series of posts by MABA resident artist Barry Van Dusen

Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton March 22, 2016

Kestrel at Arcadia - at 72 dpi

Kestrel at Arcadia, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 10.25″ x 13.75″

As John and I are walking back to my car by the bridge, a slender graceful bird alights on a telephone pole – a beautiful male Kestrel!  I should have anticipated this species here – the habitat is classic Kestrel country.  In fact, I learn from the latest issue of Connections Magazine that Arcadia fledged 4 Kestrels in 2015, and is one of only two Mass Audubon properties where the species currently nests.  Whether this is one of Arcadia’s breeding birds is hard to say.  We’re right at the beginning of the period when Kestrels return to Massachusetts, so this bird may just be passing through…

After lunch at the visitor center, I hike the Horseshoe Trail to the Old Orchard, then follow the Fern Trail up along the Mill River.  The topography is a roller-coaster of humps and hollows, ridges and gullies.  These may be glacial in origin, or perhaps remnants of ancient streambeds and banks.

Old Coach Road Trail at Arcadia - at 72 dpi

Old Coach Road Trail

Along the River Trail, I play hide and seek with a handsome pair of common mergansers in the Silver Maple Swamp.  When I move my scope to get a better view, the birds move too, quickly putting some tree trunks or brush between us.

Common Merganser Pair - at 72 dpi

Common Merganser Pair, sketchbook study, 6″ x 10″

In late afternoon, I return to the grasslands by The Oxbow, hoping to see the Kestrel again.  No luck this time, but the sun has swung around and the Mt Tom range is now bathed in soft afternoon light.   I set up my field kit for some landscape work.

Set-up at Arcadia - at 72 dpi

watercolor nearly finished…

My view is the northern end of the Mt Tom range, where it drops down abruptly to the Connecticut River.  I’m looking across the field where I saw the Kestrel this morning.  Though not visible in my painting, The Oxbow lies just behind the trees at the end of the field, while the main course of the Connecticut River is on the far side of the mountain.

Mt Tom Range from Arcadia - at 72 dpi

Mt Tom Range from Arcadia, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 8″ x 11.5″

As I’m painting, one of the eagles soars in from the south and circles over Ned’s Ditch, then peels off to the west.  A FINE DAY at Arcadia!