Peregrines Ringed and Watched

Behind the scenes there has been considerable activity in the last couple of weeks to try to get everything in place so that the chicks could be ringed.  Thanks to the combined efforts of many people, this all came together and the chicks were ringed on Friday morning by qualified ringers from Sorby Breck Ringing Group with the specialist licenses (and experience) that enable you to approach the nest of a Schedule 1 species such as Peregrine.  Some of you may have noticed that the webcam went offline for a while, which was done deliberately to coincide with the ringing so as not to cause undue concern to anyone watching a hand reach into the nest!  Everything went very smoothly and all four chicks were ringed.  They were found to be in very good shape, all well fed and with full crops.  They are too young for meaningful weight differences to determine their sex, but one was clearly smaller than the others, perhaps a small male, perhaps the last to hatch, who knows.  The priority was to get the chicks back into the nest as quickly as possible, and the parents were soon back to tend them.  Having the chicks ringed will help greatly to keep tabs on sightings once they have left the nest and will hopefully contribute to our understanding of the species.  The fact that last year’s young male was ringed when rescued meant that we could be certain of his fate; unfortunately his story did not have a happy ending, but helps us to appreciate the high mortality rates among Peregrines (and most species) in their first year.

I would personally like to thank Steve, Karl, David, Phil and Jim for taking the lead in making this happen: great work!

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This morning saw the second Peregrine watch coincide with bright sunshine and blue skies, the early morning session meaning that the sun was still on the north side of the church, allowing the birds to be appreciated to the full.  The shot above was digi-scoped (digital camera held to a telescope) and gives an idea of the views we were all able to enjoy as both adults sat on vantage points around the nest platform.  There were a few opportunities to see the birds in flight too, but they seem less inclined to chase off Crows and other potential threat species, maybe because the chicks are now of a size where they are no longer at risk of being taken.

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The female was the more active of the two adults, bringing in some previously stashed prey for a feed but also allowing for great views as she sat on the corner of the church calling up to the male on the nest perch.  Apart from the size difference, it was also easy enough to see the male’s dusky cheek (top photo) compared to the female’s white cheek (above) that sets off her black moustachial pattern.

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Over the space of a couple of hours around 20 of us enjoyed the sight of the Peregrines in the flesh and the chance to experience some of what it’s impossible to gauge from the webcam, in particular the extent to which there’s always an adult in attendance, usually within a few metres of the nest.  

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In addition to the Peregrines, we also saw a few Swifts, Swallow, a pair of Bullfinch, several Goldfinch as well as the Blue Tits, Blackbirds, Mistle Thrush and Starlings all breeding around the church.  Oh, and a few daredevil Woodpigeons that flew up onto various parts of the tower and lived to tell the tale.  Final mention though must go to the Peregrine watcher who came up from Dudley especially to join us and see for herself the St George’s pair: I hope you enjoyed the day.

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In the days ahead, the chicks will hopefully become more visible as they become too big to squeeze into the hidden corner of the box and the need to shelter from inclement weather (hopefully!) decreases.  They should also start to develop their plumage and start to look more like their parents as they preen out their white down.

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5 comments

  1. Thank you very much for the chance to watch the peregrines on the webcam and also to follow your very interesting blog.

    Barbara.

  2. Lost for words in my admiration for this project. Such a privilege to see these beautiful birds so clearly, and gain insight into their lives. Long may they continue!

  3. At this age (3 weeks) the gender can be determined by the thickness of the legs and in combination with the weight it’s almost always accurate.
    Female’s legs are thicker and the bands they get are therefor wider.

  4. It was well worth the journey I made to see these beautiful birds and realise the hard work that goes into managing their well-being and future success in breeding. It has been an absolute pleasure to be part of this experience, even from a distance. Just been watching the youngsters on tip talon exercising their wings! Sheer delight. Thank you David for your ideas of where to visit…Ladybower was wonderful.

  5. This is a wonderful opportunity observing these birds so closely. Thank you to all those involved and for the informative comments on the blog. I am curious to know whether, when you went up to ring the chicks, the nesting area was smelly with all the remains of prey still lying around? There seem to be quite a number of flies around which made me wonder this.

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