South West Peregrine

Cornwall & Devon Peregrine Falcon Study Group since 2007


June 2014

Duchy of Cornwall lend helping hand.

A massive group thank you, goes to the Duchy of Cornwall.

Having kindly granted us permission, three young Peregrines were successfully ringed last weekend. This vital work,serves to increase our knowledge of the species. The help and co-operation of landowners,is a key part of this process, along with the help and support of our friends at the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) and local ringer Tony John. These are the grandchildren of the current breeding pair at the Plym, one of their 2011 Falcons is the proud mother.

A short video of the ringing

Thank you once again from all at SWPG.

Herring Gulls close to fledging, raised by adult Peregrine Falcons

With this latest and likely now to be last update on the Peregrine rearing 3 Herring gulls on the South West coast of England, due to likelihood that the next possible visit they may have fledged. In that scenario it will be near impossible to film due to restrictions on equipment used. However here we see them being closely guarded by their adoptive mother, in all visits she has been very close to the ledge always keeping an eye on them. This visit we saw them feeding or at least picking over the remains of a carcass retrieved and left for them. They are all in good condition and we will endeavour to bring you the outcome of their fate, good or bad.
We hope this has provided interest over these few weeks, although we wish to return to a successful brood of peregrines next year. I’m sure you will all agree nature is marvellous and yet can be strange and still throw us a few surprises now and then.


The original witnessing of an event similar in Dorset in June 2001 can be read in the attached document


Callum has beautifully captured the first days of this young bird not long after fledging, the time where they will pitch in near footpaths walked by the public and show no fear at this time, of human life. They quickly learn though and will be busy being taught to hunt by their parents over the coming weeks; probably the biggest challenge to date for these young fledglings. Keep up the good work Callum, many people will be jealous of these great photographs.

South Coast Peregrine rearing Herring Gull chicks 2014

One of the joys of studying wild Peregrines (and there are many), is the sense of anticipation as to what one might witness during that next field trip. Such was the case, when we first discovered, and filmed, one of our study pairs raising three Herring Gull chicks.

We had been fortunate, to watch a video of the same behaviour, filmed by talented amateur cameraman P. Chaney having been discovered by R.Baker. This footage was captured on the Dorset coast, but not for one second, did we ever expect to see the same for ourselves.

It was on the morning of May 30th, that we had our first encounter. I was in the company of Steve Watson, a good friend of the group, who had journeyed down from Gloucestershire for a couple of days birding. We arrived at the site, for a routine check on the breeding status of the resident pair. After briefly scanning the home cliff, I located the falcon.She was clearly brooding chicks, as I watched through the scope, my jaw dropped, as the head of the first baby Gull appeared. I turned to Steve, and relayed what i’d seen, he bundled me away from the eyepiece,and after a few seconds he too got his first glimpse. I’ve never heard Steve swear before, but he turned to me and simply uttered a couple of words that i couldn’t possibly repeat here. We watched for a couple of hours, after which we were forced to leave, to fulfil another appointment. We returned in the evening, with both Greg and his camera to capture the first video.

Our next visit to the site, was equally special. The young Gulls are thriving and as you will see in the following footage (which was filmed on the 12th of June), we managed to capture the youngsters being fed by a very confused Peregrine. We hope you are as astonished with what we were fortunate to witness.
Cheers for now
Roger Finnamore

Ed Drewitt Author, Naturalist and Peregrine Fan

Peregrines have shown a remarkable recovery in the past two decades and our fastest bird in the world, reaching 180 miles per hour in a stoop dive, has attracted huge attention in recent years. They have become more accessible in terms of web cameras and simply being viewed from footpaths and shopping centres. There are now over 60 pairs of Peregrines in towns and cities across the UK, and another 40 pairs can be added if you include more industrial sites and pylons.

If we turn back the clock to the early noughties the urban Peregrine picture was a very different one – back then there was only a few sites where Peregrines were breeding in cities, and only a small number of people watching or studying them in any detail. I first became involved with Peregrines when I realised they were eating interesting and unusual birds for the middle of a city like Bristol. I was a student at the time and I loved finding skulls and feathers. I soon realised Peregrines were hunting at night, taking species such as Little Grebes, Woodcock and Water Rails as they migrated over Exeter and Bristol at night. They were behaving like owls darting out from the shadows to catch their prey lit up in the glow from street lamps. Since 2000 I have liaised closely with Nick Dixon who has been watching Peregrines that use a church in Exeter since 1997. Nick regularly collects the prey remains of the Peregrines here and we have a data set spanning 17 years and comprising 5, 000 separate prey items. Combined with data from Bath and Bristol we published the first paper of its kind in British Birds and attracted the most media attention the journal magazine had ever had! Journalists and the public were amazed that Peregrines lived in cities and that they hunted at night.

Since 2007 my work on Peregrines has also focused on colour-ringing young Peregrines while they are in the nest. The colour rings, in my case blue with black letters, mean that once the chick has left the nest it can still be spotted and identified months or years later. To date over 90 Peregrines have my blue colour rings on their legs, and across the UK another half a dozen colour ring projects apply different colour rings. In the past few years the Peregrines that Nick studies in Exeter have also been colour-ringed thanks to the climbing antics of Jason Fathers who is able to reach the nest box using ropes and climbing kit. You have to be patient with colour ring recoveries as it can take time for birds to be spotted and for you to go out and look for them. However, so far I have heard back from around 10% of the chicks I have ringed – some alive and some dead. Those alive have ventured away from the west and reach the Malvern Hills, Staffordshire, Bognor Regis, Salisbury, and Suffolk. The birds tend to be nomadic in their first few years of life, with females travelling further than males.

To spot a Peregrine you need to look high and check churches, cathedrals, and office blocks. As well as looking up, you want to be looking down. On the ground, distinctive white falcon poo looks chalky, and is often concentrated in certain places below a favourite perch. Look for feathers too – not necessarily from the Peregrines, but from their prey. They eat mainly birds and below their perches you will find feathers, legs, heads, wings, and whole birds killed and eaten by them. It is often assumed Peregrines just eat pigeons, but in fact pigeons only make up a third of their diet. The rest is a huge variety of birds from ducks to terns, gulls to Redwings, and Greenfinches to Chiffchaffs.

With the opportunity to study urban Peregrines in more detail than we have ever been able to with their rural counterparts it became possible to write a book solely on them. My new book ‘Urban Peregrines’ is for both readers who would simply like to find out more about Peregrines and for those who would like to study them in more detail. With beautiful, professional photographs by local Peregrine fans, and insights that have never really be written in any detail before, this book fills a much-needed void.

Ed Drewitt is a naturalist, broadcaster and wildlife detective, enabling others to enjoy birds and other wildlife. His book ‘Urban Peregrines’ has just been published.

South West Peregrine thank Ed for this months guest contribution to ‘A Pilgrim’s Tail’

Royal Cornwall Show 2014

The group enjoyed a very successful three days at this years Royal Cornwall. Various group contributors, covered shifts on the SWPG stand and It was a great thrill to meet, greet,and interact with the general public.

We were fortunate to make some very exciting new contacts, not only with possible new group contributors, but also great interest from the the world of technology. The guys from HandyKam, were most interested in what the group have been up to, and more importantly how they may be able to assist us in the future. A big thank you goes to trade stand co-ordinator Angela Langton, who was most patient whilst dealing with our late entry to the show.

The show seemed to pull in good crowd numbers and looked to be busy on all three days. There were lots of interesting things to see and do, from watching falconry displays, to the Sheep Show and shearing demonstrations. The Livestock looked to be in superb condition and there was always something of interest in the Main Ring 

The group were made to feel most welcome by all, and we look forward to seeing you again in 2015.

Now it’s heads down,and crack on with preparations for Birdfair,can’t wait.




Royal Cornwall Show

South West Peregrine will be at this years Royal Cornwall Show on the 5,6 and 7th of June.

This is the largest agricultural show in the South West, drawing in estimated crowds of up to 130,000 over the 3 days. We will be in the Cornish Heritage Pavillions on stand 775, where we will be talking to the public about the groups role in monitoring peregrines for the British Trust of Ornithology.
We are bringing an interactive display, which will engage all ages. Video clips as well as numerous artefacts and artwork will also be on display.
We are also promoting the Hawk and Owl Trust, whom we have made close connections over the past 12 months as well as Birders Against Wildlife Crime a new and very good web resource allowing you to understand these at times complex laws.
Let’s hope the weather is kind to all the exhibitors and public and we look forward to seeing you there, so please come and say hello to the team members.

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