[Tweeters] mystery yard (bird) sound and nesting American Kestrels - Bellevue (Eastgate)

Pterodroma at aol.com Pterodroma at aol.com
Sat Apr 14 22:46:54 PDT 2012

I am totally baffled by what I am hearing around here now and can't for the
life of me find or see whatever it is. My description may leave a lot to
be desired and it's been going on now off and on, far more OFF than on for
2-3 weeks now. Sounds a bit like a winnowing 'hookum pate', but
definitely NOT, and NOT in this neighborhood anyway, but vaguely similar but softer
and more nasal in quality, usually 3-7 notes with slightly rising
inflection repeated 2-5 times at maybe 5-15 second intervals, then nothing again for
maybe hours or even days. I thought maybe it was a Douglas Squirrel for
awhile although I have never heard a Douglas Squirrel make a noise like that
before, plus it sounds like it's higher than the tippy-top tree tops and
rather something high and flying around. I'm thinking maybe a hawk like an
accipiter (Cooper's or Sharp-shinned) but I don't recall having ever heard
one make much noise at all and nothing like this. Could this possibly be a
Cooper's or Sharp-shinned in soaring flight courtship calling?

Possibly...possibly very possibly could it be an American Kestrel? I have
never heard them make a noise like this either. However, there are
American Kestrels for some strange weird reason at this seemingly most unlikely
mostly wooded location in Bellevue (Eastgate) one mile south of I-90. There
have been a pair of American Kestrels around here for a few years now.
Last summer, I confirmed nesting in one of the many tall Douglas Firs around
here. As much as I tried, I still didn't actually find the exact tree nor
could I find any suitably suggestive snags, holes, or a nest, but by
mid-late June or so, there were suddenly four (fledglings), sometimes five birds
(fledglings + adult) out and about and staying pretty much put for a couple
months seldom venturing far away at all and often all out together flying
around in tight little sorties overhead then returning to the tree tops to
be fed by the adults. Occasionally, they would be hassled by the American
Crows, worst right at the time of fledging when they hadn't quite mastered
the art of flying yet, then the adults would swoop in to intervene and it
got pretty noisy at times.

Now, the American Kestrels are back after occasional appearances through
the winter and appear to be making another go at it again, often up in the
air, paired, courting, and calling. The calls I always hear when I see them
are the familiar "kli-kli-kli-kli-kli..." ones and additionally something a
little different when they are in flight courting, but nothing at all like
the 'mystery sound' I can't nail down. Does the American Kestrel ever
make a sound similar to what I described in the first paragraph??? If so,
maybe one is actually perched atop one of these big tall Douglas Firs doing
it, but I still think it's higher than the tree tops and something flying
around and so far whatever it is never appears in an opening to the sky where
I might see it. Thanks.

P.S. "hookum pate"?...you wonder in case you forgot or never knew?!?
Wilson's Snipe.
I fell in love with "hookum pate" with the best most cleverly crafted
April Fools prank ever that played out this past April 1 by the American
Birding Association -- see link: _ABA Blog_ (http://blog.aba.org/) and search or
scroll to April 1. So, there you go, no more Wilson's Snipe, borrring,
...just Hookum Pates from now on :-))

Richard Rowlett
Bellevue (Eastgate), WA

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