Our hobby of birding is just beginning to get exciting again. Sure we look for birds during the winter but all we normally see are the usual suspects who aren’t rich enough to have a second home in South America. But now that spring is in the air, new faces are slowly arriving, breeding plumage is starting to shine and nest-building is getting into gear. We are preparing to head south soon to see some of the birds who have already crossed the border and are in the prime viewing areas of southeast Arizona.
But in the meantime we have had an exciting bird event right here in our front yard. We have a pair of kestrels who appear to be setting up housekeeping in an old box elder tree. Now this tree is a real eyesore. It has branches growing in weird angles, some of them still leaf out but more are dead, rotten and hollow.
It has been struck by lightning and has lost numerous branches in windstorms. The wind is really whipping today and as I write this there is some scary swaying going on. But even with all of those faults we just don’t want to cut it down because it has great nest cavities and attracts a lot of woodpeckers.
Recently we noticed a female kestrel checking out one of the holes. In she went and in a few minutes flew off. On the following day she was back and checked out a different hole. This one must have had the right furnishings and a new paint job because she came back with the male who also went inside to see the place.
Since then there has been relatively a lot of activity. We aren’t certain which hole has been settled on because they visit both cavities on different days. For those who aren’t birders a kestrel is the smallest falcon who is usually spotted sitting alone on a roadside wire or fencepost waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting insect or small mammal. But these two have been in and out of the holes, perching on various limbs of the tree, and sitting side by side on the telephone wire. Looks like courtship to me.
What has surprised us the most is that the other birds who frequent our feeders haven’t been put off by a pair of falcons moving into the neighborhood. I still see goldfinches, house finches, red-winged blackbirds and various woodpeckers. Chickadees however, have made themselves scarce. Curt is hoping the kestrels will decide to stay. He remembers a nesting pair in a tree in our backyard quite a few years ago. That was the year the population of mice and nine line ground squirrels plummeted. So here’s hoping.