In spring 2017, the BBC Springwatch team filmed kestrels (Falco tinnunculus tinnunculus) in a nest inside our church tower. The nest was in the single window at the base of the steeple, so my photos are taken from the ground far below.
When the chicks were tiny, they were invisible from the ground, but here you can see the father leaving after feeding them.
As they got bigger, they would come closer to the edge: (This photo was taken on June 17th 2017):
And occasionally you could see several at once:
Until one day you could see that their plumage was almost adult-like:
I’m happy to say that all four chicks successfully fledged.
This summer, I could see kestrels hunting in the fields by the brook. living up to their poetic ancient name of ‘windhover’:*
and doing aerial acrobatics when they sighted their prey:
But there was no sign of nesting activity until June 10, and then, blessedly, they were back. The BBC cameraman climbed up inside the tower and saw four eggs, and got his camera working in time to show the female on the eggs. This photo is one I took of the screen on his hard drive, with his permission! (By this time last year the chicks were already hatched and growing fast: look at the fairly mature chick on June 17th 2017 above.)
The BBC thought there were two males and one female taking turns on the nest, and that the second male might be one of last year’s young helping the parents. So, fingers crossed for another successful brood.
*From ‘The Windhover‘, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1918.
“I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!”
PS: The American Kestrel, Falco sparverius, is quite distinct, and much smaller. The Old World Kestrel can weigh up to 9oz, but the American Kestrel rarely exceeds 5oz.
PPS: From the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds website, here is a great video of a kestrel in flight, landing and then taking off again: