With little time to devote to the blog this year, my first post is to celebrate the laying of the fourth egg today, which should complete the clutch. Below is a screengrab of the male settling back down to incubate this evening, with the four eggs visible and a good idea of how a clutch of four is about the limit of his brooding capacity.
The news that the pair had started to lay eggs has generated a good deal of interest, and the University’s digital media team, Andy Kershaw of BBC Radio Sheffield and the Sheffield Star have all done interviews over the last couple of days. It’s always great to know that there’s so much interest in the birds and great too to be able to spread the word and share some knowledge about them.
Spending an hour with Andy Kershaw at St George’s in the early morning sun was especially fun as it coincided with a good deal of activity. With the female on the corner of the Arts Tower and the male on incubation duty, a Crow mobbed the female, shortly followed by another bird that didn’t look like a Crow, even with the naked eye. A quick check with the bins confirmed it was a third Peregrine, which made repeated passes within feet of the female. The pictures below were taken from St George’s, so at some distance…
The female eventually flew off in pursuit, although made no effort to attack the interloper, instead engaging in some half-hearted chasing.
The size difference and heavy streaking below on the bird to the left in the image above indicate that this third bird is a young male, fledged last year. The images below also shows that it is quite brown above still, confirming it’s around a year old.
My immediate thought was that it could be one of last year’s chicks, which were fitted with orange plastic rings to aid identification and track their movements. However, a few pictures snapped when it dropped its talons as it passed the female didn’t show any obvious ring of that kind, which I’d expect to see, even at that distance.
It could be that the plastic ring has dropped (or been pecked) off, or it could possibly be an immature male that fledged elsewhere and has moved away from its nest site to find Sheffield to its liking. Seems a bit of a long shot, especially given the female’s relative acceptance of the immature, although we may never know for sure.
Back to the eggs, the sequence of laying dates is now probably complete, and was March 22nd, March 24th, March 26th and March 29th. This pattern of laying the four eggs across the space of a week fits perfectly with previous years, but they have come a couple of days later than in recent years, which have seen the first egg laid on 19th or 20th March for the last four years. Given the weather we’ve been having recently, and especially the overnight temperatures, perhaps this delay isn’t surprising. On the basis of previous years, we can expect the first egg to hatch in late April, probably 29th, with fledging likely to occur around June 6th. In the meantime, there will no doubt be a roller coaster to enjoy/ endure. Will we have another cold snap that threatens the development of the embryos? Will one of the adults puncture an egg with its talons (as appears to be imminent in the screengrab below from this evening)?
And finally, if you do go down to St George’s to see the Peregrines (and you should!), keep your eyes open for other species too. Woodpigeons, Magpies, Blue Tits, Blackbirds, Starlings and Mistle Thrushes are all busy with their breeding seasons around the church. This Pied Wagtail was also there, busy catching insects around the church’s ledges this morning, under the gaze of the Peregrine above.
Blog updates won’t be as regular as in previous years given various other commitments, but I’ll try to keep on top of major developments.