Sunday, January 25, 2015

Eurasian Kestrel in Nova Scotia

There continue to be several very good rarities that were found late last year, and have continued to be seen into 2015.  One of these is a Eurasian kestrel (code 4) that was first reported in December from Eastern Passage near Halifax, NS.  Later it was discovered that someone had taken photos of it as early as November 21st.  3 weeks ago Neil Hayward asked me if I wanted to fly up to Boston, and then drive to Halifax with him to try for the bird.  I could not get away at that time, so he and Gerri made the trip instead.  They left at 10 PM, and drove though the night.  It is 725 miles from Boston to the golf course in Eastern Passage--a small town on the edge of Halifax.  They arrived between 9 and 10 AM, and did find the kestrel (all the photos of the Eurasian kestrel in today's post were taken by Neil--click on any photo to enlarge).  They were back in Boston before midnight.

Since the kestrel continued to be reported, I decided to make a trip this past week to Boston, as well as Connecticut and New Hampshire, to see some friends.  When the kestrel was seen again last Tuesday, I decided also to make the long drive up to try for the kestrel.  I flew to Boston, was on the road by noon on Wednesday, and made it to my motel in Halifax by midnight Atlantic time.

I was up at 6 AM Thursday, and at the bird's "territory" by 7 even though it was still quite dark (sunrise was at 7:45).  As it became lighter under a very overcast sky, I kept scanning the area looking for the kestrel.  I flushed a snowy owl, and also found a large fox looking for its breakfast.  At 7:40 I first saw the kestrel hovering over the grassy area between the road and the water.  I had barely found it when it dove down to catch something, and then it flew off into the center of the golf course where it perched briefly on a tree before disappearing.

I kept scanning the area hoping for it to return for better looks.  During the next hour I was visited by a murder of crows, and found a small mixed flock of common and hoary redpolls which were difficult to photograph as the wind blew them around while feeding (sorry for the not totally clear photo below).  There was also a female northern harrier who was cruising the area in search of food.

About 8:30 I saw the kestrel hovering very far out over the golf course for about 5 minutes before it flew away again.  At 9 the kestrel returned to the shoreline area, and began hovering in search of more food.  With better light, I was finally able to study the bird.  It is larger than the American kestrel (photo below taken in FL last month), has only 1 whisker on its face, and has no gray in the wings.  This particular Eurasian kestrel is very light in general.

At one point the kestrel flew off behind a small building near the road, and when I relocated it, it was stooping at the snowy owl I had found earlier.  The owl was unperturbed by the kestrel, and was very cooperative in letting me get close enough to take a picture with my small camera.

I was able to watch the kestrel continue to work the area around the road for another 10 minutes before it decided to disappear again.  It was now about 9:30.  As I was leaving a rough-legged hawk flew across the road in front of me to give me a nice send off.  I was not really looking forward to another 11-12 hour drive back to Boston, but it proved uneventful.  I even had the pleasure of finding a place in Maine that had a 2 chicken lobster special so I stopped for dinner.  I was at my friends in Lincoln, MA by 9 PM.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there have been some very nice rarities around to start 2015.  The Key West quail-dove continues to be seen in FL as is a smooth-billed ani.  Barnacle and pink-footed geese are still being reported in the northeast.  2 common cranes are intermittently being seen in NM and TX.  The tundra bean goose is still in OR, as are the falcated duck, brambling and rustic bunting in CA.  Arizona has a rufous-backed robin and a sinaloa wren. A Eurasian siskin is wintering over in Unalaska, AK.  And just yesterday a blue bunting, and a gray-crowned yellowthroat were found in south TX.

Yesterday I was sent the link to a new big year blog (  I had heard that a birder I know from Ohio, Dan Gesualdo, was possibly doing a big year.  I had seen his ebird list leading the way on the top 100.  From his blog I read that he so far has birded in TX, OH, CA and OR.  His total for the year is already over 300 birds, and it is not even the end of January.  An awesome start!  He says he is doing a lower 48 big year, which is the first I have known about since mine back in 2010.  Dan, I wish you the best of fun as you pursue birds this year.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Chris, Congrats on the Eurasian Kestrel! Beautiful bird. And thanks for the shout out! I may have to hit you up for some advice along the way!! Hope to see you in May