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Latest from the Kestrel Cam
THE KESTREL CHICKS HAVE FLEDGED! SCROLL DOWN TO SEE THE SPECIAL MOMENT THEY TAKE TO THE SKIES FOR THE FIRST TIME. SO FAR THEY ARE STILL LIVING CLOSE TO THE NEST SITE. WHEN WILL THEY BRANCH OUT ON THEIR OWN?
Welcome to my Kestrel Cam where I collate the best video clips of the kestrel pair living in my garden from cameras hidden inside and outside my nest boxes. The male kestrel has lived here for 11 years now and I’ve followed his daily life for so long he has become an old friend. His nickname is Kes, after the kestrel in the Ken Loach feature film of the same name. Sadly Kes’ long-term partner died last year. But his new mate, a former mistress of Kes’ whom I call ‘Semi-Colon’ after the unusual markings on her tail feathers, seems to have taken on the role of new Mrs Kes quite comfortably. (Click here to read my post on how I got to know Kes and how I discovered his infidelity last year).
My cameras run 24 hours a day so that I don’t miss a moment’s action, but rather than you having to watch a live camera, when often there is nothing to see for hours, I’ve only selected the best clips here. I plan to post these as I get them. Don’t forget to keep checking in to see the latest and follow the individual stories of the kestrels living in my garden as they unfold.
Kestrel Family: Week 6
Is Mr Kes planning a new family? July 13th
These clips show the male kestrel examining an empty nest box. The first clip dates back to July 2nd and the second is from the 13th. Watch how he digs a nest scrape in the first clip. This behaviour is usual at the beginning of the breeding season when the male is trying to attract a mate to use the nest he has found. Could he be preparing for a second brood this year? In the second clip you can see Mr Kes sitting in the scrape.
Kestrel Chicks: Week 5
Kestrel chicks stay close to home: July 7th
The kestrel chicks have now fledged but they are both staying close to the nest site to be fed by mum and dad. In this clip you can clearly see the difference between the male – which has grey blue tones to its tail feathers – and female chick. Watch as they rub beaks together on a post outside the nest site. The female, the elder of the two chicks, named Casper, flies off but the male remains watching the skies as the rest of the family fly about him. Keep watching to see the adult male, dad, fly down to sit with this younger kestrel, named Billie, for a while. Then the female joins young Billie and appears to feed him. I wonder how long it will be before they fly off to begin life on their own?
Last kestrel chick leaves the nest: June 28th
The last kestrel chick has finally fledged the nest! Just a day after the first chick’s first flight, the younger one has also left the nest. There was a power outage in the early hours so we missed this chick’s final leap from the nest but here it is landing on the post outside the nest. Watch it’s wings flicker as it gains a foothold. I expect the chicks to stay around the nest site for a few more days before they finally leave to make a life on their own. It’s been great watching them!
Just one kestrel chick left to feed now: June 27th
The kestrel mum has just one chick left to feed now. Watch as she flies into the box, pushing past her offspring. She then has to call the chick in for its dinner – see it call over its shoulder then the chick hops in to be fed. Look at the remaining chick’s tail feathers. Notice that where the wings cross there is a tinge of blue/grey. I think this could be a male. Male kestrels will get beautiful blue tail and head feathers after their first moult.
And they are off: The eldest kestrel chick Capser takes its first flight: June 27th
Watch as Casper takes flight for the first time. See the chick standing hesitantly by the entrance to the nest. There is a brief moment when the chick almost looks as though it will have a go at flying, but then it regains its balance and holds back for a moment. And then all of a sudden the chick spreads its wings and is off. Watch the younger chick look out after it as it to say ‘Where have you gone?’ I don’t expect this chick to return to the nest now, but it should stay around the nest site for a little while before it finally leaves.
The kestrel chicks now have all their feathers: June 27th
This clip of the two kestrel chicks, Billie & Casper, sitting together at the entrance to the nest box was taken in the early hours this morning. I thought you would like to see how they now have all their feathers, bar a tiny bit of down on top of their heads they are nearly ready fledge. It is still not possible to identify the sex of the two.
Watch mum as she tries to manage the kestrel chick’s poor table manners: July 25th
The kestrel chicks are getting boisterous. Watch Casper the elder chick rudely snatches its meal from her beak the moment she arrives at the nest. It then won’t give it back. Watch as mum calmly circles the noisy chick until she finally gets the food back and then ‘serves it up’ properly. Notice poor Billie, the smaller chick is left to sit and call from the entrance. It never gets a look in!
Sad News: The foster kestrel chick does not make it
Very sadly the foster chick has not made it. It was falling out of the nest nearly everyday. When it first fell out I suspected foul play, but it turns out that the chick had a problem with its balance. Its behaviour on the camera became increasingly worrying – it was stumbling and literally unable to keep its balance for very long. This was a clear sign that the chick would have been unable to care for itself in the wild and after watching to see what happened for a week, I had to make the decision to take it out of the nest before it fell.
Kestrel Chicks: Week 4
Is the foster kestrel chick deliberately pushed out of the nest? June 19th
Woah! The new foster chick has only been in the nest five hours before the other chicks appear to kick it out! This foster chick is a few days older than the others and has begun to explore the outside of the nest. But watch carefully what happens as it perches on the threshold. One of the nest’s resident chicks is at its feet. Watch how it begins to peck at the foster chick’s claws, lifting one up with its beak. The foster chick looks down and whoops, loses its balance. Was this deliberate? The reaction from the smallest sibling, Billie, after I popped the foster chick back into the nest suggests otherwise.
When dad comes home the new kestrel chick is immediately calm: June 19th
The difference between when the adult female returned to find a new kestrel in the nest to when the male returns is stark. Look how calm the new kestrel chick this time. Instead of snatching the food from the adult male, it quietly accepts morsels as they are broken off for it. Is this a result of the calming influence of this elder, statesman dad? Or perhaps the new kestrel is a little more relaxed – and a little less hungry!
If you aren’t already following the story, this kestrel was found abandoned and I have introduced it to the nest in the hope that these wild birds will raise it.
When mum comes home to find a new kestrel chick in her brood: June 19th
The following clip is fascinating. It was taken an hour after I placed a foundling kestrel chick into the nest. The adult female returns with food for her chicks to find there is a new chick in her nest. Chaos ensues as the foundling chick immediately snatches the meal she has caught for her own young from her! Watch this mother’s reaction! Instead of becoming aggressive, as you might expect, she seems to circle the new chick as if trying to work out what on earth this is. Then she spends some time trying to get the food back from this hungry chick. Once she has it she continues to carefully break pieces off for her own young. Meanwhile the foster chick tears off chunks from the kill and eventually the elder of the adult kestrel’s natural chicks, Casper, possibly having learnt its manners from this new chick, piles in and also begins to feed for itself – leaving mother kestrel to feed the youngest one, Billie. Incredible!
The kestrel chicks begin to settle down: June 19th
The following clip is taken during the first hour after a foundling kestrel chick is introduced to this wild nest. The two resident chicks are still a little shocked at the new arrival, but they begin to settle down whilst the newcomer continues to look very alarmed for at least half an hour. The eldest of the two resident chicks, Casper, is the first to calm down and just to show how relaxed he is about having this new boy in the nest he goes right up to him up and tries to stretch out on one leg – this goes a little wrong however because it falls over and accidentally steps on the newcomer’s tail!
Introducing a foundling kestrel chick to the nest: June 19th
There has been an interesting development in the kestrel nest. I was asked by Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation, to see if I could help rescue a kestrel chick that was found on a roadside. In the past I have helped this worthy organisation rescue foundling chicks by persuading wild birds to adopt them, so, using the same tactic, I popped this baby bird in with the others whilst the adult female was out. But look at the alarm it caused among the other chicks. Watch one of them back up against the wall of the nest in terror. Don’t worry it wasn’t long before the chicks all settled down and resumed normal life. Watch out for my next post when I will show you what happened when the adult female returned to find an extra chick in the nest.
Kestrel chicks discover the outside world: June 19th
The two kestrel chicks in my nest box have discovered the outside world. Look at them here as they peer out. The younger one pushes its sibling out of the way!
Naming the kestrel chicks
I thought it was time I gave the chicks names and so I asked my followers on Facebook to come up with some ideas. My favourite suggestion was Billie and Casper, from the main character in my all-time favourite film, Kes. So now we have the youngest chick, Billie (I’ve spelled it with an ‘ie’ in case this turns out to be a female and Casper, the elder chick.
Is this kestrel chick practising its pounce? June 18th
Watch this kestrel chick stretch its wings wide and jump across the nest. It is now two weeks old. I wonder if this behaviour could be the beginning of learning to pounce on prey?
Kestrel Chicks: Week 3
Kestrel chick’s new feathers are coming through: June 17th
The chicks are now starting to get their feathers. In this clip one of the chicks takes a walk to the edge of the nest, but it’s a little unsteady on its feet.
Dad brings dinner, but the kestrel chicks don’t feed until mum serves it up: June 15th
The kestrel chick are now two weeks old and a new routine has been established in which the male now brings the chicks right in to the nest box and delivers it directly to the chicks. The female is still needed to serve it up, however. And the chicks wait for her to arrive to be fed!
Dinner time for the noisy kestrel chicks: June 13th
It’s dinner time in the kestrel nest and dad has brought a small bird snack. Listen to the chicks calling out in excitement. The oldest chick is now just over 2 weeks old. Watch as the prey is pulled into the nest, this chick has a go at feeding itself. But this is a time for proper table manners and the adult female snatches it from the chick and prepares the meal appropriately: breaking small pieces off and serving each chick properly.
Kestrel Chicks: Week Two
Kestrel chick’s potty routine: June 10th
Some people share photos of their children potty training and I couldn’t resist this clip of the 12-day old chick’s regular routine. It’s just so funny how it always backs up like this! Watch to the end when it gives a satisfied shake and stretch!!!!
Bedtime in the kestrel nest: Watch poor mum struggle to settle her growing brood: June 10th
The kestrel chicks are getting too big to brood! Watch this hilarious clip showing the adult female as she tries to tuck the oversized chicks underneath her. It’s bedtime in the nest box and the first thing that happens is the eldest chick scampers away. Watch it head to the exit. She has to gather the miscreant back under her and then try to tuck them under so she can brood. It is so funny to see her trying her best, but this older chick is now 12 days old and barely fits!!!
Cheeky kestrel chick gets a ticking off from mum: June 9th
Watch this cute kestrel chick pulling at its mother’s tail feathers! This adorable footage from my nest cams shows the chick’s development in the last few days. It is possibly just pecking at anything that moves, but it seems like a cheeky thing to do. The 12 day old chick is becoming a real character. See the parent bird turn round to give it a telling off! ‘Who did that’?
Kestrel chick’s first feathers! June 9th
The eldest kestrel chick has its first feathers already! Watch this clip as it stretches out its wings. You can just see the first flight feathers underneath! This chick is now 12 days old.
Kestrel chicks sibling rivalry? June 5th
Watch these adorable kestrel chicks as they wait in the nest for the parent bird to return. There are two days between them in age, the eldest is 8 days old. But here the youngest, six days old, seems to be pecking at its older sibling as if calling for food. Or are these siblings squabbling?
The eldest kestrel chick is slowly gaining independence: June 5th
The baby kestrels are growing fast. Watch as the eldest, now 8 days old, extricates itself from beneath its brooding mother where it seems to have been squabbling with its sibling and begins to preen.
Kestrel Chicks: Week One
Kestrel chicks at one week: June 3rd
Look at the size difference between the two kestrels on my nest cam. The eldest chick is now six days old and is standing unaided and even preening. Next to it is its four-day old sibling, not yet able to stand independently.
Dinner time for the kestrel chicks: May 30th
A second chick hatched on May 29th. Look how the chicks have grown! In just three days the first chick has transformed from a naked creature into a ball of fluff. The second also has a decent covering of down. Watch this tender moment as the parent female feeds them in turn.
First kestrel chick hatches: May 27th 6.55am
Watch this amazing footage of the first kestrel chick as it hatches. You can follow the incredible action as one leg emerges from the shell and bit by bit a tiny new creature emerges. The hatching took a total of 7 minutes. Notice the parent bird pecking at the cracking egg. She is tearing and swallowing pieces of the egg’s nutritious inner membrane. Eventually the tiny new chick emerges, its beak gaping. Just at this point the male arrives at the entrance to the nest box with a vole for the female. The female leaves her newly hatched chick to grab the offering and then returns. She immediately begins to break off pieces of the food and offer it to the chick. But the chick at this point is too new and her offerings miss its open beak. She is distracted from the food and resumes picking at the egg membrane.
A rival female kestrel dive-bombs the nest! May 24th
My nest cams caught this alarming moment when a rival female kestrel flew at a nest. Watch as the brooding kestrel emerges squawking at the intruder. I’ve spotted this invading female before, see below, so I was right. Kes has been playing away again!
Kestrel takes a moment in the sunshine: May 15th
The kestrel chicks could hatch as early as next week. The third egg was laid on April 24th and incubation typically lasts 27-29 days from the date of the third egg, which means we could see our first chick on Monday May 21st. The male and female are still taking turns to incubate, but the Semi-Colon, the female, is now happy to take longer breaks. This could be due to the recent warm weather we’ve been having. Watch the following clip of her sitting at the entrance to the nest box preening. It looks as though she is enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.
Kestrel Caught Calling for A Female: May 13th
I heard the male kestrel, Mr Kes, calling out as if to attract a female today. His call was the ‘courting call’ of a kestrel. This is unusual behaviour considering he has a mate already on eggs. I rushed outside just in time to see a new female in the valley below the house. I’ve seen her briefly fly close to the feeding post but I haven’t seen her since so perhaps he was just trying his luck! Mr Kes has a reputation for two-timing. Click here to read about how he almost had three females on the go last year.
Kestrel Pair Taking Turns on Eggs: May 5th
After watching closely how the kestrel pair share the role of incubating their new clutch of five eggs, I decided to show footage from a surveillance camera outside the nest box. It shows the two as they swap places over the course of an afternoon. The film has been sped up and clipped so that you just see the change overs. It covers a period of about three hours. During this time the pair swap roles five times. Scroll down to watch a similar sequence taken from cameras inside the nest box on the morning of the same day.
Kestrels Take Turns on Eggs: May 5th, 2018
The footage below shows the kestrel pair inside the nest box as they take turns to incubate their clutch of five eggs. My nest cams filmed the pair over the course of a morning. The footage has been clipped and sped up to make it easier to watch. The pair only actually swap roles twice during this time, but the female often gets up off the eggs and pops out to the entrance of the nest box to preen. In fact she is a very fidgety bird. Notice how she is constantly shifting about on the eggs and frequently distracted by shadows and insects in the box as she sits. In contrast the male sits very still as he incubates. He is an older male, perhaps a little calmer in temperament! But it is worth remembering my observations on May 3rd which revealed that the male incubated the eggs for much shorter periods of times and less often than the female. It’s no wonder she gets the fidgets!
Mr Kes’ supporting role: May 3rd, 2018
Watch this! Mr Kes brings food into the nest box for Semi Colon and she snatches it from him before he has had a chance to proffer it. They briefly tussle before Mr Kes relinquishes the food. Semi Colon has a history of bad manners, scroll down to see frequent tugs of war between them! She has been incubating this clutch of five eggs for four days now, with some support from Mr Kes.
I wanted to know how much he has been helping, after noticing that he was very attentive following the third egg so I recorded how many times he helped with the incubation over a period of 24 hours. From midnight on May 2nd to midnight May 3rd, the pair swapped places on the eggs a total of 20 times, with Mr Kes incubating a total of 10 times during that period. However his shifts were comparatively short and amounted to just under 3 hours. The maximum length of time he incubated the eggs was 40 minutes, but on average he sat on the clutch for an average of just 4-10 minutes. In contrast the female, Semi Colon, sat on the eggs for long periods of time – the longest being close to six hours. The pair only left the clutch a few times and for less than a minute. So it turns out that this pair of kestrels’ behaviour conforms with established theories that male kestrels sit on the eggs for short periods of time.
Fifth and final kestrel egg: April 29th 4.51am
The kestrels now have a clutch of five eggs. The female has laid a new egg every second day and I expect this is the last of the clutch now. This footage is the first glimpse we get of the fifth egg and happens as the female gets up and leaves the sycamore stump.
A fourth kestrel egg: April 26th: 7.56pm
My nest cam caught the first glimpse of the fourth egg today. Watch ~Semi Colon as she shuffles on her clutch of eggs and then stands briefly – you just get a glimpse of a clutch of four before she settles back down to incubate the eggs.
Male kestrel helps incubate after 3rd egg: April 24th: 4.09pm
A third egg was laid today, again exactly two days after the second egg. It seems that Semi-Colon lays without too much trouble. Interestingly the male, Mr Kes, came in to the nest box shortly afterwards to sit on the eggs. Watch this clip to the end to see this. Usually it is only the female kestrel that incubates the eggs, although in the early days males can sit on them for short periods. Kes, however, has been present for much of the day and I noticed him sitting on the first egg shortly after it was laid too. My observations of his behaviour last year showed that he is a very attentive parent, perhaps he’s getting broody!
Second kestrel egg is laid: April 22nd: 1.10pm
Today Semi-Colon laid a second egg! She seems to lay quite effortlessly. Watch as she sits breathing heavily and then stands to reveal the second egg. So far her egg laying is text-book: one every two days. But I’m keeping record to see if she continues to conform.
First kestrel egg of the season is laid: April 20th: 10.21am
The first egg of the season was laid this morning! Watch Semi-Colon as she huffs and puffs for a short while and then stands up to reveal an egg! It’s a beautiful speckled reddish-brown oval shape. In fact a perfect egg shape. Kestrels tend to lay their eggs in succession, laying one every two days. Last year the pair here laid five altogether, so we will see how many we get this year. The female doesn’t sit down to incubate until the third egg so this solitary egg has been lying exposed in the nest box for most of the day. It is about 39 mm by 32 mm with a smooth, but not glossy, buff white wash beneath the speckles.
Kestrel poses for its portrait: April 15th, 2018
The cameras caught this lovely sequence of Kes posing on the feeding post. I chose to use this gnarled old piece of wood specifically with a view to creating an attractive backdrop to my paintings and this short clip is the perfect reference for a future composition. Watch as Kes flies down to perch. There is nothing on the post for him to eat, but he struts and poses for me beautifully!
Kestrel vs Barn Owl Stand off: April 14th, 2018, continued:
After the fight described below I got very worried because the female kestrel, whom I am expecting will lay her first egg any day now, disappeared along with Mr Kes for several hours. I was scared they may have decided to lay elsewhere and even drove out to see if I could find them. I spotted them prospecting by the beech stump, which is situated at the bottom of the valley below my house, but thankfully before the day ended they were back in this sycamore stump and I watched a beautiful food pass between them which suggests all is well. I’ve been watching the sycamore stump closely to see if I can discover why the barn owls keep occupying it since they have already adopted the elm stump and seem quite settled there so they don’t really need this box. I think that what is happening in accidental rather than deliberate. The barn owls fly around the garden at night and often as they fly past they annoy the kestrels who are roosting just outside the sycamore stump rather than inside it. The female kestrel can be aggressive and as a barn owl passes, she tends to fly at it. The owl then takes refuge inside the stump and then finds itself trapped
April 14th, 2018
The standoff between the kestrel pair and the barn owls that keep flying into their nest box has continued on and off for weeks, but today it reached a climax with a 45 minute standoff inside the sycamore stump. The female kestrel is increasingly distressed and calls and shrieks loudly throughout. Make sure you watch the above clip with the sound on. Watch the kestrel as she spreads out her wings and steps towards the barn owl squawking incessantly. Wouldn’t you if you found someone inside your house and they refused to get out despite you shouting at them for 45 minutes? The female barn owl barely budges throughout. Of course it doesn’t occur to the kestrel that she is blocking the entrance so the barn owl can’t actually get past her.Eventually the kestrel gives up and flies out, followed hard by the female barn owl. inside!
Barn Owl V Kestrel: April 13th
Watch this! The nest cam picked up the female kestrel poised at the entrance to the ash nest box for what seemed like hours. When I reeled back in time I discovered the issue. A female barn owl was inside. The kestrel was blocking its exit menancingly.What happened next was alarming. The male barn owl flew down and tried to barge its way in to rescue its mate. But its valiant efforts were short-lived as the kestrel grabbed it and threw it out. They grappled in midair and whilst they were away the female made her getaway. The male then returned to occupy the box. But this wasn’t the end because within minutes the kestrel returned and now her lengthy stand-off continues. This deadlock lasts throughout the night! UPDATE: the kestrel continued to stand blocking the entrance to the box for most of the following day!
Reluctant kestrel food pass: April 5th, 2018
The bond between the kestrels in my garden is not always loving. Again my cameras have picked up a tug of war rather than a food pass between them! It is usual for the male to hunt and catch food for the female during courtship, the process establishes a strong bond between them and ensures that the male will be able to provide when the chicks hatch. But in this clip the female snatches a mouse from the male and the male is reluctant to hand it over!
Kestrel catches a lizard and offers it to mate: April 4th, 2018
The courtship between Mr & the new Mrs Kes continues. Today the camera outside the sycamore stump captured this beautiful footage of Mr Kes passing a lizard he has caught to his mate. Known as ‘food passes’ these exchanges are an essential part of their courtship. Common lizards are actually quite uncommon here in Thixendale, but Mr Kes seems to find them.
Kestrel snatches food from mate: March 27th, 2018
Today’s footage shows the new Mrs Kes snatch an offering from Kes! It’s been raining all day and both birds are bedraggled. Neither seem in the mood for the subtle behaviour required of a loving courtship! A male kestrel would normally catch food for a prospective mate as part of their courtship routine, but here Kes seems reluctant to let go and his mate isn’t prepared to wait for the courtesy of being offered the token either. She just wrestles it out of his grasp! But stay with me because what happens next is interesting.
But Mr Kes gets his reward in the end because after his Mrs snatched his offering out of his grasp, she returned to the mating post and obliged!
Kestrel at sunrise: March 9th, 2018
Watch this beautiful sunrise on the Yorkshire Wolds. My cameras captured the peaceful moment when the sun climbed over the hills with the kestrel in the foreground. Sometimes there is no story, but the images are so perfect I’ve included them just to share!
Kestrel courtship: March 7th, 2018
Watch this lovely sequence of the kestrel pair’s courtship as it unfolds. They are prospecting for nesting sites in preparation for the breeding season and the male hopes to attract the female to a nest box I made from an old sycamore stump. My wildlife cameras follow the story as the male returns to the site with a wood mouse hoping to attract the female with this offering. She comes to inspect but quickly flies away. Make sure you watch this with the sound on as the sounds the male makes as he calls the female in to the box is really interesting.
Kestrels against the snow: February 27th, 2018
As a savage weather front from Eastern Europe known as the ‘Beast from the East’ hit the Yorkshire Wolds my wildlife cameras picked up this incredible footage of the kestrel pair in the garden on the feeding post as the snow continued to fall in the background. Watch as the female devoured the food I left on the post whilst the male looked on. He bends his head as if begging for some, but she stubbornly refuses to share.
Kestrels on farmland: February 19th, 2018
The field behind the kestrels’ mating post was ploughed up today. Interestingly the activity didn’t disturb the kestrels and this footage shows the male coming in and perching for a while. It only moves at the last moment. I can’t wait to see the crop that will be planted there turn green for spring.
I like to put props up for birds where the background will make a good backdrop in my paintings. I painted the picture below directly from a photograph of the male kestrel posed on a prop in front of a wheat field that was still green.
Kestrels mating in the cold: January 30th, 2018
The kestrel pair have been using the post I put out for them outside the nest box to mate on. It is early for them to actually be mating now, and actually this is more like foreplay. It is unlikely the female will not be fertilised. The kestrels have spent the last few weeks doing this. Their activity is an important part of establishing a strong bond which should prove unbreakable when the breeding season begins since they will need to support one another as they bring up a brood of chicks.
Enjoy this? Check out my other nest cam blogs below:
Placemat: Blue Tits on Hawthorn by Robert E Fuller
(Placemats and Coasters )
Kingfisher on Willow - Glass Work Top Saver by Robert E Fuller
(Glass Worktop Savers )
Lap Tray with Cushion - Barn Owl by Robert E Fuller
(Lap tray with Cushion)