Stunning and intimate footage shows a Kestrel couple’s first year

A wildlife artist has documented the love affair between two kestrels during their first year of mating, using crystal clear hidden cameras and cleverly placed artificial nests.

Robert E Fuller has posted a half-hour video on his YouTube channel that details the relationship between the Apollo Falcons and Athena from start to finish using a sophisticated hidden camera network to capture the action. Fuller also appears in the video to tell the fascinating story.

Talk to PetaPixel, Fuller says he spent “many years” developing his top-notch camera system and won’t tell anyone about his method of capturing stunning images. He won’t even discuss the details with the BBCwho reached out to Fuller but left empty-handed.

In addition to telling the story, Fuller is an active participant, as he himself makes the nest in which the two kestrels and their brood live, and even steps in when things get tough for the family when their food supply dwindles, so the animal lover decides to drop off food to enable them to survive.

The Kestrals

Apollo, the male, is young and inexperienced and the video follows his very first mating season as an adult. On the other side is Athena, an older falcon with much more experience, who has raised chicks before.

Apollo plays Athena’s lovesick, horny, dizzy teenager very well. But despite his eagerness, he impresses the older hawk with his pretty nest and his vole hunting skills.

As with most couples, there are bumps in the road, like when Athena berates Apollo for not catching enough food. However, very soon the pair mate and the eggs are laid in full view of the cameras, with the first moments of the chicks being broadcast around the world.

The film continues to document the couple’s battles which include visits to the nest by barn owls and malevolent jackdaws, but far more serious is the bad weather which prevents Apollo from gathering the necessary food. Athena gave birth to five chicks, but just three days later, one of them sadly dies of malnutrition.

After another chick dies, Fuller decides to intervene by climbing up to their nest and feeding the other three while Apollo and Athena hunt. With fewer mouths to feed and Fuller’s help, the three chicks begin to thrive.

A surprising success

The video, filmed in 2020 and 2021 in a woodland in the UK’s Yorkshire Wolds, racked up over 80,000 in just four days. When asked why kestrels are so popular, Fuller simply replies “because they’re brilliant.”

“People connect with them and they surprised us in a way because kestrels aren’t highly searched for on YouTube, but people can relate to them,” he continues.

Fuller, 50, has worked with wildlife since he was 20 and is an accomplished painter. He started filming nests in 2013 but has found his YouTube channel picking up speed since the lockdown.

Fuller says of Apollo and Athena, “They have six eggs right now and they’re doing great.”

More of Fuller can be seen on her Instagram and YouTube channel.

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