Wednesday, March 14, 2018


"The hunter does not seek dead game."

― Frank Herbert

American Kestrel

I left work a little early to check a nearby flooded field for migrating waterfowl. The avian assortment has significantly improved over the past few days, which has included species like Tundra Swans, Wood Ducks, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Lesser Scaup, Buffleheads, and more. It was difficult viewing into the direction of the wind, which kept causing my eyes to water. Taking a short break from my spotting scope, an American Kestrel hovering over an adjacent field grabbed my attention.

Even against the strong gusts, the kestrel made hovering seem so effortless. It kept its altitude so skillfully steady that I was able to digiscope it.

And then the bird needed to take a break and flew to a tall tree close to where I was standing. Its strong feet kept a firm grasp on the branch as the wind blew the branches. Actually, this was harder to frame than when it was hovering!

After a few minutes, the kestrel resumed hunting over the field. It didn't come up with anything and eventually needed to take another break on the branches of a fallen tree. It was there just a brief moment when another bird zoomed in and chased the kestrel off its perch. It was a flash through the viewfinder, but I first thought maybe it was another kestrel. But it wasn't.

It was a Northern Shrike!

Northern Shrike

That's was a pretty bold move for a shrike, I thought. But I don't think a kestrel is quite large enough to take a shrike. Once again the kestrel resumed hunting and this time it hit the ground with success. It flew off in an easterly direction toward the Pheasant Branch Creek confluence pond, making me wonder if this was one of the Deming Way kestrels.

The shrike flew from treetop to treetop and eventually, like the kestrel, came closer to where I was standing with my spotting scope. What luck! It didn't stick around for very long, but I did manage to get a fairly nice portrait of it. Perhaps sensing better hunting elsewhere, it flew across the flooded field and began searching for prey along a fence line. I heard it call. Neat!

Black Earth Creek/HWY 14 Flooded Field, Dane, Wisconsin, US
Mar 14, 2018 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Protocol: Stationary
27 species

Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
Wood Duck
American Wigeon
Green-winged Teal
Lesser Scaup
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Northern Shrike
American Crow
American Robin
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
House Finch
House Sparrow

All images © 2018 Mike McDowell

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