Two weeks from now I will be doing a photo presentation to the Woodstock Field Naturalists on the subject of ‘Birds of Prey’. To that end I have been particularly focused on adding to my library of all species of local flying predators.

Faithful readers of my blog will recall that I had some memorable encounters with a female American kestrel back in the spring. Kestrels are the smallest member of the falcon family and are among a group of smaller birds of prey which go largely unheralded.

This one hunted along the same stretch of road virtually every day and after a short while became very comfortable with me standing by my car photographing her in action. At the end of April she disappeared for the breeding season. In July she turned up with four offspring. All were camera shy, however, perhaps learning this trait from the elusive adult male.

Kestrels are unique in that the male and female are easily determined. Males are more colourful with grey blue wings but I had never been close enough to snap any interesting images of them -that was until Monday.

This little fella was perched on a hydro line swooping down to catch insects.

I stayed in my car watching him for a while. With my window down and my car half off the road to give me a better angle I hoped for a chance to catch him in flight. Once he actually flew right over my car and I was cursing the fact I was inside my vehicle – I missed the shot.

Many photographers use their cars as ‘blinds’ but I find the limited range of motion difficult.  I much prefer to keep my distance – standing at the side of the road or, better still, in a field when I have permission –  and with the belief that the bird will eventually dive into action. 

I drove away and spotted a couple of red tailed hawks hunting a concession road away.  Clouds and trees had partially diminished the sunlight here and the hawks were aware the day would soon come to an end. This one came past and took up position in a nearby field.

I continued my drive and went back to see if the kestrel was still hunting. He was in almost the exact same spot perched above a ploughed field. Across the road and in the field adjacent there was still corn waiting to be ploughed which, I suppose, makes the hunt a little more challenging. To my delight he came flying past me, looking at me with suspicion, though he gave me a much wider berth than the adult female normally did.

After watching this kestrel over the past few weeks and coming away without a single image that revealed his beauty I am thrilled to share these images with you. They will soon migrate south so my time with them is limited. But on a quick drive along this same roads yesterday I spotted a pair of Merlins that had displaced the male kestrel. They too are members of the falcon family, much larger than the kestrel but smaller than a peregrine.

Naturally, I intend to get out there as much as possible over the coming days. Who knows what species will present themselves if I take the time to look?







    1. Paul E Gains

      Thanks Linda! Lots to see out there. In fact I just squeezed an hour in the middle of the day to drive around and found a red tailed hawk hunting, a merlin from a distance and a pair of sandhill cranes. I knew the hour was going to be special when I had to brake coming along a dirt road to allow a blue heron to walk across the road! LOL!

    1. Paul E Gains

      Hi Eleanor, I was fortunate to photograph a pair of Merlins that were nesting near my home a couple of years ago. The male would go and catch a sparrow then bring it to the female on the same branch each time. She would take it – beak to beak – and share it with the hatchlings in the nest. Awesome!

    1. Paul E Gains

      Great to hear from you, Dave. There is interesting wildlife in Southern Ontario for sure. As I often mention in my talks much of this wildlife is unique and birders and photographers overseas wish they could see some of these! Stay in touch!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *