30 fledgling lesser kestrels have just been released into nature after being rehabilitated and acclimated at Ramat Hanadiv
On Friday, 17 June 2016, 30 young lesser kestrels left the confines and safety of Ramat Hanadiv for life back in their natural environment. Chicks of various ages, the birds had been brought to Ramat Hanadiv after having fallen from their nests. They were found and delivered by local residents and those further afield: from from Bika'at Hanadiv, the Hof Hacarmel road, Ramot Menashe, Yokne'am, Tivon, and all the way to Afula.
According to Amir Arnon, the head of Ramat Hanadiv's Wildlife Department, the spring and early summer always bring (among other things) dozens of lesser kestrel fledglings to Ramat Hanadiv. Various settlements in the area have bird-nesting colonies, and sometimes it's their special volunteers who deliver the birds they've found. Or it's the rangers of Israel's Nature and Parks Authority (NPA), who pick up the birds outside the Zichron Ya'akov area, or just ordinary citizens who decide to rescue the nestlings.
'We take in the fallen chicks, give them first-aid and then transfer them to the wildlife hospital that's run jointly by the NPA and the Ramat Gan Safari. When the birds have grown and are ready to be released, they are returned to Ramat Hanadiv to prepare them for life in nature', Amir explains. The release is carried out gradually, like a bird's leaving its parents’ nest. Thus Ramat Hanadiv helps conserve Israel's lesser kestrel population, which is currently under threat of extinction.
When the time comes for the birds to fly into nature, their acclimatization cage is opened wide and the kestrels are free to leave, at whatever pace suits them. 'Once they've left the open cage', Amir says, 'they keep coming back to the area for around two or three weeks, eating the food that we leave specially for them'. Wildlife experts call this a 'soft release'.
The months of May and June see the greatest number of birds being delivered to Ramat Hanadiv. 'We prepare for this season all year', Amir notes. 'Dozens of lesser kestrel nestlings and chicks, plus hundreds of fledglings of other species as well as mature birds, mammals and even reptiles arrive at our gates around now'.
Before they are released, the kestrels are fitted with metal and blue plastic rings, making it possible to identify them from a distance. And here's a tempting final thought from Amir: 'Whoever happens to visit the vultures' cage soon at Ramat Hanadiv may also be lucky enough to see a ringed kestrel' -- before they all have flown away.