Month: April 2018


It’s been a cracking afternoon in Sheffield – literally – as the first egg has hatched.

April 30 chick

This was my first glimpse of a chick, at 19:13, although it had looked all day as if something was happening, right on time.  A handover a little later allowed for a clearer view, and confirmation that there was one chick alongside three eggs.

April 30 3 eggs and chick

Thirty-two days have now passed since the last egg was laid, since when round-the-clock incubation has been a constant, and in each of the years for which we have data from the webcam, the gap between last egg laid and first chick hatched has been either 31 days (2016 and 2017) or 32 (2013, 2014, 2015 and now 2018).  And in every year, the chicks have hatched within one or two days of each other, so things should move quickly overnight and tomorrow: worth watching!

April 30 male and eggs

The screengrab above shows that at 13:52 this afternoon there were still four eggs, one of which appeared to show (in the white patch visible on the front left egg) the first signs of ‘pipping’ as the chick began to break out of its shell.  The enlarged image below makes it a little easier to see.

April 30 egg pipped

As in previous years, the adults adopted a tell-tale ‘eggs-to-chicks’ posture while on the eggs, tilted forwards and hunched.  They do this by resting their wings on the ground so as to hold their body partly off the eggs to allow for the emerging chick, as below.

April 30 female hunched

A look back to last year reminded me that the night before the first egg hatched in 2017 saw temperatures fall down to just one degree above freezing, and while last night in Sheffield saw a comparatively (!) balmy 3 degrees celsius, conditions are far from ideal.  Fortunately, the chicks seem to be pretty hardy on the basis of previous years and temperatures look set to rise over the next few days, although Wednesday – likely to be the first full day with our complement of chicks, however many that may be – is forecast to be very wet.  No doubt the parents will brood them carefully, doing all they can to keep them warm and dry, although handovers will see them get unavoidably damp.

April 30 evening handover

Above is what I expect to be the final handover of the day as the female took over duties for the night at 20:41.  You can make out a second ‘pipped’ egg, which should mean a second chick by tomorrow morning.  Over recent years it’s become apparent that chicks often emerge from their egg at night, so let’s see what the morning brings.  Tomorrow morning should also see the first feed brought in, so another thing to watch out for.

Yesterday the BBC showed again their engaging documentary following the lives of a family of Peregrines in Chicago as they hatched and fledged.  No doubt you can catch it on iPlayer if you missed it – or you can watch it all unfold live right here in Sheffield.

An Eventful Quiet Week

The month of incubation is generally a quiet time, but the first of the ‘quiet’ weeks has been anything but…  As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s always a roller coaster and I did wonder if (yet) another cold snap would give cause for concern.  Well, the start of April did indeed bring such a cold snap, and with it a quite substantial fall of snow, waking up to some 10 cm on the western side of Sheffield on the morning of Monday 2nd (Easter Monday).    A quick check of the webcam showed that the eggs were safe, thanks to the devotion and commitment of the parents, particularly the male, which sat tight through the worst of the snow.

April 2 2018 snow male

Once the snow had stopped, he changed position and shook himself off before settling back down.

April 2 snow male 2

Fortunately, the temperature wasn’t too low and the snow began to melt fairly quickly, and by the time the female took over incubation duties later in the morning it was already starting to go.

April 2 snow female

When analysing the two eggs that failed to hatch in 2015, Dr Nicola Hemmings (of the University’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences) commented that early-stage embryos tend to be fairly resilient to changes in environmental conditions, such as cold temperatures or delayed incubation, but the risk to the developing chicks is real.  Hopefully the committed efforts of the adults will mean that risk has been averted.

The other excitement of the week came when we learned that the team at Wakefield Cathdral have been able to read the ring of the male of their pair, and the ring number confirms that he was ringed at St George’s on 16th May 2014, one of the four chicks that fledged that year.  We’ve suspected that the ringed Wakefield male could be from Sheffield, and it is absolutely fantastic to know that this is the case.  How wonderful to know that the St George’s birds are contributing to the growing urban Yorkshire population, especially when birds in rural settings continue to struggle as a result of illegal persecution.

Great too to know that the ringing carried out by Sorby Breck Ringing Group is helping to build a picture of what happens to the Sheffield chicks once they’ve fledged.  This is the first definite proof of successful breeding of any of the Sheffield offspring and it’s really interesting that it should have set up in another urban environment.  And how fitting that we were able to advise the team in Wakefield on their plans to support Peregrines and provide them with their first nestbox, an exact copy of the St George’s model.  They’ve since moved on to a different nestbox, but the pair there have fledged 10 chicks and are on course for another successful season too.  A real snowball effect.

We’ve still not managed to read the entire ring number of the St George’s male, so if anyone fancies a challenge over the weeks ahead, it would be terrific to be able to find out where and when he was ringed.  What odds he’s also from an urban nest?

June 2014 4 chicks

It seems only fitting to close with an image of the 2014 chicks shortly before they fledged, with the Wakefield male somewhere among them.  Perhaps this is him below, taking one of his first flights and grappling with a sibling back in June 2014.  What a week!

June 2014 grappling two