Kestrel box for the eco lodges

We’ve put a new kestrel box in the field below Balebarn Eco Lodge at Wheatland Farm. Wouldn’t it be nice to watch a breeding pair hunting over the meadow! There should be a good view from Balebarn’s veranda, or even from inside the lodge.

Actually, it’s a replacement nest box. Maggie’s Dad gave us a kestrel box soon after we first arrived at Wheatland Farm in 2006. But that one has had its day. So the new one has gone up in the same tree.

Making a new kestrel nest box

Ian knocked it up from some off cuts we’d had from alterations to the lodges and some floor boards. He used a pattern kindly supplied by Mike Moser (who mainly supplies us with sustainable timber from his oak woodland restoration project, a bit to the west of us in Devon). Mike told us to get on with it too – he said kestrels were already beginning to scout out nest sites for this year. No time like the present then!

Sometimes we see kestrels often, like the one that used to hunt in front of Balebarn Lodge in 2018, and some years we see far fewer, so fingers crossed. One year we found what might have been an old kestrel nest inside the cowling of the Wheatland Farm wind turbine.

They should like it here – there’s plenty of rough grassland to hunt over. But like so many things in the British countryside, they seem to be in decline. When we were kids, kestrels were only worth 2 points in the ‘things to spot from the car during a long journey’ game. They were a frequent sight hunting along the verges of A roads and motor ways. These days we hand out ten points and celebrate with an extra biscuit!

Apparently, numbers do fluctuate a bit, following prey populations. The RSPB says there are about 46,000 breeding pairs of kestrel in the UK, but that only about 20% of each year’s chicks reach the breeding age of 2 years. Starvation kills a lot of young birds. Well if a pair of kestrels decides to bring up a young family around the eco lodges, there should be plenty of voles to feed them on. We’ll report back in due course.