The dance of the Kestrels

Mandy West is a wildlife photographer based in UK which has one extraordinary collection of photographs. She is passionate about birds, nature and travel involved in the study of birds and the organization of photographic excursions for lovers of wildlife. On this page, Mandy invites us to enjoy an exciting series of photographs with a family of local Kestrels, absolutely charming…

© Mandy West Wildlife Images

How did your love of wildlife start?

I have always felt a strong connection with nature from a very early age and it has continued throughout my life.I spent many years living in rural areas with lots of wildlife to study and enjoy. As I have more free time in recent years, this connection has grown into somewhat of a driving force in my life and now takes up a lot of my time.

How did you get started in naturlist photography?

I think it was just a natural progression from just watching wildlife. I felt the need to capture what I was witnessing and enjoying. I started out with just a normal digital “point and shoot” camera, but as any wildlife photographer can relate to, it was soon replaced by DSLR and prime lenses which then allowed me to get closer and obtain much better records of my subject!

What photographic equipment do you use?

I am strictly a Canon girl!! In my kit bag at the moment I have a Canon 7D body, a Canon 400mm f5.6 lens and the kit lens (18-55mm) which I use occasionally for landscapes etc. I started with a Fuji Finepix, then moved on to various DLSR’s such as Canon D30, Canon 400D, Canon 40D before finally settling with the 7D which I love!

What kind of naturlistic photography appeals to you most?

I rarely go out and about with a fixed idea of what creature/bird I want to aim my lens at! My main focus are birds but I will try to take photographs of any wildlife that may present itself to me. I have always challenged myself to capture behavioural characteristics, such as a bird stretching, or in flight, something that gives a sense of depth to the photograph or that relays a story. I do not heavily edit photographs, I like to have a saved image of something as I saw it and in its natural state.

Any kind of bird in particular?

I deeply love all birds but my personal favourites are birds of prey and owls – and they are a challenging subject to find and take photographs of. Having said that, I get as much pleasure out of taking pictures of common garden birds as I do taking them of rarer and more difficult subjects

Do you publish your photographic work somewhere?

I have a photographic website as well as a Flickr site and recently in facebook:

You have an awesome photo collection! Do you work at this professionally?

Thank you! I would class myself as semi professional. I have provided images and articles in various books, magazines and organisational websites. I have also been fortunate enough to travel (another passion of mine) to take photographs/write articles for travel and wildlife companies for their websites and promotions.

Do you do some other activity related to nature/ wildlife?

I am lucky that I live close to a national nature reserve and am actively involved in the bird study group there, we do annual breeding bird surveys and log bird activity and numbers throughout the year. I have also led wildlife walks with visiting groups around the reserve too. Recently I have started to organise group photography walks in wildlife hotspots in the UK and abroad which is a very exciting project!

Finally, tell us something about the work we see on this page.

In recent weeks, a pair of my local Kestrels have successfully raised a brood of four chicks. The site is less than ten minutes from my front door in a purpose-built box close to a public road. I have derived great pleasure from being able to chart the progress from the adults taking over the box .I visited on a daily basis and wanted to capture their story through photography.

My aim was to create a storyboard in pictures of their struggles and triumphs as they learnt new skills, from leaving the nest to sit on the floor beneath, to them standing on top of the box dancing about and stretching their wings and marvelling at their first tentative flights. I watched as they missed their aim when returning to the safety of the nest, enjoyed the raucous calling and excitement whenever the parents returned with food. They became better and better, taking longer flights and I observed the battles between the siblings as they fought for perching rights!

I hope that fellow bird enthusiasts will enjoy my series of photographs, and share the wonder and excitement of the story that unfolded and will feel they were there too to enjoy and share the delight of such a successful aspect of nature . It was truly a delightful and engaging activity for me personally and I feel very privileged to have been able to watch them at close range. It will stay with me always!

Interview by: J. M. Escarabajal (Birding Murcia)


The images that appear in this article are the property of Mandy West is necessary to request permission to the author for publication or any other use of the same.