Letham Shank Farm - Crops, Machinery, Livestock and Weather

 

   Live Kestrel Nest Cam at Letham Shank Farm Videos from: 2015 : 2016 : 
 
Apologies for dismal image quality/refresh rate; my upstream is limited by 'Plusnet'.

Berwick Daylength & Twilight Indicator
 Daylength

History
This 'nestbox' was made from half of an old copper hot water cylinder and fixed up in the ridge of an open hayshed about 50 years ago. It is at a height of about seven metres and faces west, but is sheltered from direct sun and wind. Initially pigeons nested in and on it but after a few years, the intended inhabitants, Barn Owls, arrived. Many broods were raised over a long period of years until 2012, when Kestrels took over and raised a brood of five. Hoping they would return in 2014 an IP camera was fitted to view the nest and the four chicks. In 2015, the video stream was uploaded to the website and over 800 visitors watched the five chicks hatch and grow. The camera should have been closer to the nest perhaps, but I did not want the birds to be nervous of anything if they did arrive back. For 2016, the camera was moved closer to the nest and the sheeting behind the nest was painted black to reduce backlighting. The Barn Owls moved to another nestbox, in case anyone is concerned. Please note that this is a poorly lit location in the roof of a shed and it is only the sophistication of the camera electronics that create a usable image.  

Timeline
11th June: At 05:00 this morning the first chick left the nest followed by two others. Only the slightly smaller 'shy' chick remains in the nest. The three are sitting at the other end of the shed on a beam quite close to ground level, so I shall keep an eye on them. I have put some tit-bits beside them but the parents are not far away.
4th June: The four chicks are evenly matched, so all seem to be getting their fair share of food. The hen continues to feed each chick small amounts of food whereas the cock tends to bring prey back to the nest and drop it, allowing the chicks to help themselves. What tends to happen is that one chick will grab it and guard it in a corner. The hen has a 'tidy up' of the nest regularly and feeds the chicks all uneaten morsels.
20th May: It looks like the fifth egg is unfertile and will not hatch. This is good in a way as a chick hatched several days later is unlikely to survive. The hen is spending almost all of her day on the nest tending to the chicks whilst the cock is bringing as much food as they need with little apparent difficulty. The very mild winter must have been gentle on the population of mice, voles, etc. and is also indicated by the number of hedgehogs roaming around - the highest I have seen for many years.
15th May: The third chick hatched last night and the fourth this morning. The difference in size is very noticeable. If the fifth egg does not hatch in the next day or so, the chick may be smaller and will tend to be overwhelmed at feeding time.
13th May: The first chick hatched at around 01:30 with the second arriving about 09:00. The hen is feeding them already and the cock is always nearby and does not seem to have a great problem finding small mammals as food. The yellow object is not a dead Kestrel chick but a domestic hen chick which I have been feeding the pair with. The hen took this into the nest the day the first chick hatched; my thinking this was a extra snack that may be needed. The pair do not always eat prey immediately as I can see the male regularly hiding food in a crevice, on another camera at the other end of the shed.
2nd May: Both birds taking turns at incubating the eggs; the hen leaves the nest for up to an hour, presumably to hunt. The male still brings food to her and sits on the eggs while she goes elsewhere to eat. Hatching should take place between the 12th and 14th May.
16th April: Egg number 5 laid during the night of the 15th/16th. Incubation is now consistent round the clock.
14th April: Fourth egg laid at about 19:57 (sunset is 20:15) Both birds are 'sitting' (incubating) but mainly the hen with the cock bringing food to her. She generally leaves him while she eats and has a fly around.
12th April: The third egg was laid at 06:00 (sunrise is 06:10).
9th April: At one minute before midnight the hen flew into the nest and laid her second egg. Although the moon is almost full it is surprising to see the Kestrels moving around at night.
7th April: At 17:00 the hen laid her first egg. She had been getting broody, spending more time in the nest forming a nest hollow. She should lay one every two days until the clutch is about 5. She will probably start to incubate the eggs after the 4th egg.
30th March: Mating has taken place regularly over the last 4 days and the hen is becoming increasingly broody, spending more time in the nest. She still roosts nearby but not yet in the nestbox. Obviously there is a very good food supply this year as voles are evident all over the farm.
20th March: Both parents have been around the nest since last year and roost on or nearby it. It has been a kind season and the birds have been catching voles, mice etc all winter. I have also been giving them tit-bits in the form of moles I trap and day old chicks I purchase, so they both look in excellent condition.   

Technical
The camera is a fairly inexpensive Zyxel POE IP Camera (Power Over Ethernet, Internet Protocol) which delivers HD quality video to a constantly running PC. It has an IR cut filter and night illumination which is probably too bright at this close range. External grade Cat5, solid copper (for POE) cable was used as the run is about 80 metres.'iSpy' software monitors this and three other cameras and records to the hard drive on motion detection. The POE router uploads the video to 'ipcamlive' where it is broadcast with no restriction on user numbers or bandwidth.  

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