In the barn down on the big field, there are three large bird boxes. Much to our disappointment, our local barn owl hasn’t taken up residency in either of the owl boxes this year and hasn’t been spotted for a month. The other, smaller box however, has been inhabited.
For weeks, we’ve been sneaking down there hoping to catch a glimpse of the babies. We’ve heard cheeping and chirping, and seen parents darting in and out bringing food. We’ve spotted tail feathers poking out of the opening and caught the occasional glimpse of a beady eye or hooked beak.
Two weeks ago, I walked down to the barn with my big camera, hoping to climb up and take a few pictures inside the box. And to my surprise and glee, I was greeted by three, rather large bundles of feathers sitting, rather awkwardly on the floor.
Our baby birds had fledged. I dashed back to the house to tell Maddie and we rushed back to the barn.
We stood and watched them for a while, marvelling at how close we were to wild Sparrowhawks. For this is what we assumed they were. They were clearly raptors, and the previous owner had mentioned that she’s had Sparrowhawks nesting in the barn in the past, so it made sense.
We’ve spent the last two weeks making regular visits to our sparrow hawk chicks. Even Saffie likes to tell visitors about them and take them down to the barn.
They don’t seem to mind our visits, and watch us as intently as we watch them. The parents don’t come close when we’re there, but instead wait on a nearby telegraph pole, and dart back in to the barn with their offerings as soon as we’ve start to walk back up the lane.
We’ve all become rather fond of the chicks, and were a little down when we realised that one had perished. We’re not sure what happened to it; maybe a fox or a crow?
But the remaining two have flourished and I think we all felt a real sense of pride when we saw them take their first, small tentative flight up on to a fence post. They’re looking strong and healthy, and while I was out running this evening I spent forty minutes watching them fly from field to field, swooping across the grass and landing like experts on tree branches and barn roofs.
I’ve prepared Maddie for the fact that they won’t be here forever, and I reckon it won’t be long before they’re completely independent from mum, and take leave of our barn.
But one question has arisen over the last 24 hours. Whose babies are they? As I said earlier, we’ve called them the Sparrowhawk chicks. But Maddie, while researching feathers on the internet, has suggested that in fact they may be Kestrels. This would make sense, as pigeons have been roosting in the same barn as our raptors, and would surely have been prey for a Sparrowhawk. Kestrels however, eat mainly rodents so wouldn’t have been interested in the pigeons. And while comparing pictures on the internet, their appearance resembles a Kestrel rather than a Sparrowhawk – black not yellow eyes, and much browner plumage. So I am inclined to agree with Maddie and conclude that they’re Kestrels. And Saffie will have to learn a new word – Kestrel, and tell our visitors all about the Kestrel chicks instead. Unless of course, any of you know better…….