The two chicks have been out of the eggs almost exactly four weeks now, and have certainly changed hugely in that time. This is the time when they change from white fluffy chicks to looking like young Peregrines, and also start to move around the box with greater agility, as well as taking more of an interest in the world outside it.
They are also starting to exercise their wings to develop the flight muscles that they will be putting into use in a fortnight’s time, and this is something we can expect to see more and more over the coming days. As can be seen in the screengrab below, their feathers are growing well and are especially visible in the wings and tail as they grow through the down, which will continue to be shed as they flap and preen.
An interesting piece of behaviour over the weekend was that the male engaged in a lengthy bout of nest scraping while the chicks were in their ‘blind’ corner.
Why he should do this is a bit of a mystery, but may be evidence of the strength of the drive to breed and a form of territorial behaviour. Could it have something to do with the failure of two of the eggs? The chicks that have hatched are being well looked after, even if there’s no adult on view. When I visited yesterday there was no sign of an adult bird, but as soon as a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls drifted within 100 metres or so of the church tower, the female appeared and chased them off, attacking one in a strike with talons outstretched. Apologies for the quality of the image: it all happened very quickly!
She then continued to circle with them, with some occasional chasing, until they had headed off towards Attercliffe. These gulls may seem odd as a potential threat, but they are real opportunists and cruise over the rooftops looking for scraps or other morsels. As with other large gulls, they are very capable of taking chicks of other species, though the Peregrines would appear to be far too large now to be at risk from an avian predator.
The picture above also gives a good idea of the size of the female when compared to the Lesser Black-backed Gull, and she’s the one to deal with gulls and Buzzards when they come too close. And then as she comes back to the nest site there continue to be opportunities for some excellent views.