Hooray to terrific pal/workmate Regina who shall hereafter be named "Eagle Eyes" for spotting an injured American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)! Not much bigger than my pet cockatiels, this small falcon had an injured wing and was hiding in the arborvitae hedge at Queens Botanical Garden. With the help of ever-willing hubby, we were able to capture this charmer who rather quickly settled onto the pillow inside a large plastic box. About an hour later, we dropped him (her?) off at a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for further care.
Kestrels are delicate in build but jaunty in appearance with exceptional coloring and patterns -- white, black, rust and slate blue feathers arranged in solids, stripes and spots, plus a little dark moustache. They've always been my favorite bird of prey, perhaps sealed by an experience a few years ago at the fall Cape May Birding Festival.
We were observing a raptor banding demo near the Cape May Lighthouse. Each raptor was carefully pulled from from their little "container" used to keep them calm and secure, and the leader showed off plumage before releasing. All the bigger birds were quite calm, but the Kestrel wanted to make his presence known in no uncertain terms. He fidgeted, struggled, and nipped the leader's fingers before wiggling out of his grip.
The bird -- small, but with a sharp beak and talons -- zipped past the group straight towards me. Dear Readers, you know I'm not scared of a bird, but I decided that a ducking motion was in order to avoid a possibly painful collision. I saw the Kestrel swoop by in the corner of my eye as the crowd released a collective "Oh!"
Naturally, I thought my evasive maneuver meant that I missed a good show. I looked over to the woman next to me and noticed that she had a parting gift from the kestrel on her jacket sleeve. Ah, poor dear, but now I know why the crowd reacted. But why were they still looking at me?
I glanced at my shoulder and saw my own parting gift: an enormous blotch of what looked like white paint. Only it wasn't.
As a bird owner, I know this meant good luck. But it was simply a mess. Still, as I wiped away...and wiped away... and continued to wipe away, I knew the American Kestrel was forever connected to me. And not more than an hour later, I spotted my first American Bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), very deep in a reedy wetland. What luck!
But the jacket has never been the same.