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Stories from the Kestrel Cam

I’ve been following the intimate lives of a pair of kestrels living in my garden for more than 10 years and over the years I’ve come to know them well; naming the male Kes, after my favourite Ken Loach film. Sadly last year Kes’ long-term mate passed away. But he is a resilient old bird and already had a new mate in the wings – Follow this link to read my blog post about Kes’ and how he found a mistress. This year I have followed Kes’ story even more closely via a camera hidden in nest boxes in the garden. I’ve also trained a camera on his favourite perching post and the results have been incredible. I’ve managed to capture the whole breeding season, beginning with the long days he spent searching and choosing the best nest box and on to the days his first chicks fledge.

I am adding the best clips from the nest cams as I get them so to read the story from the beginning you need to scroll down and then work your way up. If you are already following the story, then the latest footage will be at the top.

June 2017: Semi-colon’s chick’s first fledge is a fail!

Woops! This kestrel takes a tumble on its first attempt to fledge. Watch it venture out to the entrance of its nest box. It slips at the entrance and somersaults out. It was pouring with rain and so I went outside and found it in the long grass completely soaked. I put it back in its nest. Hopefully if it tries to fledge tomorrow the weather will be better. Watch the film to the end, I’ve slowed it down so you can see the replay.

June 2017, Father’s Day Fledgling

What a lovely reminder of the role dad’s play on Father’s Day! Watch this young kestrel below copy the way his dad grooms. I’ve filmed the dad, Kes, first, then later the fledgling has a go in the very same spot. He’s got the posture down perfect, right down to the way he lifts his leg and curves his neck. This chick is one of the two that hatched from Semi-Colon’s nest and it is almost ready to fledge.

June 2017, Sadly only one chick from Kes’ first partner survives.

Although the Kes’ first mate did lay five eggs, only three of these hatched, and sadly out of these only one survived. I nicknamed this chick ‘Solo’. Watch it here getting overly spoiled with a large vole, lovingly portioned and fed to it by the adult female. Life of a single chick!

May 2017 ‘Semi-Colon’s’ eggs hatch. 

The clip below is priceless. Semi-colon is looking increasingly like a first time mum. Her chicks hatched whilst she was out and she returned to find them moving and cheeping. She looks so surprised.  Sadly only two eggs hatched from this clutch.

April 2017: ‘Semi-colon’, Kes’ mistres,  lays six eggs in the sycamore stump

The young female Kes mated, Semi-Colon, has laid a total of six eggs over 12 days. I wonder if this kestrel is a first time mum. At first she had a bit of trouble settling down to lay – watch her in the footage below. Her feet splay out beneath her. She seems surprised to see the first egg and at one point struggles to balance on it. It rolls beneath her and she falls flat on her beak! Thankfully Kes seems happy to support her as well as his other partner and comes comes in to help brood the eggs every now and then.

Identifying Kes’ mistress

I spotted the new young female kestrel I saw mating with Kes inspecting a second nest box in my garden, made from a sycamore stump. If I’m lucky there could be some wild kestrel eggs in the box just in time for Easter. To be sure it was her, I’ve taken a close up shot of her tail from the nest camera. The best way to identify individual kestrels is to look at their tail feathers. Each kestrel seems to have a unique feather pattern. If you look closely the top tail feather, there is a pattern that looks like a semi-colon on the bottom right. I’ve named this new female ‘Semi-Colon’.

March 2017 – Kes has a mistress!

My camera has caught this footage of Kes mating. But the female on camera is not his partner!!! I placed the branch they are mating on at the edge of my back garden so that I could photograph the kestrels perching there (I do this because the photographs I get become studies for my paintings) but I wasn’t expecting to capture this. Having said that, Kes has form so I should have known better. Follow this link to read the story of his infidelity last year.

2016: Kes, the male kestrel

My story begins in 2016 when I set up this camera on a pair of kestrels in my back garden. Let me introduce you to Kes, pictured below. Kes is a male kestrel and he has been feeding in my garden for some 10 years now. Kes is getting old and last year his long-term partner passed away. But he has a new partner and late last year they chose a nest box in my garden which I fashioned from a sycamore stump. Kes often sits in the entrance to the box, surveying his territory and preening himself. Watch him in the clip below. It is great to see the lovely Yorkshire Wolds landscape in the background!

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