Target practice

Hampstead Heath is real grassland. In most parks, grass is kept nicely mowed. But not on Hampstead Heath. There’s a very, very carefully worked out management plan and the whole idea is to encourage as much wildlife as possible into these grassland areas, and in fact this bit down the middle here is absolutely alive at this time of the year with little critters. Of course it’s just after the grass has been mowed that all these little things are exposed, the caterpillars, the grasshoppers, the insects. And in come the crows, as you’d expect. They’re opportunists and they’ll eat anything, but birds of prey? Shouldn’t they pick on something their own size? I mean, come on. Kestrels going for grasshoppers? A young kestrel practises its pouncing technique on grasshoppers. You can tell this is a youngster - look very closely at the feather markings and you'll see they’re very, very neat. Every feather is very neat ‘cos they’re nice and new. The kestrels have got lots of perches round here. There are favourite ones. That’s the thing about your local patch: you can anticipate what’s going to happen to a point. You get to know every branch, every tree. You can come out here and say 'Are there any kestrels?', and you don’t just look in the sky, you know they’re going to be in that tree or that tree. Another kestrel is practising hovering - the lazy way. You don’t do it in mid-air, you sit on a branch and let the wind do the movement for you. The head is absolutely still and the body going backwards and forwards. Of course the paths aren’t actually there for kestrels, they are there for people, but that’s one of the things about a local patch in the city. The wildlife gets used to people. Quite a big family walking past, but the kestrel takes no notice at all. And yet when you get this close you’re reminded this is a wild bird. Actually, if you are lucky enough to come across a young kestrel it’s amazing how close you can get sometimes.

Release date:


4 minutes


Role Contributor
PresenterBill Oddie
Camera OperatorEric Huyton
Camera OperatorJames Mcpherson
Camera OperatorRichard North
Camera OperatorRobin Riseley
Camera OperatorScott Tibbles
ProducerHugh Pearson
Executive ProducerFiona Pitcher

This clip is from

Featured in...