Flying School

After waiting a few weeks it seems that Kestrel Academy 2014 will not be taking place outside our flat this year. The appearance over a few weeks of a single juvenile Kestrel did not herald any further activity as we had hoped.

However, hope on our local patch springs eternal as our summer days and evenings have seen appearances by two of our regular star species.

After sightings reported by Wendy and Sue, I popped in straight from work on Tuesday 1st July for an evening wander. I got as far as the oak trees by the information centre where I heard the rasping-hissing sound of juvenile Little Owls. This is the third consecutive year that we have seen successful breeding of these small owls and they are becoming something of a summer fixture at Cranford.

It took a fair while to track down exactly where the juvenile was calling from and a few more minutes scanning the branches before I finally found what I was looking for.

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They always seem to know when you are looking at them and the stare back is quite something. There were two juveniles in the tree but only this one was being obliging and showing itself quite boldly.

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I even had a crafty wink from the cheeky youngster.

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Our other star performers over the last two weeks have been the Kestrels. These are the weeks when they will be at their most visible at Cranford. The young birds have fledged and are undergoing their life skills training. Using the open parkland they can be seen on the ground foraging for insects, especially grasshoppers and crickets.

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They can also be seen on the tree guards and the spindly branches, practicing their balancing, landing and observational skills.

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And of course, those all important flying and hovering skills that we are all familiar with.

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Saturday in particular was a lovely day. Bright, sunny, cloudless skies and the long grass alive with thousands of grasshoppers making their distinctive noise. The sky may have been cloudless but it was by no means empty. High up, screaming Swifts were hunting airborne insects, and below them the sky was full of Black-headed Gulls. I counted around two hundred at noon but my main focus was on the Kestrels.

At times on Saturday they would allow you to approach quite close before taking to the air and criss-crossing the parkland.

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You could just sit on the grass and watch them for ages, hovering, perching, searching the ground and repeating all over again. I know a fair few people have been over to watch them this weekend but they won’t be around for much longer. Once their life skills training has finished the juveniles will be off to establish their own hunting patches, it could be as early as this week so if you want to catch a look at these cracking birds of prey and this wonderful behaviour pop down soon.

Despite the Kestrel family taking all the publicity there was still a smattering of other bird life seen on Saturday. Blackbirds continue to be seen throughout the woodland, Green Woodpeckers are still vocal and the Blackcap “chak chak” alarm calls can still be heard. I also heard one solitary Chiffchaff on Saturday morning, breaking the silence that typically represents summer-time in terms of bird activity.

There are more Kestrel and some butterfly pics on our Flickr page.

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