With a little more time to fill in some details, and a few more images following visits both of the last two evenings to make the most of some lovely light as it shines on the north face of the church, here goes.
Some of you may have noticed that this is not a Peregrine (!), so why post an image of a Black-headed Gull? In recent years, there have been a few occasions when the adults have chased off Lesser Black-backed Gulls, the female even towing one backwards mid-air a couple of years ago (reproduced below).
Since then, every time a gull passes the tower there’s a hint of excitement at the prospect of another pursuit, presumably as the gulls pose a threat to the eggs or young chicks. So, when the above adult Black-headed Gull passed over at tower height I wondered if there might be some fireworks. However, I was totally unprepared for what happened as the gull continued to call loudly and headed back towards the church tower, which it circled. It decided to mob the Peregrines perched on the tower (all 5 at the time) and passed within a metre of two of the juveniles and then the female.
This seemed to be asking for trouble, but none of them made any attempt to pursue it. Without doubt, one of the more bizarre occurrences of recent days!
The female has continued seemingly to encourage the juveniles to fly by tempting them with prey items that are withdrawn as the young birds approach. This strategy doesn’t seem to be working too well, as this evening two of the young remained steadfastly around the nestbox, and eventually the female fed them there, watched from above by the third.
This third juvenile continues to show good flying skills, and set off after the male when it brought in some food and then took off again, the young bird coming round to make a good landing near the top of one of the turrets. The combination of peachy tinge to the underparts, streaking down (not across) the breast and pale blue eye ring and base to bill (yellow in the adults) can all be seen in the first image below, and will remain good ways to tell the young from the adults over the coming months.
The other two show little sign of flight, and continue to exercise their wings vigorously on and around the nestbox, often under the watch of the female.
Another interesting piece of behaviour observed both last night and tonight was the birds cleaning their beaks after feeding, using metal on the frames of the webcam or nestbox to do so. In the image below, it’s the male that is doing this, using the struts of the panoramic webcam to novel effect, but one of the young did the same tonight.
Finally, a couple of images that try to capture the thrill of seeing these wonderful birds overhead as they come and go from St George’s. It’s been great to talk to so many people there over the last few days and share the enjoyment they bring to so many in our community. One thing that emerged in conversation is a bit of an urban myth about the rings used on the young birds. Some have worked out that the rings are on different legs and have come to the conclusion that this has been used to tell the sex of the young birds. If it does, then it’s a pure coincidence! When we ringed them we couldn’t be sure how many males or females there were, though we suspected two females. In the first photo below is the male (with ring just visible on his right leg – perhaps part of the source of the urban myth), and then the unringed female.