When Denis and I planned the new kestrel box at Stow Maries Aerodrome, we were keen to get the box and the two new cameras up as soon as we could, giving the kestrels the time to get used to the new set-up. A pair have nested here for the last few years and it was only last year, that we set a Birdsy cam up on the front of the box to watch the kestrels raise their young.
We wanted to improve it greatly this year, hence the two new high quality Hikvision cameras and their connection back to Denis's office (on a temporary set-up until we hear if we have got funding to do a proper install) See my previous blog post for more info.
We could not have anticipated how much fabulous footage we would be gathering this early in the season. I have never followed a family of kestrels in this way, so I am learning every step of the way. I have to say, I am already addicted and it is a privilege to be able to watch and learn so much. Despite the kestrels not breeding until April / May time, there is a surprising amount of activity at the box already. A prime nesting spot like this is bound to attract attention and early occupation for a pair will mean they can secure it as their breeding site for next year.
Kestrels' prime diet is field voles and the rough grassland at Stow means there are a lot around. This is also why the tawny, barn and little owls are also on the site. They will take other prey items though and this clip shows the female with a worm she has caught!
When a pair start reinforcing their bonds to become a mating pair, the male will often deliver food to the female. His proficiency in this will show the female what a good hunter he is. He will need to be able to deliver food to the young. This clip shows the male appear with a vole. He calls the female into the box, proclaiming his catch. As she appears, he actually leaves and I presume passes the vole to her on a lower perch.
We have had tawny, barn owl and this little owl also visiting the box at night......
The positioning of this box, in terms of sunrise and sunset, has meant that we are getting some lovely light early morning and at sunset. The sunrise is just to the left behind the box, meaning that the sunset then casts a golden light inside the box. This rather long clip (actually 3 clips, combined) is rather long, but too lovely to crop too much. It shows the male at dawn, when the sunrise cast a pink glow over the sky. The female arrives for a bit too. What beautiful scenes and I love the way he cleans his talons.... it is important to keep these in good condition as they are essential in the capture of his small mammal prey.
We are pretty sure that we have seen two different females on site. This week, we discovered there are two males! This could get very interesting! May be we should get another kestrel box up on the other end of the site to accommodate both pairs!
The jackdaws continue to be an annoyance! Their encounters are entertaining. Neither are really that scared, but the jackdaws seem to like taunting the kestrels, who do stand up to these rather cocky corvids once in a while....
This clip has to be one of our favourites so far. It is easy to be anthropomorphic about these birds 'holding hands and kissing' as Denis described this clip to me when he sent it to me! I think she actually landed on his foot and was then asking for more food! I know that part of owl bonding is to beak touch... not sure about kestrels!
Thank you, Denis, for lifting the clips from all the hours of footage we are capturing on site! We are live streaming this box with a temporary Birdsy camera at the moment and you can watch it on my website. We hope to have a live stream from this Hik camera sometime in the week, fingers crossed... it is well worth a watch!