3 x 3

It’s been a busy day at St George’s.  As anticipated, the third egg has arrived: knowing that it was likely to be laid at some point this morning, I had a look at the webcam early on and saw the egg appear at 07:47.  The female had adopted an unusual posture on the nest and kept ‘pumping’ forwards and backwards.

March 24 1

Suspecting that something might be about to happen, I kept watching and when she stood up there was a third egg, fresh and shiny, quite a different gloss colour to the more matt look to the eggs once they’ve been in the nest a while.

March 24 2

She then spent quite some time again looking pretty exhausted, standing over the eggs before settling down to incubate.  Again, the male soon came to take over and has spent several lengthy stints on the eggs, at one point noisily seeing off the female when she returned to the nest to take over the duties.  When he did leave, as in the picture below, three eggs could be clearly seen.

March 24 3

So that’s a gap of exactly 55 hours between the second and third eggs, following about 57 between the first and second. This is different to the pattern last year, when the gap between second and third eggs was 70 hours, by far the longest.  I’m expecting a fourth egg, as this has been the clutch size every year for this pair, but perhaps the gap to the fourth egg will be a little longer than we’ve had so far this year.  My guess would be that Thursday afternoon-evening will be the time to look out for this, if indeed it does happen.  In the meantime, we’re likely to see the birds spending an increasing amount of time incubating the eggs.

Further excitement came this morning as a third bird joined the pair at the nest site, captured via the webcam by viewers, to whom thanks for the image below.  With the female on the nest, the male on the perch and another on the ledge, that’s definitely three together.

March 24 4

It seems almost certain that this is one of last year’s immatures that has remained in the area, though it’s not been regular around St George’s in recent months.  It could just be the light, but it does look to have a buffish wash to the breast and there’s a suspicion that it’s carrying a ring on its right leg, though it’s impossible to be sure given the resolution.  It’s highly unlikely that the pair would tolerate a complete stranger at the nest site, and fights between Peregrines over nest sites and pairings can prove fatal.  Definitely one to keep an eye out for, and the mask pattern looks different to the resident birds as a way of identifying any ‘strangers’.

March 23

On a visit after work yesterday evening the pair was again seen to copulate on the ledge by the nest and Helen asks if they copulate for each egg.  I don’t think they do, as copulation takes place fairly regularly over the space of several weeks (observed since late February this year), but it’s likely to stop once the clutch is complete as it’s initiated by the female, who calls repeatedly to the male and indicates her readiness by adopting a head bowed posture.

The other interesting behaviour yesterday evening was a food pass, the male coming in with a prey item, calling the female off the nest and then following her away before dropping the prey, which she captured in mid-air.  It was fantastic to watch, but took place in a flash behind the branches of a tree, so no chance to get a photo to share the moment. The image above was taken soon after as the light began to fade and both adults were very active around the tower.

Finally, having missed the chance to capture the eclipse with a camera, below is the best effort from my wife’s mobile phone as one of the birds came into land with the eclipse (honest!) in the background.

PG eclipse

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6 comments

  1. Fantastic update ! My previous comments seem to have disappeared but rest assured I am watching very regularly

  2. Do the juveniles from previous years tend to return to Sheffield area and take up residence or might they move somewhere completly different in UK? If so the population would be expected to be rising in this era with successful breeding over last few years.

    1. It’s hard to say movements for sure, as last year was the first year the young birds were ringed so it’s impossible to know the movements of previous broods. Studies show young birds tend to disperse less than 60 miles, but they will not hold breeding territory in too close proximity to their parents, and Sheffield Centre is not very large in terms of suitable area for more than one Peregrine pair. As for a population rise, while it’s hoped projects like this will be doing their bit to raise the wild population, you still have to take into account that there will still be a natural mortality rate for young birds before they reach breeding age, so for example four raised chicks does not necessarily mean four new breeding birds. However more birds seem to be taking up residence in various cities in the north and midlands of England, and time will tell.

      1. Peter
        Thanks for detailed response. Also explains why not worth putting breeding boxes on places such Royal Hallamshire which is nearer enough a large cliff.

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