Month: May 2018

Ringing success

On Friday 18th May, an experienced team of ringers, working under a schedule 1 license, climbed St George’s church tower to ring the chicks.  The timing of the ringing was a very close match to previous years in terms of age of the chicks, and carefully chosen to be within the fairly narrow window available to do so safely.

Needless to say, the female – which had been feeding the chicks shortly before – kept a close eye on proceedings, circling the tower.

PG fem May 18 2018

On a couple of occasions she even perched up on the platform perch or one of the turrets before setting off again.

PG fem May 18 2018 4

The male was in attendance too, though he kept more of a distance.  After carefully setting up ropes to secure those involved, Simon went over the edge to take the chicks from the nest and put them in a cloth bag before passing them back to the roof of the church.  Once there, the three chicks were weighed and a series of measurements were taken, which suggested that we may have a female chick this year!  DNA swabs were taken that will be analysed by the university’s Animal and Plant Sciences labs, as will the unhatched egg, which was removed from the nest at the same time.  Each chick was ringed with a silver ring provided by the British Trust for Ornithology as well as a coloured ring to enable the birds to be tracked individually.

PG chick May 18 2018

This year’s chicks have PRA, PSA and PTA on orange rings, so do share any sightings of them once they’ve left the nest.  As soon as this had been done, they were returned to the nest, and we climbed back down.  Shortly afterwards, the female was back on the nest platform and things settled back down to normality.

All of this is very positive, and is the result of many people coming together to protect these wonderful birds.  And those rings are precisely what have told us that the male at Wakefield cathedral came from Sheffield, having been ringed as a chick at St George’s on 16 May 2014.  Sadly, however, not all news in the last couple of days has been good.  The same BTO rings that enabled us to confirm where one of the 2014 chicks has gone have confirmed that a Peregrine found dead near Bradford in suspicious circumstances was one of the 2016 cohort from St George’s.  Peregrines are protected by law, but that doesn’t deter some people from continuing to persecute them.  Whether or not this was the case here is unclear at this stage, but seems likely.  Do keep an eye out for the Peregrines around Sheffield: they still need our support to ensure others can enjoy the spectacle of these magnificent birds in our skies.

PG fem May 18 2018 3



And then there were three

Following the emergence of the first chick on Monday evening, the last two days have indeed seen further eggs hatch, as anticipated.  Having gone to bed on Monday with a ‘pipped’ egg alongside the chick, I expected a second chick to be present on Tuesday morning, but by lunchtime, little had changed as below.

May 1 chick and 3 eggs

The afternoon did see the expected second chick hatch, coinciding with the male bringing in some prey to feed the first chick.  The female’s reluctance to move aside over several minutes as he stood by with food in beak was puzzling, until a freshly pink chick became visible underneath the female’s wing; pink because the down was wet from inside the shell, although it wouldn’t take to long to dry and turn white.

May 1 second chick

It wasn’t long before the male returned with some food, which the female seemed reluctant for him to feed to the chicks.  Instead, she took tiny morsels from him and fed them to the older chick, the younger one not yet ready for a feed.

By midday on Wednesday a third egg had hatched, all within a 48-hour window.

May 2 three chicks

Noticeable in the front of the box for most of the day (and in the pictures above and below) was a patch of heavy black plastic that had somehow blown up the tower and come to land in the nest.  It’s a highly topical subject and a timely indication of how prevalent plastic is in our environment: Sir David Attenborough would not be amused!

May 2 plastic

Once the male had settled back down to brood the plastic blew up and landed on his rump and wingtips.  He seemed unsettled and startled but he did not leave his brooding duties and a short while later it blew off again and appears to have left the nest.

May 2 plastic male

Later in the afternoon, both parents brought food in for the chicks, at one point both at the same time!  It looks as if they won’t go hungry, with Feral Pigeon already featuring.

May 2 male feeding 3 chicks

By the end of the day, there was still one egg among the three chicks, which are all looking healthy and feeding well.  There’s no sign of any ‘pipping’ on that fourth egg, so it may be that it won’t hatch.  Tomorrow may be the last realistic chance for it to do so.  This is when the Peregrine’s synchronous hatching strategy becomes most apparent: having laid the four eggs over the space of a week and only starting to incubate once the clutch was (almost) complete, the eggs hatch over a much shorter period, resulting in chicks of similar size and with similar chances of surviving.  Fingers crossed for that fourth egg hatching tomorrow…