In early July 2017 my wife and I were eating our lunch in our garden when I saw a large bird out of the corner of my eye. Our house and the houses around it are all close together and are typical of the ancient villages of the south of France, 3 to 6 centuries old, built of stone and very close together. I watched for some time and eventually the bird returned. It was a Kestrel. It flew into an opening at the top of a nearby house. This had probably been the entrance to a pidgeon loft many years ago but was now blocked on the inside leaving a square niche.

We watched the bird coming and going with mice and lizards in its beak and realised that its mate must be inside. We told our neighbours opposite, Toni and Marie, and their house had a top floor window that looked directly into the "nest" so out came my camera. Over the next three weeks we watched as four chicks appeared on the edge of the niche eagerly awaiting food. Both parents were now feeding the young birds. Eventually the most precocious of the chicks began to explore and discovered that it could climb the wall and get onto the roof. Over the next few days the others followed and soon they were living on the roof by day and returning to the niche at night.

There was much stretching of wings and one morning two of them were gone, the other two followed soon after. Unfortunately we did not see their first flight but they stayed close by and for some months afterwards we could see them circling the village.

Next year?

mike sibthorp

The Kestrels of Cazouls lès Béziers 2017