A wildlife artist has documented the love story between two kestrels during their first year of mating, with the help of crystal clear hidden cameras and smartly-placed manmade nests.
Robert E Fuller released a half-hour video on his YouTube channel that details the relationship between falcons Apollo and Athena from start to finish using a sophisticated hidden camera network to capture the action. Fuller also appears in the video to narrate the fascinating story.
Speaking to PetaPixel, Fuller says he has spent “many years” developing his high-level camera system and won’t tell anyone about his method for capturing the stunning images. He won’t even discuss the details with the BBC, who reached out to Fuller but left empty-handed, however, he has filmed videos for the British TV giant.
Fuller was willing to disclose to PetaPixel that he use Sony a9’s and Panasonic GH5’s for filming some of the segments for his audience of one million followers across social media platforms.
As well as narrating the story, Fuller is an active participant, as he himself makes the nest that the two kestrels and their brood live in, and even intervenes when things get tough for the family when their food supply dwindles, so the naturalist decides to drop some food for them to survive.
Apollo, the male, is young and inexperienced and the video follows his very first mating season as an adult. On the opposite side is Athena, an older falcon with far more experience, who has already raised chicks before.
Apollo very much plays the giddy teenager drunk on love, excited and besotted with Athena. But despite his eagerness, he impresses the older falcon with his sweet nest and vole-catching skills.
As with most couples, there are bumps in the road, such as when Athena berates Apollo for not catching enough food. However, pretty soon the pair are mating and eggs are laid in full view of the cameras, with the chicks’ first moments broadcast to the world.
The film goes on to document the couple’s battles that include visits to the nest from malevolent barn owls and jackdaws, but far more serious is the poor weather preventing Apollo from gathering the food needed. Athena laid five eggs, but just three days after they hatch one of them sadly dies due to malnourishment.
After another chick dies, Fuller decides to intervene by climbing to their nest and feeding the remaining three whilst Apollo and Athena are out hunting. With less mouths to feed and Fuller’s help, the three chicks begin to thrive.
A Surprising Hit
The video, filmed across 2020 and 2021 in a Woodland of the Yorkshire Wolds in the UK, has racked up over 80,000 in just four days. When asked about why the kestrels are so popular, Fuller says simply, “because they’re brilliant.”
“People connect to them and they’ve surprised us in a way because kestrels aren’t highly-searched on YouTube, but people can relate to them,” he continues.
Fuller, 50, has been working with wildlife since he was 20-years-old and is an accomplished painter. He began filming nests in 2013 but has found his YouTube channel accelerating since lockdown happened.
Fuller says of Apollo and Athena: “They’ve got six eggs at the moment and they’re doing great.”