…And They’re Off…

As you may have read in my previous blog post, there has been some good news – the Leicester juvenile peregrines have both successfully left the nest.  The female left first on the 15th June at 17:43 and landed safely after a quick jump, flapping and tumble (I love how her sibling runs into shot after the fall)!  The male then had a nice elegant take-off on the 16th June at 05:18.  They have since both been spotted around the cathedral and on nearby roofs, often still sitting together.  I went into town on the 20th and could see a peregrine falcon near the top of the cathedral spire.  It did look smaller than when I have viewed the adults before, and also from what I could see looked slightly darker on the chest – so I would like to think it was one of the youngsters, but I didn’t have my binoculars with me so could not be sure… it may well have been the adult male.

Throughout June, I continued to watch them grow on the live cameras and as expected in my last post about them, the final stage of development was very quick indeed.  Their body feathers replaced their white ‘fluff’ within days, they were frequently exploring, sitting on the ledge, flapping their wings and running around the nest box – even taking prey items and feeding themselves!  At some point during the month, I thought one of them had left the nest as every time I checked, I could only see one.  Upon close examination, I eventually saw the edge of some feathers near the bottom of the screen and realised that they had found a hiding place out of shot, under the camera.  They also liked to sit in front of the pillar, but their shadows gave that hiding place away!

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I have really enjoyed watching the Leicester peregrines and sharing their journey with you, and thank Jim Graham for keeping the written commentary up to date on the official website!  Hopefully the juveniles will soon go their separate ways and have families of their own in the future, and as they have been ringed we may even find out what they get up to, or at least where they go.  The adults are likely to return to this nest next year, so fingers crossed for more successful breeding.

To end their story for this year, here’s a lovely image of the two juveniles together on the 14th June, the day before the first flight…

l25Stills taken from Leicester Peregrines live cameras (a collaboration between LROS and LCC).

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#30DaysWild Days 11-20

Another ten days of #30DaysWild have been and gone, and I have continued to stay wild throughout.  I have been enjoying the steady weather and as it gets warmer this coming week, I expect that a lot of people will do some lovely outdoor random acts of wildness to complete the challenge!  So what have I been up to?…
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11. I have noticed again this year that there are several swifts flying around my area, which is fantastic as swifts are an amber-listed species since their breeding numbers decreased by 51% in the UK between 1995 and 2015!  I love to hear their distinctive screaming call in the mornings and evenings, and it was particularly noticeable on the 11th along with house sparrow songs and calls.  On my way to work, I paid close attention, listened to them for longer than usual and spotted a lot of the sparrows flying into their nests in local house eaves and guttering!

12. A simple but calming act was getting some fresh air by going on a lunchtime walk to break up my day.

13. My partner and I strolled around our favourite local cemetery and played ‘name that bird’ to test our bird call knowledge.  We also saw a cute baby squirrel and some awesome fungi growing on a tree.

14. To help further reduce my plastic usage, I bought a lunch bag made from recycled plastic bottles (to use when I don’t use my bento box) along with a fantastic picnic bag and large shopping bag also made from recycled plastic bottles!

15. After booking the day off work, my partner and I were happy to wake up to a warm day, perfect for a trip to Hunstanton or ‘sunny Hunny’.  It was just lovely to relax outdoors and walk along the beach.

16. I took action and ordered myself a vegan, biodegradable bamboo toothbrush (which has since arrived and is great)!  In the evening I went on a Wildlife Weekend Bat Walk hosted by Leicestershire & Rutland Bat Group and Bradgate Park Trust.  Led by local specialists, we had an informative walk around Bradgate Park and actually detected quite a few bats – which like last year were common pipistrelles, soprano pipistrelles and Daubenton’s.

17. After treating my dad to breakfast for Father’s Day, we visited good old Leicester Botanic Garden for a walk and of course to take some photographs of the wonderful array of plants.  I also discovered #wildflowerhour which encourages people to share photos between 8-9pm every Sunday of the flowers they have found growing wild in Britain and Ireland during the week.

18. My partner and I extended our weekend even more with a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon where we went rowing down the river and saw lots of beautiful creatures including moorhens, coots, ducks, swans, geese and stunning damselflies (possibly ‘beautiful demoiselles’).

19. Having seen a lot of articles about National Insect Week I was happy to read that the 2018 Photography Competition is now open.  “To take part, all you have to do is to take photographs of an insect or a group of insects and submit the images using the online submission form”.  I better get looking through my photographs!

20. I was pleased to learn that the Leicester juvenile peregrines had successfully fledged on the 15th and 16th June, so I took a couple of my friends to the cathedral to see if we could spot them.  There was definitely a peregrine falcon perched near the top of the spire, and from the size and colouring I could see, I think it may have actually been one of the youngsters.

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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.

Peregrine Falcons: The Latest

It has been a long ‘thirty days’ for anyone who has been following the Leicester and Nottingham peregrines since they laid their eggs at the end of March!  I have continued to keep my eye on the live cameras and have been impressed with how attentive both pairs have been – I literally didn’t see any of the eggs uncovered throughout the whole incubation period!

As May approached, I checked the Leicester Peregrines and NTU Biodiversity websites and social media pages more often for updates and finally, on the morning of the 5th May it was noted that the Leicester pair’s four eggs had decreased to three after the female had been seen eating one of the eggs along with the deceased chick inside.  This may sound horrible, but is quite common when an egg is damaged or the adult can tell that something is wrong, and by eating the egg the nutrients are recycled, energy is saved and the nest is kept clean.

The female continued to incubate the remaining three eggs and was looking quite restless as the day went on… it was time for some hatching!  At 1:30am on the 6th May, the first fluffy white chick could be seen.  Luckily, for those of us who were asleep, there is a fantastic thorough commentary down the right hand side of the live stream, which details the behaviour, feeding and interactions of the peregrines each day.  Let’s just say that the female is definitely the boss!  There are also some great and often funny videos which means we don’t miss a thing, such as the hatching of the second chick at 3:15pm on the 7th May!

I am so happy that the Leicester pair have been successful this year and am enjoying watching the chicks already.  The third egg still remains in the nest, but is very unlikely to hatch now.  Despite this, I say that two chicks out of four eggs is brilliant considering the pair had no hatchlings in 2017.  If you remember from my ‘Eyas Update‘ last year, peregrine falcon development is pretty rapid, so it will be interesting to see how they change over the next few weeks.  I can’t wait to see them exploring their nest box mansion!

l12Stills taken from Leicester Peregrines live cameras (a collaboration between LROS and LCC).

Now from good news, to not so good news… the Nottingham peregrine falcons.  After an amazing nesting season last year, fingers have been crossed for Mrs P and Archie but sadly things aren’t looking good.  Back in April I blogged about how the weather had not been great and that Mrs P had struggled to lay her second egg.  It was also believed that because of the time gap between the first two eggs, she may have reabsorbed what would have been the second egg, and that the original first egg may not be successful.  Well it actually looks like none of the three eggs will be hatching this year.  On the morning of the 10th May one of the eggs and chick inside was eaten by one of the adults (most likely the female) and there has been no signs of pipping on either of the two remaining eggs.

I had been concerned from the beginning of May that this was going to be the case, as Mrs P remained hunkered down, hardly moving whenever I checked the camera.  She worked hard over the month with incubation, but unfortunately at this point the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and NTU agree that it seems unlikely that the eggs will hatch.

Let’s stay positive though – we know that the Nottingham pair have been successful before, so they can have a rest this season and who knows, maybe next year they will be successful again!

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n17Stills taken from the NTU live cameras.

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).

It’s Peregrine Time!

You may remember that last year I posted regularly about a breeding pair of peregrine falcons on Nottingham Trent University’s Newton building… well it is once again that time of year when they will begin nesting, ready to lay eggs and rear their young!  I have already started checking the live webcams and have seen the female on several occasions sitting on the ledge around the nest site, so I expect that in a month or so we will see a clutch of eggs in the scrape!  This year is extra exciting though, as not only will I be watching and blogging about the Nottingham peregrines, but also the Coventry AND Leicester pairs!

Why Coventry?  Well, last Christmas I was gifted an ‘adopted’ peregrine through Warwickshire Wildlife Trust which supports the “amazing falcon that has made its home at the top of Holy Trinity Church and Coventry Cathedral”, so of course I will be following their story over this breeding season, as well as throughout the rest of the year.

Why Leicester?  Being my home town, I have followed the Leicester Peregrine Project (a collaboration between the Leicestershire and Rutland Ornithological Society and Leicester City Council) for quite a while now, and try to spot and watch the peregrines on the Cathedral whenever I go into the city centre.  Last year I wrote about how they hoped to install a live camera, which unfortunately did not happen during the 2017 season… but I am happy and excited to find that the live stream is now available to watch on their website!  The camera is positioned brilliantly on the “5-star nest platform”, providing an intimate view of the nest site and close-ups of the gorgeous birds.  What is also great is that there is a daily written commentary alongside the video, so we won’t miss a thing – such as the fact that there has been lots of ‘bond-posturing’ and calling recently, which is a very good sign.  Last year, the Leicester pair did actually lay a clutch of eggs, but sadly they were all unsuccessful… so I am keeping my fingers crossed that we see some chicks this year!  I will make sure to keep you all posted.

IMG_20170318_150738_259© Peregrine Falcon on Leicester Cathedral, 2017

Drama On The Peregrine Ledge

It has been an action-packed few weeks for the NTU peregrine falcon chicks.  After spending a week in Dartmoor (me, not the chicks) with little internet access, I returned on May 26th to discover that all four were out of the nest and exploring the surrounding ledge.  Most of their down had been replaced by stunning feathers and they were looking truly beautiful and elegant.

They have since been feeding themselves, flapping their wings, spending more time on their own and out of sight of the cameras, but on June 1st camera one captured something extremely dramatic (and a little bit funny if you keep watching it) which you can view in slow motion here.

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As you can see, one of the chicks attempted to fly and ended up crashing into its mother causing them to tumble off the edge of the building!  Luckily both were fine and the chick landed on a lower ledge.  As the chick had not properly fledged and was unable to fly, it could not return to the nest, however it has been reported that the adults have continued to feed it!  Despite this, I (and I am sure many others) have been a little worried about the chick over the last few days in the rain and wind… and unfortunately I have some sad news.  After following the peregrine falcons throughout the whole nesting cycle, it breaks my heart to announce that earlier today the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust reported that one of the chicks (I am not entirely sure whether it was the one on the lower ledge) had “been killed yesterday on the road below the ledge”.  It is assumed that “it got blown off or lost control of a flight in the ferocious wind we have been experiencing”.  Obviously this is a terrible shame as the four chicks were each doing brilliantly, but it is important to know and remember that less than a third of peregrines actually reach breeding age, so the family have still done very well.  Those peregrines that do reach breeding age are expected to live for 6-13 years, but the oldest known peregrine was over 16 years old!  So let’s keep our fingers crossed for the remaining three!

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All stills taken from the NTU live stream.

Eyas Update

It is week four of the NTU peregrine falcon chicks’ development and I am honestly amazed at how quickly they are growing!  I noticed yesterday that the cameras were off for a while, so knew that it was ‘ringing time’.  It was exciting to later read that the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and NTU Sustainability team had indeed finally ringed the chicks and found out that there are three females and one male!  To ring the chicks, the team waited for the parents to leave the nest and then quickly fitted a small, lightweight, harmless, metal ring around the leg of each eyas.  Ringing birds is essential for bird conservation as it helps provide information about their movements, locations and lifespans.

Some brilliant photographs taken during the ringing process.  (Thank you for these Emily).

The images below are just a few stills from the NTU live stream that I have saved.  Archie and Mrs P have been providing a constant supply of feral pigeons and other medium sized birds for the eyases and as you can see in the fifth image, their crops have been nice and full.  Although one chick is smaller than the others (and has been nicknamed ‘Diddy’ on Facebook) all four are getting their fair share of food… I even caught one of them possibly ‘gaping’ for food whilst both parents were away, which you can see in the sixth image!

On May 13th, I noticed that all four chicks were starting to grow their flight and contour feathers, and yesterday (16th) the new darker feathers were poking through their down quite clearly (image eight).  The chicks may have changed a lot already, but we still have plenty of development to see.  At this stage they have gained a sharp eyesight and are very interested in anything that moves – whether it be a fly or blowing feather.  Their legs are getting stronger and they are a lot more active in the scrape.

In the next week or so, they will lose most of their down apart from a few tufts on their heads (hopefully – for our amusement) and will be showing off their juvenile feathers.  We may see them flapping their wings and before long, in week six, the eyases may fledge the nest for the first time!  They should remain around the nest-site for a few weeks, during which time they will become adept at flying, pursue other birds and capture their own food, but will still rely on their parents for most of their food.  Around August they will leave the nest for good… and I must say that I will certainly miss watching them!

The Fourth Peregrine Chick

As hoped, today was the day that the fourth NTU peregrine falcon chick hatched out of its egg.  I checked the live stream at 13:15 after my sister messaged me about them… and there it was, it had hatched just before 1pm!  The male was feeding the larger chicks a feral pigeon as chick number four (being less than half an hour old) was getting used to the world and its siblings.

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The newly hatched chick and its siblings waiting for food.

After a few minutes, Mrs P returned to the scrape and I just managed to save a still image of the whole family together!  WARNING: Some may find the below image disturbing.

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All four chicks (eyases) are being kept warm and fed and are looking healthy and ‘wide-beaked’ this evening.  Peregrine falcon chicks eat a tremendous amount of food and if all goes well, this time next week they will have doubled their weight and in three weeks, will be ten times their birth size!  I am very much looking forward to following their progress over the next six weeks or so as they rapidly get bigger, grow juvenile feathers and eventually fledge the nest.  Once they start to fly they will depend on their parents for a few further weeks to learn how to hunt, so Archie and Mrs P still have a lot of work to do… and we still have a lot of great things to watch!

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All stills taken from camera two of the NTU live stream.