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29 June 2013

Young Kestrels learning to deal with prey

Kestrel chicks in our nest box in Co. Kerry (filmed under licence: Michael O'Clery).

Here is an extended video of life in our Kestrel nest box, in Co. Kerry.

The camera lens has been partially, ahem, 'white-washed' by one of the chicks, but there are a number of intriguing behaviours to look out for.

Early on in the video, we can see two of the chicks making quick pouncing movements with one foot. This is practicing for when they will use such a technique to immobilise or injure any prey on the ground. They will also make small pounces onto imaginary prey, again rehearsal for the real thing in just a few weeks time.

There are a couple of bouts of wing flapping, and although their wings are not yet fully grown, this will help excercise and strengthen the wing muscles.

Also look out for 'mantling' behaviour. As a food item (looks like a Pygmy Shrew) is delivered to the nest box near the end of the clip, at about 04:25, the lucky chick at the front grabs it and quickly shields it from the other chicks by cloaking it with open wings. This behaviour starts as soon as the chicks are able to feed themselves and becomes ever more pronounced as they develop, and prevents one of the siblings from stealing their meal.

Incidentally, the adults no longer enter the box, but merely deliver prey to the entrance to the first chick to grab it. Blink and you'll miss it!

You can also see one of the chicks nibbling at a stalk (or bit of feather?) but note how they can use their foot to manipulate potential food items.

28 June 2013

Nest box Kestrels growing fast

Kestrel chicks in nest box, Co. Kerry, 25th June 2013

Just a few days since the last posting from our Kestrel nest box in Co. Kerry and the chicks are beginning to look like adult birds. Much of the down has now gone and wing and tail feathers are growing fast. You can see this well as the chicks stretch, waiting for their next meal. More soon...

27 June 2013

Kestrel Cam

The RTE live Kestrel nest camera is up and running. Click HERE (opens a new window on the RTE website, then click the 'play' symbol on the lower left).

The interview on the Derek Mooney show, with John Lusby, Raptor Conservation Officer of BirdWatch Ireland, can be heard by clicking HERE (opens a new page on the RTE website).

26 June 2013

John Lusby talks about Kestrels, RTE Radio today

Kestrel (Michael Finn).

John Lusby, Raptor Officer with BirdWatch Ireland, is on the Derek Mooney Show, on RTE Radio 1 today at 3pm. The subject of today's progaramme will be Kestrels. If you miss it, you can find it on RTE Player

24 June 2013

Kestrel chicks ringed

Kestrel chick, Co. Kerry, 24th June 2013 (M.O'Clery).

The Kestrels chicks featured in previous posts below are now old enough to be ringed. The four seem to be in good health and well fed. The last downy whitish feathers will disappear over then next week at which stage they will be fully grown and ready for their first flight.

23 June 2013

Barn Owl pair gives up on nesting for this year

Male and female Barn Owl, Co. Kerry, 23rd June 2013 (M.O'Clery).

This beautiful pair of Barn Owls were caught and carefully measured and ringed at their nest site in Co. Kerry yesterday. The site has been known about for four years and they nested successfully there in the first two, but failed to breed last year. Despite a careful inspection of the nesting area yesterday (under licence), no eggs or chicks were found and as the pair were roosting together in the same small area, it seems they have given up trying to breed this year. Perhaps because of the cold spring, there simply wasn't enough food to bring the female into breeding condition.

Another interesting aspect of this site is that a total of four adults have been trapped here in four years, but never the same individual twice. This shows that at some sites at least, there would appear to be a relatively high turnover of birds.

19 June 2013

No respect!

That's the trouble with young Kestrels these days... no respect! (M.O'Clery).

18 June 2013

More from our Kestrel nest box

Four Kestrel chicks, Co. Kerry, 17th June 2013 (Photographed under licence, M.O'Clery)

It's been 10 days since we first visited the chick at this site in Co. Kerry (see, eg, this post HERE). There were five chicks then, now we are down to four, though all four seem healthy. It would be usual for the smallest of the chicks to succumb once times get tough, and perhaps the heavy rain and strong winds of the past few days meant there was not enough food arriving for all five.

Have a look at the video below, showing an insight into life in the nest box. It's getting a little dirty in there, though the chicks spend a good bit of time preening and cleaning themselves, even if their surrounds are now getting a little unsavoury. While waiting in between meals they doze, preen, excercise their wings, nibble at bits in the nest and huddle together for warmth and comfort.

Video of Kestrel chicks, Co. Kerry, 17th June 2013 (Filmed under licence, M.O'Clery)

16 June 2013

Late Long-eareds

Adult Long-eared Owl (Adrian Rooney).

With the cold spring, Long-eared Owls are breeding exceptionally late this year. By 14th March last year, there were calling chicks at one site near Newmarket, and more quickly followed at other sites in Duhallow. However, despite careful checking over the past few weeks, not one Long-eared Owl chick has yet been heard. Hopefully they will start appearing at the nest sites soon.

13 June 2013

New Barn Owl site in quarry

Barn Owl site, Co. Kerry, 13th June 2013 (M.O'Clery)

Nationally, quarries only make up about 2% of known Barn Owl sites. This new one is just outside Duhallow, but not far. There was one Barn Owl seen inside the tunnel, but we will have to wait before we can discover if they are nesting here, or if it is a lone roosting bird. More on this site soon...

11 June 2013

Kestrel chicks eat a Bank Vole

Female Kestrel feeds a Bank Vole to her five chicks (John Lusby).

In this fantastic nest camera footage we see a female Kestrel feed a Bank Vole to her five young chicks. The nest box is in Co. Kerry, and the chicks are probably between 6 and 12 days old. Shortly before, the female had arrived at the nest and the male arrived shortly after and presented her with the catch before he flew off. After a cautionary pause, sitting a short distance away, she flew to the nest box with her prey. Watch as she feeds it to her hungry brood.

This is the nest box which featured in previous posts, eg, HERE and HERE

Filmed under licence from the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

10 June 2013

You are what you eat


Brood of Kestrels, West Kerry, 7th June 2013 (Photographed under licence: John Lusby).

Biting off more than they can chew! This brood of Kestrels was ringed on Friday last, in a West Kerry nest box. Looks like one might have been fed a small thrush, possibly a Song Thrush.

9 June 2013

Sparrowhawk nest

Sparrowhawk nest, Co. Kerry, 7th June 2013 (Video: J. Lusby & M.O'Clery).

While searching for Kestrel nests in Co. Kerry we were tipped off about a potential site. Turned out to be another rare find, a Sparrowhawk's nest with five eggs. We will return to this site to see how the chicks develop, though the incubation period is quite long in Sparrowhawks, 35 to 40 days being typical. 

(The nests are visited and filmed only under special licence from the Parks and Wildlife Service).

8 June 2013

Kestrel chick ringing starts

Ringing Kestrel chicks at a site in Co. Kerry (Video: John Lusby & M.O'Clery).

After a slow start with one of the coldest springs in decades, Kestrel chicks are finally making an appearance. We checked a Kestrel nest which featured in this post HERE and again, when the female can be seen incubating the eggs, in this post HERE.

Two weeks ago, there were five eggs. Today, five healthy looking chicks (four can easily be seen but one of the smaller ones is hiding behind a larger chick). They are too young to be ringed at this stage so we will return in another week or two. So far, so good...

7 June 2013

Low tech solution

Nest examination, 7th June 2013, Co. Kerry (M. O'Clery).

Checking high structures for potential raptor nests can be problematic at the best of times, and ladders will only get you 30-40 feet (12m) up. Quite a few Kestrel and Barn Owl nests are considerably higher, so sometimes there is simply no way to reach the nest. This low-tech solution has been used this year to great effect – a small digital camera mounted onto the end of a specially modified extendable pole. Here, John Lusby is using it to examine a Kestrel nest with chicks at the top of a ruined church in Co. Kerry.

6 June 2013

Long-eared Owl pellets

Long-eared Owl Pellets, found under a known nest site, June 2013 (with many thanks to Adrian Rooney)

Like most birds of prey, Long-eared Owls are unable to digest the bones, fur and other 'hard parts' of their prey. As with Barn Owls and Kestrels, they regurgitate one to three pellets a day which vary in size according to what they have recently eaten. In some cases, these are small, marble-sized, in others, larger and longer thumb-sized pellets. By carefully dissecting the contents of these pellets it is possible to identify what they have eaten. As part of the Duhallow Project, we are collecting Long-eared Owl pellets for later analysis to determine what makes up their diet.