It was a beautiful quiet morning as we woke up….

      ‘Stoooooop, stop, stop, stop!’, I yell to Alex while we drive off a hill in the early morning sunshine. He stops and looks at me with startled eyes.

       ‘I see something, but I’m not sure what I see.’ 

I walk back up the hill and look in the round metal water tank on the edge of the field. 

Yes, it’s a common kestrel lying helplessly in the water in the middle of the water tank. Och no, such a beautiful little bird of prey. But wait…..It’s still alive!! It is trying with all its might to keep its head above water. Poor thing, it must be exhausted!

         ‘Get the gloves, quickly!’

Now you get this awful, ethical moment that defines you as a human being. Do I make a picture first of this little bird fighting for its life or do I rescue it immediately? Is a bit perverse, isn’t it? Like filming a fight or someone getting stabbed or robed. As the person with the camera, you could have prevented the hurt inflicted. But instead, you record the moment like a reporter, a bystander. Making evidence. Not getting involved. 

But this is life and death situation here, someone is drowning! OK, one picture then…. 

Kestrel drowning in a water tank
While I make this picture, Alex is crawling under the barbed wire to rescue the Kestrel.

Alex crawls under the rusty barbed wire to get to the water tank. He gently lifts the kestrel out of its predicament. The cows also noticed some goings-on in their field and the entire herd is coming down to check out what the fuss is all about. Mind you, it’s their field and their water tank, so they are in their right to be nosey.

Saving a kestrel in a field with cows
Alex with the nosy cows.

The poor little kestrel is totally wet, the tail, the wings, the underbelly. It just could not leave the tank, logged down with all that water. Alexander hands me the bird over the barbed wire. I can feel it breathing and its heart racing. It is a beautiful bird with brown feathers and a yellow face and legs. It opens its beak to breathe and hangs its head.

It was not looking hopeful for the bird.

        ‘It’s a goner’, I say to Alexander. 

Suddenly, the kestrel lifts up its head to look towards the sky. 

There is some power left…..

No behavior that shows that it’s giving up any minute. I still feel the breathing there is still light in those beady black eyes. I think this bird needs to dry up and rest a while and it will fly again. 

Charlotte handling the Kestrel
I could feel it’s heart an breathing, so close to amazing living bird.

We take it with us in the car to our friend’s house to find a safe place for drying and hopefully flying. We find just the right spot and leave the kestrel there. 

Just one more picture. It still looks very sad. But I see the claws opening and closing and a bit of a movement in the wings. Now we have to leave it as it is. There is nothing we can do for the bird. We are going out and the bird will fly off. Hopefully.

It looks a bit sad now but there was life in the bird.

Feels a bit unsatisfying, I want to see the bird flying off! To know my rescue mission worked. Feel like a hero, get me a printed t-shirt with KESTREL RESCUER on it. That is what I want. 

Shall I install the go-pro camera on a tripod on the bird? Put it on a time laps! Then I know for sure if and when the kestrel flew off safely! Besides, it would work very well as a video in this story….

No Charlotte! You are going out with friends. There is no time for a go-pro setup!

Hmmm, as soon as we get back from our outing I go and see if the bird is still there or not. 

The kestrel has flown. Well, good for it! I mean, I hope it lives to fly and hunt another day. Perhaps a bit more careful with water tanks in the future. I don’t know if kestrels reflect on flying/hunting/drowning adventures as humans do.

We put our car on the same spot as the night before. The next morning we drive down this same hill.

       ‘The two kestrels are back together again. I thought I heard another kestrel screaming when we handled the drowning kestrel yesterday. We did a good job,’ Alexander said.

Charlotte Gannet.

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