Kestrels: A New Beginning
July 30, 2012 • Leave a Comment
Kestrels have long been one of favorite birds of prey. These robin sized falcons, smallest and most common of the falcon species, migrate through the Yellowstone area each spring and some stay and nest. My first successful kestrel photography session took place several years ago in April and resulted in the image above titled "The Glare". That image shows a kestrel perched on a branch, puffed up against the cold, as it looks back towards the lens. Kestrels, as are most birds of prey, are very wary. They won't sit still for long, requiring quick reflexes as they move about. I've had few other opportunities to photograph kestrels since I took "The Glare", but a few days ago, a fellow photographer pointed out a nest cavity where a family of the small falcons were beginning to fledge.
Five young aerial hunters eventually came out of the nest cavity. Kestrels are cavity nesters, making their nests in holes in trees. The young birds were unsure of their wings, testing them by flapping them while perched and stretching them out. The image above shows a youngster as it tested it's wings. While the perch blocks part of the body of the bird in this image, the outstretched wings and nice light on the face, along with the clean background, more than made up for it. Strong, yet pleasing light is important for a photo shoot like this since fast shutter speeds are needed to stop motion in the wings.
And of course, when they weren't testing their wings, the little kestrels were sitting on their perches. Given the small size of kestrels in general, these youngsters weren't quite as large as the adults yet, a teleconverter was necessary on a 500mm lens to create an image with the bird taking up this much of the frame. Notice too, the small tuft of down on the kestrel's right shoulder. Surprisingly, as often as I've had people interested in seeing my photos of kestrels, when told what we were photographing, no one else stopped to watch these elusive birds of prey. I guess birds just don't rank high on most people's bucket list in Yellowstone, compared to grizzlies, wolves, and other critters. But for me, this was a fun shoot with some beautiful birds!
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