Having been away for a week, I came back yesterday to find the young Peregrines transformed from fluffy white chicks to immatures that look like browner and streakier versions of their parents. It all seems to have happened so quickly! This brown plumage on their upperparts and vertical streaking on the breast/ belly will be the easiest way to recognise the immatures from the adults when they leave the nestbox, which will take place in the next few days.
In two of the last three years (when we’ve known the dates for laying, hatching and fledging) it’s been 38 days after hatching that the chicks have left the nestbox. The exception was 2015, when one of the chicks left the nest 35 days after hatching – though this wasn’t planned, as the young bird was blown off the edge of the box in strong winds when exercising! My calculations suggest that we should expect the first departure on 3rd or 4th June, and this weekend should see all of the young birds take the plunge.
Thanks to Andy J for the picture above, taken while I was away, and Andy also captured a great image of one of the young birds peering out onto the world it will soon inhabit. They’re now regularly visible from below as they exercise or just chill.
At this age the young raptors are called ‘branchers’, as species that nest in trees take to branches around the nest to exercise and flap/ jump from perch to perch. The adults will soon begin to tempt the immatures out of the nestbox with prey brought to the ledges around the box, and this seemed to be happening yesterday afternoon as the male arrived and the young birds rushed to the corresponding corner of the box.
There was a report that one of the young birds had jumped out of the box late yesterday, but by lunchtime there was no sign of anything out of the ordinary, and all three were back in view via the webcam.
It’s always a nervy time as they flap and totter on the edge, though the photo below by Andy J shows how firmly they are clinging on with their talons.
They look to have a bit too much down at present compared to how they looked in previous years when they fledged, but those young feathers are shaken out as they exercise their wings and can come in handy as they fall. Not only did Andy get some great pictures of the Peregrines, he also managed to photograph one of the local Swifts making off with one of the shed feathers for its own nest lining. Impressive!
The Swifts also find the church to their liking for the flies that are present, some no doubt attracted by the meat of the prey items brought in.
So if anyone wants to share in the excitement over the weekend, do get down to St George’s. It’s always great to have several pairs of eyes (and hands) in case one of the young birds ends up on the ground after its first ‘flight’. If anything does happen that requires some action, send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org): I’ll be checking in on a regular basis.