Two weeks old and another milestone

With two weeks having now passed since the chicks hatched, they continue to make good progress and are growing rapidly, as the comparison below demonstrates.

Although the chicks still look much the same in terms of their colour, they are now large enough to start to be left unbrooded for short spells, although one or both of the adults is always in the vicinity, even if not visible on the webcams.  Indeed, the male seems to have taken quite a liking to perching on the ledge where the second webcam mounting meets the wall, so out of sight, even if he can see the camera quite clearly.

PG May 13 male

Over the next week and beyond, the chicks will increasingly be left (apparently) unattended during the day and this is nothing to worry about.

A visit on Saturday morning saw plenty of activity as the female also made good use of the webcam mount after leaving the nest following a feed for the chicks, as in the sequence below.

PG May 13

PG May 13 fem to land

PG May 13 on camera

PG May 13 cleaning

The camera mounting appeared to be the perfect perch on which to clean her bill and talons.  Occasionally, this camera is obscured by a tail as one of the adults perches on it!  Once all clean to her satisfaction, she returned to the perch while the male kept watch from just below on one of the corners, again out of sight of webcams.

PG May 13 pair

There’s been no sign of the chicks from below as yet, but it won’t be long before they start to take an interest in the world beyond the nest platform and start peeping out.  As ever, it was a thrill to watch them come and go, offering some great flight views as they passed overhead.

PG May 13 3

PG May 13 2

PG May 13 fem

The other milestone is that donations to the Peregrine project have now passed the £1,500 mark (including gift aid), which is terrific and will allow us undertake activities that will enable us to learn more about this pair and their chicks.  Many thanks to all those who’ve made a donation – we really do appreciate it; and if you’re considering making a donation to support the project, please do so: the more funds we have, the more we’ll be able to do to discover the science behind these magnificent birds.

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One week old

Since the three chicks hatched just over a week ago, all has been going well, with regular feeds and constant attention from the adults to keep them warm from a decidedly chilly northerly/ north-easterly wind coming into the nest platform.  As feared, the fourth egg won’t be hatching and is starting to be pushed aside at times.  We’ll look to recover it for analysis when the chicks are ringed at around three weeks old.

The comparison above allows is to appreciate just how quickly the chicks are growing.  There’s a little bit of a ‘Father Ted’ effect in the image on the right, as it’s a little more cropped, so the chicks in the image on the left are further away, but they’re also a lot smaller!  As they stretch their wings now you can start to see the beginnings of the feather shafts on occasion, and they will become increasingly obvious.

A visit to St George’s yesterday morning produced something I’d never witnessed before – a food pass between the adults.  The male was plucking some prey (another Feral Pigeon) on the ledge of the church and – after much calling – took off…

PG May 6 male takeoff

He then circled above the platform to let the female know what he had, enticing her off the nest to chase him, take the prey and return to feed the chicks.

PG May 6 with prey

The male also saw off a Crow and a Lesser Black-backed Gull that came too close for his comfort, popped into the nest to check up on things and then dropped away again.

PG May 6 male drop

So, plenty to see if you visit St George’s, with regular activity.  The week ahead should see more of the same: regular feeds, rapid growth and attentive parenting.

 

Three chicks

Following the hatching of the first egg on Thursday 27th April, the second and third hatched on 28th and 29th respectively.  For anyone who’s not seen it, Wendy Bartter captured the appearance of the first newly hatched chick as a short video, viewable  here

April 28 eating shell

In the screenshot above, the female is eating the shell of the first egg to hatch, thereby replacing calcium levels depleted by laying the eggs.  It’s behaviour that’s been noted every year that they’ve bred, but great to capture nonetheless: thanks to Stuart W.  It was also noticeable that the female was reluctant to handover brooding duties to the male during the hatching period, though that has settled back into a more equitable division of labour over the last few days.

April 29

Fortunately the cold spell of the last couple of weeks turned just as the chicks began to hatch, and they look to have made a good start, being fed regularly and without any major scares in the shape of spills like the one noted last year.  The indefatigable Wendy also captured a short video of a ‘spillage’ incident last spring at St George’s, after which the female picked up the chick and brought it back into the brood, viewable here

May 2 3 chicks

On the basis of the last few years in Sheffield, the fourth egg is unlikely to hatch now and three chicks is set to be our brood, despite what appear to be a couple of white ‘pips’ in the remaining egg that might suggest imminent hatching.  In none of the four years in which we’ve had the webcam has there been a gap of more than two days between the first and last egg hatching, and with five days now passed since the first egg hatched that window seems to have closed.  The parents will probably continue to incubate the egg as they brood the chicks, but it will gradually get pushed out as the chicks quickly grow over the next week, and eventually forgotten about.  I would, however, be delighted to be proved wrong!

 

One!

1 – overnight temperature in central Sheffield last night (!).

1 – thousand pounds raised via the donations page.  Fantastic progress and sincere thanks to all who’ve donated: it will make a real difference in what we can do.

1 – chick hatched late afternoon today (just visible in screengrab below)! So one day early against my estimates.

April 27 hatched

More detailed update to follow over the weekend.

Two…

2 busy to do this last night!

2 – successful urban breeding pairs in the SBSG recording area last year.

2 – successful breeding attempts in the whole of the Dark Peak area of the Peak District, prime Peregrine habitat, between 2007 and 2014.

2 – successful prosecutions of Dark Peak gamekeepers for illegal persecution of birds of prey between 2004 and 2011.

Three…

3 – the number of decades between successful breeding attempts in the 1,200 square kilometres of the SBSG recording area (from the 1950s to 1984).

3 – the average number of chicks fledged from the St George’s nest over the last 5 years; also the average number of chicks that fledge from urban nests according to Esther Kettel’s PhD research (cf. average of 2 from rural nests).

3 – the temperature (in degrees celsius) here in Sheffield as I write, following some snow flurries this afternoon, evident in the screengrab below, with the male sitting tight.

April 25

And finally – 3 – the number of eggs visible as the female takes over incubating duties just now: her bigger body size will be more effective, especially on a cold night.

April 25 night

Four…

The countdown continues!

4 – the number of lowland Peregrine sightings in the Sheffield area 1960-80 (so approx. 600 square km).

4 – the number of eggs laid each year by the St George’s pair (and the commonest clutch size in Peregrines).

4 – the number of chicks fledged from the St George’s nest in 2014 (the only year to see all four eggs hatch and fledge, as below).

June 4 AJ3