The 2017 season has been another successful one for the Wakefield peregrines. The same two adults have now bred on the cathedral in three successive years. This year, they had four eggs, with the female laying the first egg within two hours of the time when the first egg appeared last year. We believe that one egg was accidentally punctured by a talon and, as a result, only three of the four eggs hatched. The three young peregrines have been given orange rings with the codes PAA, PBA and PCA. PBA is the only male.
As usual, the adults did a good job of raising the youngsters. They fledged on a very windy weekend and ,as a result, there were a couple of mishaps. Instead of being able to spend time jumping up onto the wall above the box and running along the wall flapping their wings, the youngsters tended to get whisked away by the breeze and a couple found themselves down on the ground. The young male, PBA, was returned to the tower almost immediately but a female, PCA, landed late in the evening and was returned the next day, after a medical check organised by the people at Wise Owl Bird of Prey Rescue. PCA had a limp but no broken bones.
Juveniles PBA & PCA
All three of the youngster are now flying freely, putting on some good displays as they chase each other in the skies above Wakefield. As usual, they have chosen the roofs of the tower blocks as their favourite base.
These three youngster bring the total fledge since breeding began in Wakefield to ten. We look forward to hearing news of sightings of Wakefield birds in other cities at some time in the future.
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.
This year’s clutch was completed with the laying of a fourth egg just after 3 a.m. on 1st April. The birds have, therefore, been incubating for a little over two weeks and they are well into their usual routine. The female incubates throughout the night and the male takes over for an hour or two early in the day. He usually returns to do another shift – often lasting 2 to 4 hours – in the afternoon.
Peregrines begin incubation with the laying of the penultimate egg, which was on Wednesday, 29th March. Last year, the first hatching was 34 days after the laying of the third egg. Using this as a guide, I would expect the first hatching this year to be on Tuesday, 2nd May. Factors such as the outside temperature can affect incubation time, so this date is only a guide and hatching could begin a day or two either side of this date.
The first three eggs should hatch very close to each other and the fourth egg should hatch a couple of days later.
The peregrines remained on the cathedral throughout the winter, holding onto their nest site and chasing away intruders regularly. They have spent recent weeks preparing to breed by carrying out ledge displays and making a nest scrape.
First sighting of the new egg.
Last year’s first egg appeared in the early hours of the 25th March and the female has been remarkably true to this day by laying her first egg of 2017 late on 24th March, not long before midnight.
A watcher in Texas saw when the egg was fully uncovered for the first time and I wonder how many other people were watching in countries around the world.
It was daylight when the male got his first look at the egg but the female soon arrived to keep her eye on it.
We expect eggs to be laid every two and a half days, approximately, until there is a clutch of three or four. The female will start to incubate when the penultimate egg has been laid.
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.
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.
Each year, the grassed area around Wakefield Cathedral is the place to spot tawny mining bees (Andrena fulva). During the past week, they have created many small “volcanoes” as they have excavated their burrows.
Burrows of Tawny Mining Bees
Sunny weather has brought the bees out but a chill in the air has slowed some of them down, making them easier to observe and photograph.
Tawny Mining Bee
In this picture, taken using a mobile phone, it’s possible to see not only the large compound eyes but also the simple eyes (ocelli) on the top of the bee’s head.