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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kestrels in Prospect Park

On Friday evening I received a phone call from Bobby Horvath. He had several young American Kestrels that he had rescued in Brooklyn. The juvenile falcons were ready to be released and he asked if I wanted to meet him in Prospect Park for the event.

I was absolutely giddy when I hung up the telephone. Kestrels are my favorite raptor. They are colorful, vocal and, despite their tiny size, very feisty. These falcons may only be the size of a robin, but they act like they are ten times larger. I couldn't wait.

Bobby wouldn't be able to get to Brooklyn until early afternoon. I went into Prospect Park early to scope out the best location for the release. It was breezy, sunny and dry, perfect weather for a picnic. Families were streaming into the park and claiming spots on the Long Meadow, Nelly's Lawn and near the bandshell. I decided that the Nethermead Meadow would be the best choice for the release as there were less crowds. I also tracked down the Urban Park Rangers and told them where and when to meet us. On my way out of the park I ran into Judy, who was on her way to a bird walk lead by Michelle from the Nature Center. She would make sure the group headed over to the Nethermead for the event.

We met Bobby at the 5th Street parking lot and packed into his car with famiglia Horvath (Bobby, Cathy, Christopher and little Sadie) plus two animal carriers loaded with kestrels. Bobby doesn't know Prospect Park very well, so I would direct him to Center Drive and the Nethermead Meadow. I mentioned to him that I was surprised that the falcons were being so quiet. He assured me that would change the moment he reached into the first carrier.

At the Nethermead Meadow we met with four Urban Park Rangers and a small group of folks from the Audubon Nature Center. The first kestrel Bobby extracted from the carrier was a feisty female that he immediately handed to me! She proceeded to use her razor-sharp bill to try and remove small chunks of my hand. Fortunately, she didn't break the skin and she quickly settled down. The second falcon was a male, which he handed to Robin. On the count of three, we released the pair and they rapidly ascended to high perches at the edge of the meadow to survey their new surroundings.

In all, there were six young kestrels released. Bobby shared the excitement of releasing these beautiful birds with the rangers and several onlookers. Some of the falcons immediately disappeared towards Quaker Ridge to the west and stayed nearby perched in the mature trees dotting the meadow. As the onlookers dispersed a group of us stayed behind to enjoy the weather and keep an eye out for the kestrels. At one point Bobby spotted a Peregrine Falcon heading our way from the direction of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I remembered that there is a large antenna tower at the southern edge of the BBG that a pair of peregrines periodically perch on. They must have spotted the tiny kestrels as the first bird headed directly towards the treetops at the edge of the Nethermead. A few minutes later a second one swooped in to check out the activity at the meadow. Thankfully, the kestrels were not discovered by the much larger raptors.

Thanks again, Bobby, for the great experience and watching over our city's wildlife.

Here's a slideshow from yesterday:


Yojimbot said...

So awesome, what a highlight!!!

Fleepy said...

Hi Joe! This is Ranger Jen. Thank you so much for letting us know Bobby was releasing kestrals - what an amazing thing to be a part of! See you around the park!

Fleepy said...

Oh dear, I think I may have called you "Joe" by mistake! My apologies, Rob! Joe is a new teammate on my water polo team, and you are Rob, the fantastic birder in Prospect Park. Sorry!

Rob Jett said...

Fleepy, don't worry, my mother has been calling me "Joe" for years (and brother Joe, "Rob").

ks said...

All of a sudden I've started seeing kestrels again on my fire escape in Bay Ridge. Prior to that, it was several years ago when I last saw them. Don't know if they could be the same. But I'll try to get a better look at their legs to see if they're banded.

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