Castle Hill Kestrel and a fox update

We are fortunate to be on the doorstep of the Castle Hill Nature Reserve, which sits on the edge of the South Downs. It’s mainly grass chalkland and in the summer is ablaze with butterflies. It is also home to a number of rare orchids.

Castle Hill view

View across Castle Hill

I visited on Saturday, and had barely gone a few paces before I spotted a kestrel out hunting. That was good enough for me. It was tracking back and forth, hovering and swooping, and occasionally picking up a morsel to eat. I stayed and watched.

kestrel

Kestrel at Castle Hill

kestrel

Kestrel at Castle Hill

Typically kestrels will predate small rodents, but if they are not available they have a particular fancy for crickets. You can see one grasped in her talons in this shot taken as she flew away.

kestrel with cricket

Kestrel with cricket

As for the foxes, we are now approaching the time of year where they sort out their winter territory. Mid-September and everything changes. The younger foxes are ‘encouraged’ away from their home patch and forced to become fully independent. There will also be changes in the adult population as they seek out the best territory for breeding. As we move into winter they will also be seeking mates. The first obvious sings are that they change their habits. We are seeing less of the young foxes in the evening, but Pretty (a fully mature adult vixen) has been slightly more evident in the past couple of weeks. Their nightly arrival times are now later, and interestingly they are also becoming more cautious. Apart form a brief glimpse of Long Nose and Pretty in the early hours of Saturday morning, the only other visit this weekend was by Scamp, on Sunday afternoon.

two foxes

Long Nose (foreground) and Pretty Vixen visit in the early hours of Saturday morning

fox in long grass

Scamp relaxing in the garden on Sunday afternoon

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens, apart from the shot of Long Nose and Pretty taken with the EF 70-200mm f/4.0L IS II USM lens.

4 Comments

  1. Darko September 20, 2018 at 1:25 pm #

    Excellent hunting kestrel photographs! I suppose there is (or was) a castle in Castle Hill, but now I can’t see it on your first photo. Not that it really matters, after all 🙂
    Good to see that foxes are still around. Time to move on is coming, it seems…

  2. Words September 23, 2018 at 12:19 am #

    Darko, I don’t think there was ever a castle, but you have made me look up more about the area and it seems there are ancient earthworks there, so something like a hill fort. It’s nothing like the scale of Maiden Castle in Dorset, which I remember being taken to by my school. Hours spent up and down the ring mounds! More on Maiden Castle here… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maiden_Castle%2C_Dorset

  3. Andy September 29, 2018 at 1:55 am #

    Liked the photo of Scamp relaxing.

    • Words September 30, 2018 at 12:47 am #

      Thanks Andy!

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