A Busy Week! (Part 1)

2022. Four Peregrine chicks. Double trouble.

Or perhaps quadruple trouble…?

there may be trouble ahead….

Prior to any of the chicks leaving the box, I said that this year’s cohort of chicks were my favourite of all the years. I probably say that every year, usually around the time they have lost all their down and all of their first feathers are through. This is when they first look like proper Peregrines and they really start to take an interest in the world around them, they to more than just the next feed, you see them eyeing up the big wide world beyond the nest scrape. I probably say it at this time each year because it’s also long enough time to become attached to the birds, having watched them survive then thrive over 5 weeks.

All 4 chicks were well fed, quiet and content Saturday morning,
11th June.

Last year’s twosome were also my favourites because they looked like cheeky chappies, a double act almost, full of energy and inquisitiveness. This year’s four are my favourites because they’d been just so damn well behaved. Virtually no squabbling, no fighting over dinner, no bullying, all patiently waiting their turn, all being well fed and growing well, a real “family” vibe – “polite,” “well-behaved,” and “tolerant” of one another…. What’s not to like?

One thing which was a bit lacking though, was the expected amount flapping and wing exercising required from young birds contemplating their first flights. Admittedly there’s not a lot of space in the box when there’s four adolescent, almost adult sized birds but I was expecting a fair few squawks and squabbles as four pairs of wings started to thrash about in four falcon-y faces ….but no it was all quite calm and polite. Too calm.

Not much room in here for flapping….

Hark back to 2021: TTH and TXF were stood on the precipice of the platform flapping about like billy-o, the only thing preventing lift off, or a fall, was the vice-like grip of their talons on the wooden batten. They flapped all day, on and off, for days. That hasn’t really been the case this year.

TTH & TXF realxing above the abyss, back in May 2021

Peregrines at St. Georges have generally started to make their first flight attempts around the 38 day mark. As in 38 days after the first egg hatched. Although it’s impossible to know if the first hatcher is the first flyer. Only on one year (2015) has first flight happened sooner than 38 days but in 3 years it has stretched to the 39th day and 41st day (twice.)

At this point it’s probably worth defining what we mean by fledging and how that might differ from first flight dates. Ground nesting birds like our local Ring Ouzels and Skylarks get out of their nests as quick as they can to avoid predation. They leave the nest, they “fledge” but they don’t necessarily fly. They scarper our of the nest on foot as soon as they’re ready and disperse into the undergrowth.

Recently fledged Ring Ouzel nest: the side is trampled down where the chicks exited on foot. Photo: Kim Leyland

Our local Curlew and Lapwing chicks are off even quicker. As precocial chicks, they run about and leave nest only a matter of hours after they hatched from their eggs. On the other hand the Blue Tits and Great Tits in your garden bird box have to attempt to fly in order to leave the nest. It’s either that or fall.

As a hop out of the nestbox on to the ledge of the church tower is no great acheivement for the fastest animal on the planet, the dates we are interested in here for our Peregrines are the first flights, or attempts at first flights, on the wing.

For 2022 the 38th day would be Friday 10th June. The day passed without incident.

Saturday 11th June was, unfortunately, rather windy. Unseasonably windy. Not ideal. Male chick V3X felt adventurous and hopped out onto the wooden perch a couple of times to have a good old flap of his wings. This is the proper vigourous flapping we expect to see as the young bird try to gauge just what it takes to get airborne. A good sign of where the bird’s mind is at. Or at leaest it is on a calm day. At 15.37 V3X was flapping so hard he seemed to forget where he was and adjusted his footing on the perch. It was a step into thin air and there was no holding on in the gusting wind. Down he went, colliding with the tower wall on his way out of camera shot. You can view a clip of it here and here.

V3X falls

Was it a flight or was it a fall? Well it hardly looks intentional! It almost seems unfair to count it! However, it will go down as first flight at 39 days. Sure enough V3X was soon reported downed in the churchyard, thankfully uninjured. The University security staff on duty in the Diamond Building did a sterling job of keeping V3X safe and secure until ringer Steve arrived to take him back up to the roof of the tower. The ladies from security were very brave given that they’ve no experience of birds of prey before and a hissing and squawking bird which has a sharp beak and talons can be very off-putting!

Not all heroes wear capes. Photo: @JenParr09 via Twitter https://twitter.com/JenParr09/status/1535655795282542592

I’m sure we’d all like to express our gratitude to them for stepping-up to keep V3X safe. It’s only throught the good-will of ordinary people that the Peregrines in Sheffield survive and thrive. I hope the ladies went home pleased with a job well done and a good story to tell around the dinner table!

Steve of course had met V3X before when ringing the birds, two weeks previously. V3X was the most vocal and feisty on that occassion, so it was no surprise that he gave Steve’s arm a good scratch and peck as a thank you for helping him get home! V3X was deposited carefully on the roof just behind the nest box where he could a) stay safe with no chance of falling whilst he calmed down from his adventure and b) been easily seen and fed by the adults. Returning downed chicks to the nest platform would be incredibly risky – the other chicks would get alarmed and spooked with a strong possibility they’d make a panicked jump out of the nest and fall to the ground. So the chicks are returned to the roof, which doubles as a handy temporary creche.

It was immediately apparent on camera that the 3 siblings could hear V3X on the roof, just above and behind them, and hopefully this vocal contact was sufficient to keep them all calm. V3X eventually made his way back into the box at some point on Monday, nothing wounded other than Peregrine pride.

V3X in the churchyard. Photo: Mike Smith via Twitter @MsProtrekker

The wind really couldn’t have come at a worse time and there were similar instances of downed inexperienced birds at other monitored urban Peregrine sites in the north of England. For example, a University of Leeds Peregrine youngster was retrieved wondering around a local garden unable to get back into the air just yet, see here. All’s well that ends well as they say but the drama didn’t end there. Check out this heart-stopping Twitter thread here of 12 tweets from Leeds Birder at University of Leeds Peregrines to see an astounding Peregrine rescue they had to coordinate later in the day. @LeedsBirder @UoLperegrine

Saturday wasn’t the end of the drama in Sheffield either. By the end of the week all of the Sheffield chicks had been involved in a scrape or two.

More of that in part 2, coming soon….

Ringing 2022

The 2022 cohort of 4 Peregrine chicks were ringed today on Friday 27th May. Ringing went ahead successfully in good weather after being postponed the previous day due to intermittent light showers.

All 4 chicks appear healthy and strong and are growing well and are full of character. Confirmatory signs of what has been observed on camera for the last 3 weeks – i.e. they are being fed regularly and in good quantities. It is not always the case that chicks in a large brood do equally well but these birds all look to be doing well with any size differences being accounted for by relative and gender differences…. more on that later. It is notable how the parents at times divide the prey and the brood up so that each adult feeds two chicks simultaneously. There does not seem to be any squabbling for food or any chick getting left out or pushed aside at mealtimes. Indeed there are times when they’ve eaten so well that the chicks have had their fill and refuse the offer of more. It’s been nice to observe without the dog-eat-dog competition seen in some raptor & owl nests captured on camera.

This plentiful protein supply is allowing them to grow well meaning that, at ringing, the birds were in the expected stage of development where there are now plenty of feather pins and sheaths poking through from their second coat of down, particularly on their tails and wing primaries. The chicks were 21, 23, 23 and 24 days old at ringing.

They each received a metal BTO ring on their right leg and a plastic colour ring on their left leg for ID. The codes on the rings are V3X, V4X, V6X & V7X. A set of standard biometric measurements were quickly and carefully taken such as weight, wing length, footspans, claw lengths, bill to cere etc. These measurements are taken to chart the health of the birds, their progress, and to feed into the ever growing scientific knowledge base about these birds. By these measurements birds can be compared across the country and across the world. The measurements may also be used as a clue to identifying a bird’s gender.

First up was V3X – this was quite a vocal chick, well developed, with plenty of strength and spirit about it, so it was a surprise to find that by the end of the process that this was the smallest of the four in terms of weight and measurements. It’s never a 100% exact science but there’s fair confidence from the data gathered to indicate this little fella is a male.

Second up was V7X. The chicks were processed one at a time, with the other 3 kept calm and out of sight, so it wasn’t possible to make much visual comparison between the birds. However this bird turned out to be by far the heaviest of the 4, at 870g, with the largest foot span claw to claw, 118.1mm. Pretty safe to assume this one is a female.

It’s necessary to work one bird at a time due to the awkward working conditions up on the sloped roof of the tower.

Next was V6X – again a bird over 800g (814g to be exact) but a smaller Claw to Claw than ‘7X. Overall though, assumed to be a female.

Last, but not least, was the chick receiving the ring V4X. At 681 grams, this one is an intermediate weight between the lightest (V3X) and the two heavier birds over 800g. However, the two footspan measurements indicate that this bird falls into the range which would suggest a female. Her foot measurements significantly bigger than V3X, indeed are more comparable to the biggest bird.

It’s not an exact or infallible science though – DNA analysis is the way to determine sex/gender with greater certainty. If V4X is proven to be female then her weight difference could perhaps be accounted for if she was the youngest of the chicks, being the last to hatch, 3 days behind the eldest chick. All her other measurements such as wing length are right up there with the other 2 who might said to be girls with a little more certainty. Perhaps the reason V3X was so alert, strong and didn’t appear small when viewed alone indicates that he was the first to hatch?

All pure speculation or educated guessing but fun to try and solve the puzzle nevertheless.

Nice though to sense that the long run of male chicks has been mixed up a little bit. As a reminder, the only confirmed female chick at St. Georges was “PTA” in 2018 – (DNA wasn’t taken in the early days so the sex of chicks 2012 to 2014 is largely unknown) – I wonder where PTA is now? It would be nice to think she’s a breeding female somewhere….

Once again it was a privilege to see these wonderful birds up close. The ringing and DNA sampling is performed by under the necessary appropriate licences following best practices. Thank you to the ringing and climbing team of Steve, Sarah and Joe for making the operation safe and successful.

Once we left the area, the adult Peregrines were quickly back to the platform and several courses of juvenile Starling were fed to the chicks through the afternoon. Life at St Georges is back to normal again, although look out for wary glances up out of the nest box for the next few days as the chicks wonder what on earth happened for an eventful hour on Friday morning. Their next trip out of the box should be under their own steam at a time of their own chosing. Fingers crossed.

Messy!

If you cast your mind back to late January, contractors for the Uni installed a shiny new nest platform for the Peregrines. It had been beautifully constructed by the good people in the University to replace the original platform which was starting to become a bit worse for wear from the Sheffield weather. Here it is….

The new platform 28th Jan 2022

Since that time it has seen mating, egg laying, conquest by a new male and, in the last 2 weeks, four well fed eyases. Here it is now…

😂

Messy isn’t it?

The detritus from what goes in one end (the remains of numerous pigeons, amongst other birds) and what comes out the other (splattered all over the joiner’s handiwork) – gives the platform a very “lived in” look!

Not very pretty but very obvious signs of just how well these 2 adult Peregrines are providing for the 4 chicks. All 4 chicks are growing rapidly and all 4 appear to be getting fed well and fed equally. The Tiercel and Falcon have really stepped up and are being very accomplished parents so far. It’s great to see!

Four!

Four!

4 hatched chicks.

Count them!

As they say on the football coverage “Unbelievable Jeff!”

After the first chick hatching at 3pm on Tuesday, and then chicks 2 and 3 emerging on Wednesday morning, some of us may be forgiven for writing-off egg number 4. After all, we were grateful for any chicks at all, given the ups and downs of late March and the first few days of April. Eggs have tended to hatch in quite quick succession here over recent years so by Friday morning, and 48 hours after chicks 2 & 3, it was a reasonable assumption that egg 4 was a dud. Not that we could be sure as the wind and overnight rain had caused the chicks to be huddled off into the corner, sheltered, not only from the elements but from webwatchers too. Sensible parenting from the Falcon to be fair.

But not everybody was so pessimistic though(!) and late on Friday afternoon the chicks began to shuffle back into camera view for webwatchers who still believed. Hannah Light on Twitter @hgelight was certainly on the ball, managing to detect signs of 4 chicks even though all that could really be seen peeping out were partial glimpses of fluffy white heads and occasionally the tips of other beaks!

Further shuffling into view before dusk allowed Naomi on Twitter @_mxdeleine9 to post a close-up which highlighted 2 heads plus the tips of two beaks belonging to 2 other heads!

Great detective work folks!

So the 4th chick made its way out of it’s egg some time between dusk on Thursday and mid afternoon on Friday. What a fantastic end to this chapter of Sheffield Peregrines 2022 – the only time all 4 eggs have hatched here was 8 years ago, back in 2014. Well done to this new Peregrine pairing!

2014 is arguably the most successful here in Sheffield with 4 eggs laid, 4 eggs hatched and 4 chicks fledging – with one male later making his way up the M1 to Wakefield to begin breeding there as a juvenile (uncommonly) in 2015. He’s since helped raise 26 offspring! That’s some act for this years team to follow!

In reality all that I hope for is that these 4 chicks are strong little eyases and they are well fed by the adult birds. In this first week to 10 days we would expect the male to do the bulk of the hunting to keep the 4 chicks plus the female sufficiently fed. Once the chicks are bigger and able to keep themselves warm, the female will be able to leave them unbrooded and join the hunt. This new tiercel may be inexperienced as a parent (we repeatdely saw him stand on eggs clumsily in his first few days here, it took him 4 – 5 days to properly tune into brooding the clutch and, so far, the female has not let him feed the chicks) but he’s clearly a fit bird, fit enough to challenge and usurp a long-standing resident male. Let’s hope he’s up to the job.

Having uncrossed my fingers when the first egg hatched, they are crossed again for the fortunes of these 4 tiny youngsters over the next week or so. Stay strong wobbly little Peregrines! Eat well and pray for warm winds.

Chicks!

We have Peregrine chicks again at St. Georges!

Always a cause for celebration and excitement, there’s even more reason to be pleased this year as the hatching is perhaps a little against the odds given the turmoil during the laying period where our longstanding St. Georges male was expelled by a new young pretender.

The first chick emerged fully at 3pm on Tuesday 3rd May after a long battle out of it’s shell lasting hours. The 2nd & 3rd chicks followed each other in quick succession on Wednesday morning. There’s one egg still to hatch but we have only ever had all 4 eggs hatch once before – way back in 2014. Often one of the eggs is infertile and doesn’t hatch, so we can keep our fingers crossed but not be disappointed if there is no more hatching action – 3 chicks is beyond our wildest dreams this year. They are very vulnerable in the first few days when they are so small (chick 1 has been troden on by the adult male more than once!) so let’s hope they get well fed, are kept warm and the weather is favourable for the next few days until they grow large enough and robust enough to regulate their own temperature.

Keep watching!

Will they/Won’t they?

Over the years at St.George’s, the incubation period has usually been 31/32 days*.  That is, 31 or 32 days between the last egg being laid and the first chick hatching.

(* it was 33 days in the failed 2019 attempt and 36 days in the 2020 clutch)

Based on these figures we would expect this year’s eggs to hatch on Sunday 1st, or more likely, Monday 2nd May – so now is a good time to keep an eye on the webcams.

However, there is a but….

Midway through the egg laying (and immediately after our last blog) the resident male was replaced by a new, younger looking, male – after a prolonged period of altercations.  The resident male was chased away and has not been seen since.  

Usually once a clutch is complete the eggs will be incubated constantly, predominantly by the female.  They will be kept warm and covered all the time apart from the odd minute or two when there is a changeover or the female has a stretch and feed.  This was not the case in 2022.  A combination of the turmoil caused by the female losing her mate of 3 years and possible inexperience from the new young tiercel meant that the eggs where left un-brooded for alarmingly long periods in the first 5 days after the 4th lay. 

The eggs were allowed to get cold which is likely to delay development of chicks within the egg and may mean they do not develop at all.  There is no way of knowing what the outcome will be other than to wait and see.  Maybe there will be a surprise on May Day and all will be well but the odds are that this will be an anxious week of waiting.

One way or another we should have an answer by next weekend.

Nature takes it’s (messy) course

There’s a lot being going on at St. Georges this week. There’s been daily drama and commotion, on and off camera. There may be 24 hour camera feeds and Twitter chat but it’s still easy to miss a lot for those of us with day jobs, so let’s summarise and get up to date….

photo: Karon Parkes @ParkesKaron via Twitter

After a few fairly uneventful weeks of pair bonding and regular copulations late February/early March we reached the period when in previous years eggs have started to be laid. First lay dates range from 18th to 29th March in previous years, with the period 19th -23rd March being the main window. The most interesting happening had been more variety on the prey front – Moorhen and possible House Sparrow and Skylark all in the same week – an almost unprrcedented departure from pigeon!

However, a third Peregrine was on the scene from perhaps March 12th 13th and the resident pair became agitated. The third bird made several swoops down to attack the resident male over that week.

These attacks intensified from Spring Equinox onwards (Sunday March 20th) – there has been constant commotion at the tower. The third bird is an almost constant presence, circling the tower, attacking frequently, mainly trying to knock the resident male off the perch or off a tower ledge. The resident pair are constantly alarming and calling and are reluctant to leave the box. Given the size of the third bird and the fact that it is the male which it is attacking, it’s fair to say that this is another male bird. The flyby attacks can be seen on camera as the attacking bird whizzes through in the blink of an eye but there’s a lot more to be seen off camera.

Quick-witted cam watchers have managed to snatch these amazing screengrabs which illustrate the action.

Much more can be seen from the ground. The intruding bird circles round and round, above the tower, in front of the tower, round the back. Wide circles, tight circles. He drifts off towards West Bar or the Uni….. When he disappears out of sight the Peregrines pick him up again way before he is visible to the human eye. You can tell where he is from the direction the resident pair look and call in tandem, their heads follow him around. And then he comes into view….

There have also been reports, by camera watchers and visitors to St Georges, of there being more than one “intruder” bird with possibly another female in the area at times too and 5 (!!) Peregrines reported in the air at once to the SBSG website here on the 23rd.

I wouldn’t fancy trying to sleep or concentrate on a lecture at St Georges currently – the alarming and calling is constant and can be heard streets away. Glimpses of extra bird(s) may be fleeting on camera but you can tell another bird is in the area by the behaviour of (our) resident pair.

Throw into this mix the fact that an egg was laid on Thursday not long after 11am. But somehow that doesn’t seem like the main event currently!

Egg laying was nicely captured by Andy Gordon @Flashy158 and the video is kindly shared on Twitter here

photo @Helenintgarden via Twitter

So what’s going on and what does all this mean?

Well, for sure, a male Peregrine has arrived from elsewhere and is making a very concerted and persisitent attempt to take over the territory. His goal is to boot out the current resident male and become the resident male himself. Most likely he would want to then breed with the current female.

It may seem like this has come at the worst possible time – given that it’s breeding time, it’s egg laying time, when interest in the Peregrine nest is at it’s annual height – but that is precisely why it’s happening now. All Peregrines will get the urge to breed as the days get longer, all of them. Not just the ones who are already paired up and holding a territory. It’s hard wired into their DNA. Longer days and their internal clock will trigger hormones which kick in the urge to mate and breed. Young birds breeding for the first time will get the urge to breed. Birds who’ve lost their previous partner will get the urge to breed. Birds kicked out of their territories still want to breed. Birds with no nest site of their own still get the urge…. If a Peregrine doesn’t have an existing partner it will find one, or it will try to pinch someone elses. Same goes for territories.

We’ve seen this happen here before in 2019 when the current female attacked, and in the end quite quickly, saw off the female who’d bred here for a number of years before. She was able to do this as being a bigger bird. She was almost certainly bigger and stronger and probably younger and fitter she moved in successfully with no further fightback. 2019 was then a blank season as far as fledged chicks were concerned.

This kind of thing has happened at many of the watched urban Peregrine nests in recent years. It probably happens frequently out in the wider landscape too, unseen and unheard by humans. Could it be down to a lack of nest sites in urban areas? Maybe. Webcams are allowing us great insights into Urban Peregrine behaviour but how much of that behaviour is simply Peregrine behaviour and how much is urban Peregrine behaviour? That’s harder to distinguish. We are just not observing Peregrines in the countryside to the same degree we are urban Peregrines. Territorial disputes happen with birds. Other raptor species will battle with each others for territory from Goshawks to Golden Eagles. It happens. It’s nature and it’s just as natural as laying an egg and raising a chick.

To find out whether this happens more in urban areas than in traditional Peregrine territory? That would be a good PhD topic for somebody to investigate.

Peregrines don’t need much for a nest space. They nest on rocky ledges and hillsides from Scarborough Cliffs to Filey Brigg to the crags of the Peak District. One or two pairs down south even nest on the ground. They don’t need a nicely constructed platform with carefully selected and regularly cleaned pea gravel. They could nest on many a roof, crane, bridge or pylon across the city. But perhaps it’s a smarter move to just muscle in on somebidy else’s patch? Get a mate and a territory in a 2 for 1 smash and grab?

Perhaps this new male sees a weakness in our resident male, or signs of age, unseen to the human eye? Individual Peregrines can be hard to distinguish from shape, size and plumage but we think the current male has been breeding here for 5, 6 or 7 years now so perhaps his age is showing? Perhaps this other bird is a young male?

We do know that this visiting male is unlikely to be a Sheffield bird from previous years. All our chicks from 2017 onwards were given uniquely coded orange leg rings to identify them. This bird has no such ring.

Could there be more than one bird in the area? There could well be. Spending time down at St Georges will be the only way to be sure. Standing in the city centre, observing 3 or more Peregrines, at length, not just fleeting glances. Perched, calling. Soaring, gliding, swooping, attacking….. It’s nothing short of remarkable.

Eggs! What about the egg? Well it’s fair to say that the timing isn’t ideal with regard to egg laying. The contant stress may interrupt egg laying and incubation. There’s certainly not been any time for any further copulations. Only time will tell. Eggs are generally laid at least 48 hours apart. Last year there was roughly 60 hours interval between each egg lay, give or take a couple of hours. That would make Egg 2 due around 11pm tonight. This schedule is likely to be distrupted but that would not be the end of the world.

More pressing is the need to hunt and feed. We’d expect the male be doing the bulk of it, now the Falcon is laying but he’s understandably hanging around to defend his territory. At some point, all 3 birds need to eat. Who heads off to eat, and when, may well have a bearing on how this battle pans out and who ends up on top.

the new boy circles constantly – photo C Greenwood

This intruding male is very persistent. I cannot see this concluding without some sort of fight. However, so far both the resident birds have been reluctant to get drawn into a scrap. Fighting risks injury and injured birds cannot hunt and feed themselves or their mate. An injured Tiercel who cannot feed his mate will be quickly forsaken in the survival of the fittest. An injured Falcon will not have the strength to brood eggs and keep them warm in all weathers and temperatures, for 32 northern days and nights. There’s snow forecast for next week. Discretion has been the better part of valour. So far.

The resident pair sit tight together. For now.

CG 26/3/22

Early Doors

picture: @suenaylor

The Peregrines were caught on camera copulating for the first time this season earlier in the week. Fortunately @doggie3132 caught it on camera here

It’s not unprecedented but its a nice early start to the breeding season. We can safely say that the breeding season is well and truly under way.

It’s been a wet and windy February but on the temperature side, it’s been mild for winter and a mild start to March, very little signs of frost or snow. Wildlife has reacted to this and signs are that it could be an early spring if the warm (-ish!) weather continues. That’s been illustrated by early arrival of the first spring migrants with a few Sand Martins and Little Ringed Plovers noted in Yorkshire this week, back from south of the Sahara.

On the Peregrine front, down in London we had the first recorded egg lay of the season at Kingston College on Saturday 5th, that was the first site to lay in 2021 too. She is now up to 3. Quickly followed by the Falcon at Charing Cross Hospital on the 7th. Notable that the first lays are not only in the warmer south of England but also in the city where the urban heat island effect may make conditions warm enough for the birds even earlier than the surrounding countyside.

Spring will gradually make its way north over then next few weeks. The earliest Sheffield lay date was 18th March in 2021. So 8 days to go then right? Hard to belive how quick the year is advancing already.

Keep watching.

Urban Peregrines Talk available online

Back in November, SBSG were delighted to join leading Peregrine expert and raptor researcher Ed Drewitt for a talk on Urban Peregrines. The event was hosted Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust as part of their ‘A Wild Night In…’ series of online talks which took place whilst live, in-person talks and events were restricted by covid measures.

Ed’s informative and engaging talk is based on his must-have 2014 book ‘Urban Peregrines’ and his latest publication ‘Raptor Prey Remains.’

Urban Peregrines is not only a great introduction to Peregrines as a worldwide species but also summarised, for the very first time, the vast new knowledge gained since the turn of the milennium, through the increased colonisation of urban places by Peregrines and the many webcams which have been trained on these nest sites.

After Ed’s talk, our very own David Wood delivered a brilliant summary of the story of the Sheffield Peregrines, from the project’s beginnings in 2011, right up to recent times – well worth a watch in it’s own right. There was also a brief cameo from myself at the end to bring the audience up to date with events since 2019.

The video of the talk is available to watch online by clicking here on SRWT’s YouTube Channel. Some fact filled viewing for you whilst the evenings are still dark and cold.

The very start of Ed’s talk is missed from the recording but you can get up to speed quickly. David’s presentation starts at 53’30” (after Ed’s Q&A) with yours truly wrapping things up at around 01 03′ 00″

SRWT https://www.wildsheffield.com/

Sheffield Bird Study Group https://www.sbsg.org/

Ed Drewitt https://www.eddrewitt.co.uk/

Books:

https://www.nhbs.com/urban-peregrines-book

https://www.nhbs.com/raptor-prey-remains-book

Late Night Fast Food

Peregrines will hunt and eat birds of all sizes. Across the country, webcams have shown urban Peregrines can bring back a wide variety of prey, from garden birds like Bullfinches (weight circa 20g) to small ducks like Teal (up to 400g,) and all sizes in between. Birds like Coots, Grebes, Moorhens, Gulls, Kingfishers, Woodpeckers, even an Avocet, and agile speed merchants like Swifts, have been identified. However, here in Sheffield their diet is rarely so Catholic, with pigeon species making up the vast majority of kills over the year.

So it was an interesting discovery last week for our very own David Wood, the founding author of this blog, who came across these wings beneath the Peregrine platform.

Photo D. Wood

The warm brown tones and mottled pattern are not that of a pigeon but those of a Woodcock, an elusive, crepuscular bird of the twilight and the night. Masters of camouflage, Woodcocks hide up by day using their amazing pattern to blend into the undergrowth and forest floor. They are very very hard to spot. They take to the skies at dusk to head out to feed in fields, probing for worms under the cover of darkness. Some Woodcock breed in Britain but many more of them migrate here for the winter, coming from as far away as Siberia.

Woodcock prey remains. January 2022 Photo D. Wood

Woodcock migration also mainly occurs at night, so David’s find is excellent proof that our birds are hunting at night, quite possibly taking advantage of the city light pollution which will illuminate the underneath of their intended prey. This urban light offers Peregrines the opportunity to target and pursue migrating Woodcock and other night-travelling species which out in the countryside might only be available on a clear moonlit night. We’ve not seen too much concrete evidence of this behaviour here in Sheffield, we are much more familiar with their persistent pigeon prediliction, so David’s discovery reveals a bit more of our bird’s talents and activities. Thank you David. Maybe it happens more often than we’ve recorded so far?

Later the same day David encountered a roost Ring-necked Parakeets, elsewhere in a heavily urban area. The Sheffield population of these rawkous invaders is now growing at a steady pace and it’s no longer a surprise to see them in the city’s parks and gardens. Given how conspicuous they are with their bright green plumage and incessant loud squawking, surely it won’t be long before we see green feathers flying at St. Georges??

Photo D. Wood

Keep your eyes peeled please and be sure to let us know if you spot any prey items on the Webcams. You can comment on this blog, or for a more immediate response, tweet @sheffperegrines