Month: June 2013

Ten days on…

It’s been a very busy time at work recently, so a lack of updates, which has coincided (fortunately!) with the key events all being behind us.  A couple of brief visits have shown that the juvs are still regularly around the church.  Last Thursday lunchtime both parents and all 3 juvs were at various points around the upper reaches of the tower, and this morning (Monday 24th June) at least 2 juvs and the female were present.  Given the perches they’re now using the juvs have clearly grown in confidence with their flying skills and can land on a pretty wide range of landing points, although they do still like the ledge at the top.

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The photo above shows several key features that will allow the juvs to be identified over the months ahead, at least in relation to the adults.  They will keep the distinctive vertical markings on their buffish underparts for at least a year (the adults have clean white underparts with horizontal barring) and the base of the bill will remain pale blue too until they mature.  

The webcam still occasionally picks the birds up as they come onto the platform for a few minutes, but this seems to be just one more perch for them to use.  It’s likely that the webcam will be taken offline some time soon, and that will be the prelude to the construction and siting of a new nest platform and – hopefully – improved webcam coverage.

I’ll update the blog if there are significant developments in the next week or so, but updates will be on a less regular basis than when things were at their most critical points.  

Thanks for the many positive comments over recent weeks: it’s been very gratifying to know that the whole Peregrines project has brought a lot of enjoyment to lots of people in Sheffield and well beyond.  Long may it continue to do so!

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Spreading your wings

The juvs have been making a few flights to nearby University buildings around St George’s over the last couple of days, but the adult female in particular appears agitated when they’re away from the tower and has repeatedly been encouraging them to return from other perches.  

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Yesterday evening one was on the Jessop Building (above), but had moved from there by this morning.  The female took a Feral Pigeon in to feed it, but returned shortly after to retrieve it, apparently as a means of coaxing it away.

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The Peregrines weren’t the only raptor to be spreading their wings in the area yesterday evening, and an Osprey passing through heading east provided an amazing spectacle, all the more so as both adults took exception to its presence and mobbed it very heavily.

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Their pursuit of the Osprey was not limited to buzzing it, and they struck it on several occasions, looking like they meant it!

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Needless to say the Osprey didn’t hang around and moved off towards the Don Valley.

After that there was time to spot the moon in an enticing position behind the church and take a few shots that tried to capture the magic of the scene.  Quite a few people recently have commented that they’ve made their first visit to the site after watching on the webcam over recent weeks, and all have said how wonderful it is to see the birds ‘live’ and get a better appreciation of them and the location.

This lunchtime (Sunday) both adults were on the church and two of the juvs were on the ledge at the level of the nestbox, but the third was not visible.  The juvs have occasionally returned to the platform, and can hop between there and the ledge quite comfortably, so are likely to hang around for a few more days if you do have the chance to visit.

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Go Go Go!!!

Last year saw the second chick fledge on 13th June, a day after the first, and the symmetry that was started yesterday continued, with both of the other chicks fledging today, exactly one year on.

The day started on a worrying note, as the first chick off the nest, which was on the lower walls in the afternoon, was found on the ground early this morning.  Fortunately, Jim Lonsdale was on hand to step in and rescue it, managing to gather the chick up safely, with no injuries being suffered by either party, despite those talons!  (Thanks to James Screaton for the picture below.)

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Jim followed the practice of those who ring birds and put the chick in a large bag to try to avoid undue stress and human contact, before getting the bag to the top of the church tower and letting the chick out, where it appeared none the worse for its experience.  Well done Jim!  By the time I arrived it had flapped out on to the lighting rig on the W side of the site, but later moved back onto the wall around the top of the church.

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The second chick also left the nest platform early in the morning, flapping from the edge of the platform onto the ledge, where it spent the rest of the day, shuffling along to beg for food from whichever of the parents landed nearby.

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Neither adult brought any food in to the site, and the male in particular moved off quickly as soon as the chick approached.

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After much flapping on top of the nest platform and even the webcam box, with encouragement from the female on the perching post, the third chick eventually tried to get up onto the wall behind the platform, and what happened next is captured in the sequence of images below.

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This was hardly something that could be described as a planned flight, but nonetheless was pretty successful.  The chick flew off above the church roof for a hundred metres or so and then circled round back towards the church tower and landed on one of the lower turrets.

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So by lunchtime all three chicks had fledged and were safely on various points of the church.

Interestingly, shortly after this the male brought in what looked like a Starling and began to prepare it for the chicks’ first meal of the day.  It really did seem that not bringing food in was being used as the major way of encouraging the chicks to leave the next platform, and hopefully they’ll now be fed well over the coming days before they can start to fend for themselves.  Also interesting to hear on BBC Springwatch, which featured the Sheffield birds alongside some other urban sites this evening, that Starling is often a preferred prey item on which young birds are taught to feed for themselves.   Apparently there are some 50 urban pairs in Britain, and it’s great to count Sheffield among those cities lucky enough to enjoy them in our skies.

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GO!!!

It’s the 12th of June, so – following last year’s events – it must be fledging day!

All three chicks were very active on the platform yesterday evening (11th June), hopping up onto the top of the box, flapping out at the end of the perching post, and even getting on top of the webcam box itself (thanks to Andy Jones for the great shot below).Image

Both adults were also much in evidence, giving some great views as they flew past, over and around, twice chasing off Lesser Black-backed Gulls and once a Crow.

From the webcam it has become increasingly difficult to see all three chicks as they move about, especially when on top of the box, but a quick visit on arriving at work today revealed that one of them had indeed made its first flight.  Jim Lonsdale was on site until 07:30, when all three were still on the platform, but around 9 am one of them made its maiden venture, ending up on top of the church roof, where it landed out of sight.  By lunchtime it had got up onto the top of one of the walls around the roof, and drew an admiring crowd.

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Indeed, there’s been 20-25 people enjoying watching them every evening, and a regular lunchtime gathering too.

The chick made several hops and flaps from one perch to another, but was still in the same area by the end of the afternoon.

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Both parents flew by but no food was brought in as far as I know, so perhaps that will be the way to encourage it back up the tower.

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In the photo above, the chick is on the lower wall in the foreground, with the adult female having come off the tip of the tower.

The other two chicks remain on the platform, mostly on top of it, so not only out of sight on the webcam, but usually out of sight from below too.  There’s a good chance tomorrow will see one or more of these take to the air too.  Get down to St George’s if you have the chance – it’s a terrific spectacle.

Steady…

A lovely evening in Sheffield gave some hope that this might have been the time to see the first flight form one of the chicks, but despite a good crowd gathered at St George’s, and various will-they-won’t-they moments, the time’s obviously not quite right yet…

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Plenty of flapping going on, but what’s also interesting to note in the photo below is the length of the middle toe.  According to someone who knows far more about such matters than I do, the feet can be a good way to sex the young birds, with males having shorter middle toes.  Having looked pretty hard at this over recent days I think I’ve sometimes been able to see a difference, with one having noticeably shorter middle toes than the other two.

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So there’s no obvious size difference between the three chicks, certainly not to the same degree as last year, but it appears we may have 2 females and one male.  The only way we (or I at least!) could have been certain was to have ringed the birds, but unfortunately this proved not to be possible.

Both adults were again much in evidence on and around the church tower, the female catching and bringing in another Feral Pigeon, which has made up the overwhelming majority of prey items.  It was taken to a ledge on the church to be prepared for the chicks, and this time taken onto the platform rather than onto a nearby ledge hoping to coax them off.

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In the evening sun, some great views were to be had again as the birds circled low overhead, much enjoyed by all.  Great to learn too from some of those present that the project is being enthusiastically followed in some local schools – inspiring stuff!

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The chicks can be seen to be far more mobile around the platform now and are increasingly moving out onto the perching pole for some vigorous bouts of wing-flapping.  As they do so, they move out of frame on the webcam, but hopefully by tomorrow this will have been adjusted to the widest available field of view.  Nonetheless, it’s not going to be long before they move off screen on their maiden flights – 12th of June was the big day last year.  Could history repeat itself?  Exciting times!

Ready…

Watching the chicks from across the road over the weekend, as well as on the webcam, has left me pretty convinced that reports of a fledging flight on Friday were premature.  There’s plenty of flapping on the platform, giving good exercise to those wing muscles, but no sign of any chicks getting on top of the platform, or onto the perching pole.  They also have a good deal more down still than they did before they took their first flight last year.  This evening (Sunday 9th June) one of them looked on the edge of going, and was certainly on the edge of the platform.

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But that was as close as things got, despite much calling between the chicks and both parents on the church, with the female on the ledge to the right of the platform.

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She seems to have been trying to coax the young birds off the platform with a combination of her presence, calling and bringing prey items onto the ledge rather than the platform itself.  The male continues to be very involved, and was also calling to the chicks.

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All these efforts have been in vain to date, but they are almost ready…