Unfortunately, one of this year’s young peregrines died earlier this week following a collision with a building. The female PCA was found near Sainsburys, Ings Road and was cared for by Jean Thorpe, of Ryedale Wildlife Rehabilitation.
PCA being X-rayed
PCA was examined by Mark Naguib, a vet who has lots of experience in dealing with raptors. Mark found that the bird had dislocated an elbow joint at least 24 hours earlier. He tried to put the bones back into place but this proved to be impossible and the decision was taken to end the bird’s life whilst it was still under the anaesthetic.
The decision was not an easy one but it was based on the fact that peregrines rely so heavily on the use of their wings to hunt their prey. PCA would never again have been able to live freely and to hunt as a peregrine should.
Dislocated elbow joint
We are grateful to Jean and Mark for the time and effort that they have given to caring for PCA.
It’s always sad to hear of the death of a peregrine but we must stand back and look at the whole picture. The Wakefield peregrines have now fledged ten young. We know of four deaths, all caused by collisions, and this means that there are, potentially, six new peregrines out there somewhere. If fifty percent of young peregrines survive the first year, that should be considered to be a good result. In their lifetimes, our two adults need to produce only two new peregrines that go on to breed successfully to replace themselves. I think there is a good chance that they have succeeded in that task.
The peregrines on Wakefield Cathedral have been incubating four eggs for almost five weeks. The first hatching was expected on Tuesday, 2nd May, 34 days after the laying of the third egg.
On Tuesday afternoon, it was clear that something was happening because the female fidgeted a lot and looked down towards the eggs frequently. She also refused to take anything when the male tried, several times, to make a food delivery. Eventually, she shifted position and we could see that at least one egg was hatching.
First Sighting of a Chick
Our first sighting of a chick came later on Tuesday evening, when the female left the chick and eggs briefly to relieve herself by reversing up to the edge of the nestbox. Judging by internet comments, a lots of people, including at least one in Australia, were glued to their screens as they waited to see how many eggs would hatch. For peregrines, it’s normal for most of the eggs to hatch almost simultaneously, whilst the remaining egg hatches a couple of days later.
It was the following morning when we saw that three eggs had hatched. The female fed the chicks and then, for the first time, allowed the male to go near them so that he could sit on them whilst she took a short break.
Unfortunately, one egg was damaged at some point during the incubation period. The damage was first noticed a few days before the hatching. It looks like a puncture caused by a talon. In the picture, you can see that the female has relaxed the toes of her left foot so that they curl up. This is what the birds do instinctively as they approach the eggs to avoid causing damage. However, accidents do happen and it isn’t unusual for an egg to be damaged. As three chicks hatched together, the damaged egg must have been the last one to be laid.
During the previous ringing of the peregrine chicks it wasn’t possible to fit the Darvic rings due to a fault with them and so tonight, again with the aid of licensed bird ringers, the Darvic rings were fitted. The Darvic rings differ from normal metal rings in that they are big, bright and easily readable through binoculars or a spotting scope. It is hoped that by fitting these rings, our peregrines may be identified elsewhere in the country and we will gain an understanding into how far they move from the nest site. The adult female holds the territory around the cathedral and she will eventually drive the chicks out as they head towards adulthood.
Danny Kirmond, captain of the Wakefield Wilcats, is a keen follower on Twitter of Wakefield Peregrines and so he was invited along to watch the rings being fitted. There will be more on this story in the Wakefield Express this week
young male peregrine chick fitted with a Darvic ring
part of the team: Left to right: Mark Watson (ringer), Danny Kirmond (Wakefield Wildcats), Francis Hickenbottom (project co-ordinator, Wakefield Naturalists’ Society)
In order to keep track of our young peregrines and find out where they head off to in the future, the chicks were today ringed by licensed and experienced bird ringers from the mid-Derby Ringing Group. This involved taking the chicks carefully from the nest for around 20 minutes to weigh, measure and fit a metal closed ring on the birds’ right leg. These small metal rings have a unique number on them which is logged with the Brtish Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and should the peregrine be found dead or watched at a nest elsewhere, anyone that can read the ring and check with the BTO will be able to find out that it was one of our birds.
The small metal rings are only really readable of the bird is retrapped by ringers or found dead or maybe watched on camera at another nest, so in order to make it more easy for the general birdwatcher to read, a bright coloured plastic ring is also fitted to the left leg, This large plastic ring is called a Darvic ring and is bright coloured and has large letters that should be able to be read through binoculars or a spotting scope while the bird is perched. Unfortunately, today there was a problem with the Darvic rings and they were therefore not fitted so as not to cause any problems with the birds in the future. New rings have been ordered and these will be fitted sometime later this week, The second disturbance of the birds will be very quick and kept to a minimum as the birds have already been close ringed, weighed and measured. Disturbing the birds at the nest for this short period of time for scientific purposes is done under licence and won’t cause any significant distress to the chicks or the adults.
Darvic rings are easily identifiable through binoculars. The female chick has been fitted with 4Z
Pergrine chicks in the nestbox
Taking the chicks for ringing
The ringing process
One of the chicks patiently waiting his turn
forming an orderly queue!
The ringing process
The ringing process
Looking a bit glum about it all!
The final check of the rings
weighing and measuring the chicks
and back home to mum
Sunday shoppers were enthralled at the sight of wild peregrines high up on the cathedral during this morning’s peregrine watch organised by Francis. People were actually gasping and squealing with delight as they looked through telescopes for the first time and saw, in stunning detail, the peregrine chicks and both adult birds on the spire.
The oldest of the three chicks appears to be getting ready for fledging and his first set of flight feathers are clearly visible through the soft white down that is falling away in tufts. According to Francis, this bird will be five weeks old this coming weekend and is likely to fledge sometime this week.
If you’ve not been down to see the peregrines, now would be a great time as there is plenty of action as the ever hungry, fast growing chicks are being fed.
Peregrine nestbox Wakefield cathedral
A youngster tests the flight feathers with a wing falp
peregrine Wakefield cathedral
peregrine Wakefield cathedral
Sunday shoppers watch wild peregrines
Observers of the peregrines
The Braide family from Sandal watch the peregrinesd
Wakefield peregrine watch
I went up onto the tower in mid-January and found that mounds of bird remains had accumulated at the base of the spire, below the favourite perches of the two peregrines. I would estimate that feral pigeons accounted for half of the remains. There were signs of a number of black-headed gulls having been eaten, two or three woodcock and at least two little grebe. Other species identified were jackdaw, starling, blackbird, fieldfare, redwing and teal.
I went into Wakefield to check on the peregrines this morning. I planned to go in early to catch them feeding but I waited for the mist to clear and I got there at about 8:30. I found two peregrines on the steeple, with one of them feeding on a pigeon. After a few minutes, the other bird took to the air and then swooped in to snatch the pigeon from the other bird. There was some screeching as it did this. Unusually, this bird then went onto the small pinnacle to the left of the nesting platform to feed. It looked as though there was little more than a few bones left of the pigeon.
The two birds sat for a while and the one that had been feeding first looked to have a bulging crop but I guess that they were still hungry because they both flew away and had not returned by 11:30. They headed north and west. I wonder weather the fog of the past two days has prevented them getting as much food as usual.
As an aside, Pauline found the remains of this woodcock at the base of the cathedral so the birds are still feeding well on a variety of birds that we probably weren’t expecting! Are they taking the woodcock as they migrate at night or are the peregrines hunting a woodland at night I wonder?
woodcock remains – Pauline Brook
This morning two peregrines were sitting next to each other high on the cathedral spire. One bird was obviously larger than the other and must have been a female. The horizontal barring on the larger bird indicated that it was an adult. Over the next hour, peregrines took to the air occasionally and flew around the spire. During a flight by the larger bird, a third peregrine appeared and followed it as it flew past the cathedral. On one of the crockets, where the smaller bird had sat for some time, a prey item had been stashed and could be seen protruding from the crocket.
This presence of more than one peregrine is a promising sign and it will be interesting to watch for signs of interest in the nesting platform in the coming months.