Seeing the American kestrel pumping its tail up and down while perched on a high desert tree just down-slope from I-84 a few days ago spurred lots of good memories of the many times Monica and I spotted kestrels during our time afield on the Bloomsburg Christmas Bird Count.
They were all special.
I was exercise-walking on the Mountain Home Pathways System at the time of my latest sighting. Point-and-shoot camera in hand, I studied the bird as truck traffic roared by on Interstate 84 just 25 or so yards away.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “North America’s littlest falcon, the American Kestrel packs a predator’s fierce intensity into its small body. It's one of the most colorful of all raptors: the male’s slate-blue head and wings contrast elegantly with his rusty-red back and tail; the female has the same warm reddish on her wings, back, and tail. Hunting for insects and other small prey in open territory, kestrels perch on wires or poles, or hover facing into the wind, flapping and adjusting their long tails to stay in place. Kestrels are declining in parts of their range; you can help them by putting up nest boxes.”
I once tried doing just that on a friend’s farm in Butler Township. Just seconds after I anchored the box to a 25-foot utility pole, European starlings flew to it in hopes of making the box their own nest site. So that was that.
Walking, not driving a car, made the sighting possible. For one thing, the Mountain Home Pathways System is for walkers and people who chose to burn calories, not gasoline, by rollerblading, running, jogging, walking or cycling.
It’s fun, most importantly. But it’s also the best and most productive way to explore one’s community and its natural areas. I look forward to each day’s trek with that, more than anything else, in mind as I head out.
America, though, is very much a car-centric place. An incident this past Thursday brought that point home – again.
This is what I wrote in an e-mail to friends and family: “Filled with energy, my afternoon fitness walk took me out American Legion Boulevard and to the trailhead for the Mountain Home Pathways System. While crossing (n the crosswalk, of course) North 8th Street I was nearly taken out by a motorist turning left off American Legion onto 8th. I was about two-thirds of the way across the street when a motorist cut in front of me, perhaps four feet from my knees. Too bad for her that a city police officer was right behind her and pulled her over.
“I continued walking (now on the sidewalk of 8th) while hoping that the cop had indeed stopped the motorist for violating the traffic code (not yielding the right-of-way to a pedestrian in the crosswalk). Eventually, just as I was walking past the golf course clubhouse, the officer stopped her cruiser to chat. She had indeed stopped the motorist for a right-of-way violation.
“I thanked her and she wished me a safe walk. And that was that
“In my life, I’ve been taken to the ground three times by motor vehicles (the tally does not include the time a man opened the driver’s-side door of his parked car just as I was passing on my bicycle. That happened in Pocatello, Idaho, while, as a working college student, I toiled for the city parks and recreation department. Painfully hurt, my father, than a professor at Idaho State University, rescued me.
“One of those three resulted in a traumatic brain injury.
“I’ve been in lots of close calls as well: One in Vermont, one on Langley Air Force Base, Va. (in front of the officers’ club) and another in Oklahoma.
“The walk began at 3:15; I was home at 6.”
A follow-on word: In my years of covering state and local police work in and around Hazleton, I learned early on that most police officers really do like to known as “cops.”
It’s now two minutes past 1 p.m. (Mountain Standard Time) on the following Saturday and the sun is out. With yesterday’s incident tucked away in my daily journal, I’ll be out again in another hour; most likely trekking on the same route.
Why walk when one can drive a car? Because a long walk is the best time of day in which to do some good thinking. It’s also the prime time to watch nature and learn about our world.
And one never stops learning.
Anyone for a long walk? Hey, there might be a kestrel out there.