Keith Betton and Richard Jacobs from the Hampshire Ornithological Society will be updating us each week with how the Peregrines are progressing.
10th – 16th February
Our male and female are back at their 2018 nest tray from time to time. The male is a lot smaller than the female – which is true for many falcons. Sometimes they are there individually, but occasionally they are there together. The male is often found sitting on the wall and making sure no other Peregrines usurp his position, and the female is in the nest tray, checking it out, making a cup shape in the gravel. When together they bow quite a lot – a sure sign that this pair is very much thinking of nesting. The female has also been eating the Gravel to build up her calcium levels which will help to form the eggs.
We don’t expect them to do much more than this for the next three weeks, although we do expect to see much more of these activities. If all goes well the female will be sitting in the tray by around 15- 20 March and we can hope to have a clutch of 4 eggs.
This week the female has been in the nest tray on quite a few occasions, making a depression in the gravel called a “scrape” where she will lay her eggs. She does this by propping her chest against one edge of the scrape and pushing the gravel backwards and out with her feet. The male has been sitting around on the wall mainly making sure that the nesting territory is not taken over by any other Peregrines.
Both of them have been eating the gravel. Their diet is quite fatty and eventually, a thick layer of greasy fat builds up in the lining of the crop, which becomes a hindrance to the proper functioning of that organ. So they swallow small stones, which then scour out the greasy lining of the crop and eventually they will be cast out, just like pellets. And when they are, they’re covered in heavy grease.
This week has seen a continuation of the same behaviour reported previously, ie. formation of the “scrape” and pecking at/eating the gravel.
The pair were seen together in the nest tray on the 7th but the male soon departed.
A Peregrine was perched on the parapet in darkness on the 4th at 18:08.
9 – 15 March
The female Peregrine continued to make occasional visits to form the scrape in the nest tray.
She was also observed perched on the parapet late into the evening on three dates.
The pair were seen together twice on camera, once with the female standing over the scrape and the male watching her.
The female’s behaviour during the evening of the 15th suggested that the first egg might soon be laid which indeed happened overnight 15th/16th.
16 – 24 March
Following the arrival of the first egg on the 16th, further eggs were laid on the 18th, 21st and 23rd.
Five eggs are rare, but the pair were seen on camera copulating on the parapet at 16:15 on the 23rd so we await to see if a fifth egg materialises.
A fifth egg did not materialise so very little action this week with incubation of the four egg clutch continuing.
The Peregrines continued to incubate the four eggs and on the 25th at about 06:40 the first egg hatched, forty days after the first egg was laid.
A second egg hatched the same day at about mid-day and the other two eggs hatched on the 26th.
Activity has significantly increased with prey being brought in regularly and fed to the chicks.
The chicks have grown well and are now three weeks old so the HOS team chose this week to check them over and also attach lightweight rings that will allow them to be monitored through their lives – particularly as the larger of the two rings is orange and clearly marked. Right from being just a few days old female Peregrines are already larger than males of the same age – and now know that we have two male and two female chicks. All four are in great shape even though the two females are rather dominant when food is brought in. Ian James, the Cathedral Virger was able to help with checking the chicks. This is the only time that we touch the birds unless they get into trouble. Later that day (Monday) they did get into a bit of trouble as one of the male chicks ended up off the nest tray and on the floor of the gully. We don’t know if he started to explore and lost his balance but before long his brother was on the floor too! Meanwhile Winnie came in with food and ignored the two absconders, so one of the HOS team went up to the nest and moved the chicks back onto the tray – and they have remained there ever since. They will move off the tray as they grow and get stronger but this was too soon to go exploring.
28 May – 3 June
The chicks are now over five weeks old and are becoming increasingly ambitious. They are exploring the nest site, resting on the ledge of the North Transept and exercising their wings. They are rarely in view from the web cam because they have now left the nest, but can be viewed from the north side of the Cathedral. The chicks instinctively want to fly and are getting ready to embark on their first flight. It is an anxious time, as the chicks may become lost or injured if they take their first flight too soon or by accident. It is likely that the chicks will try to fly this week. The Hampshire Ornithological Society are monitoring their movements very closely. Winnie, the female Peregrine, is still feeding them regularly.
10 June – 17 June
We are delighted that the four young Peregrines have all made it to this stage and at 8 weeks old they are discovering their ability to fly. At first they have been short flights and some have been rather clumsy ending up on the ground. Both parents have been kept busy providing food, and soon they will train the chicks to hunt for themselves by keeping them a bit more hungry than usual and tempting them with a prey item which they will dangle below them as they fly in front … with the chicks giving chase. This is still a risky time for Peregrine chicks as they can easily misjudge their speed and crash-land, or simply bump into objects such as pillars.
2019 has been a successful year for our Peregrine family! Our four chicks are now flying around over Winchester and learning their hunting skills. It will be a few months before they will be truly independent and then they will leave Winchester and find their own place in nature. If they manage to reach the age of two years they will be able to nest and rear their own chicks. If you want to see the Peregrines then there is a good chance that if not on the north side of the Cathedral they will be over on the former church of St Thomas on Southgate Street. We’ve had great fun watching them this summer and interacting with many of the 100,000 plus fans around the world who checked in regularly to watch the birds on the webcam. Thank you for all your comments of encouragement throughout. We’ll be back in 2020 …. and hopefully it will be another successful year.