It’s been time for some thumb-twiddling over the last three weeks since the clutch was completed and the birds settled down to the serious business of incubating their four eggs. For those of you who have been following the webcam, the frustrations of it crashing as it became regularly overloaded with viewing traffic will be only too familiar. Fortunately these have been overcome, thanks to the efforts of staff in the University’s Estates Department and Computing Services.
To recap, four eggs were laid between 27th March and 3rd April. Only when the third and fourth eggs had been laid did incubation get under way consistently, and since then the female has undertaken the great majority of the incubating, although the male has also done some stints. The birds can be sexed fairly easily by size (the female’s greater bulk and size overall cannot always be readily appreciated when there’s no point of comparison), but usefully the male is ringed and the female has pale buff fringes to the tips of her tail feathers.
One of the things that the webcam has made it possible to appreciate since they’ve been incubating is what goes on round the clock, and it’s been interesting to see how active the female is during the night, shifting position and looking around. We’ve not seen it in Sheffield yet, but perhaps we’ll see this nocturnal activity take the form of night-time hunting, as has been noted with the Derby cathedral birds, which are ten days or so behind us this year in terms of laying date. The Notts pair are a week or so ahead of us and all three eggs laid have just hatched, despite concerns as the female incubated almost entirely covered by snow in late March: some impressive photos on their blog!
During the incubation period, which averages 30-32 days, we have become accustomed to great views of the birds filling our screens, but not much else has been going on, and the male is often away from St George’s. The birds have a larder near to the nest and occasionally give some exciting flight views, but it’s a case of the calm before the action really gets under way. The eggs are expected to hatch around 3rd-5th May, after which the adults will start to bring food into the nest on an increasingly regular basis. Once this becomes established, we’ll be setting up Peregrine watches for anyone who wants to enjoy terrific views of the birds ‘in the flesh’, as in the picture above, taken a couple of weeks ago. Details of dates and times of the watches will be posted on the website, from where there are also links to the webcam and this blog.