South West Peregrine

Cornwall & Devon Peregrine Falcon Study Group since 2007

A Barn Owl update

An update on the Barn Owl and a few more pics from Steve Johnson


After a couple of weeks of rough weather, rain & wind it did make me wonder how the Owl would be fairing; not much of an opportunity to hunt lately. It does make you wonder how they exist, their life (as with many other animals) is continually on a knife edge, but survive they must and indeed they do.

With the first break in the weather I went out at my usual time, parked up and prepared the camera, I looked around saw nothing, I then went to a mid point spot and looked to the left side of the scrub……and there it was hunting across the field , I took position and waited, it wasn’t long before it began to fly towards me, stopping short it settled on a fence post it was looking at me but didn’t seem to be bothered, if at all interested.


I watched it for a good hour, I also thought I saw another Barn Owl but it was only a glimpse so not 100% but fingers crossed for a pairing. The light was dropping so I thought it was time to go, just as I thought that the Owl started to fly straight at me in fact it went right over my head as I was taking photos of it, it then went across the path to another field I followed it but when I looked over the hedge it was gone. It was a great hour spent watching such a beautiful bird.


All Images Steve Johnson

Barn Owl challenge

I had been told of a Barn Owl that has been around North Cornwall close to where I live; in fact there used to be a breeding pair. I first spotted the bird the day I went to ring the Peregrine chick at Black cliff, the Owl was flying near the barn at around 11.00am, a few days later Mike Stephens and I visited the barn and looked around the floor where we found lots of owl pellets, I then noticed a box located in the roof, I managed to climb up and saw a owl looking right back at me. There was only one I could see and quickly retreated to leave it in peace.

Barn Owl, Cornwall, Winters Evening

A few months later and the odd sighting here and there, then it went to no sightings at all and also the floor of the barn showed little signs of activity on a later visit.

Then one day in early January 2017,  I was walking with my wife Karen and daughter Amy on the coast path not far from the barn, it was a sunny Winter afternoon with the sun getting low in the sky casting a lovely golden glow, I noticed a bird flying low along the hedge row and thought it looked a different shape so looking through my binoculars I quickly identified it as a Barn Owl it then turned around facing me in which the sun illuminated beautifully; no camera typical!! I thought. The barn owl then turned again and went out of sight.

Hunting Barn Owl – Tyto alba

My mission now was to get some pictures…but I needed to work out were it was hunting, its taken until now to understand its territory but I loved the challenge, in that time I have seen it carrying prey, sitting on fence posts and catching glimpse here and there….then this Saturday just gone and a rather miserable day lots of rain and sharp showers it finally cleared at around 4.00pm so I made a quick decision and grabbed my gear, I parked in my lay-by got out of the car and thought it must be near the scrub land as thinking of how the weather has been it must be taking the chance to hunt, and sure enough it flew up in the air about 100 yards from me I watched it and photographed it for a hour as it scanned the scrub……I hope you like the pictures of this beautiful bird.

Story and Images by Steve Johnson SWP


Falcon, protecting her young from the Devonshire summer rains.

A short sequence taken from Bushnell camera trap footage, over an hours period in June 2016, Devon, UK.

The Falcon does her best to protect three young chicks from a summer downpour. Weather play’s a huge part in the young’s survival; however with a good food source, and a well drained ledge, all three went onto successfully fledge in July.

This was this particular Falcons third successful breeding season, now having reared eight young in total.

A drenched Peregrine Falcon – Summer 2016 from South West Peregrine on Vimeo.

Exeter Peregrines

Exeter Peregrine Booklet

Nick Dixon, an urban peregrine falcon specialist, has just written and produced a brief history of the Exeter peregrines. An A5 booklet, with 24 pages comprising 7,500 words, 17 photographs and one illustration, is now for sale and available through Nick’s website, payment is simple via Paypal.

The purpose of this booklet is to raise the necessary funding to upgrade the current analogue camera to HD resolution and have it installed before the 2017 breeding season, which will provide much better images, hopefully attracting more attention to the St. Michael’s webcam and also raising the profile of the Exeter peregrines.

It documents first occupation in 1988, through successful breeding from 1997 to date, and includes changes in breeding ledge and resident adults, egg laying, hatching and fledging success, prey selection and diet plus interaction with other species in the locality.

Nick has monitored the peregrines since nesting on the  St. Michael and All Angels church, Exeter since they first successfully bred in 1997. Nick collected fallen prey remains from around the tower on his first visit to the church in 1996, to determine what they had been feeding on. Nick continues undertaking weekly prey collections, in what is now the 20th year of the longest running study into prey selection and diet of urban nesting peregrines in the UK. He has watched 55 juveniles fledge from the church, observed hunting, changes in seasonal behaviour, replacement of resident adults, the fortunes of the young, interaction with other species and met many local people with a similar appreciation of the peregrine.

Please support Nick’s continued, dedicated work, click the image below to order your copy through Nicks website.


Feeding sequence

A short dseries of camera trap clips, as the adult Falcon feeds her three hungry chicks on the grassy ledge in the pouring Summer rains of 2016.


Difficult climb is worth the efforts

Wednesday the 1st of June 2016, saw the ringing team back on the clifftops of North Cornwall at a particular tricky coastal site. A first attempt to climb was aborted,due to some technical issues. After a very difficult climb, the second assault proved a major success. Three very healthy eyasses bagged up in spite of only one adult being present for the past two weeks. The young birds were now at 25 days of age, slightly older than the desired ringing age by a day or so, but due to the their location on a very large ledge it was not a problem for the experienced team. They were a  bit of challenge to handle and ring, however the team prevailed. All three healthy young Peregrines, were then returned safely to their ledge some 100  feet below the cliff top. The adult male was soon back to inspect the goings on and in due course feed the ravenous young.

SWP would like to thank Chris Adams for photographing the team and allowing us to use his images on this post.

Helping with Buzzard Project

Roger Finnamore  of SWP gets his hands on some young Buzzards (Buteo buteo), he takes up the story

‘The Peregrine is obviously the core species of our field work, that said however, we do have other strings to our bow. The 1st of June, and I had kindly been invited to meet with George Swan. George has been carrying out a colour ringing project on Buzzards, the venue a large estate in mid Cornwall. Not quite knowing what to expect, George and I met at the appointed hour. He agreed to do the driving, an interesting journey followed as Cornish hedgerows flashed by. We arrived at the first chosen site and George was soon on his way up a substantial tree. A single chick was found at this site, duly bagged, lowered to the ground  ringed and  swiftly returned to the large stick nest. 

Again at break  neck speed, it was off to the next nest. Concentration of Buzzards took me by surprise and it wasn’t long before we were at the foot of our next nest. This nest held two much larger chicks,these were weighed, measured, ringed and returned. A completely new experience for myself; getting introduced to a new species a under the watchful eyes of  George was one which I most  definitely would like to repeat. Very many thanks to George for the opportunity’.

Ringing success in North Cornwall

A ‘Black Rock’ eyass was something we have waited for many years to see, since 2007 we have monitored this site and each year the pair have failed to successfully breed. Last year the site was vacant, possible displacement or a new pair choosing to use another eyrie in close proximity, of which 3 young eyasses all disappeared in the second week, probably weather related. However it was with great delight that this year breeding attempts renewed, at this favourite location of Richard Treleaven, which featured heavily in his books ‘The Private Life of the Peregrine’ and the latter ‘In Pursuit of the Peregrine’.

Richard would often name the Falcons and ‘Kate 1’ and ‘Kate 2’ were at the heart of his journals along with ‘the Bitch’, dating back to the early 1970’s. His unique writing style allowed the reader to easily identify the characteristics of each bird in turn as they followed these journal entries.

Roger Finnamore with Black on Yellow XP – Mike Stephens
Black Rock Eyass 2016 – Mike Stephens

Ringing Peregrines in some of these isolated locations is no easy task, with correct licensing, co-ordination with landowners, ringers and climbers all having to come together in a small window of opportunity, along with often trying to find a favouring weather slot. However Sunday 15th May, one of only three surviving eyasses was bagged and ringed at the top of this intimidating cliff. Watched by a proud landowner who knew only to well of the struggles of these birds in often un-favouring conditions.

Estimated at 17/18 days of age, the chick was quickly returned to the ledge and within only minutes of its return and the climbing team retreating, the Falcon (unnamed) was seen to be back on the ledge feeding the young eyass. Neither of the Adult birds made a sound whilst this tricky but well executed operation took place, but both remained in close proximity throughout proceedings. The next few weeks are likely to remain busy, however the focus will be to ensure that more birds are rung wherever it is safe to do so. We thank all those involved in this weekends efforts.

XP Safely returned to the ledge – Sam Sharp

First week of brooding completed.

The adult birds at the earliest known eyrie to produce young on our North Cornish study area are now a week into brooding three young eyasses. A fourth egg would appear to have either been infertile or may have chilled in some of the recent cold weather we have experienced. This particular site has consistently been the earliest to produce young, year on year since we have been studying this area since 2008. In all but one year ,when it was probably a change in one of the adult birds, plus a change in their chosen ledge that led to an unsuccessful breeding attempt, they have been known to produce young weeks before any other site we record. This year has been no exception ,although other sites close by are also well into the incubation stages, with one neighbouring site also this week producing one young at the last count.

The weather plays a major factor of course; and with food at times appearing to be scarce to come by, having witnessed many unsuccessful hunting forages by the male ,who it would seem at this site carries out the majority of hunting in the early stages of brooding; just getting through that first week is all important on improving the young’s chance of survival.

It was only last year when that last of the hatchlings failed to survive those all important first few days. Exposed to heavy seas and prevailing winds, we have also had numerous sleet and hail showers. It certainly can be a tough life for the coastal peregrine compared with their urban counterpart.

The ground work and close liaison with landowners for subsequent visits and potential ringing work is all ongoing , by members of the team all around the coastline. This certainly can prove to be quite challenging times, to ensure all resources come together at the right time.

Over the coming weeks we will try to keep all of our followers informed as to the progress of the young at numerous sites, and where possible bring you more video footage via the blog and our twitter account.


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