Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The Windhover

Do you remember when there seemed to be Kestrels hovering by any motorway at about mile intervals. Although you still see some in this situation it certainly seems that there are far fewer in these obvious circumstances than there were. The last BTO Bird Atlas indicates a breeding decline of over 40% in the last forty-five years.As it is a widespread species, and the usual[measure is the presencein a 10km square this isn't immediately obvious when suitable squares can sustain as many as 50 pairs

Fortunately there are still reasonably obvious around the village and I watched one lazily scanning the fields from a telegraph pole along Collingwood Road.

I was interested to see how they were doing in Kent and the new Kent Breeding Birds Atlas, an essential book for anyone interested in the County, gives a more local picture. There are 1001 tetrads in Kent (that is 2km x 2km squares) and this was the survey unit for the Atlas. In 491 of these Kestrel were probable or confirmed breeding and possibly bred in a further 381. In good habitats the breeding density is 4-6 pairs per tetrad, lower in urban or predominately arable farmland. This would been a county population in the range of 2500-3000 pairs.This would make it still our commonest bird of prey, with Sparrowhawks and Buzzards in secondand third place.

The bird I was watching was probably one of last years young, and it was rather inactive while I watched it, except when it was buzzed by a second bird, possibly one of its siblings.

This afternoon I had a few tasks that took me into Dover and I took the opportunity to have a look at the much photographed, and sketched (by Norman Maccanch) Red-breasted Merganser. 

She wasn't in the mood to let me get photos of her swimming and diving, but instead rested in the comparatively warm winter sunshine.

Of course there were lots of Cormorants around. Sensibly there were no other birds standing behind this bird at this moment.

When you see Red-breasted Mergansers in more usual surroundings they seem quite large ducks, but next to the photo-bombing Herring Gull it really does look tiny.
I mentioned the Breeding atlas at the start. Anyone interested in obtaining a copy (they're £15 for KOS member and £22.50 for non members they can be ordered on the KOS web sight on the publications page, or if you are near St Margaret's, let me know for a personal delivery.


Derek Faulkner said...

I put a new Kestrel nest box on the side of the Swale NNR barn this year and it was taken over immediately by a pair of Kestrels despite being only six foot off the ground. They raised three chicks successfully and all were rung.
Lack of nest sites is a large part of their problem, as it is for Barn Owls. Harty does well for Barn Owls but they are held back from possibly doubling by lack of nest sites.
It also has to be said that not all lowland nature reserves encourage Kestrels because of their taste for the likes of Lapwing chicks in the breeding season.

Tony Morris said...

Derek, Well done with the box! I think that is a double wammy. Modern farming, in largely cereal areas, has few trees, where they would naturally nest, and of course even fewer prey items. I understand about some nature reserves on Sheppey!