Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Female American Kestrel, Point Reyes National Seashore

Female American Kestrel - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

I had an amazing trip to Point Reyes National Seashore on Saturday. When I went to sleep the night before, the forecast was calling for 30% chance of rain, but by the time I woke up at 5:25 am, it had been increased to 50%. I was too excited about actually getting out in the morning to be deterred, but I quickly thought it might have been a mistake as it started pouring just as I was driving into the park. Thankfully though, the worst of the rain lasted for only the first hour after sunrise, and a nice overcast sky was left behind for the rest of the morning.

American Kestrel in Point Reyes National Seashore - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

While I didn't really see any wildlife while it was raining, I saw a lot of species after it stopped. I guess it was the first time that it was dry for a few days, and the animals were ready to find a meal. I found this lovely female kestrel on a fence post along Pierce Point Road as I was driving back from the Tule Elk Reserve on Tomales Point. I love to see these small and gorgeous birds of prey, but I've never really had a good look at one, since they always fly off long before I get close, and certainly before I can get my lens on one. This particular bird was feeling generous though, and gave me at least 5 good minutes of her time before heading off to a fencepost that was further back in the landscape.

Kestrel showing talons - Pat Ulrich Wildlife Photography

What a treat to get to photograph this lovely bird at such close range! This post has a selection of shots from the perch she took where I had the sky as a backdrop, and I have a few others to put up in another post with a green hillside as the background.

Submitted to the World Bird Wednesday blog meme -- follow the link to check out this week's submissions!


  1. So fluffy compared to our kestrels. And the colouring is less grey and more beige.
    Beautiful pictures and the grey sky was bonus.

  2. Grand close ups Pat!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  3. Beautiful shots of a beautiful bird Pat.

  4. Nice captures Pat. They really are beautiful birds.

  5. Looks like she was waiting for her portrait to be captured. Awesome shots Pat.

  6. Beautiful kestrel, Pat! I have never managed to get one and I am so envious!

  7. That is one stunning portrait Pat! It is our great fortune you were out on the prowl. The matter of fact placement of her talons on the third shot really ups the ante on the other two. How many shots did you take in five minutes? I won't ask you how you find such perfect focus and light, that we know is magic.

  8. A very beautiful bird to see and very well captured. Great images.

  9. you will find it hard to beat this series of images.... its all down hill from here on Pat....


    and yes..... very jealous!!

  10. Wow, awesome shots of the kestrel!

  11. Wow, sensational kestrel images! Always a joy to view your exceptional work.

  12. The Kestrel is a beautiful little bird of prey. Your shots are wonderful!

  13. Great work Pat. The colours on the head are so much more striking than our Kestrels...

  14. Stunning photos as always Pat. A pleasure to view.

  15. What an excellent series on the Kestrel...The detail is amazing!

  16. Give me quality over quantity every time. Really great captures of the kestrel.

  17. You lucky dog Pat! Awesome shots of what was, until recently, one of my photo nemesis birds. I love American Kestrels and fortunately get to see them all the time. I, like you, had never been able to get close enough to one for a photo op. They always take off on me. I just got lucky one day and a female flew up on a telephone pole across from where I was already set up, waiting on a Harlan's Red-tail, and posed for me.

    I also think that right after the rains the birds are out feeding. It's a great time for bird watching and pohotography!

  18. Thanks, Joco! This is a female, so she doesn't have the slate gray wings like the males do. And I think she was just puffed up a bit since it had recently stopped raining and was cold.

    Thanks, Gary!

    Thanks, holdingmoments! I agree that they are such remarkably beautiful birds.

    Thanks, Jim!

    Thanks, Frank! She really did pose for me, even as she bounced between fence posts.

    Thanks, Hilke! This is the first time I've ever been able to get glass on them. They've always flown off long before I had the chance.

    Thanks, Springman! I probably took around 100 shots in that time. I tend to overshoot a cooperative subject, just to increase the chance that I get a tack-sharp image with a nice head angle, etc... The sorting takes a lot longer when I get home, but digital pictures are free ;-) (Although the sorting takes longer.)

    Thanks, constantwalker!

    Thanks, joo!

    Thanks, Dave! And lol, I sure hope not! That's the fun thing about photography though, right? There's always something (or many things) that can be improved, and I would love to have another chance to photograph this bird!

    Thanks, eileeninmd!

    Thanks for your kind words, Julie!

    Thanks, Alan!

    Thanks, Mike! They really are a special species!

    Thanks, pattyler!

    Thanks, Paul! Their colors really are amazing, especially on the males!

    Thanks, Adam!

    Thanks, Sondra! The conditions were great for getting nice details. An overcast sky and being close to the subject!

    Thanks, Arija! I agree -- one good encounter like this makes up for the 50 other times they've flown off long before I got there!

    Thanks, Larry! I think they can very easily become nemesis birds. Most other raptors will wait just long enough to let you think you'll get a shot before they fly off, but this is the first time I've ever even been able to pick up my camera in time to see a kestrel through it.