A Clumsy Male American Kestrel

Farmington Bay WMA was largely socked in with fog when I arrived shortly before sunrise yesterday morning and as it was clearing it gave the sky a turquoise hue as a backdrop for this cold male American Kestrel as he attempted to warm himself in the sun. It was 12° F. so everything was covered with frost including the tree the kestrel was perched in.


1/2500, f/8, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

That thin layer of white frost was slick so when he attempted to turn around on his perch he slipped and lost his balance. This pose was the result as he attempted to regain stability. I like the raised left wing and flared tail and the even morning light on such an attractive and colorful raptor is a welcome bonus.



1/2500, f/8, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

In the next shot in the burst he’s lowering his wing and seeming to inspect his feet in an attempt to figure out what caused him to slip.

I like both of these shots as I’ve presented them here but there’s a problem. What we see isn’t what came out of my camera.



In reality there were out-of-focus branches directly in front of the bird in both shots. To my eye those branches are highly distracting so I couldn’t resist removing them to see what might have been. If they had been sharp they wouldn’t have bothered me quite so much but I’d prefer them not to be there at all.

Readers know I strongly dislike cloning elements out of my images but sometimes that clone tool is a damned seductive temptress. I would never clone significantly without disclosing what I’ve done and I try to avoid doing it at all but with varying levels of success.

It’s a character flaw I’m still working on.




38 comments to A Clumsy Male American Kestrel

  • DianefromZion

    I overslept and just know I would NOT have slippery Hoar frost to blame for my “wobbly balance poses” at yoga this morning…I can relate to this baffled Kestrel. Must I share my ” wayward chin hair that I “photoshop out” because they are rather distracting to the viewers…hmmm Cloning and tweezers serve a purpose, lol.[ NE IL -Lake Michigan building up some icy beachcaps -less than 2 inched snow, but deep freeze the last week continues all this week. Your posts and readers keep me warm and cozy. Thank you.

  • I have been enjoying your posts for well over a year now but never commented. So as 2017 ends I want to share with you the pleasure that these posts bring to me. Like your other readers, I look forward to them each day. They are always beautiful and more often than not educational either about birds or photography. They also are reminders of places I have been which is great fun. Thank you so much for sharing with us all and a very happy new year to you, your wife and your trusty pickup!

  • Laura Culley

    Honesty a character flaw? I think NOT!
    This is a beautiful image, with or without the branches. The branches show that it is a REAL part of Nature, and in MY world, that’s a good thing. Nature is messy. It’s not perfect. And you’re yearning for perfect. Just my opinion, worth EXACTLY what you paid for it 😉
    As for the Kestrel, oh yeah! What a beauty!! They’re cool goobers except when they tangle their equipment and fight you every inch of the way as you’re trying to untangle it! DARGH! Went through that yesterday. I finally won the battle, but it included bloodletting. She LIKES that.

  • How I wish my character flaws were so minor…
    Love the kestrel (of course) and am awed at impressed at the save which would have had me doing a face plant.

  • Handsome boy, indeed. And I am glad you gave into that siren call of Clone Me Out. 😀

  • April Olson

    Beautiful kestrel, I enjoy the way it is checking out it’s footing with outstretched body pose, the blue sky is amazing. The only way I found blue sky yesterday was head to Summit County. Antelope Island was in total haze all day, very disappointing.

  • Alice Beckcom

    Ron, what a beautiful bird. Thank you for the shots. I can see why you cloned, even though you feel guilty about it. That branch definitely distracts.

  • That was a great job of clearing the image! That is one beautiful bird. I feel guilty when I clone and usually do not tell anyone. Maybe a character flaw?

  • If the purpose of a photograph is to show the beauty, behavior or personality of a subject, then I think it makes sense to remove elements that distract from that experience — and those out-of-focus branches definitely do. Sometimes you can do that by moving yourself and your camera, but given the constraints of wildlife photography you can’t always do that. I don’t think you need to apologize for making the best showcase possible for this beautiful bird. Thanks and happy new year. I always try to enjoy your photographs and stories along with my morning coffee. A great way to start the day.

    • “Sometimes you can do that by moving yourself and your camera”

      Justine, when I’m approaching a bird that’s ALWAYS something I have in mind in deciding where to place myself (that and light angle) but as you say it isn’t always possible. In fact, very often it isn’t…

  • nikonsteve

    Love those Kestrels…These photos are outstanding and I think the judicious use of cloning is not a bad thing…I agree that the out of focus branch in question is a distraction…removing it really adds to these photos…Thank you again for the photos and the explanation. Also I must say I feel a little guilty hearing all these “Brrr” cold accounts..It’s supposed to be mid 70’s all week here in Arizona…ok, maybe not that guilty…(moved out here many years ago from freezing New England so I can relate)

  • Marty K

    Hey, like the kestrel, sometimes ya gotta do whatcha gotta do. I think cloning has its place (unless you’re in Star Wars and going all Order 66 on the Jedi, but I digress…) and this would be it, especially as you told us and showed us the evidence. The kestrel is such a beautiful little guy too!

    Only someone who had lived in MT would describe 12*F as “balmy.” 😉 I feel a little guilty that I’m still in t-shirts. May all your readers — and their pipes — stay warm!

  • Susan Stone

    I can definitely see why you chose to clone out those branches in these shots – they are a definite distraction, and they make the Kestrel a less significant part of the photo. Sometimes the photos work with the blurry branches but not this time. I like that these shots show all the feather detail on the under side of the wings. Thanks for starting my morning out with a smile.

  • Kestrels seem to choose sinny perches anyway and this one is slippery to boot….no wonder he has to struggle….beautiful image….

  • LS Clemens

    I love Kestrels…thanks for sharing. It’s a cold & snowy morning in SW CT

  • Dick Harlow

    Great shots Ron, beautiful!
    Can’t comment on cloning other than to say if I had that ability I can see why it would be tempting.
    -12 F at 0630 this morning here in middle VT, even the newspaper this AM is taking bets on whether Lake Champlain will completely freeze, which it hasn’t done in years. We are supposed to be below freezing for over a week. I’m just hunkering down reading your blog checking your timeline and having a nice HOT cup of coffee! Enjoy the weekend!

    • Judy Gusick

      We’re in N Central MT – has sounded like you were “getting it” back there also….. We need the snow but could do without sub-zero temps. 🙁 At least the wind is calm for the moment.

      • Dick Harlow

        Judy I’m old enough to remember winters in the 1940’s when snow drifts were really high and temperatures were colder than -12. So, this feels normal to me 10″ of snow and below zero temps.
        The wind is calm here as well and that IS a Godsend!

    • With the new versions of Photoshop cloning is often easy, Dick. Too easy IMO. Don’t pick up any bad habits! 🙂


  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful Ron……:) The branch is distracting for sure…:) Don’t think about a bit of frost on a branch giving that much trouble! -8 and more snow here tho not the 12″ they were threatening! 🙂 2nd Roughie showed up yesterday afternoon with some competition resulting for what meager tidbits the magpies had left on the deer carcass and some chasing…. fun to watch.

  • Charlotte W. Norton

    Lovely series Ron!

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