Annual Report 2009

The 2009 season was one of the least productive for many years for kestrels due to a combination of low vole numbers and a very cold and wet spell of weather in the last week of April and the first week of May. Indicative of the poor vole year was the total lack of voles seen cached at nest sites and the almost total lack of barn owls breeding in the study areas compared to previous years.

The most telling statistic was territory occupation, at less than 50% it was one of the lowest on record and it is hoped that this figure is merely a reflection of a very poor vole year rather than a symptom of the decline which is taking place over much of the country. On the positive side the pairs which did breed produced 3.4 young per successful pair and it was very noticeable that these pairs were in core territories where kestrels have traditionally bred each year.

The 2009 breeding statistics are as follows :-

The first egg was laid on 17 April and only one pair at the Dam, which has been occupied since the 1960s, completed a full clutch of 6 eggs. As usual the percentage of eggs which hatched and brood survival was high. Those pairs which did start breeding produced young but their output was quite low. Two pairs failed at the prelaying stage, one brood was predated at a nest box and plucked inside, and the outcome of a fourth failure was unexplained.

Only 23 young were ringed, the second lowest since work began in 1973. One recovery was recorded, a bird ringed as a nestling in June 2008 was found freshly dead in a building in Penrith on 14 April 2009 – a duration of 305 days, 11 miles from the natal site.

GORDON RIDDLE October 2009