Another bird of prey today, another we see less often than we used to. A bird that was once synonymous with motorway journeys, hovering by the roadside. The Kestrel.
It’s difficult being a Yorkshireman to talk about the Kestrel, because minds are instantly drawn to Barry Hines and Ken Loach (if you have not read A Kestrel for a Knave, or seen Kes, those references may pass you by). This isn’t helped when I have blogged about a kestrel I see regularly, that allows me to watch it at close range. I’m one crazed PE teacher away from living my own kitchen sink drama. Fortunately PE teachers are very much in the past for me now.
Whereas last week’s featured bird focuses on other birds, the Kestrel is all about the small mammals. It hovers, holding its head perfectly stationary in battering winds, on the look out for mice, shrews and voles.
As such, its fate is very much tied up with suitable habitat and numbers of those prey species. Industrialised agriculture and pesticides will hit the mammals, therefore the kestrels (and owls too). So it is no surprise that the Kestrel currently finds itself on the conservation watchlist in the UK. It has had declines since the 1970s, for a range of reasons, and every time it seems to be recovering something else comes along.
The book and film don’t really have happy endings. Hopefully for the real birds, a stabilising population will see something more optimistic.