A spring in lockdown. One of the top highlights during this time has been watching a Kestrels nest.
Kestrels are found in a wide variety of habitats. They were common to spot when I was a child however in the late 70’s they declined and until about 5 years ago I rarely saw a kestrel. In our area (Hampshire UK) they seem to be making a come back. They are now a familiar sight, hovering beside the motorway or our main roads. They can often be seen perched on a high tree branch, or on a telephone post or wire. I see them at the sea at Titchfield Haven, they love perching on the masts of the small vessels. They are found on moor and heathland but local to me they, are happy in both farmland and urban areas.
Early in lockdown while looking in holes in Oak trees trying to spot Owls (unsuccessfully) we kept spotting a Kestrel around one tree. When passing we kept seeing a kestrel flying off from it. Watching from a distance we spotted the bird often returning to the tree and finally into a hole. We had found a nest. The tree is just off a public footpath with a hole formed where a large branch had broken and fallen.
After a number of weeks watching the adults returning to the nest site, it appeared they were sitting and hopefully sitting on eggs, being very careful keeping a distance so as not to disturb them the waiting started. Interestingly one of the adult birds had been ringed in the past (you can spot the ring in the picture below).
Soon from a distance, we started to spot movement from the nest and occasionally a chick would pop up from inside the hole. Using binoculars and telephoto lenses it appeared there were 3 chicks on the nest. Little bundles of white fluff.
Early in June while watching it became clear that there were 4 chicks in the nest 2 of which were changing colour quicker than the others. In their white stage, they were like a light bulb in their hole but as their downy feathers changed they became darker and better camouflaged against the oak.
below pictures 17th June 2020.
Some Kestrel Facts.
They eat small mammals such as mice and birds, worms and insects. These birds have a special vision to track their prey. Their eyes have adapted to detect ultraviolet light, rodents leave trails of urine along the paths they use. Their urine emits ultraviolet light; providing hungry kestrels with a glowing path straight to their lunch.
UK breeding: 46,000 pairs
Not such a bright day on 18th June but through the rain a clear view of the 4 chicks the size difference is very noticeable. The youngster on the right in the picture is showing plumage of the adult. I am sure this bird is flight-ready.
An afternoon visit on 20th June. Only 2 youngsters in the nest hole.
One of the young birds then flew into the Oak Tree looking almost the same as its parents.
Below one of the parents arrived in the next door tree with a mouse for tea, holding it with its feet on a branch. It then picked it up in its beak, taking it to the hole.
Like a flash, fed to the 2 chicks then off hunting again.
By 21st June only one bird remaining at the nest hole. No parents spotted 2 chicks in the branches of the next tree.
One of the other young birds.
23rd June still one young bird staying in the nest hole. None of the others spotted in the trees. Although one parent bird hunting close to the nest.
24th June still one young bird staying in the nest hole.
Again on 26th the one young bird remaining in the hole on the edge with plenty of room and alert enough to spot anyone coming too close and can now pop in and almost disappear out of sight when he sees you.
The young birds continue to be supported by the adult birds who are constantly hunting in the nearby fields.
27th June 2020. They are gone from the nest, but around in the nearby trees.
Perhaps another update next year?
Sadly some birds are at risk from both egg collectors and from people wanting to collect and sell their chicks for falconry so apart from my early post I decided not to post about this nest until now when the nest is empty.