Monday (16th) had been identified by members of Sorby Breck Ringing Group as a good opportunity to ring the chicks/ eyasses, and with good weather conditions this went ahead as planned. Consequently, the webcams were switched off for a while (thanks Ian), we gained access to the church tower (thanks Jim) and climbed up and out onto the roof. Once all the ropes had been secured, Simon went over the edge and placed the chicks in a bag that was then passed back for the rings to be located on the chicks’ legs.
Given that Peregrines are a Schedule 1 species, for which it is a criminal offence to disturb the nest (let alone remove or injure the birds), it was vital that Steve Samworth has the necessary permit – and experience – to ring Peregrines. Together with Steve were Simon, Paul and Helen, all of whom are ringers based at the University: a great team! The rings serve a dual purpose as a security measure that indicates that these birds were ringed in the wild and also enables the monitoring of movements if the rings are read at any point.
Helen has taken the unhatched egg and a tiny amount of down for analysis so that we can have a DNA sample from each of the chicks, matched to their ring number. Hopefully it will also be possible to sex the chicks, as well as determine whether or not this is a different female to last year’s bird. Steve felt there were at least two females, based on thickness of the legs, but in order to reduce the disturbance to the absolute minimum no weighing or measuring was carried out, which might have helped to confirm this. The whole process was completed in around 20 minutes from start to finish, which saw Simon go back over to return the chicks to the nest: note how the bag containing the chicks has its own safety rope!
As expected, the adults became agitated while we were out on the roof, and the female in particular circled the tower at close quarters, calling repeatedly. Below are a few pictures taken from virtual eye level.
The male circled at more of a height, but also called repeatedly, the difference in tone (male markedly higher pitched) readily apparent.
Once we had got down to the bottom of the church, the female had landed back on the perching pole on the nextbox, and things quickly returned to normal. By the afternoon a good feed saw one of the chicks walking around the box rather than shuffling, and standing on its feet as opposed to resting on its tarsals (lower legs).
At one point it pecked at the female’s wing and looked as if it was going to feed itself on the feral pigeon that had been brought in, but thought better of it. It won’t be long, however, before they start to feed themselves and the feather that are just starting to peep through from their shafts (visible below) will begin to emerge and result in a rapidly changing appearance.
I’ll end by giving a big vote of thanks to everyone involved in making the ringing possible: Ian, Jim and Phil from the University’s Computing and Estates Departments; and Simon, Paul, Helen and – especially – Steve for their ringing expertise.