American kestrels in the gloaming

American kestrels have been hanging out at Mercer Meadows for several months, and I’ve seen as many as five at one time on the Pole Farm side of the park.

Unable to go out birding this morning, after work I dashed out to the Reed Bryan Farm side of the park in hopes of catching a few kestrels at play. They did not disappoint.

As I came down the path from the parking lot about 6:15 p.m., I spotted a few birders by the line of bushes and trees that intersects the main trail where it winds to the right, toward the observation deck. The birders were hoping to get a better view of a magnolia warbler of which they had caught a glimpse. They also alerted me that kestrels were about.

While I had no luck with the warbler, I soon saw two kestrels fly overhead off to my left, and I went to the back side of the lines of bushes and trees. I could see from a distance that one of them had perched on a tall bare tree. As I moved in closer and raised my camera, I was lucky enough to catch a second kestrel fly in and challenge the perching bird.

The photo topping this post shows that challenge developing, and the photo below shows them at close quarters. The perched kestrel kept its perch, and the challenger flew off. They reminded me of two kids in the back seat of a car, jockeying for position. Although I missed capturing peak action in my photos, I was pleased to have been able to witness the spectacle and convey a bit of the drama in my shots.

Two kestrels play (or fight?) at the top of a bare tree the evening of Sept. 28, 2022.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

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