Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Littlest Falcon

Three different species of falcon call Connecticut home, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, and American Kestrel.  The American Kestrel, the smallest of the three falcon species, is an open prairie or grassland hunter in general, feeding on almost any small moving animal.  They are known best for their love of grasshoppers and dragonflies as food for their young.  Unfortunately, this habitat is becoming compressed in the state and compounding that with a reduction in nesting spots, the population of nesting kestrels has dropped.  Recent efforts by bird lovers such as Art Gingert and Tom Sayers have helped these falcons bounce back, if even just a little.

Now for my story:  Yale's West Campus is approximately 130 acres, many of it wooded, but the majority is landscapes lawns and some natural grassy areas.  We have been working to encourage the landscapers to retain as much 'natural' habitat as possible in hopes that it will attract more bird species.  Our current species count on campus is at over 100 and American Kestrel is one of those we have seen on frequent occasions.  So, it didn't take long for us to begin to wonder if maybe a kestrel would want to use campus to raise their young. 

Sue (my coworker) and I decided to try and get a nest box to hang in one of these natural grassy areas.  We made contact with Art Gingert who supplies nest boxes in suitable habitat but he felt ours was not good enough quality to be able to give us a box, when other better habitat was in need.  We however, have a tough time giving up so easy and instead dug into our pockets and pulled together enough money to buy the supplies to build our own box.

After months of delay (it was winter anyway), we volunteered Nate another coworker to help us put together the box.  After about 7 months of the wood sitting around, two weeks was all it took to get the box together and ready to hang.  Last Wednesday was a nice sunny day, we had some spare time, and a nest box ready to hang.  Here are a series of pictures from the afternoon.

Lynn (Me) showing off the finished product

Hanging the kestrel nest box about 12' from the ground.

Nate doing some final touches

If you have an interest in learning more about American Kestrel, information can be hard to find, I'd suggest starting here

Information about Tom Sayers work in CT can be found here.

Directions from Art Gingert on how to build a nest box can be found here

We are keeping our eyes on the box and around campus in general for kestrels.  I'll keep you posted with any updates.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


This time of year the birdlists and websites that report bird sightings are splashed with the title FOY.  "First Of the Year" sightings are just as it states, a birders first sighting of a species for the calendar year.  With spring finally arriving, not just according to the calendar but in feel this entire weekend more birds have migrated into the area.  I got out of the house this afternoon and did a tour of the coast in town to go find my own FOY's.

Feeling fairly unmotivated I made quick stops at Frash Pond and Short Beach without having much luck.  I then decided to do a driveby of the Seawall and met a well-known birder in Connecticut.  The Seawall had a small group of gulls, including Bonapartes Gulls but a larger group moved in down the road and we went down to examine them closer, although we still were not able to find any of the less common gulls (Little Gull or Black-headed Gull).  I did however get an FOY Northern Gannet that was flying above a large group of Scaup out beyond the gulls.

My companions mentioned a pond and a sighting from a couple days before of a Blue-winged Teal.  So, after making a couple other unsuccessful stops, I went to go find the pond.  I once again met up with my new friends and we managed to find two FOY's for all of us.  the Blue-winged Teal drake was nestled into the reeds taking a nap and a Snowy Egret was working the back side of the pond.  I also found a FOY Osprey flying by the airport, only to a second fly about 50 feet over my house later on.

I'm glad I took the opportunity to not only enjoy the weather but also the birds.  Always nice to meet some local birders who are as friendly and open as I did today.