Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Caring For Kestrels - September 2015

The blog is back, but for how long who knows, but this time I am going to try make a conscious effort to post regularly.

This year’s autumn week away only stretch as far as a few days down to the Somerset levels, what with a new job and new house planning holidays had been the last thing on my mind. However it gave a great opportunity to explore the Avalon Marshes nature reserves of Ham Wall, Shapwick Heath and Westhay Moor.

After a morning exploring Steart Marshes we headed over to Westhay Moor a site I hadn’t been to before. Donna and I spotted a couple of big lens bods further down the path from the car park so we headed off that way. A passer-by informing us of a very bold Kestrel that was obviously their targeted subject.

We soon spotted the bird perched among the autumn leaves of a row of silver birch, camouflaged well against the greens and oranges of the changing leaves. It kept peering down, seemingly not too bothered by the few spectators clicking away.

A group of kids and their mothers passed, screaming and running amok flushing the bird up for a couple of minutes, it did a couple of circle flight and then came straight back in and landed in the branches 20ft above our heads. I’ve not seen a wild Kestrel this close before and was quite surprised by how fearless it was.

It looked quite ragged in flight so I did wonder if it wasn’t too well, but it was soon catching Dragonflys that were basking on the path and hunting for earth worms among the mole hills.

Having almost filled the memory card up with Kestrel shots we walked off around the rest of the reserve, missing the resident Bearded Tits by seconds. Kingfishers called and zoomed along all the channels. After a couple of hours covering the wide expanse of Westhay and taking in the several different hides overlooking the reed beds, we ticked of Great White Egret on the furthest walk and as we headed back to the car in the gloom, the Kestrel appeared again in front of us.

The way it perched on the branch it just didn’t look healthy, the wing drooped a little but still it kept dropping down to catch earth worms. We crawled ever closer taking yet more pics in the awful light accommodated all the time by the bird.

It then flew up and did a short circle flight before dropping down in the bracken, emerging a few seconds later with a mouse. So it looked ill but somehow seemed to catch more prey in the time we were watching it than should be natural. I still couldn’t make up my mind.

We had to walk on a bit more and as we got a little closer the Kestrel was up and off further down the path with its catch, out into a more open area with some slightly better light. Just as it got out into the open it dropped its prey and having found a new vantage point knelt down just metres away it came trotting back through the grass in search of it.

Finally reunited with its lunch my final Kestrel shot was of the bird feeding atop one of the hides. A close encounter never to forget and one that by the end of our visit to Westhay had convinced us that there wasn’t too much wrong with this bird. All we could put it down to was that perhaps it had been injured before and raised back to health with a human imprint on it.

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