Leicester Cathedral Chicks

It has been a busy three and a half weeks at the top of Leicester Cathedral, with the resident Peregrine pair doing a great job at raising their chicks.  They have been back and forth with a good supply of prey items, feeding, stashing leftovers and generally protecting the chicks.  For a couple of weeks, the final egg remained in the nest, but on the 21st May I noticed that it had finally been broken and eaten.

With all the attention on just two chicks, the adults have been able to work well as a team so far, which as you can see is paying off as the chicks are growing well and looking very healthy!  Feather tips are quite noticeable now on their wings and tails, and they are becoming a lot more independent.  They are even walking around and sitting on the ledge!

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Stills taken from Leicester Peregrines live cameras (a collaboration between LROS and LCC).

On the 24th May, the chicks were colour-ringed by licensed ringers to help identify them this season as well as in the future when they have fledged and matured.  It’s nice to know that the siblings have also been sexed provisionally as one female and one male – how lovely!

This coming week, I expect to see a lot more body feathers push through their down, along with their wings begin to look larger and fuller.  The chicks should also open their wings more often and start running around the nest box and ledge.

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Eggcellent News

Following my post on the 24th March, I have been watching and keeping note of the activity taking place in both the Leicester and Nottingham peregrine nests.  I left you with the news that the Nottingham pair had laid one egg, but were yet to lay their second despite being almost a week later!  I had seen Mrs P trying to lay an egg during the latter part of the week, as had many other observers, and concern began to grow as she appeared to be uncomfortable and distressed.  It was reported at the time that she was believed to be egg bound and at risk of dying!  Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust was contacted by the University to see if anything could be done, but as they are wild birds the Trust decided to let nature take its course.  Luckily, this was the correct decision because at 7:20am on Monday 26th March, the second egg finally appeared!

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The weather improved, as did Mrs P’s health and four days later, on Good Friday, she laid the third egg of the season.  Due to the cold weather and time gap between the first two eggs though, the Trust thinks that there is a chance she may have reabsorbed what would have been the second egg during that week, and that the ‘second’ egg we see in the photo above is in fact the ‘first’ egg of a new clutch and the original first egg may not be successful.  This is very interesting and I can’t wait to see if their theory is correct!

I have continued to check the cameras to see whether a fourth egg would be laid this week, but I think the Nottingham clutch is now complete.

n15All stills taken from the NTU live cameras.

The Leicester pair have also given us plenty to watch since my last post.  Their first egg was laid on the 26th March at around 5:30pm, which I didn’t actually see until the 28th.  I was very excited when I turned on the camera and saw the below shot, so grabbed a still and let several people know!  I also set up my Grandma with links to the live cameras on her tablet, as she has recently become very fond of feeding and watching ‘her’ woodpigeons, blackbirds and dunnocks in her back garden, so I knew she would love watching the peregrines (maybe not when they are eating other birds though)!

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The lovely pair welcomed their second egg on the 29th March at 3:15pm and I just so happened to check the camera 40 minutes later when they were swapping incubation duties…

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Things moved quickly and on Easter Sunday, 1st April, the female decided to get in the Easter spirit by laying their third egg during the afternoon, and then their fourth and probably final egg on the 4th April at 6:50am.  There will now be around a thirty day wait and then hopefully the hatching will begin in both Leicester and Nottingham!  If the Nottingham pair’s first egg is in fact viable, we may even see it hatch before the end of this month.

l08Stills taken from Leicester Peregrines live cameras (a collaboration between LROS and LCC).

Easter Eggs

If you are a peregrine falcon fan like me, you may have been keeping your eye on a specific breeding pair over the last few weeks.  Perhaps you have had your binoculars out and attended a local ‘peregrine watch’, or have been tuning in to a live camera online.  As mentioned in my previous post, the birds I am watching this year are once again Nottingham Trent University’s resident peregrine falcons and Leicester Cathedral’s pair.  (I will also be keeping up to date with the Coventry peregrines via their Twitter account).

After noting that last year Mrs P, the Nottingham female, laid her first egg on 17th March, I have been periodically checking the camera since the beginning of March, during the snow storms and then spring-like weather, to look out for any signs of egg laying!  I first noticed her sitting in the scrape on 9th March so knew the pair were getting ready for this year’s season, but then the ‘beast from the east’ returned to the UK!  This did concern me as the nest box was covered in snow, but every time I checked between the 16th and 18th March, the male was hunkering down in the scrape.

As I had been away on holiday the week before, I wasn’t sure if there was already an egg being kept warm, but it was later announced that their first egg was laid in the early hours of Sunday 18th March.  It took a few days before I got a glimpse of it, but I finally managed to grab a still image:

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I also managed to save a great shot of one of the peregrines and the egg glowing warmly on the thermal camera:

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On the 21st March, I thought Mrs P was preparing to lay her second egg, as she appeared to be in the ‘crouching’ position I witnessed last year, but there is still only one egg in the nest.  As peregrine eggs tend to be laid at 2-3 day intervals, surely another will come along this weekend…

n07All stills taken from the NTU live cameras.

Both male and female have been sharing the incubation and I expect (hope) that by Easter, this attentive pair will have their full clutch of eggs to incubate!

The Leicester pair on the other hand are yet to lay any eggs, but there is nothing to worry about as peregrines usually lay eggs in late March / early April.  The Leicester pair have however been very active – calling, posturing and scraping.  I have seen both birds on their ledge, each spending different amounts of time in and around the back of the box.

Only time will tell if they have a successful breeding season!

l01l02Stills taken from Leicester Peregrines live camera (a collaboration between LROS and LCC).

Peregrine Falcons

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.