Nine days ago at Farmington Bay the weather and the light were uncooperative but this female American Kestrel more than made up for it.
(Note: I needed twelve images to tell this story so don’t be surprised if this post takes longer than usual to load.)
The first time I encountered the kestrel she was stoically enduring the cold and falling snow as she perched on an old piece of metal alongside the road.
But when I returned 13 minutes later she’d had a successful hunt and was beginning to enjoy her American Pipit meal on another nearby piece of metal.
Because feathers are sticky to begin with and that tendency was exacerbated by the wet snow, she had more trouble than usual with them. They stuck to her face and her feet especially. Here she’s scratching feathers away from her beak with her right foot.
After feeding for a while, for some reason she chose to remove the pipit from under her feet and let it dangle down precariously as she held on to a couple of wing feathers with her beak. That was a mistake…
because she dropped it into the soft, fluffy snow where it almost disappeared. Here she’s looking down at it and trying to figure out what her next move will be.
I tend to notice and appreciate little things in my images. When flight feathers fall they tend to fall quill end first and that’s exactly what happened here, as we can see two of them stuck in the snow vertically as a result.
She turned around on her perch and then plunged into the snow for the pipit.
She struggled in the snow for several seconds and then turned in a way that suggested that her intention was to return to the original perch with her prey.
At this point I assumed that she had the pipit grasped in her feet…
but all she came up with was feathers and a face full of snow. She was apparently unable to pull the pipit out of the deep snow.
But she was persistent and went down for the bird again, this time grasping it in her beak instead of her feet.
All the while this little drama was playing out there was a nearby air boat warming up (duck hunters) and the noise was deafening so she’d apparently had enough of that and flew off with the pipit to find a quieter perch to enjoy her meal (this is the first time I can recall seeing a kestrel carry prey this large in their beak in flight).
She flew around with the bird for a few moments but every available perch was covered with several inches of soft snow and apparently not to her liking. She couldn’t eat the pipit on the ground for the same reason but she proved her resourcefulness when she found…
a sheltered nook under an old piece of concrete where she could finish her meal in a quieter and more protected spot. At this point I left so she could eat in peace and when I returned a little while later she was gone.
This is apparently the same bird as in my post of Dec. 16 and I’ve seen her in the same area every morning I’ve been there except once. I think (hope) she’s a survivor!