Tag Archives: kestrel

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.

Posted in Bird of Prey, Birds, Foxes, Kestrel, Wildlife Also tagged |

Fledglings

I spent the afternoon today at Woods Mill. The young kestrels are nearly ready to fledge and can now be seen at the front of the nest box. The adults are still very busy feeding them and guarding them from other species.

Kestrel chicks

You can just see four of the six chicks in this photo

kestrel chicks

Kestrel chicks at Woods Mill

crow attacking kestrel nest box

Corvid attempting to raid a kestrel nest box

Those were all taken from some ridiculous distance away, but I was able to get a little closer to a young robin. It was sunning itself and kept hopping right up to the camera.

robin fledgling

Robin fledgling ‘sunbathing’

robin fledgling

Robin fledgling at Woods Mill

robin fledgling

Robin fledgling at Woods Mill

Plus a quick fox photo from last night. Pretty has taken a shine to rooftops!

fox on roof

Fox on a roof

Camera note: First photo taken with the EF 500mm f/4 IS II USM lens + 2x extender and the third with the 500mm lens (no extender). All other bird photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. The fox photo was taken with the EF 100mm f/2.8L macro IS USM lens.

Posted in Bird of Prey, Birds, Kestrel Also tagged , |

Raising Kestrels

For past few weeks I’ve been watching an amazing live feed from the kestrel nest box at Woods Mill, the headquarters of Sussex Wildlife Trust. There are half a dozen chicks in the box, and the adults are working feverishly to keep them fed. I’ve been down there a couple of times to watch the adults at work.

The feeding goes on throughout the day. The male tends to arrive and drop off the prey, but the female takes more time in the nest. The chicks can feed themselves now, but in the first days she would distribute the food across the brood taking care that all the chicks received a share.

These photos were taken today over the course of a few hours. I was set-up well away from the nest so these are all moderately heavy crops. I used a 500mm lens, sometimes with a 1.4x extender. For the majority I locked the focus on the box and waited for the adult to fly across the same plane. Plenty of misses, but far easier than trying to track a bird that appears from nowhere against a dark background.

The male delivering a vole 

The female with a rat for the hungry brood

The male again

The male with a young rat wood mouse

kestrel with prey (wood mouse)

Female kestrel leaving the nest

The male leaving the nest

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 1DX Mark II and EF 500mm f/4 IS II USM lens. I used a 1.4x extender on a couple of the shots.

Posted in Bird of Prey, Birds, Kestrel Also tagged , |