, Newburyport, MA

September 4, 2013

Our view: Kestrels return to Ipswich

Newburyport Daily News

---- — There is some good news to be found in the local ecosystem.

This summer, five kestrels — three males and two females — hatched in a nest box on Strawberry Hill, a town-owned conservation property off Jeffreys Neck Road in Ipswich, boosting the spirits of conservationists and bird lovers alike.

The kestrel population has dropped by about half over the last 30 years as its habitat has changed; the smallest member of the falcon family, it generally finds its prey in open spaces such as fields and meadows, areas lost to the strange bedfellows of development and reforestation.

It takes patience to restore the kestrel population. In 2007, the Essex County Ornithological Club got town Conservation Commission approval to place a nest box on the Strawberry Hill property. It was one of several such boxes located around the county, including locations at Appleton Farms in Hamilton and Ipswich and Witch Hollow Farm in Boxford.

Then there was a lot of waiting. Kestrels were nowhere to be found until June, when a pair of the birds were spotted near the box, followed in short order by the five hatchlings.

It was the first time a nest box had successfully attracted a kestrel family since the program began, and it was worth the wait.

Beth O’Connor, open space stewardship coordinator for the town of Ipswich, had it right when she said, “I think it demonstrates that protecting conservation land for wildlife is working and we can partner with local birders and other naturalists to manage conservation land for all different interests.”