Urban Jungle

I was the star producer in my own NatGeo special today – except my camera was an iPhone and my quarry was in a park.

I was walking around a neighborhood park with a co-worker and discussing the buffleheads and cormorant we’d already seen amidst floating plastic, when a flapping figure went past my vision and landed on an electric pole. I saw something bird-shaped in its talons, and yelled out in excitement, “It has a bird! And I think it’s a kestrel!” (Given its relatively small size.)

In full nerd mode, I scrambled for the binoculars by throwing my bag on the ground, ripping them from their case, and hurling the eye covers away. I was so thrilled to see a flash of blue wings and red breast that I didn’t care about the squirming prey flapping its wings in vain. I shoved the binoculars at my colleague and basically shouted, “Oh shit! It’s a kestrel!” She noted what a beautiful bird it was before politely handing back the binoculars and saying she couldn’t watch it if it was starting to eat. Fair enough, watching a flapping bird (probably a starling) having chunks torn out of it is not pleasant and elicits feelings of sympathy.


I saw a kestrel make a kill and eat it! While on top of a light pole and in New Jersey’s largest city. So starling aside, it was a top 10 wildlife experience.

Kestrel, Newark, 2017. Eating unidentified prey, best guess is a starling.

The cherry on top was when I heard two kestrels calling back and forth and freakin’ knew that was a kestrel call. I have been relentlessly learning birdcalls via a phone app and am therefore slightly above the level where you are unable to distinguish a bird call from airplane engine noise.

I spent the rest of the day gleefully showing colleagues pictures of kestrels and buffleheads like they were my own children who had just learned to sit up or roll over or walk.

And I will continue to keep my eyes and ears on high alert in urban settings.



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