The young peregrines are now roaming quite freely and there was a report, two days ago, of a juvenile seen chasing a black-headed gull at Wintersett, This could well have been a Wakefield bird. Although the juveniles are spending increasing lengths of time away from the cathedral it is still possible to see them, with a little patience.
Visitors to Wakefield showing a keen interst in the peregrines.
A group of Chinese visitors joined me for a while yesterday as I spent an hour or two seeing how many I could locate. It was quiet for a while but 5Z visited the nestbox. I have found, when I have reviewed recorded footage, that 5Z is the one youngster that does this regularly. It usually searches the box for scraps of the food but during yesterday’s visit, it was clear that it had just fed because its crop was bulging and there was blood on one of its feet.
5Z visiting the nestbox.
3Z also dropped in but it chose to sit high on the spire. It was obviously on the lookout for food because it searched the larder on the north side of the spire and kept gazing up at the female parent expectantly.
3Z sitting high on the spire.
I was watching peregrines in Wakefield city centre this afternoon when I saw a bird flying over the lower end of the precinct. I saw it only briefly but I said to those around me, “I think I’ve just seen a cuckoo.” About thirty minutes later, a member of the public approached me to tell me about a dead bird that he had found next to his car, which was parked near The Spaniard. He knew that it was something unusual and he mentioned that he thought it might be a cuckoo.
I walked around to the car and I found that there really was a dead cuckoo. There were no marks on the bird and I assume that it flew into something.
I’ve spent many hours over several years watching peregrines in Wakefield and I’ve seen a number of other bird species but this is the first cuckoo that I’ve seen. How strange that it should die so soon after being spotted.
The good news is that the cuckoo will enter the natural history collection of Manchester Museum as a preserved skin. The skin will be available for people to study now and for many years to come.
I have heard that peregrines can prey on bats, so I was interested to hear from two Wakefield peregrine followers on Thursday when they spotted what appeared to be a bat being brought to the nestbox by the male. A review of recorded footage earlier today confirmed the identification.
Male Peregrine With Bat
The recordings show that the male concentrates on catching young starlings but he also brings in a real variety of prey items. Another species that was confirmed today was greenfinch.
It was good to see Wakefield’s peregrines and Wakefield Naturalists’ Society receiving recognition on this evening’s television news. The ITV weatherman Jon Mitchell did a good job of informing the public about the opportunity for seeing these exciting animals in the centre of Wakefield.
John Mitchell on ITV’s Calendar
We hope to see more giant peregrines on the TV in the future.
On Tuesday, heavy rain fell for long periods and we had to wonder what state the young peregrines, which were just approaching one week old, would be in. A check of the video recordings showed that they looked almost untouched by the rain and the parents were continuing to carry out their duties very efficiently.
As can be seen, the male is working hard and he is bringing in so much food that it isn’t always needed immediately.
Arriving in Wakefield shortly after 5 a.m., I was just in time to see the female peregrine circling above the precinct with prey in her talons. I did not get there early enough to see whether the male had brought this for her. The female took the prey to the feeding post on the north side of the spire and fed for a while before taking it to the nestbox to feed the young. The following clip shows her leaving the box at the end of the feed.
The male then went into the box immediately to brood the young but the female allowed him to do this for only a few minutes before she returned to take over again.
With approximately ten days of incubation remaining, it is interesting to see a change in the behaviour of the male peregrine.
During the first three two weeks of incubation, he stopped bringing food to the box. However, in recent days he has increased the frequency of his visits to the box and he has started to bring in offerings of food. In the image shown below, the male simply visits the box and then departs. He might have stashed food for the female before offering to take over incubation. This was his habit last year.
The male pays a visit to the nestbox.
Yesterday, he took what appeared to be a pigeon to the box and the female flew away with this to feed as the male took over incubation. A couple of hours later, after the female had returned to the eggs, the male made two attempts to deliver a small prey item – possibly a house sparrow – but his offer was declined.
Peregrines are equipped with sharp talons and they can, occasionally, cause damage to an egg as they step into or out of the nest scrape. To reduce the chance of this happening, the birds move very carefully , particularly when settling down on the eggs. In addition, they instinctively curl their toes to put the talons out of harm’s way.