Well the title of this blog post was going to be Barton-upon-Humber and Messingham. However the weather put paid to the Messingham side of things. Yet again our weather forecasters got it wrong. I know I rant on about our weather forecasters but you would think with all the equipment at their disposal it wouldn't be too much to ask for them to get it right a bit more often than they do. Today's forecast was for bright spells up to lunch time then showers or longer periods of rain after lunch. With this in mind I made an early start arriving at Barton-upon-Humber around 06:15 intending to move on to Messingham mid morning.
Purpose of my visit today was to try and get photographs of a family of Kestrels. These birds are quite accessible from a public road and they are far enough away from observers and photographers so as not to cause them any disturbance. I would never try to photograph any bird if it were at all likely to cause any disturbance or distress to them.
When I arrived at the site the weather was a bit iffy with a few breaks in the cloud but also with light showers of rain as well. Luckily I was able to park the car right at the side of the spot where I was photographing so if the weather became any worse rain wise I could take shelter in the car. I was using the Canon 500mm F4IS lens for today's efforts. This was a little too short in reach and I cursed myself for not ensuring the 1.4 extender was in my kit bag. Mental note to oneself, always carry the extender in the kit bag. Although there was just room to use a tripod in the position I was in I decided on hand holding as I wanted to get some in flight shots as well if possible.
There were no sign of the Kestrels when I first arrived and I feared I had left it too late as I knew from photographs from other people that the youngsters were quite readily leaving the nest box for short flights and returning again. Thanks to my good friend Ben for giving me the precise location of this site, doubt I would have found it without Ben's directions. After about forty minutes I heard the familiar call of Kestrels and three of the youngsters landed on the top of the nest box. I managed to get a shot of them coming in to land.
Two of the young Kestrels
Two of the youngsters promptly disappeared into the nest box and another perched on a fence post just at the side of the nest box. One of the adult birds was in attendance and after seeing that the youngsters seemed safe the adult flew off. The youngster that perched on the fence post flew back to the box before I could get photographs. It was difficult to decide if there were three or four youngsters as when they came in I was concentrating on trying to get a photo of one of them in flight.
It then started to rain fairly heavily so I took shelter in the car. Luckily I didn't seem to be missing any activity as all seemed quiet. The rain more or less stopped after about fifteen minutes and oh joy there was a brief glimpse or two of the sun but no bird activity to coincide with the sun. The sun was short lived though and it was very quickly overcast again.
I took up position to wait for any further activity. Apart from brief glimpse of the youngsters looking out of the box all was quiet for the next half hour. Then the familiar call was heard again and one of the adults returned with prey. In the mayhem that ensued with the youngsters quickly leaving the box and mobbing the adult for the prey it was difficult to know what shot to go for. I got this rather nice pose of a youngster in the begging pose on a fence post.
Juvenile Kestrel begging for food
I believe this is the same youngster before it landed on the post but as said it was rather hectic and following any one individual bird was difficult to say the least.
The photograph below shows the lucky youngster that finished up with the prey, although it looks a little bemused as to what to do with it Lol. I didn't actually see the youngster take the prey from the adult though.
Juvenile Kestrel with prey
Things settled down with the adult going off again. A couple of the youngsters returned to the box and I lost track of the other youngsters. The rain then started again so it was a retreat back to the car. An hour passed with no sign of any further activity and I was thinking of calling it a day. The rain was more on than off and I was getting a bit on the damp side. I was just about to put the camera away when I heard the call again. Once again it was mayhem as the youngsters mobbed the adult. Again I missed seeing the food pass over from adult to youngster but did catch this rather smug looking youngster with the trophy.
Juvenile kestrel with prey
The adult bird hung around a little longer this time and I think the photograph below is one of the adult bird but I can't be 100% certain on this.
With the weather becoming worse I now decided to call it a day. I had been forced by the conditions to use a higher ISO setting than I would have liked to get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action but all in all I was happy with what I could see on the LCD display on the camera. The images would need a little noise reduction during the editing process but a small price to pay to get the shots I wanted. It would have been better obviously with better lighting conditions but that is something that is eluding us at the moment. A great morning despite the weather, and it was a real experience to observe these lovely birds at reasonably close range.