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10/30/11
Beauty is in the eye of the kestrel
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Florida & SE US, Birding "Patches"
Posted by: Ken @ 8:02 am

The Royal Palm is often acclaimed to be the most attractive palm tree in the world. Reaching up to a hundred feet in height, it inspires descriptors such as majestic and  indeed, aristocratic. Native to southern Florida, the Caribbean and parts of Mexico and Central America, it is remarkably resistant to hurricane force winds. Their leaves release easily in strong winds, which helps  keep them from being blown down. Their trunks widen to adult size before they start to grow upward, about a foot every year. Like the tree rings of woody trees, variations in diameter of their trunks provide a record of years in which they may have been stressed by drought or disease, bulging out in good years and narrowing down in years when growing conditions were poor. 

Royal Palms at sunrise 20111026

What is wrong with this picture? Look closely at the next photo of the closed and unpaved section of roadway that leads into the water conservation area next to our Florida subdivision. To the eye of the landscape designer, this scene is terribly defaced by the topless palm trunk just past the curve. The human mind seems to crave symmetry and order. A dead tree disturbs that order.

Miramar Parkway extension<br />
20110302

Funding and logistical issues have delayed completion of this road, which will one day become a major thoroughfare connecting  I-75 with US-27. For more than a dozen years, these Royal Palms along the roadside berm have withstood several hurricanes, standing tall even after winds stripped off nearly all their leaves. They endured the brutal cold of two especially bad winters, when the mercury dropped into the low 30s. About three years ago, the fronds of this particular tree began turning brown and failed to thrust up a central shoot. For the past two years it has stood, de-crowned and lifeless.

But oh, that tree was so beautiful to the eye of a flicker that drilled into its soft core and made it a home for one summer.

Northern Flicker male 20110306

In the fall, starlings took over from the flicker…

European Starling 20101003

…until a kestrel showed up and became master of the property for a whole winter.

Palm trunk with kestrel 20101123

The kestrel liked to sit on the front porch of the old woodpecker hole.

American Kestrel 20101220

The kestrel felt right at home, stretching his wings in the early morning light.

Kestrel stretching 20101210

Blue Jays were never happy about their new neighbor, and they worried the kestrel endlessly.

Blue Jay and Kestrel 2-20101210

Last month, a little yearling doe walked right by the tree and its transient tenants without noticing how out of place it looked, with its scarred trunk and missing greenery.

Doe and tree trunk 20111003

She pranced across the street in front of me, spirited and full of life…

Curious yearling 20111003

…and sprinted past me, down the other side of the road.

Running Deer 2-20111003

This week I found the nest tree, shattered and pinned down by its young successor.

Dead Palm 20111021

Across the street, awaiting its fate, another topless tree hosted a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Red-bellied Woodpecker on Palm trunk 20111025

The woodpecker did not budge as the bobcat tractor moved in to do what it had to do.

Woodpecker and bobcat 20111025

Why should it bother me? It was only an old dead tree.

21 Responses to “Beauty is in the eye of the kestrel”

  1. eileen Says:
    Wonderful photos! I love all the birds! I do like to see old dead trees left for the birds. The woodpeckers love these dead trees and many birds make their homes in these trees.
  2. Luisa Says:
    Excellent photo essay! “Just” an old, dead tree… yet so full of life.
  3. TexWisGirl Says:
    oh, sorry to see the nest tree is gone! gorgeous little doe and beautiful flicker shot!
  4. Mimmu Says:
    It has been joy to look at your post, thank you!
  5. Boom & Gary Says:
    Great series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.
  6. dreamfalcon Says:
    Dead trees are so important, but humans always think everything has to look nice… Love the photo series!
  7. Mick Says:
    Great post and photos. You’re right - the birds and animals really like the old trees and the ones with holes in them.
  8. Andrew Says:
    Awesome images….thanks for sharing this post.
  9. Jo Bryant Says:
    This is a really great series of photos - I enjoyed them all
  10. springman Says:
    Phenomenal post. Many a life form depends on decay that’s for sure. We make an effort to keep that in mind when we landscape around here. Your story speaks to so much more though. How the human esthetic conflicts with nature is a heady subject to take on. Your pictures and gentle words are a wonderful reminder that our actions have consequences far beyond our immediate concerns. Great piece of blogging Ken!
  11. Carole M. Says:
    oh I would feel very distressed witnessing that bulldozer coming after the birds haven for nesting. The flicker; what an amazing bird too; never seen one; love that about these forums!
  12. Aria Says:
    What a lovely tribute to the dead palm tree. So well loved by all it’s temporary tenants and the whole tenement block destroyed by a piece of machinery. People certainly like to impress their communal values on a landscape regardless of who loses their home. Wonderful photo story indeed.
  13. Jennifer Says:
    A lovely photo essay, I wish it had a better ending for all those birds.
  14. joo Says:
    I love starlings, they are so funny to watch, and you’re right, kestrel is a beauty!
  15. Pat Says:
    Excellent photo story! That dead palm tree was a wonderful home for so many birds. Your expert lens showcases the beauty of all its inhabitants and their neighbors.
  16. Tracey Nanstad Says:
    Beautiful. I am amazed by this series of shots. The Kestrels are beautiful birds.
  17. Jean Says:
    Many birds love dead trees as you show beautifully in this post.
  18. Pat Ulrich Says:
    Lovely series — Kestrels are such beautiful birds!
  19. Larry Jordan Says:
    Awesome post Ken! It’s too bad that we don’t leave more decaying wood on our properties. Birds love all the nooks and crannies in snags and downed trees. Your Kestrel is gorgeous and my favorite shot is the Blue Jay and Kestrel although the Kestrel doesn’t look too comfortable with that jay coming up behind him!
  20. heyBJK Says:
    Awesome shots of the flicker and kestrel, Ken! I love the photo of the blue jay and kestrel!
  21. Ken Says:
    Thanks, all, for your kind comments. The American Kestrel returned a little over a week ago. I think it may be the same one that spent the past two winters here, as it had been lingering in the trees next to where the dead trunk had been removed. I have to admit that the photo of the jay bombarding the kestrel was pure luck– I didn’t see it coming as I depressed the shutter.

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