Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Kestrel Pair in our backyard

May 21. Yesterday Shortly before 5 pm I heard again the intense keening sounds of  Kestrels in the eastern Saguaro area of our property. But by the time I had binoculars and camera, there was nothing going on.

A Kestrel Pair nested in our backyard, in a Saguaro cavity, several years ago.
I got to watch dozens of feedings of the Gila WP chicks in an arm of the closest Saguaro, but no Kestrels.
At that time, I did not really know where the Kestrel nest would be, but observation and whitewash on the ground had told me where the male often hangs out: in a dead Palo Verde in the middle between our eastern Saguaros and one right on the border to the quarry. 

After a while  our Dark Female Redtail soared along the slope of the Twin Peak and the ravine. Just when I thought her presence spoke against a Kestrel territory, the male Kestrel showed up and attacked her. He looked as small as a mosquito against her bulk. But he has courage and agility. Still she kept patrolling the mountainside.

 I stood for another eternity and was ready to leave when suddenly, out of nowhere, a female Kestrel came from the east and, high over my head, met the male flying in from the west. Noisy greeting, then they landed on the Palo Verde, a few feet apart. He kept keening, she looked very disheveled. Then I realized that the scrubby part was not her brood-patch but a dead bird she was clutching. The male must have transferred it to her when she greeted him in the air. He left, she fed. For a long time she seemed to have no intention to stop eating before the whole thing was gone. She changed position on the branch several times, preened a bit, ate some more. But finally, she took the left overs and flew to the saguaro by the fence - slipped into the hole where a tribe of bees lived years ago.  So fast that I nearly missed it. No sound from inside, the chicks must still be very small. When all of this finally happened, the light was too low for any photos.  

The following images were taken this morning around 10 am

The pair met in an old Ironwood where he passed the prey to her. She is in the top right corner, visibly larger than he.
The female had very pale markings compared with the one in the picture which I took some years ago when they nested here. . Yesterday I first thought that she might be a fledgling (I did not want to go too close) But the expert way she handled the big prey spoke against her being a chick and also that she flew into the saguaro cavity afterwards. Observing the pair again today confirmed that she is indeed the adult female. 

She started to eat right away

He hung around until 2 Turkey Vultures soared over and demanded his attention

She moved with her prize to her favorite dead Palo Verde. This time it's a Zebratail Lizard. Later she moved on to the nesting cavity in the Saguaro.

The Cactus Wren celebrates that he has the Ironwood to himself again. His nest is in a nearby Cholla

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