Walking alone along the road near dawn, coming around a corner: a giant bird takes off! Instead of observing, I reach for my camera and bring it to my eye. Too late! The bird has flown. Later, I catch a glimpse, up the hill to the north, toward Trail 15 from my location on Road F. I walk a ways in that direction, but it can outfly me. When the birders (finally) catch up with me, they are full of excitement: they have seen a bald eagle! Perhaps this was what excited me, but I don't really know...
One bird I did see, I thought was a kite. It was near where I often see kites, the lone valley oak near where Trail 15 rejoins Road F. It was kiting: beating its wings, staying steady in the sky. But it was too brown, and maybe a bit smaller. I was confused until I looked at my images later: a kestrel! I had not known that kestrels also kite; perhaps you did.
Some of the other images I captured show the kestrel flying off with large cargo: a vole, pounced upon in the grass, possibly after kiting and then rapid descent, the way a kite captures a vole.
Who taught this to the kestrel? Did he see a kite doing this, and learn how to catch a vole? Did kestrels and kites each independently evolve this effective behavior? Or has it been inherited from a remote common ancestor, common to the two families, Accipitridae and Falconidae? If the latter, have any other of their present-day distant relatives also retained this behavior?
One argument for convergent evolution: the bluebirds seen here also practice something similar to kiting, but they use it to catch insects, not voles.
I saw other birds on this walk, in addition to the fabled eagle and the interesting kite and bluebirds: several red-tailed hawks, a white-breasted nuthatch, and some gulls are here. And of course, I saw some oaks and serpentine rocks, and captured images of several, including some of my old favorites.
There was also a tiny shooting star in the grassland, a white morph. Soon I hope to post its image(s) nearby, in "Adventures on a Smaller Scale".