South West Peregrine

Cornwall & Devon Peregrine Falcon Study Group since 2007


May 2014

‘Junior’ and the new chicks

So the chicks at Cann Quarry (Plym-Peregrines) are now one week old; they will  of course be reliant upon their parents to provide food, shelter and protection for the next month whilst they are in the old Raven stick nest, a home they must occupy until they are ready to take that first leap of faith and find their wings.

They will remain dependant and will be continued to be fed over those next few weeks; then as they gain confidence they will be encouraged to try a food pass high above the quarry; once mastered they will accompany a parent or both parents on hunting forays up or down the valley until finally they will take live prey, having watched and learnt the skills needed for that next big step, independence.

Yet these three young eyasses will also have one other challenge to contend with; and for once that threat is not man. It is older sibling brother by a year, ‘Junior‘ (HA, darvic ring Id) as he has been ‘tagged’ by the watchers. On the morning of Sunday the 25th May we watched the adult tiercel fly up the valley from Plymbridge, he carried with him a morning meal, a male blackbird from the looks through our binoculars. He headed to a favourite branch high in the oaks to the west of the viaduct, the opposite side to the stick nest containing the three chicks and the Falcon. just above the adult tiercel at two o’clock sat Junior.

The next ten minutes passed and then a call across the valley to let her know a meal was about to be delivered. As soon as he took flight he was hotly pursued by the young tiercel and by the time they were both overhead he had managed to grab this meal for himself and head to the south oaks of the quarry were it was devoured. The adult tiercel sat above him. The Falcon on seeing this left the nest immediately and after checking 3 caches on the quarry face, returned to feed the three hungry chicks, all now clearly visible in their fluffy down, as they were each fed in turn meticulously by their mother. The meal lasted 20 minutes and was uninterrupted as Junior was still occupied and looking magnificent. We asked the question, ‘Are these new tactics being employed by the parents to ensure meal time passes without fuss?’

Just a little later in the morning as she sat and brooded the young, a small flock of pigeons flew up the valley hugging the high tree-line; they were spotted immediately by the Falcon who left the stick nest and flew hard up the valley on the river side in pursuit. Her flight path was low,following the river, ensuring she remained undetected by the cover of the trees as she left our sight.

We speculated she was after them and how she may try and intercept the unsuspecting prey further up the valley at the next viaduct. We cannot be sure, but this was the probable conclusion to the fate of one unlucky pigeon as within 2 minutes she had returned to a favoured pluming ledge, where after only a few minutes her only issue was that once again Junior felt a little hungry. Sit back and enjoy the morning watch of 3 hours condensed into 4 minutes of YouTube time. Watch and witness for yourselves just some of the amazing scenes we are being treated to on an almost daily basis now.



New e-petition: ban driven grouse shooting in England

Lend your support to the ‘Hen Harrier’ before it is too late. Please find the time to sign this e-petition.

Raptor Persecution UK

It’s been coming for some time, and now all patience has finally evaporated.

Mark Avery has launched a new e-petition today, calling for a complete ban on driven grouse shooting in England after it has led to the near-extinction of the Hen Harrier as a breeding species in the English uplands.

Hen harrier

We are 100% in support of this e-petition, especially as some of ‘our’ Hen Harriers are known to travel across the political boundary down into England, and vice-versa. It doesn’t matter where you live, be it Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland or the Irish Republic, this issue affects all of our Hen Harriers.

The petition is cleverly timed, too, with the petition’s closing date designed to coincide with the election of the next national government. That’s smart.

Here are Mark’s thoughts on why this e-petition has been created:

Dear friends

I have just launched an e-petition on the…

View original post 358 more words

Plym Peregrines

Plymbridge Woods, in Devon, England have had a ‘Peregrine Watch’ since the year 2000, after the resident Peregrine Falcons were poisoned. Every year since teams of volunteers dutifully keep watch over the resident falcons from March through to  fledging in late June/July and beyond. With this watch in place and the kindly donated telescopes that are provided, the general public get to witness the full breeding cycle, from initial mating through to young eyasses being taught to hunt. It is a unique location as Cann Quarry viaduct, a disused GWR railway bridge across the river Plym provides an eye level view into the eyrie.

Depending upon where the birds choose to nest, we can be watching from as little as 100 yards away. This gives people the opportunity to observe without causing any disturbance. Peregrines are are known to have used this quarry for over 50 years now and most years since the watch started they have been successful in raising offspring.
This year is different, as the Adults are joined by last years Tiercel, who remains on site, begging food from the adults and showing no sign of catching his own prey. He is tolerated, but for how much longer, as now attentions turn to the newly hatched chicks.
Please come and visit this unique site and enjoy a wonderful walk through the woods and along the river.

A Pilgrim’s Tail

We have made a few changes to our blog ‘A Pilgrim’s Tail’ as we were rapidly running out of storage space.

So we hope that you enjoy the new layout, it has lots more going on than the old blog and links to many more items of interest to all you Peregrine enthusiasts out there, and from the responses we get there are quite a few of us!

You can view all of our latest post from our own fieldwork and studies, along with the guest posts such as that from Charlie Moores of BAWC.

We have a new Gallery section displaying some lovely images from around this majestic coastline, as well as a link to the YouTube Channel that offers you an insight into watching these birds along our shores.



Whimbrel on the menu

This was certainly a first for us, a falcon feeding 3 newly hatched eyasses on Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)

She struggles to man-handle this smaller member of the ‘Curlew’ family. Often we watch prey items brought to the ledge, plumed with the head removed; therefore not only those long legs but that huge curved beak cause lots of issues, as can be seen in this video. One of the eyasses gets knocked over while another trampled upon under the falcons at times clumsy efforts. In the final shot as she fly’s of to cache the remains it could quite easily have knocked one of these small bundles of down to the waiting sea below.ave knocked one of these small bundles of down to the waiting sea below.

Assisting the last one out

This fantastic video footage shot by a group member  Peter Welsh wonderfully illustrates the care and attention that these devoted parents give to their offspring.

The videos opening sequence shows the Tiercel incubating the brood, he is startled by his mates arrival on the ledge/old Ravens stick nest, possibly due to her low and almost silent approach. After a while he relinquishes his attentive duties and she moves in to inspect another egg in the final stages of hatching. rather than go straight into sitting, she helps the newest arrival by careful removing the final piece of shell. Sit back and enjoy this lovely video from the Cornish coast listening to those glorious sounds of gulls and sea. This is what watching coastal peregrines is all about.




Birders Against Wildlife Crime

This months guest article comes from Charlie Moores. Charlie is a founding member of a new organisation named Birders Against Wildlife Crime(BAWC). In his piece, he explains the reasons why he and like minded friends felt the need to create the group.

The answer to why ‘Birders Against Wildlife Crime’ and other good questions. Just last month thirteen birds of prey were found dead in a two square mile area of the Scottish Highlands. They’d been poisoned. The majority were Red Kites, presumably part of a re-introduction scheme championed by the Scottish government and bitterly opposed by some agricultural and shooting interests. Amongst birders the reaction to their discovery ranged from outrage and a determination to catch the criminal(s) involved to a weary cynicism that no-one would be caught, ranks would be closed, and nothing would change.

There have, is the perception, been too many incidents like these and too few prosecutions. One poisoning incident is of course one too many, but despite what many birders might think our birds are well-protected. On paper anyway. In fact most of our wildlife is protected by hundreds of laws that have been hard fought for and which cover everything from poaching freshwater mussels to knocking down House Martin nests over a homeowner’s front door.Having so many laws brings its own problems though. Very few of us know or understand them. They are complex, there are numerous exceptions, and they’re not the same in different parts of the UK. Few birders (few people anywhere) wouldn’t recognise that using poisons to kill protected birds is a crime, but not all laws that impact wildlife are so clear-cut. Is it legal to use a dog to hunt rabbits, for instance? How would you recognise when a cage trap is being used illegally? How about taking a photograph of a roosting bat – is that legal or illegal?

Most of us don’t want to just see wildlife, we want to stop other people breaking the laws that protect wildlife as well. Compared with the poisoning of a Red Kite, for example, a council worker cutting back a hedge in the nesting season might seem almost unimportant, but more birds must be lost to casual nest destruction every year than are lost to poisoning. If we understood the laws relating to nests and eggs would we not be in a better position to change Not only are many of us unsure about the law, we’re also not sure what to do if we witness a crime or find a crime scene. If we had found one of those poisoned Red Kites what should we have done? What information should we record? As importantly, who should we tell: the police, the RSPB, a local wildlife trust maybe? All of them perhaps.There will be readers of this article who’ll be saying to themselves, sure, but that information is available on numerous websites. That’s true. So why did we think we needed to set up Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC) anyway? Because while the information is available, it’s often very hard to find. Most organisations that cover wildlife crime are concerned with numerous other issues too. The specific fact we want may not be buried, but it’s rarely standing in the open either! As proof of that the birders who set up BAWC have well over a hundred years of birding experience between them, but – like most birders we know – couldn’t have answered every question in the last few paragraphs either.

So what we’re doing (‘doing’, note, not ‘done’ – this is an ongoing project) is to put all the information we need, written in plain English, in one place. We want to help make tackling wildlife crime as natural as picking up a pair of binoculars, so everything we’re doing is guided by one prevailing thought: we’re birders, we’ll be using the website, how would we want the information laid out so that we can get our questions answered quickly and easily?
On top of that we want BAWC to be an effective campaigning group. We don’t have members, we’re totally independent, and we’re not bound by charters. We’re free to ask the questions that some other organisations can’t. Why do birders feel that no-one will be held to account when Red Kites are poisoned? Why is that many birders feel that even if they do report wildlife crime nothing will be done? And if someone is caught, why are punishments often so insignificant?

There are a lot of questions to ask. And we’re not saying we have all the answers. Between us we do though. The expertise and knowledge held by groups like the South West Peregrine Group is invaluable. We understand that no-one has the right to simply turn up and ask for that knowledge, so we’re working hard to build relationships, to work alongside other organisations. We know it’ll take time, but we can help and promote each other. We can all benefit from that. Much more importantly though, our wildlife will benefit. If every time birders went into the field – wherever they were – they were looking out for wildlife crime and feeding information to the right people imagine what we could achieve. We will never be able to stop wildlife crime (we’re dreamers at BAWC but we’re not deluded), but if criminals knew that birders were on the look out for them, knew what to do if they saw a crime, and had the information at their fingertips to get that crime reported to the right people every time…

We may not be able to stop every crime from taking place, but we can help tip the balance back in favour of our wildlife. We can make it so that criminals are looking over their shoulders all of the time, that wildlife crime becomes a higher priority than it is now, and that when a criminal is caught it matters to them. Why did we set up BAWC? The simple truth is that we’re birders and we’re sick of crimes against our wildlife. We think we can make a difference. And we are determined that we will.

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