Saturday, April 16, 2005

Very Sad News about the California Kestrels


Thought you might want to know...this evening at about 6:45, we saw a hawk (later determined to be a Sharp-shinned) on top of the nestbox for our kestrels. The male kestrel was inside, having just made a "change of shift" with the female. The male then left the nestbox, and within a second or two, the Sharp-shinned had snatched him by the tail, taking him to ground. The female kestrel was returning to the nestbox, and she became extremely agitated, dive-bombing the site (just out of our sight) where the hawk had taken the kestrel down, calling out and swooping down repeatedly. She made several flights between the nestbox and one of their hunting perches, each time making dive-bombs on the (unseen to us) Sharp-shinned. Of course, it was all to no avail. We waited about one-half hour, and then went to confirm the kill (we try very hard to employ a non-intervention philosophy...the sharpie has a family to feed as well). The Sharp-shinned was still on the ground, feeding on the last of the carcass, and she flew off as we approached, leaving only kestrel feathers on the ground.

We do not know at this time what the female kestrel will do. She is on the eggs tonight, but given that she still has approximately 2 weeks of incubation to go, she may well abandon the nest. If so, it's very possible that she will try to locate a new male with which to breed. Or, she could stay on the eggs and try to incubate and raise the chicks herself. Perhaps John B. would have some insight here?

In any event, although this was quite sad to witness, we do take comfort in that it was a natural event...we would have been considerably more distressed if either a) the male disappeared and we never found out why, or b) his death was caused by humans (shooting, collision with a car, poison, etc.).

For now, though, we're just waiting to see what will I said, we try to take a "hands-off" approach to wildlife (although it may be argued that by putting up a nestbox, we have already violate that ethic). We will definitely miss Dash...we're just hoping that Lilly survives by being smart enough to know that Sharp-shinneds are around. (BTW, if she abandons the nest, we will lower it and clean it out, and then re-erect it with pigeon spikes on top to prevent future ambush attacks like this).

Anyway, our thanks to all of those who have been following our kestrels from your website. Kestrelcam is still up and running, and we'll all just have to wait and see what Lilly has in mind. Who knows? Maybe she'll be able to continue on her own?