Blood and Guts in the Bonny Glen

June 19, 2006 @ 3:24 am | Filed under: Nature Study

Seriously, what is going on around here? First it’s the caterpillar horror show. Now it’s dinner theater, Prometheus style.

Father’s Day morning: The girls were gathered around the table in the breakfast nook, enjoying the cinnamon swirl coffee cake they’d made for Daddy, when suddenly a bird swooped down to alight in the grass in our backyard.

“Mommy, you have to see this!” they hollered. They know news of a new bird sighting will always bring me running, and none of them recognized this one. Scott and I peered over their heads at the good-sized bird under the white pine. It was bigger than any of our songbirds, bigger than a mourning dove, gray-brown with white cheeks and a short, curved beak—

“Honey, is that a kestrel?” I asked breathlessly.

It was. (UPDATE: Or maybe not. Sharp-eyed commentors have ID’d it as a peregrine falcon. Which is even better. Because, you know, falcons are just cool. Also, we love the word “peregrine” because of Pippin Took.)

See, Scott and I have a thing about hawks. No drive in the country is complete without a good hawk sighting. If we flash past one sitting in a tree, we’ll turn around and go back for a better look. We actually planned our honeymoon journey around a raptor rehab center in Vermont.

So having one on the grass right outside our kitchen window was pretty much Scott’s ideal Father’s Day gift. We aim to please around here.

Just about the moment we were all exhaling an ooohh of wonder, it dawned on us that this kestrel peregrine falcon was probably hanging out in our backyard for a reason. There’s really only one reason for a bird of prey to be standing on the grass—standing in a fixed posture with one leg stiff and immobile, as if pinning something down.

“Did he catch something?” I whispered, as if I might disturb him through the glass.

“I think he might ha—” said Scott, and it was right about then that the wickedly curved beak dipped down and tore off a stringy piece of flesh.

Feathers went flying. My little girls’ ooohhhhs abruptly became shrieks.

“Oh, the poor little bird!”

We couldn’t tell what it was. Other than lunch, I mean. Possibly a mourning dove: the feathers were gray. We stood there in rapt horror (so to speak) and watched the kestrel falcon devour its prey strip by strip.

And of course I ran for the camera. I stupidly zoomed in all the way, so these pictures are a little fuzzy. But I think you get the idea.

Hawk1

Hawk2

Hawk3

Just another warm and cheery morning in the Bonny Glen.


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Comments

14 Responses | | Comments Feed

  1. Granted that’s rather gross, but what a treat to have a kestrel in your own backyard. Your kids are getting a lot of lessons about the savage side of the animal kingdom lately! I enjoy keeping an eye out for kestrels perched on power lines around here.

  2. “rapt horror” tee hee!

    I love raptors, too, and became friends with a woman just because her daughter was named Kestrel.

  3. Wow! What a show!

  4. Isn’t nature great! We had a spider in a jar for a couple of days to ID before we released him. We found a second and put him in the same jar-I guess spider #1 was hungry because he devoured his buddy rather quickly. My girls were horrified yet fascinated. Daddy was in the background humming “Circle of Life”.
    Jennifer

  5. Wow, what pictures!! My boys are wild here with excitement (I didn’t point out the feathers beneath the talons)!

    I love that you spent time on your honeymoon at the raptor center! We love raptors *and* Vermont. We adopted a hawk there last year! 🙂

  6. um

    we have termites in our door. That’s nature, right?

    we knew they were there because we could hear them saying “mmmmmmm door”

  7. Are you sure it is a kestrel? Looks like a peregrine falcon to me. Kestrels are 8.5″ about the size of a cardinal and they have barred reddish brown backs. They are easily confused. Size being the easiest way to tell the difference.
    http://www.stanford.edu/group/stanfordbirds/other/gallery/Kestrel.html

  8. You may have this already, but I found the book, Arrowhawk, by Lola M. Schaefer, at the library the other day. It is a true story about a hawk struck with an arrow, caught, treated, and released back into the wild. Beautiful, beautiful illustrations!!

  9. Yea. I was thinking Peregrine falcon, too, but was too lazy to look it up!

  10. Lissa, my boys think it might be a Sharp-shinned Hawk. 🙂 Just a guess!

  11. Well it’s not a peregrine falcon for several reasons (no markings below the eyes or around the beak, it would be more spotted on the breast, the tail and wing feathers aren’t the shape of a peregrine’s) so maybe it’s a hybrid. My kids work at the Wildlife Rescue here (and are bird/raptor rehab apprentices) so we checked into it(plus a friend of mine rehabs peregrines).

    We can’t for the life of us figure out what it IS though. Kestrel got a “no” and so did Sharp-shinned Hawk so we’ll keep trying on this end to help you identify it. lol.

    BTW- I didn’t add all that info to “brag” or anything. I was just trying to let you know that we weren’t just saying things out our hinneys. 😉

  12. I thought I posted this earlier but must not have. Here is what a raptor biologist friend said when I emailed her. Hope it helps. Also, thank you for posting this because my oldest two kids and I had so much fun yesterday trying to figure out what it was. They got to use their new found knowledge and I got to learn so much. It was great!

    Here is the email response-

    “I’d say Sis is right – it’s a Cooper’s and probably a 1-year old, judging by eye color (which is difficult to tell in that photo). It could be a Sharp-shinned but it looks too big to be one of those. Sharpies and Merlins aren’t much bigger than the bird it’s eating. The kind of slate-grey feathering on the back and head can look bluish. ~K ”

  13. I thought I posted this earlier but must not have. Here is what a raptor biologist friend said when I emailed her. Hope it helps. Also, thank you for posting this because my oldest two kids and I had so much fun yesterday trying to figure out what it was. They got to use their new found knowledge and I got to learn so much. It was great!

    Here is the email response-

    “I’d say Sis is right – it’s a Cooper’s and probably a 1-year old, judging by eye color (which is difficult to tell in that photo). It could be a Sharp-shinned but it looks too big to be one of those. Sharpies and Merlins aren’t much bigger than the bird it’s eating. The kind of slate-grey feathering on the back and head can look bluish. ~K ”

  14. its a sparowhawk or sharp shinned defenatly !