Called the common kestrel this small falcon is not as numerous as it was. Most people’s experience of this bird will be seeing one hovering over the grass verge of a motorway or major road. It is remarkable that while hovering the head or more particularly its eyes remain stationary however its wings and body move in response to changes in wind direction and velocity.
Most of my sightings have been at Attenborough Nature Reserve, often by the River Trent perched high on bare branches as in these images from the two editions of the calendar.
I have been fortunate to get some close-up shots of this lovely bird which clearly illustrate the different plumage of the female (top) and the male (lower). Each pair of images is of the same bird. I clearly remember doing my usual trick of looking where another birder is pointing their lens, this time on a tree by the main path at ANR. The first image is what I saw looking back at me. She then took flight and obligingly perched on some overhead wires.
The kestrel nesting box at ANR is perched high on a post in the field behind the tower hide from which I took these shots. The shadow on the roof cast by the female in flight will be similar to the last thing experienced by the rat held in the talons in the second image. The last picture shows a couple of juveniles hatched in 2017. I hope for a repeat performance this year if the Egyptian geese can be persuaded to vacate the nest box.
If you see a bird of prey in your garden chances are it will not be a kestrel but a sparrowhawk. The 1st image is a female taken by my brother in his East Yorkshire garden and the 2nd a male in our garden in 2020.
A final factoid on our calendar bird on this 1st day of April. Kestrels living alongside the M1 only hunt alongside the North bound or South bound carriageway, depending on which side they were hatched. They orientate depending on the direction of traffic flow. If roadworks or accidents force a contraflow then the birds from the closed carriageway are reduced to foraging in the meagre ground of the centre reservation.