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

The Countdown Begins: 5…

With 5 days to go before the estimated hatching date, I thought a countdown might be fun, Thunderbirds style, together with a few Peregrine-related facts.

5 – the number of years we’ve had chicks fledge at St George’s.  Fingers crossed for 6.

5 – Radcliffe’s study from 1980 found 2% of pairs to have 5 eggs (419 clutches); in 2016, by contrast, 9% of the c.145 clutches monitored by the Dutch ‘Nestkalendars’ site had 5 eggs.

5 – the number of Peregrines recorded in the wild in the entire Sheffield Bird Study Group recording area (1200 square km!) in the period 1975-80.

Plenty of cause for optimism in those figures.

A visit yesterday morning revealed the female perched on the Arts Tower as the male incubated the eggs.  Expect both adults to be in attendance most of the time over the next few days, even if not visible on the webcams.

PG April 22

Back on track

Well, after a couple of trips away from Sheffield it’s good to see that all is going to plan with the Peregrines.  A visit to St George’s this morning revealed the male sitting tight and the female on a nearby building and then on the E side of the church tower, out of sight of the webcams but very much present.  She enjoyed a good preening session, making sure those feathers remain in tip-top condition.

PG April 16

Last week brought Esther Kettel to Sheffield Bird Study Group’s monthly indoor meeting.  She delivered an excellent talk based on her PhD thesis, which explores how Peregrines are adapting to urban habitats and compares their situation with those in rural habitats.  It was a really great evening with a lot to learn about these magnificent birds.  Hopefully I’ll be able to give an update based on her talk some time soon, but in the meantime one of the standout facts for me was that urban pairs are more successful that rural pairs to the tune of one chick per clutch.  When talking about four eggs/ chicks as a typical clutch/ brood, that’s a significant difference.  The St George’s pair are part of her sample, and it’s great to know that they’re part of a wider success story.

The clutch of four eggs they are brooding is very much to be expected after four eggs every year since 2012 and has followed the pattern of the previous three years very closely, with the first egg laid on either March 19th or 20th and the fourth laid on either March 26th or 27th.  So Easter Monday represents three weeks on from the completion of the clutch, with another 10 days or so until hatching might be expected.  According to the previous few years’ schedule, reproduced below with this year’s laying dates included, my estimate is that hatching may take place on Friday April 28th, providing for an exciting close to the month.

PG key dates March 2017

In the meantime there will be a lot of sitting and occasional flurries of activity, but – hopefully – nothing too dramatic.  Once the chicks have hatched, we can start to look at doing some of the things that the donations will support, such as DNA testing and colour ringing.  It is humbling to see the donations that have come in to date, and we’re very grateful to everyone who has contributed to the cause.  Do keep them coming!!

PG April 16 2

Right On Cue

The doubts as to whether the first egg might be laid on 19th or 20th were resolved in the middle of the night between the two dates, the egg first noticed by keen webcam watchers at 00:25.  We’ll count that as March 20th!  And just about visible when daylight came.

March 20 egg

That laying pattern for the first egg shows remarkable consistency over the last four years and has coincided with first eggs appearing in several other urban nest platforms in the UK, though others are still waiting.  The egg soon disappeared behind the edge of the box after brooding and remained out of sight through to dusk, as below.  Could that light on top of the crane be the UFO that made the news from the webcam in December??

March 20 panorama

By the end of today (Tuesday 21st), there appears to be just the one egg still.

March 21 night

Following a heavy hail/ snow shower late this morning here in Sheffield, and temperatures dropping down to a couple of degrees celsius, the egg is being brooded overnight from the look of things.

March 21 night 2

The eggs are very resilient and we can expect to see them being left uncovered for long periods of time until the clutch is (almost) complete, after which they’ll be brooded intensively for around 32 days before hatching is due.  So no need for concern if they are apparently unattended for hours on end: in reality one or other of the adults (or both) will be close at hand, even if they’re not visible on the webcams.

In past years, it’s taken the St George’s pair a week to lay their full clutch, with around 48 hours between eggs on average.  Will we wake up to a second egg in the nest?  In each previous year, the St George’s pair has laid four eggs and we can expect the same this year if all goes well, and the female is indeed the same as in previous years.

And do please keep the donations coming.  We’ve almost reached our first milestone with the fundraising, a great step towards funding the materials that will enable DNA research on these wonderful birds and also prove whether we’ve had a change of female.

I’ll now be away for 10 days with work, so no updates on the blog until the start of April.  Enjoy developments in the meantime and I hope to come back to a clutch of four eggs, or maybe more!

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back and looking forward

Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone who has donated to the Peregrines Project over the last few weeks.  It’s been moving to see so many words of support from near and far, and from all ages.  The donations will enable us to do more with the project, especially in terms of drawing on the St George’s birds to extend our knowledge of the species through scientific analysis of the data we collect.  Thank you all!

Today marks the date when the first egg has been laid in both of the past two years, as can be seen in the table below, which also sets out incubation and fledging periods over the last few years for the St George’s pair.  So an egg laid overnight or tomorrow would be right on cue.

PG key dates 2012-16 slide

As the breeding season looks about to get under way again in earnest, judging from the female’s occupancy of the nestbox tonight, it’s also a chance to look back to see how things have changed for Peregrines in the Sheffield area over the last 50 years, although sadly the story of illegal persecution has not changed in some parts of the Peak District.

PG Sheffield history slide

It really is heartening to feel that we are watching a real change in the fortunes of this wonderful species in the UK, especially as they become increasingly established in urban settings such as St George’s.  For those interested in such things, next month’s Sheffield Bird Study Group talk will be a treat, as it will bring Esther Kettle from Nottingham to talk about her PhD research into urban and rural Peregrines.  For details see the SBSG website.

Still no egg as I sign off, but I don’t think it will be long…  Keep watching!

March 19 2017

And finally, if anyone would like to see the slides from the talk that Nicola Hemmings and I did as part of the Sheffield University Festival of the Mind back in September, from which the two tables above are taken, you should be able to look through them from the link below.

FOTM talk Sept 2016 FINAL

2017 Breeding Season Under Way

Welcome to the 2017 season for the St George’s Peregrines.  It’s good to be back, and even better to see the adult pair back around the nest.  In truth, they’ve not been away from the St George’s area since the young birds fledged back in the summer.  More than any other year, the birds have remained around the nest territory throughout the autumn and winter, although they’ve not always been visible on the webcams.

They’ve also been regularly seen at a couple of other favoured sites around Sheffield, but one of those has been refurbished, with the loss of the ledges they preferred, and this may have resulted in their more consistent presence at St George’s outside the breeding season.

A couple of weeks ago, Ian Knowles and I went up the church tower to check that everything was in good order ahead of the anticipated breeding season.  All was well and the female was in situ, oblivious to our presence above her as we looked out to the nest box below.  It made for an unusual angle for a photo opp.

pg-jan-20-2017-2

She did eventually notice us and took off, circling the church calling loudly: clear indications that this remains very much her territory.

pg-jan-20-2017-4

Another reason for the trip up the tower was to look at the possibility of locating a thermal camera as part of a PhD project.  This has now been fitted and will allow the researcher to see if prey items are brought in fresh or if they have been cached.  Given the low resolution of the image it is not being streamed, but the results it generates will be made known in due course.

We have other potential developments in mind and have set up a donations page for the Peregrine Project, available via a link from the top of the menu on the right-hand side of the homepage.  If you enjoy watching the webcams, please support us with a donation!  Details of the things we hope to do are included on the donations page.

Sheffield has had a snowy weekend, but on Friday the pair was on the nest platform, bowing to each other.

feb-10-2017

This is a clear marker of territorial courtship behaviour and the first clear sign I’ve seen in 2017 that breeding activity is getting under way.  The ring on the leg of the male, visible in the photo above, together with his distinctive dusky cheek pattern, confirms that this is the same male that has bred successfully in Sheffield for the last 5 years.  The identity of the female (below) is less clear – we need some DNA testing to know for sure, and for that we need funds to purchase the materials that enable such scientific work.

pg-20-jan-2017-6

So, welcome back and do consider making a donation to support the project and the work around it.  We’re fortunate to have the birds with us, and want to do all we can to ensure that success continues.