Plein Air Painting in Kestrel Territory

February 1, 2010 in Plein Air by joanvienot

Western Head, Isle au Haut, Maine

Western Head, Isle au Haut, Maine

In the fall of 2008, I took  my second solo “artist” vacation.  Once you get past the aloneness of it, there is something almost sacred about solitude.  I had packed up two boxes of art supplies and shipped them to myself General Delivery at Stonington, Maine, on Deer Isle.  Due south of Stonington is Isle au Haut, most of which is a part of Acadia National Park.

On this particular trek I rode out to the island on the mail-boat, intending to hike the cliffs trail.  It was  an easy hike to the other side of the island.  I rounded the first curve and the view of the cliffs  opened up in front of me.  I saw no need to hike further!  I ate my cheese and crackers and fruit lunch, and then set about sketching the cliffs.

I was completely absorbed for a long time.  I had even lost awareness of how hard the rocky ledge was that I was sitting on.  All of a sudden I was attacked, literally, by a very territorial American Kestrel, who dove at my head repeatedly, screaming threats of massacre.  At first I was amused and awed by the small falcon, but after one fairly close call, it dawned on me that I might want to keep my scalp, so I raised my arms, and stood up, and he flew up to the top of a nearby tree.

Kestrel

Shortly after that, he flew away the length of the cliffs and disappeared.  I guess he just wanted to make sure I understood that this was his territory.  Several hikers walked past me over the next hour or so, and I asked them if they had seen him, but none had.  I was left a little unsettled by the experience, to have incurred such wrath while I was innocently sitting and painting.  Usually when painting plein air I feel like I blend in and become an invisible part of nature.  This time I wonder if I had shape-shifted into another kestrel — clearly I posed some kind of threat to this little guy.

Image from http://www.slostateparks.com/nature/birds/american_kestrel.asp