Month: April 2020

Peregrines on Countryfile

There was a short but very nice piece on Peregrines on BBC1 Countryfile last night. Top wildlife filmmaker Richard Taylor-Jones filmed a bird living and hunting on the white cliffs of Kent’s channel coast. Is it my imagination or do the white cliffs background make the bird’s breast appear particularly pristine and bright?

The programme can be viewed on iPlayer click here and should be available for 11 months. The film starts about 33 mins 45 secs into the programme if you can’t watch the whole show.

IMG_4513

Three’s a crowd

In the blog of April 1st celebrating the laying of our second egg we posed the question: how long until the third egg?  Well we have the answer now I guess.  Never!

Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 16.03.35

It’s a first of sorts – Sheffield Peregrines have usually laid a clutch of 4 eggs and most monitored urban sites lay 3 – 4 eggs typically – but 2 is all we are getting.  However, there’s no need to feel short-changed.  If the two eggs successfully hatch then it will be easier for the parents to provision 2 chicks with sufficient food than it would be to provide for 4 chicks.  Given that this is a new pairing and given that many of us are convinced that this is the Falcon’s first serious breeding attempt that may not be such a bad thing, although we know that the current male is well capable of bringing in food for 4 chicks as he has done it in the past with his previous partner.

What is the science behind only laying two eggs? Well Britain may be a nation of avid birdwatchers, conservationists and animal scientists, and we may well have many monitored Peregrine nests but as have oft been stated before on this blog there is still so much we simply do not know about these birds.  Personally I was tempted to think that laying 2 eggs was a consequence of inexperience in the Falcon (female) but this is, of course, wild speculation with little scientific foundation.  A neat little story.  Could it be the result of some sort of stress on the bird –  was there a third Peregrine hanging around causing her an avian equivalent of anxiety?  Are both birds completely healthy?  Did the Tiercel provide enough food for both birds to be in top breeding condition?  Did irregular food supply cause a stress.  It’s all speculation.  For the birds as the saying goes…

Let’s hope all goes well.  As a new pairing, having 2 hungry little mouths to feed and care for might be a nice, slightly gentler start to life together and what we hope will be a long term partnership that lasts for years ahead.  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves but if 2020 sees two chicks fledge, it will be a great year.

We may have been expecting a third and fourth egg but looking back it was clear that the female didn’t.  We can see she got down to serious full time incubation within hours of the second egg being laid.  How it works we don’t know but the instinct to incubate kicked straight in to her and the male followed suit.  She obviously understood the signs.  Since that point it’s been a waiting game.  The weather has been kind this year so far touch wood.  Just look back here to the blog of 7th April 2018 to see how variable the Sheffield spring can be!  However, despite the sunshine, when I check in on the webcam late at night I still think the birds look rather forlorn, hunkered down protecting the eggs, the wind ruffling their feathers.  It’s a long vigil!

Just how long will that vigil be?  Well by the book the incubation period should be 31 or 32 days, which puts us on Friday the 1st or Saturday the 2nd of May.  My money’s on the 2nd for the first egg to hatch.  But then again I wouldn’t be surprised if something unusual or unpredictable happens.  Would you?

April 2 2018 snow male

Peregrine does Snowy Owl impression April 2018

 

 

2 Milestones

IMG_4422

 

Well it took a lot longer than I predicted, and I was beginning to wonder if it would happen at all, but tonight the Falcon is sitting brooding not one but 2 eggs. The 2nd egg must have been laid some time overnight, well over 60, and possibly closer to 72, hours after laying of the first egg.  This is quite a long gap between eggs and it will be interesting to see how long the gap is until a third egg appears.  Is the gap a sign of a young female who hasn’t raised a brood before or is the delay a consequence of some distress along the lines of 2019?  There is reasonable suspicion a third bird is in the vicinity and there’s a chance this could lead to territorial disputes.  Or the long gap could be part of a new normal from a new pairing.  Something tells me this year may not be completely plain sailing.  It is interesting to note that there are continued copulations despite there being two eggs already laid.

So that’s one milestone for today but the second is noteworthy in a different way.  We are pleased to announce that the fundraising page for the project has now raised 50% of our fundraising goal!

IMG_4423

 

£2555 (plus gift aid to come) is a fantastic amount of money to have raised and all involved with the Sheffield Peregrine Project would like to thank everyone who has kindly donated.  Please use the link to donate at the top of the page if you have not done so already.  As a reminder, the aims of the fundraiser to achieve as many of the following goals as possible:-

  1. Installing a camera in a better position to improve our view of the nest
  2. Organising talks and events to share our knowledge of the Peregrines with the public
  3. Carrying out research, including investigating why some eggs fail to hatch
  4. DNA profiling individuals to learn more about the family relationships of the birds
  5. Annual Ringing (and colour-ringing) of the peregrine chicks so that we can monitor their activity once they have left the nest and better understand their movements
  6. Determining the sex of future peregrine chicks using genetic markers
  7. Supporting investigations into wildlife crimes such as shooting or poisoning of birds of prey
  8. Arranging for a publication to outline the success of the Peregrine project in its first 10 years

Some of these aspirations have already been implemented or started but it would be reassuring to have them on a more secure and better funded footing and for certain the often requested extra/better camera angle will not be achieved until the funding goal is reached.

We live in uncertain times, what is in store for the Sheffield Peregrines 2020 breeding season or the coronavirus lockdown is anybody’s guess.  In an ideal world it would be great to organise a Peregrine outreach event for us all later in the year but it may well have to wait until next year.  In the meantime please keep up your enthusiasm for watching the birds and donating to the fundraiser.

Stay safe, one and all.

IMG_4421