sanctuary


We have been lucky enough to have a pair of American Kestrels hanging around our property.  Also called sparrow hawks, these beautiful little birds of prey are favored by falconers.

Their favorite perch is the electrical wires that run the length of our property, and the ornamental pear trees that form an alle’e along our 900 foot driveway.

They will fly away as soon as the car approaches, almost racing it down the driveway  to the house.

In mid January, I was very surprised to see one of the pair sitting on our deck bird feeder. They have never come this close! In fact, the whole time the kestrel was puffed up in the falling snow, a tiny junco was underneath, on the floor, literally not moving– and doing his best to remain invisible! The kestrel diet consists of mice, voles, other small rodents, larger insects, and the occasional small bird.  I could almost see the junco heave a giant sigh of relief when the kestrel left!!! The junco can be seen  in the photo below, in the lower pot hanging on the railing.

The kestrel sat, surveyed the scene, and called to its mate.   I was very glad to have been able to see it up close and relatively still.

About a month later, as we were leaving the house, my daughter went out first, then came back in telling me there was something outside that, in one way,  I was not going to be happy about, but in another way, I would!

I followed her outside, and there outside the garage door, between 2 vehicles, was one of the kestrels, dead.

She was right, I was very sad about this, but happy that I would be able to inspect one at close range.

Being a bird of prey, it is against the law to keep him, but since he was right in front of the garage door, he had to be removed. I did take this opportunity to photograph, measure, and weigh him (for a future watercolor) .

I should have been a naturalist, I am fascinated by all things in nature, dead or alive. Death allows closer inspection.

This (and future posts) will include these discoveries- so if you don’t like dead things – heed my warnings, and go no further!!!

This poor kestrel, appears to be a male – males have a  spotted breast, females, streaked- another thing you can’t really see as they go zooming by!!  His dead weight was 3.8 oz, and breast bone was not pronounced, so he did not seem to have been starving. His weight fell on the lighter side of their usual weight range of 80g-156g, but still within the parameters.

After watching a documentary on falconers, it was interesting to learn that the handlers weigh their birds before each hunt, because if their weight is a tad too high, it will affect their hunting abilities.  So, as in the wild, the falcons have to be careful not to overeat.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered the beak was split in half. At first glance, I thought maybe he had crashed into the truck or garage while diving for food, but the break appears to have been there quite a while. Despite this deformity, he seemed to have managed quite well, up until that day!

The claws were quite impressive – for clutching dinner on the fly!

He almost appeared to have a lower lid that would come up to cover the eye.

Not a large bird, the kestrel measured 10″ from head to tail, wingspread from shoulder to shoulder was 6″ , wing tip to tip about 14″. Shoulder to wing tip was about 7  1/2″.  He had about 8 or 9 tail feathers, his lower leg from elbow to toe was about 2″.

Except for the split on the top, his beak seemed fully functioning and in good shape.

It looks like a total of 7 primary flight feathers on each wing.

A beautiful little bird,  I would have loved to preserve him – but it is against the law to have one, dead or alive, without proper license.

Since his death, I have not seen his mate. Hopefully, if she survives, and finds another life partner, she will return with him to our property.

 

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All is well, and never dull, here at Mountain Meadows this bright, sunny March morning……………………..

As the dandelions fold and close up their sunny countenance, and the bees buzz low to the ground, the geese announce their flight overhead trying to make it to the river before the sun disappears over the mountain top.

I am sitting in my newly made secret alcove in the garden, with the pine tree hiding me from view. The church pew has been carried to its final destination today, in a tiny hideaway cut out of the underbrush. Surrounded by honeysuckle, and wild thorn bushes, this little spot will become my place to sit and reflect on the day. Any time of the day in here is wondrous, but there is something special about dusk, when the birds are filling the trees, safely hidden, in their nighttime roosts, singing their goodnight lullabies to all who will listen.

There is a peace in there, where for a short time, the worries of the world, the news of the day, the chatter of tv, radio, and din of traffic are lost and forgotten. In a world of bad news, pirates, tea ‘parties’, and money woes, this little sanctuary will hopefully buoy my spirits up. At the very least, it will shield me from the cacophony of a world gone mad, if only for a little while.

The little hollow under the trees is my cave, my sanctuary, a work in progress. I can picture it in a month or so, with the native flowers emerging(trillium and lily of the valley), the heavy scent of honeysuckle in the air, and the surrounding greenery in full bloom.  The rock border is in place (altho not in this picture), and as the work progresses and the flowers bloom, I’ll share more pictures.

In today’s uncertain world, I wish you all a sanctuary to renew your soul…..

Step #1- bench in place, Step#2 flowers, cushions, cup of tea.....

Step #1- bench in place, Step#2 flowers, cushions, cup of tea.....

All is well at Mountain Meadows tonite…………………