With sightings nationwide suggesting possible decline in the Kestrel population, and activity on my local patches seeming to follow this trend, events today show that all is not lost for our most common bird of prey.
I have been at my current address in Hayes, West London for the last 3 years now. Every spring / summer has brought some kind of Kestrel activity in and around the development in which we live.
Despite the odd pass through and over the flats, things early on this year had been somewhat quieter than previous years, with no concrete signs of Kestrel producing young at either Lake Farm or Cranford Park. Things were looking a little bleak, and I was beginning to be less sure the yearly family of visitors would ever turn up.
Earlier this week, Team Sausage were greeted by a healthy male planted on the TV aerial opposite us (see previous post). On Thursday evening however, on returning home laden with our groceries, we spotted a male and a female swapping places on another aerial adjacent to our building. These two looked more like juveniles though, a slightly downy plumage and a little smaller than the adult seen a few days earlier. Our hopes of family action were raised once again!
All doubts of the yearly visit happening were cast aside this morning however, as from almost first light until at least 8pm, our development has been converted into a Kestrel training academy.
It began with cries overhead while we were still in bed, “kee kee kee” and as we ventured onto the balcony expecting to see one or two birds, we realised we were watching the development and training of a full Kestrel family.
Three juveniles and two adults were occupying all the rooftop railings, aerials and vantage points around us, switching positions and constantly crying and calling to each other.
Sometimes two juveniles would cluster on a distant roof, only to eventually be urged into flight as one of the adults skimmed overhead, calling out to them.
Other times they would take up opposite corners of the development, calling across the rooftops at each other.
Today, also one of the hottest days so far this year, was definitely training day – we watched the adult female dive and rise over, around and in front of us, carrying prey in her talons and encouraging the youngsters to follow her. Twisting, swooping and turning among the buildings, calling all the time to the brood, the young screeching back to her.
A brief pause, more calling, then more flypasts. Having been home most of the day, I don’t think there have been less than three Kestrels on view at any one time. If not on one rooftop they have been on an opposite ledge.
A typical Kestrel brood is anywhere from 3-6 eggs and, once hatched and fledged the family will remain together for a few weeks. During this period the parents will teach the brood how to hunt prey and fend for themselves.
This is the first time I have known Kestrels to be present all day long here. I have observed them in previous years here for an hour or two at best, fleeting glances being the most common sighting.
Today seems to have been an intensive training day for the young at what must be a fairly safe location for them. They have certainly reduced the numbers of crows, magpies and pigeons seen around here today.
These impressive birds are still about as this is being typed, they have yet to leave, but have quietened and the intense training day seems to be winding down as the light starts to fade. We feel extremely privileged to have been able to see and enjoy this rarely seen raptor behaviour.
With clear skies and more high temperatures forecast for the coming days it seems our best birding may well be on our own rooftops!
More pics on my Flickr pagehttp://www.flickr.com/photos/94900571@N05/