Last autumn I was told about a pair of peregrine falcons that had been nesting on Nottingham Trent University’s Newton building for more than a decade, with support from the university and Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. I was eager to learn more so was delighted to find a webpage dedicated to them, containing a live-stream, photographs and FAQs. Obviously at the time, the nest was empty, but I added the website to my ‘favourites’ ready for the falcons’ return in the new breeding season.
I started checking the live-stream at the end of February this year and first saw the female peregrine falcon return to the nest in early March. Since then, I have been watching both the male and female preparing the site and making a “scrape” in the box ready for egg-laying and excitingly, on Friday morning (17th March) I clicked on the live-stream to see the female ‘crouching’ and the male having a good old look!! After a few minutes, a lovely brown egg was laid, the male flew off and the female began brooding instantly. What a great thing to watch live!
Over the next week or so, she may lay 2-3 more eggs and if all goes well, we will see them hatch in around six weeks, soon after Easter. Then the fun will begin… feeding, growing and fledging!
The nest site has previously been very successful, with the faithful pair of peregrine falcons returning year after year and 32 chicks fledging in the last seven years. However, last year, almost straight after the young had fledged, a new male peregrine was spotted around the site and the “resident male was seen less and less often, until he disappeared completely”. It is believed that as he was old, he gave up his nest and may have died. The cycle of life continues though, and the new male, who was ringed as a juvenile in London in 2012, clearly liked the site and returned this year with his partner – allowing us to follow them this season on the live-stream.
City centres such as Nottingham and urban areas have been colonised by peregrine falcons in recent times due to the fact that “tall buildings mimick their natural crag or cliff environment” and therefore provide them with safe nesting sites. Also, peregrine falcons feed almost exclusively on medium-sized birds such as pigeons, so cities are an ideal place for them.
As expected, Nottingham is not the only city centre to be home to peregrine falcons in the midlands… my home-town of Leicester is too! YES! “In February 2014, a partnership between the Leicestershire and Rutland Ornithological Society (LROS) and Leicester City Council (LCC) was formed called Leicester Peregrines to monitor the habits and activities of a known pair of Peregrine Falcons in Leicester city centre”. They had been spotted on several tall buildings including Leicester Cathedral, but did not have a specific nesting site. As a result, “in January 2016, the Leicester Peregrine Project was given permission by Leicester Cathedral to remove one of the louvres within the bell tower/spire” in order to build a nest-box. Although they did not use the box last year (they did rear two chicks elsewhere), it appears that this year the pair may have taken up residence. Hopefully in the next few weeks, a live-stream camera will be installed, or failing that, webcam photographs will be added to the website revealing whether or not any eggs have been laid.
The Leicester Peregrines Team from the LROS hold regular ‘Peregrine Watch Point’ sessions with telescopes and binoculars in the grounds of Leicester Cathedral, starting around 9:30am in St. Martin’s Square until around 2:00pm. The proposed dates for this year are 19 April, 17 May, 15 June, 12 July, 9 August, 20 September, 11 October, 15 November and 9 December. As these usually take place whilst I am at work, I decided to nip to the site with my camera at the weekend and spotted the pair straight away. They were very high up on the spire, but I zoomed in as much as possible and managed to get a few decent photographs.
© Peregrine falcons on Leicester Cathedral, 18/03/2017.
I hope to write several posts about both the Nottingham and Leicester peregrines this season and I would love to hear if like me, you are following any pairs too.