Webcam watchers will have seen the birds endure a rather wet and windy week from the 11th to 17th March, courtesy of Storm Gareth. As a species which has evolved over millions of years and found it’s niche nesting on cliff faces, Peregrines are well used to windy conditions but it was hard not to feel a little sympathy for them last week as they got blown about. The female shifted about from perch to stone ledge to nest platform but didn’t seem to get much respite anywhere…. the downside perhaps of the commanding viewpoint they call home each spring. At one point one of the birds, almost inevitably, tried the camera out as a perching point so we got a view of not very much for an hour or two. And when it left the raindrops didn’t make the view much better either. Thankfully things have calmed down a bit now although you can still see the breeze up at the top of the tower from the way it displaces the bird’s feathers when sat on the perch. March 18th marked the first day of 2018 with 12 hours and 1 minute between sunset and the days are longer than the nights from now on until September. A highlight of the astonomical calendar. Let’s hope the lengthening days bring warmer temperatures and settled weather.
The fact that the birds stay and endure the elements as they did last week just goes to emphasise the strength of their instinct to sit tight and protect their territory. There will other perches around city’s skyline which offer a more comfortable perch in the lee of the wind and perhaps this was where the male was at times last week when not on camera. The combination of the site, the bird’s renewed pair bond and perhaps their sense of their previous success mean the instinct to stay put is unbending. The birds will have looked cold, wet and miserable to human observers last week as we view the birds in our own terms but it’s a testament to the amazing natural technology of feathers that they stay warm and dry. If the feathers didn’t work so very well the birds would perish in such harsh conditions. The tightly interlocking barrier the outer feathers form is aided by oil from the preen gland gives excellent water repellency to keep the rain out. Downy feathers closer to the skin keep the warmth in.
So today is 19th March, the earliest date on which the first egg has been laid in recent years. Time to start watching closely! In 2018 the first egg was laid on 22 March, which is a more typical average date. The female has made a bigger depression in the gravel ready for the eggs so it would appear that the time is nearly upon us. However, we saw less bonding activity last week due to the weather which, for no scientific reason whatsoever, makes me think we might have to wait a day or two yet. What do you think? Keep watching to find out….