The American Kestrel is the ABA Bird of the Year for 2011. Kestrels are one of the most brilliantly-colored raptors, so they are always a joy to find. They are small, though, perhaps about the size of a Blue Jay. In fact, they are the smallest falcon in the U.S. You can find them perched on dead trees branches and tall poles, but it's very hard to get close to them. Even from my car I have to photograph them from a considerable distance. My best photos were shot in my car with my 400mm lens propped on a pillow resting on the window. I put a 2x extender on the lens (making it an effective 800mm lens) which requires me to manual focus. When manual focusing over a great distance, it's best to use live view and zoom in on the bird. This can be a challenge when not being able to use a tripod, but I know if I get my tripod out, he'll fly away. The effort, though, is more than worth it. Here are some of my favorite images of American Kestrels. All of these images were taken at Viera Wetlands.