A Serendipitous American Kestrel Yesterday Morning

It was almost like I called this bird out of the sky.

Because of health and weather issues I’ve rarely visited my usual bird haunts over the past 11 days but most days we do visit a local pond just to see if we can get lucky. Usually that’s a very long shot because the only birds down there are domestic ducks, gulls, coots and sometimes a few geese and the light has been crappy anyway. When we made that trip yesterday morning I remarked to Mia on the way down “I think we make about 40 trips to the pond for every time we get lucky”. She agreed.

And as usual we were skunked at the pond. But we often check out the nearby Jordan River before we give up so we did that once again and en route I said to Mia “Wouldn’t it be nice to find a serendipitous kestrel?”.

Just over 30 seconds later that’s exactly what happened.


1/640, f/6.3, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Immediately after turning into a neighborhood by the river this male American Kestrel almost grazed my windshield as it flew very fast from right to left and made a splat landing in a bush next to the street. I was raising my lens before I braked to a stop but I was already so close to him I could barely fit him in frame vertically. I had about 3 seconds with him in my viewfinder before he took off again and this was the best shot I was able to get.

Though I never did see it I’m quite sure he was chasing a bird that escaped in the thicket of branches. His landing was on the brink of being out of control and he almost impaled himself on the twig sticking up between his wingtips. That twig actually penetrated the base of his tail between the two outside feathers and the rest of his tail. Perhaps he was desperate for food to make such an apparently long-shot attempt at the presumed bird.



1/1250, f/6.3, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Almost as soon as he landed he was gone. With that thicket of twigs in front of him the only thing he could do was turn on the perch and leave partially in my direction but as soon as he started to turn and take off my photos were amputating some of his body parts and I didn’t have enough shutter speed to get him sharp anyway.

These images give us a good look at the kestrel but they’re far from great shots. The bird is too tight in the frame, I’ve clipped the tail and the setting is busy. But what fun it was to have him land so close to me immediately after I’d almost begged the gods of photography to provide a serendipitous kestrel.

I may have to start praying to those gods more often and maybe next time I won’t be so close to the bird.




Red-naped Sapsucker And Hungry Chick

A seasonal change of pace.

Winter has finally arrived in northern Utah and my world is truly white this morning. So I choose today to revert back to a summertime theme? If there’s any logic there I don’t know what it might be…


1/6400, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed this family of Red-naped Sapsuckers last July near the border of southwest Montana and Idaho. They were within a campsite I’ve used many times over the years so they were truly acclimated to all the human hubbub such a location would suggest.

Here one of the parents is about to deliver a meal of ants to the youngster. Most of the ants are within the bill of the adult but there’s one escapee under its chin which is something I’ve seen and photographed often with sapsuckers. Keeping gobs of ants under control must be about like herding cats.

I like this photo very much but it isn’t perfect (very few images are). I’m less than pleased by the shadow of a branch on the aspen trunk and I’d prefer that the tips of the beaks of both birds weren’t so close to each other (there’s only 3 pixels between them, yes I checked).



1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

Almost immediately after the meal was delivered the youngster pulled its head back into the cavity and the adult flew off for another load. The launch photo isn’t a pretty one (no flashing wings or light in the eye) but this is how it was done. It is what it is.


Yesterday’s snowstorm really dumped on us (remember, I live in a desert). Yesterday afternoon I measured 11″ of snow on my front lawn, last night we got 4″ more and as I type this at 4:45 AM it’s still coming down at a steady pace . Some of it was/is lake effect snow and many areas along the Wasatch Front got significantly less than I did. The mountains were slammed and the ski resorts went nuts with long-frustrated skiers even though the canyon access roads were jammed with traffic and most couldn’t even reach the resorts. The fact that yesterday was a holiday made things even worse up there.

By late yesterday afternoon 458 vehicle crashes were reported along the Wasatch Front (including 4 Highway Patrol cruisers) and things could be just as bad or worse this morning with more fresh snow on the roads and everyone going back to work after the holiday.

It’s a very good day to be retired!