Kestrels bred this year at the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust's reserve at Lemsford Springs. They used a nestbox erected by volunteers at Lemsford some six years ago and with Jackdaws nesting in a box just two metres above it made for some interesting observation!

Read Lemsford Springs' warden Barry Trevis' account below and watch Peter Finney's wonderful wildlife film, capturing the birds from nesting to hatching and fledging. Go to YouTube link: https://youtu.be/noQbz2QgC2U or search YouTube 'Lemsford  Kestrels'.

Photo: male Kestrel at Lemsford Springs © Peter Finney

The Breeding Kestrels of Lemsford Springs – by Barry Trevis

This year we have been fortunate to have a pair of Kestrels take up occupation of one particular large nestbox that our volunteers erected some six years ago, especially designed for the species. This spring, photographer Peter Finney and myself have filmed and photographed their breeding activities. An article on this, with some images, has just been published in the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust’s summer edition of ‘Wildlife Matters’ magazine. Also a short film has been produced by Peter and can now be viewed on YouTube.

Kestrels, hovering over our countryside and road verges, were once

a common sight. However, since the late 20th Century, the population of Kestrels as a whole across the UK has been in decline and in some areas such as the South-East the decline has been significant. This has led to the Kestrel being ‘Amber-listed’ as a species of conservation concern in

the UK. The reasons for the decline is considered to be a combination of loss of their ‘rough grassland’ foraging habitat, along with decreasing prey populations, agricultural chemicals and a lack of suitable nest sites.

Kestrels use both natural cavities (like tree hollows) and man-made cavities (such as old buildings) for their nests, and it is possible that reduced availability of nest sites like these has had an effect on their population. This can be addressed by the provision of artificial nest sites in the form of nestboxes. Where suitable habitat exists, nestboxes can provide excellent nesting opportunities for cavity nesting birds of prey such as Kestrels and others such as Tawny Owls.

Erecting large nestboxes can certainly help Kestrels. They have bred in our boxes at Lemsford Springs Nature Reserve on a few occasions in the past. There are a number of large boxes of different designs that are fitted to trees but the one the Kestrels have preferred has been on the top of a high pole, installed by our team of volunteers. Over recent years there has been fierce competition for this ‘desirable residence’ from Jackdaws which often win the battle.  So I felt I should give the birds another option and fitted a second box below the original one and after some reluctance eventually Kestrels took to it this year, with their ‘noisy neighbour’ Jackdaws already nesting in the top box, just two metres above them.

Since then we have monitored the nesting activities and the birds’ progress - from establishing their nest, laying of eggs, the male bringing voles to the hungry incubating female, seeing-off the attentions of predators, to the feeding of and ultimate fledging of four healthy chicks. The film shows their success story. See https://youtu.be/noQbz2QgC2U  or just search YouTube ‘Lemsford Kestrels’ to watch the action!