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Kestrels, lapwings and the circle of life

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Chris Packham Chris Packham | 17:36 UK time, Monday, 1 June 2009

We always say on Springwatch that nature writes the script but none of us imagined that the two of our families' paths might cross in such a dramatic fashion.

Before signing off last Thursday we were treated to the sight of four lapwing chicks and the possibility of seeing some kestrel chicks this week. When we left them, the lapwing family was doing well. The chicks had been ringed and the mother was working hard to protect them.

Our lapwing having a peck around.

Five hundred metres away, members of the Springwatch team inspected a kestrel nest box that they'd put up last year. To everyone's delight, it revealed two healthy chicks whose parents were so attentive they were bringing more food than their young could possibly eat all at once. Refusing to waste their catch, the female simply store the food outside the box for later - a common practice for many birds of prey.

Our new kestrel chicks on their nest box
On Friday night, there was action in the wader scrape and a kestrel was spotted eating something which seemed to be a chick. We didn't catch the kill on camera, only a long shot of the kestrel picking at its kill.

On Saturday morning we counted the lapwing chicks and could only find three of the four. But anything could have happened...

On Sunday morning all became clear. The cameras on the kestrels' box revealed three new chicks (bringing the total kestrel brood to five) and one of the adults was seen bringing in a lapwing chick. But how could we possibly know that a lapwing chick that had been killed 36 hours before was one of ours?

If you look closely at the poor chick's leg you'll see a small metal ring that we put there last week. Yes, that poor chick was part of the spare food that the female kestrel stored outside the nestbox when she had only 2 chicks. When there were five chicks to feed she went back to the larder.

Sad though this is, it is simply the circle of life.

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Obviously we'll be keeping a close eye on both families from now on.


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