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The release of the kestrels

Up up and away into the blue skies!

Wednesday August 30th, 2000:
it is a sunny warm summer day with less cumulus and good updraught. Today mister Söhnigen likes to set free the kestrels! About 15.20 hours with a fishing net he catches one of the 3 young kestrels and grabs his legs by his own glowed hand. The bird now becomes present to the photographer of the Westdeutsche Zeitung in order to shoot a photo.

After that mister Söhnigen opens his hand and immediately the kestrel winges up to an altitude of 8 m and circles two times around a 8 m high tree which stands in a distance of 20 m. Usually in this situation the kestrels cry out loudly with annoyment, nervousness and euphoria due to the sudden freedom and the flight in the wild.

But we are very surprised about the absolute noiselessness of this one when it climbs with a steep climbing rate out of the valley. Apparently, the bird finds a good impetus which boosts itself due to the increasing altitude as the kestrel gains high as being in a lift and circling in steep circles. From the viewpoint of the observers the bird seems to climb into the sun! All of the watching people are enthusiastic and are shouting: “Man, he boosts like a Lockheed Starfighter!”, “Amazing!”, “Beautiful picture”, “Look as he climbs – incredible!”

They all have been overcome with high spirits. Having reached an altitude of about 100 m over the trees of the forest slopes around the bird quickly moved in southern direction over the city of Düsseldorf-Gerresheim. The kestrel disappears out of our eyes. A beautiful success! All of the people enjoy this event.

20 seconds to freedom 
Now the flap of the aviary has been opened. There is an old hand of the kestrels who curses the injury of a traffic accident. As expected he quickly escapes from the big birdcage starting to circle around a close by tree and crying loudly. After 2 – 3 circles he silently settled on a tree watching around and orientating himself. However the remaining 3 young kestrels do not realize their chance to escape. They simply don’t get up until anybody enters the room through the door of the rear side. But just now they escape into the wild within the splint of a second. Apparently overwhelmed by the incredible impressions they wing about 6 – 9 m above the valley into the same direction as the first one. Than the young kestrels start to climb relaxed and trifled and circling each other closely. Closely beneath the edge of the surrounding top of the mountain ridge a buzzard sailed through the air after taking off from a tree of the forest and joined the kestrels. Closely the 3 young kestrels circle curiously and playfully around the buzzard. The new impressions and the big and bird closely sailing slow beside them has to be overwhelming for the total playful kestrels. In the meantime the birds climb slowly to the altitude of the surrounding treetops.

Two of the kestrels depart from the buzzard and sail slowly heading for the church tower of the city of Düsseldorf-Gerresheim as the first one did too. However the third young kestrel completely playful gets closer to the buzzard to a distance of 1 meter only. Just at this moment another “buzzard” (which in reality is a hawk!) takes off from a treetop of the left hand mountain ridge and quickly flies well-directed to the both birds (the buzzard and the third young kestrel) but without any haste. The young kestrel – euphoric and overwhelmed by the impressions of his first flight in life - has been captivated by the possibility of playing in the air with this big buzzard and so the young one has been absolutely distracted from his surroundings. He neither realizes the risk of death nor discerns the hunting of the hawk which goal it is himself – the young kestrel. The occurrence breaks onlookers heart.

Take off into the wild · Photos: Dieter Knopp 

Although the kestrel managed to slide over the left hand wing however the hawk moved like a lightning and within the splint of a second he digs his dagger-like claws into the young kestrel than heading to the trees with his prey. Would have been the kestrel 20 m higher only the hawk has had no chance to hunt the young bird.

All the people have been deeply impressed and shaken by this occurrence. This young kestrel has been rescued with great expenditure as down chick and brought up with trouble and feed by hand day after day. It has been trained in a big cage in order to be able to catch mice in the wild. Now the young bird has been in the air for 2 minutes only and becomes a victim of its deadly enemy soon. This tragic event depressed myself as deep as I need a couple of days in order to pull myself together again. All of the further onlookers have been excited about the take off of the first kestrel; but now the do not like to be merely yet.

On the other hand in one of the big cages one of that hawks waits for freedom just curing himself from a major accident injury. This hawk will be set free as soon as possible too. Such is life and nobody of us likes to have the power of life and death over any griffin which we taken with. We will try to rescue them all whenever we are able to do. We never will decide between well and bad. All of them we need in the wild!

By the way: the fifth, the old hand watches the occurrence sitting in the tree close to the cage. Than it takes off into the same direction beating its wings quickly and climbing extremely to an altitude of 20 m, 30 m above the treetops of the surrounding high ground and a short time later it moves forward and back not open to attack about 150 m above our viewpoint. Even an old hand!

However today I suddenly realized the reason for the disappearance of the kestrels which nested at the wall of our neighbour’s house – the parents of the young kestrel which we just set free. Surely one after another they became victim of a hawk or a sparrowhawk who specialized itself for the hunting of kestrels. The kestrels always are concentrated regarding the mice hunting and the obtaining of food for the young ones; so they sufficiently don’t pay attention to different dangers.
Anyhow the area and the nesting case of “our” kestrels here at Solingen-Merscheid have been deserted since the parent birds disappeared. We have had a situation like this never since the last 15 years.

Further explanations – please regard the report of the year 2001 -

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