I’ve been following the story of wild kestrel in my garden for the last 13 years. I call him Mr Kes.

His portrait is among a collection of paintings on show at my Christmas art exhibition, Natural Treasures, running at my gallery in Thixendale until December 1.

The exhibition is a celebration of British wildlife, and in particular the wildlife I treasure. But Mr Kes and his family are all the more precious to me this year after I had to rescue his young chicks.

The female kestrel laid a clutch of five, reddish-brown, speckled eggs in April in nest in a box I made for them out of an old sycamore stump.

The box is rigged with surveillance cameras so I can watch their young families’ grow.

I was captivated as each chick emerged from the egg and their mother responded tenderly, tearing off tiny titbits of food for each hungry mouth.

But two days after the last chick had hatched there was a tragic turn of events. Whilst watching the young family on the screens in my studio, I noticed the mother kestrel refusing food.

Mr Kes brought her several offerings during the course of the day. But each time she turned her head away from him.

Worried, I woke early the next morning to check on the cameras, to find her lying motionless with the chicks trapped beneath her. She had died just hours before.

I carefully took the chicks out from under her. I had to work quickly. The chicks were cold and too tiny to survive on their own.

I carried them inside cupped carefully in my hands. I found a box, lined it with a heat mat, and then settled all five chicks inside a fleecy hat on top of the mat whilst I made arrangements for my local wildlife rehabilitation centre to take them in.

Sadly, despite my best efforts, two died on their way to the rehabilitation centre.

The remaining three chicks thrived and when they were four weeks old came back from the rehabilitation centre to be released as wild birds from my garden.

I built them an enclosure fixed onto a tower from where they could see their new surroundings.

At six weeks old, the day came to release them. I opened the door to the enclosure and watched them hop out.

It was an incredible feeling to see them fly free over the trees and swoop down to catch grasshoppers in the meadow.

Later that day, two of the fledglings encountered a young stoat. It rushed out towards them; mouth open wide. One of the kestrels spread its wings wide to make itself look bigger and ran at the stoat. Thankfully, the stoat turned and fled.

These chicks had survived such a disastrous start and here they were now flying free on the wing and displaying clear signs they already had the necessary skills to survive.

At the end of the day all three fledglings flew back to the tower I had released them from.

This was important because it meant that they saw the tower as home. I continued to feed them while they developed and honed their hunting skills and as time passed their dependence on me waned until eventually they left the garden for good and set out to find territories of their own.

I still miss the sound of them calling out to me whenever I step out of the back door but it is great to think that they made it despite their tragic start.

Robert Fuller

Find out more about the adventures of Kes and his family and discover the stories of all Robert’s Natural Treasures at his winter art exhibition running at his gallery in Thixendale every day until 1st December. www.robertefuller.com