In February we asked for your help on a study led by Ed Drewitt (https://www.eddrewitt.co.uk/about
) on the seasonality and diversity of Peregrine diet and the distances they travel. Ed has now compiled the first draft Sheffield Peregrine prey list from webcam images kindly tweeted by @SheffPeregrines followers since 6th Feb. Thanks to all who have contributed so far, especially Alan @doggie3132 and Wendy Scott @Wendspix1 and Alistair McMillan @AlMcM Keep them coming!
Male Bullfinch (photo Chris Greenwood)
Seven prey species have been recorded so far during this study period:
Bullfinch (once, male)
Great Tit* (at least 4 including 1 recent fledgling)
In addition we could safely add Wood Pigeon as I’ve seen a few of those brought to the nest over the years of webcam watching (although I have made a note of dates previously).
*Wakefield Peregrines group have been formally recording a lot longer and have approx 50 prey species – their excellent page summarising this is at https://wakefieldperegrines.com/prey/
but, perhaps surprisingly, they dont have Great Tit on their list yet!
Great Tit (Chris Greenwood)
A video of the male Bullfinch being brought into the platform on 11th May 2020 can be seen on Alan’s YouTube Channel here
The Eurasion Teal is an interesting record. The most common and familiar duck by far in the Sheffield area is of course the Mallard, the resident of practically every park in Britain. There are plenty of Mallards available close by to the Peregrines on the River Don or at Crookes Valley Park for example. A Mallard would make a nice big and relatively slow-moving target for a Peregrine to attack and a frequent sight over the city, yet we’ve never seen one taken here in Sheffield and I’m not aware of one been taken anywhere else. (Ed may set me straight on this!) We can perhaps assume that Mallards and the many other similar sized UK ducks are too big and heavy for even a female Peregrine to carry back to a nest site. Teal however is the smallest duck to reside in or visit Britain and perhaps that’s what sealed the fate of the one captured on 15th March.
Eurasian Teal (Chris Greenwood)
Teal are not a common sight in the very centre of Sheffield but can be seen on the River Don from time to time and more commonly at sites such as Forge Dam and Orgreave Lagoons which are still well with the urban area. The captured bird may well have been in transit between such sites.
BTO scientist Dr. Esther F Kettel came to speak to Sheffield Bird Study Group
in 2017 about her fascinating PhD work towards a study comparing the breeding success urban and rural UK Peregrines. Esther quoted evidence in her research of Peregrines taking birds up to 500g. At an average weight of 360g Teal perhaps represent an excellent combination of size of target, weight to carry back to eyrie and size of reward when it comes to mealtime. Conversely a Mallard can weight from 750g – 1.5Kg. Teal is noted as a frequent prey species at Wakefield.
At her fascinating talk Esther spoke about birds such as Water Rail, Moorhen, Little Grebe, and even Corncrake remains at urban Peregrine nests. Such species most typically move at night both locally and/or on long-distance migration and were surprise discoveries to ornithologists. Esther put forward the proposition that one of the contributing factors to the phenomenon of successful urban Peregrine pairs is that the artificial lights of our cities enable the birds to hunt at night, possibly by picking out the silhouettes of the birds against the light pollution. It represents phenomenal adaptation and opportunism on the part of the Peregrines, I mean, Corncrakes are rare enough in their preferred habitat in Scotland’s western fringes, they’re hardly known for being sighted in the downtown metropolis!
A Goldfinch was brought in on 4/4/20 (Chris Greenwood)
There is so much more to learn and you can help. Ed’s research has the potential to tell us more and more about urban Peregrines. It would be great to document and expand the Sheffield prey list further. If you want to help record peregrine prey. Record the image by doing a screenshot or video and tweet it to @SheffPeregrines and @eddrewitt
The date and time are shown on the bottom left of the webcam image – please be careful it isn’t cut off if during any image cropping.
There are numerous guides online about how to screenshot part of your screen for both Apple Mac and the various versions of Windows. A quick search should find you some instructions. Video is a little more complicated in that you may need to download a small piece of software but these are often freeware or share ware. Apple users can Screen Record via the included Quicktime application. Quicktime is also available for free for Windows but there may well be other better options.
Bird lovers are taking part across the UK and perhaps my favourite/most gruesome record so far is of an Avocet taken way back in February by Dorking Peregrines, picture kindly supplied with permission from @sophiedorman33
22/5/20 Chris Greenwood and Deborah Dawson