So, as many of you now know, we now have 2 (or possibly 3 from news from the forum!) kestrel chicks in the nest!
I have to say, it was fantastic yesterday one minute saying to people as they were passing through the Visitor Centre that there are 5 eggs... then looking up... and seeing there were now only three and two little chicks!! Just amazing. At one point yesterday the male brought back a bank vole, gave it to the female who then proceeded to tear bits off and feeding the chicks just as a school group came past - smiles all around to say the least!
We were a little concerned originally about the kestrels as they laid eggs a month earlier this year in comparison to last, probably due to the unusually warm weather we had during March. When we originally turned on the nest camera a few weeks back we were a little shocked to see a full clutch already! Last year when the chicks had hatched they relied on the large supply of reptiles that Arne has to offer as a main food source, and due to the dull weather there has been little reptile activity recently. However a warmer day today brought out the slow worms and the male brought back at least two today to keep the chicks going! So all is well so far in the kestrel nest, and fingers crossed for the nicer weather!
Having the nest camera really highlights the difference between the male and female kestrel, with the females being slightly larger (especially after the male has been keeping her well fed whilst she's been on the eggs!) and the male has a very distinct blue /grey head whilst the females is brown and flecked. Before the eggs had hatched the male spent most of the time hunting and would bring back food for the female, and they would swap over briefly and he would (slightly awkwardly!) sit on the eggs whilst the female had her fill before resuming her duties. Now of course the focus is on the chicks! As you may be aware we have a live feed to the kestrel cam on the main Arne website - so you can watch the chicks grow from the comfort of your home!
In other news... The buzzard nest has turned out to be quite a interesting tale! Unfortunately the buzzards have decided not to lay in the nest despite the potential signs about a month ago. However we have a new resident in the nest! A female mallard duck (!) has decided to live life dangerously and has taken a liking to the nest. She has been sitting on the nest a lot recently, so potentially she may have laid eggs there! So next time you visit Arne come see how the mallard is getting on!
Good news! The kestrels up at Arne Farm are the proud new parents of a beautifully fluffy newly-hatched chick!
Stay tuned on the live web cam for more new arrivals (four more eggs to go).
The day started with an early morning at Arne when we broadcasted the reserves dawn chorus live on the internet. We picked up chiffchaffs, willow warblers, black caps, chaffinches, and greenfinches amongst others. It was great to wake up to and thanks to Paul for coming along to provide commentary.
We had a little bit of excitement when a marsh tit appeared on the feeders for the first time in over a year! These were regular visitors at one time but disappeared after the very cold winter of last year. There call is a loud ‘pit-chu’ which according to Rob sounds a bit like a ‘wild west’ gun fight!
Marsh tit - Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
There are some interesting waders about at the moment with quite a few whimbrels passing through and a number of smart summer plumage grey plovers on the Middlebere channel. There are at least 3 spoonbills about and as it is a bit late for them to still be here they are probably immature non-breeding birds so there is a chance that they may stay in the harbour over the summer.
After a chilly grey start it soon warmed up and turned in to a really sunny day and with ith the warm weather we got a lot of reports of sand lizards on Coombe heath. This is the time of year when the smart green males display and fight for territories and females and can be quite easy to see.
This brilliant male sand lizard was seen on Coombe heath today by pudweena (Mr)
Talking of reptiles remember Our reptile weekend on 19 and 20 May - We are running bookable guided walks on both mornings (spaces still available for Sunday) and then will be giving hourly show and tells after 12pm to show you some of the amazing lizards and snales that call Arne there home! http://www.rspb.org.uk/events/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-308779
Back at the visitor centre the kestrel cam has been compulsive viewing with a fourth chick hatching yesterday and lot of food being brought in by the male today. It was amazing the range prey being caught including a bank vole, a slow worm, a common shrew and finally a common lizard which was still alive when it arrived! At least the chick won’t get bored with a lack of variety!
The feeders at the back of the visitor centre are still alive with birds including siskins, nuthatches, goldfinches and greenfinches but if you cast your eyes to the ground you are likely to spot the bank voles and wood mice that live under the building and dart back and forth picking up discarded seeds that have fallen in their paths!
One of the visitor centre bank voles taken by wormsmum - This species is a favourite of our kestrel family!