We had returned to the house from a bygone era where only a few weeks ago we had been delighted with a family of barn owls. On that day, once we had finished processing and ringing the owls, we had wandered over to check a number of other bird boxes erected in the surrounding trees. One was nestled in the crook of a gnarled branch of an oak tree that had a beautiful wide rounded canopy. The box was open fronted and part of the roof had rotted away so that as Lee climbed the ladder to look in there was little expectation of anything being present. However on reaching in to check the back, something grabbed back. Something with sharp talons. Experienced and quick thinking meant that out of the box, with just a little damage to hands and none to feathers, came a stunning adult female kestrel.
She had been sitting on four beautiful dark red, mottled eggs at the very back of the box where the roof was still intact. And so we ringed and measured her, and then returned her to her box.
Now 4 weeks later and we were back. Little had changed, perhaps the grass billowing in the stiff breeze was a little longer, the surrounding trees a little greener. But mostly it was the same serene landscape of grassy paddocks and tall trees as before. As we crossed the paddock, heading for the oak tree, a hare burst out from almost under our feet, racing away in a large circuit around us. It made us all stop in our tracks, gasp and then grin at each other, awed by the pure energy of the hare.
In the soft green glow under the canopy of the tree, once again Lee climbs the ladder to the box and carefully reaches in. This time it is two very cute chicks that are brought out. Soft grey feathers make them look and feel very fluffy. Their claws and beak are soft, not yet hardened enough to inflict any damage. Their legs however are well developed and they easily take a suitably sized metal ring.
And so another pair of kestrel chicks are now ringed and another nesting attempt of these wonderful falcons monitored. All for a future where kestrels continue to be a feature of this beautiful landscape.