A few days on from the appearance of the fourth egg and things have settled into the expected pattern of the adults incubating the clutch between them. We didn’t expect any more eggs to be laid, and a fifth now would break all known records for gap between eggs in a single clutch! So four it is.
Things have quietened down in more ways than one, with the adults far less vocal around the church than had been the case in the preceding days and weeks. Whichever adult is not incubating has been less evident around St George’s, though they can still be seen at times perched on the stone ornaments on the corners. It seems that they are keeping a low profile while they incubate, drawing little attention to their presence. Indeed, a couple of visits over the weekend made this clear, with fleeting views as the male arrived from the E, only to disappear onto one of the upper ledges. A few minutes later he flew off, carrying a previously stored Feral Pigeon, without once calling or approaching the nest platform. This is apparently typical, as food is usually kept at a distance from the nest during incubation, perhaps to reduce risk of infection (see flies below).
The only other time any movement was apparent over the course of a couple of hours was when the male attacked a Buzzard that passed S over the area, diving repeatedly at it until it moved some distance from the church. The views were not very close, but in the picture below you can see how the Buzzard flipped upside down to defend itself with its talons from the Peregrine as it attacked from above, something it had to do several times.
So a lot of the time there’s not much to see at present if you do visit St George’s in terms of the Peregrines, though other species are making their preparations for the breeding season, including the pair of Mistle Thrushes mentioned in a previous post, now busy building a nest within 50 metres or so of the nest.
Once things liven up in terms of activity, particularly when the eggs hatch later in April, there will be a lot to see at St George’s, and Sheffield Bird Study Group will be organising some Peregrine watches to share information if you want to be able to find out more.
In the meantime, settle down to enjoy watching the webcam, which continues to show some fascinating insights. Today, for example, on one of the rare occasions when the eggs were left uncovered it was noticeable that a couple of flies immediately appeared, settling on the eggs. No doubt the eggs were warmer than other surfaces, or were they looking to feed on tiny bits of organic matter on the shells? One of the flies is just about visible on the top left of the eggs in the image below.
And when the male did arrive to take over incubating duties there was a moment of concern as he trod on one of the eggs, something both birds are very careful to avoid doing on the whole when they move onto and off the eggs.
Last year the egg that failed to hatch suffered a fate similar to the image above. Jim Lonsdale, who oversaw construction of the platform, saw the male tread on one of the eggs when arriving at the platform last spring, and sure enough the unhatched egg was found to have a tiny puncture hole when the platform was taken down over the winter. Jim’s design is also in place at Wakefield cathedral, where a platform has also been installed. If anyone needs a Peregrine nest platform building, to a tried and trusted design, let me know and I’ll put you in touch!
Finally, thanks to those who have sent messages of support and appreciation for the Peregrine Project here in Sheffield – it’s great to know the enjoyment it’s bringing. I can’t find time to reply individually, but I am grateful for your comments and input and hope the webcam and blog continue to provide good viewing.