Sunday, 3 August 2008

Kestrel antics on Blackberry Hill

 

Map image

Blackberry hill(above) is fast emerging as my birding backyard! Every time I go there I`m sure to see at least a Kestrel or two or a Buzzard or both.

kestrel diff

Kestrels can be distinguished from a Buzzard in that they are smaller, have more pointed wing tips and very typically hover while hunting for prey as seen in the pictures below. This hovering behaviour earns them the other name – Windhover.

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Kestrel

When I first viewed the Kestrels on Blackberry hill, I was able to see two of them together. You may be able to see the small speck in the corner of the picture below

Kestrel

I was watching them from behind a few bushes while they seemed to be hunting for prey. The prey of kestrels includes small mammals like voles and small birds. They are known to catch several per day and even store some for future use.

Apart from hover hunting. They sometimes also sit on trees and electric posts until they see a prey and then swiftly swoop down upon it. While I was standing behind the bushes, one of the kestrels startled me by swooping onto the highest point of the bush. I was too amazed to get my camera settings right but managed to take the picture below. I guess even the kestrel was surprised because it immediately flew away.

Kestrel

After a while I realised that the pair was probably a mother and it’s juvenile. They descended upon the hillside and seemed to be indulging in some sort of play or training.

Kestrel

I wasn’t sure if it was play or training. I witnessed one of them take a twig and fly into the air and then drop it . I expected it to retrieve it immediately but the bird didn’t seem intent on it, instead it flew over to the one on the ground as if exhorting it to claim the twig back. Pictures and video below.

KestrelKestrel



All of a sudden there was a commotion and two more kestrels joined in. I didn’t know who was chasing whom and which one was which but  they flew out of sight and only two returned. I am guessing it was the first two that successfully defended their territory. I managed to photograph three of them during the chase (below)

 Kestrel

on returning, the two resumed their antics with the twig, often jumping, flying into the air and then returning to the hill side. From the pictures below it looks like one was actually playing, while under the supervision of the other.

Kestrel

Kestrel

Finally, both of them took off into the air, and I decided it was time to leave. While leaving I witnessed another noisy chase involving all four birds, but they soon disappeared over the hill side.

Kestrel

I`ll be returning soon to watch the kestrels in their play again, but for now I know that there are at least four kestrels on Blackberry hill.

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