American Kestrel in Flight

January 13, 2018

An American kestrel holds itself in a fixed position against the wind at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

My friend Bill and I started a pre-dawn hike along the Mississippi River in St. Charles County this morning, scouting for pockets of waterfowl in open water that I might be able to photograph later this week from a hide. We didn’t have much luck with waterfowl but we observed plenty of songbirds and even a barred owl along the way. It was still in the high-teens by the time we made it back to the 4Runner, but the four-mile trek had left us sweating under all of our layers. At that point I asked Bill if he wanted to swing by Riverlands to look for Lapland longspurs before lunch and he was all in for that plan.

Upon arrival at Riverlands we started the trek down the main road and slowed down to look at a few Trumpeters near Heron Pond. Just as I was pulling out, Bill caught a movement out of the corner of his eye that turned out to be a female kestrel on a sign. I quickly swung the car around to position my window into the action, grabbed my camera and 500 mm lens with a 1.4 TC from the backseat and settled it onto a beanbag. Before I could even put my eye against the camera the kestrel took off. “Darn,” I said, disappointed as ever, but then something wonderful happened. The kestrel began hovering into the wind right outside my window. I jockeyed the lens around trying to find at least a shadow of the bird against the gray sky but it took so long I thought I was going to blow it. I kept asking Bill, “Is it still there?” and he would exclaim, “Yep, it’s still there.” Finally, I found the shadow and let my autofocus grab the little kestrel, centerpoint right on its head. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind, something I often lack, to overexpose by almost two stops so I wouldn’t just have a kestrel silhouette after all that trouble. When the little falcon finally skedaddled, I looked at the screen on the back of my camera and was shocked to see several sharp and perfectly exposed kestrel images. “Sweet,” I yelled to Bill, “take a look at this!” It was high-fives all around after that because we knew we had something special.

Once we calmed down, we headed on out toward the confluence in search of Lapland longspurs but never saw one. We were a little disappointed but the cooperative kestrel had made our day. We decided to celebrate our good fortune with lunch at Pere Marquette State Park. It was Reuben sandwiches on marble rye all around at the restaurant, the perfect ending to a great morning.

On the way home, Bill reminded me how he always brings me good luck when he accompanies me on my adventures. “I know!” I replied, “If you can’t come with me next time, I’m going to stop by your house on the way to at least let you rub my camera for good luck!” Bill said, “No problem. Whatever it takes, my friend.”

Thanks for looking,


Email me at: Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Gallery of Images:

It is an incalculable added pleasure to any one’s sum of happiness if he or she grows to know, even slightly and imperfectly, how to read and enjoy the wonder-book of nature.

Theodore Roosevelt

5 comments on “American Kestrel in Flight”

  1. Since the day you and I went looking for this bird in Forest Park, I am glad you finally found a shot that satisfies you!

  2. Thanks for sharing your image and the  great story. Bruce 

    Sent from my Samsung Galaxy Tab®4

  3. Beautiful.

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