On the wild side

YET again our annual coffee morning was a roaring success, raising over £200 for the SWT, our thanks to all who helped out in supplying produce and raffle prizes and especially to those unseen heroes in the kitchen who made the fabulous coffee and more importantly – washed up afterwards!

The mix of homebakes was, as ever, fabulous, ranging from traybakes, all sorts of scones, shortbread, fudge and our fastest ever seller was the tablet, which was all gone in about 10 minutes.

Despite it being a poor year for apple blossom setting, we were still treated to a huge box of wonderful cookers, supplied by Alex from his walled garden, which have been really quite sweet for cooking apples.

A bucket of chrysanthemums in a rainbow of colours released their fabulous fragrance as the kirk hall warmed. Glorious alpine plants were a snip at just £1.50 and the bird boxes were available as ‘ready to roost’ or build your own.

Our raffle prizes just get better, and the chocolate cake, smothered in a deliciously gooey buttercream, looked just heavenly. While the number of bottles of wine, ale and juice could have almost started a bar!

This was our first time of having a slide show running quietly on the display screen. Ron, the chairman had selected photos from the local SWT reserves, animal, fungi, plants and insects were all included.

What I found particularly fascinating was the photos of the kestrel family that had been fledged in his garden. From tiny chicks to the fully grown and ringed adult – it was amazing to be able to glimpse behind the scenes of our most well known raptor.

Often seen hovering above the hedgerows, the kestrel, Falco tinnunculus, is a relatively small bird of prey.

Mature at a year old, it can take them a couple of years to establish a small territory and find a mate.

Kestrels do not build their own nests, and are quite versatile in their options: other birds stick built nests; a cliff or building ledge; hole in a tree; or a nest box are all acceptable, often with the same site being used yearly.

Kestrels share a large forage area with other kestrels, and egg laying can be weather dependant. If there is a good food supply the female will lay 3-6 eggs in April / May at two day intervals, starting to incubate usually after the third egg.

After a 27-29 day incubation the chicks hatch and need constant brooding for the first couple of weeks.

The male exclusively hunts during this time, the female only risking leaving the eggs or chicks if food is very short.

Once fledged at about four weeks old, the youngsters will stay close to the nest, still being fed by the parents and, gregarious for birds of prey, the chicks are not aggressive with each other and will possibly still roost together in the nest site for around another month.

The chicks at Ron and Susan’s were used to seeing them and had to be shoo’d from the washing line, and even chased off the road at one point.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust is a Scottish registered charity, number SC005792, and is based in Edinburgh.

R. JOHNSTONE