Peregrines and kestrels

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Having been involved with the British Trust for Ornithology ringing scheme for almost 20 years Danny has been involved with many interesting bird monitoring projects but it is rare that these skills are utilised in consultancy. However, working with the Highways Agency before joining ECL provided opportunities to ring some interesting birds including peregrine falcons and kestrels.

The installation of a peregrine nest box on Pier 10 of the Orwell Bridge in Suffolk resulted in the first confirmed breeding peregrine falcons in the County for over 100 years. The first brood of chicks in 2008 was not ringed due to fears of desertion of the nest; however in May 2009 Danny and Mick Wright from Suffolk Wildlife Trust descended from within the bridge structure onto the pier top 100m above the Orwell Estuary and carefully removed four chicks from the nest box. Each chick was adorned with an individually numbered metal-alloy BTO ring and a coloured plastic ring with two letter code called a darvic. The darvic ring can be easily read out in the field which the use of high powered optics and increases the chance of the bird being reported. Danny has returned each year to the nest box to ring the chicks and to date the peregrines have successfully raised 16 chicks. The chicks have dispersed and been reported all over the Suffolk coastline in subsequent winters.

Operation Kestrel was born from the Highways Agency desire to fulfil their obligations to enhance biodiversity under the NERC Act and through the Highways Agency’s own Biodiversity Action Plan.
The Highways Agency is one of the biggest land owners in the UK and tends to manage their highway verges in such a way that it provides extensive foraging habitat for kestrels. However there is an absence of suitable nesting locations as kestrels traditionally nest in cavities in trees and trees with any sign of damage are routinely removed as they are perceived to be a hazard to road users.

Operation Kestrel was begun in 2010 and involved the installation in January 2011 of twelve specially designed ‘pole mounted’ kestrel nest boxes at carefully selected locations on the A14, A11 and A47 in Norfolk and Suffolk. The boxes were monitored over the breeding season in 2011 and four chicks were ringed at one box located at Tilney All Saints in Norfolk. In autumn 2011 additional funding was acquired and in January 2012 another 20 boxes were installed including ten on the A120 in Essex. Monitoring during the breeding season in 2012 identified 4 boxes occupied with a total of 13 chicks ringed. Although no longer funded by the Highways Agency Danny is continuing to monitor the kestrel boxes on a voluntary basis and hopes that this year will be a bumper year for kestrels and the number of boxes occupied will be greater still.

Danny is always keen to recommend the installation of bird boxes in particular kestrel and barn owl boxes as simple enhancement for development schemes and is happy to monitor the boxes and ring any chicks raised on a voluntary basis or defer to another local ringer. If anyone is interested in joining him in May to June 2013 to ring some kestrel chicks then get in touch.

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