It was great to be back at Birdfair after a two year absence. Thanks goes to the Hawk and Owl Trust for gathering together many of the groups from around the country as part of the newly launched Peregrine Network ; we wish this collaborative network of like minded souls all the very best in the near future. SWP were lucky enough to join the team on the Sunday where we met up with friends from Scotland Raptor Study Group, Sheffield Peregrines and Norwich Peregrines. Zoe Smith, the network lead co-ordinator did a fantastic job ensuring we all had the best of times, meeting and greeting the general public. Much interest was shown in the work being carried out by the teams from around the country. Many people seeing Peregrines on the coast for the very first time, thanks to some fantastic video, put together by team member Luke Curno.
Birdfair is certainly the Glastonbury of the birding world. One big family for those three days in August. We hope to be back again next year. It was great to see you all again.
A fun-filled, wild day out for all the family! Activities include moth trapping, dissecting owl pellets, butterfly & dormouse walks, create your own nature bucket, make homes for wildlife and discover life in the slow lane – the secret life of snails and much more. Join the National Park and partners for a wild day out. Free parking, toilets and refreshments available to purchase.
The Discovery center at Burrator reservoir celebrated it’s fourth Anniversary this weekend. South West Peregrine were there for the initial opening back in 2014 and were lucky to be involved again this year, with their annual fundraiser. As well as Letter-boxing, rope making,nest box building and a host of other outdoor craft and lifestyle activities, South West Peregrine were able to put on an informative display for the general public whilst having 3 of the team there to answer lots of questions about the local birds of prey and some of the field work that is carried out. There are numerous pairs within the National park boundaries, which are monitored as part of our annual Survey work. Children and Adults alike, as always enjoyed the interactive tools and video used in the display. The team will be back later in the year to give an evening talk at the Discovery Centre, spaces are limited so get in touch via their website to book yourself a spot
A day off from the rigours of work and a break from the normal interests in our field work. We visited Lethytep Lakeside & Woodland Walks. This 52 acre site is a tranquil wildlife haven now after 20 years of dedicated work.
Owners Philip and Faith Hambly have created a Wildflower Meadow complimented with stunning lakes in this peaceful valley, since their retirement. They farmed the land with sheep and cattle for nearly 50 years previously and Philip described that he had seen the effects that he had seen from use fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides on the local wildlife population. The fields are now in the summer months a mass of native wild flowers, teaming with insects, butterflies and dragonflies. The sound of birdsong accompanies the visitor wherever they may wander around the paths cut between these wild meadows. You could literally spend hours meandering through the fields, taking shelter from the sun on a glorious day in the dappled shade of the wooded areas or sit by the lakes and take in the spectacular views all around. Once the summer open season concludes the meadows are cut and the hay sold off, sheep graze the fields until October when the meadows rest over Winter, until the start of the next season when the growing cycle begins again.
Philips records show 24 butterfly species have been recorded at Lethytep, over 100 bird species seen, various mammals visit this flora rich habitat where over 200 species of plant can be found on this site. A testament to the hard work put in by Philip and Faith and those inspired to lend a hand. You will need to keep an eye out for one of the Public Open days throughout the Summer months, but it really is worth a visit. We saw a Sparrow-hawk carrying prey back to a probable nest in one of the adjacent wooded areas, buzzards circled overhead as we sat by the ponds and Owl boxes have been installed and we are told 3 Tawny pairs are on the site. Thank you Philip & Faith for allowing us this visit.
There would appear to have been a large number of Peregrine eyrie failures in 2018 on the majority of the patch that our volunteers actively survey. Some sites not appearing to have attempted breeding, others having failed, some abandoning eggs after sitting full term.
However on the plus side, other SWP project work over the Autumn and Spring months are beginning to pay dividends. This weekend some of the team carried out the ringing of two Kestrel chicks in a box sited at a location in East Cornwall.
Originally the group were contacted as part of an enquiry for an owl box to be installed in the owners extensive gardens, as both Tawny and Barn Owl are often seen in adjoining fields to the property. This enquiry led to the further siting of a Kestrel box in another landowners field. The farmer told us that Kestrels have been seen here for many years, along with Buzzards and the Barn Owl pairing that occupies a purpose built box on a nearby timber structure;
however the Kestrels although regular seen had not known to have nested directly on the site, this it was thought probably through lack of suitable nesting options close to the fields and drainage ditches they can be seen quartering.
One sturdy tree was picked out and a box fitted. All you can do is then sit back and wait and it wasn’t long before a pair of Kestrels were seen this Spring showing an active interest after the post winter removal of a grey squirrel nest (drey) in the box. They were known to be nesting from early May, with the occasional nest relief being witnessed by the excited observers, who had not believed they would have taken to the box so quickly.
A quick observation last week identified two young were at the stage ready for ringing, the box at this time already filled with a plentiful bounty of field voles as well as a small passerine fledgling. Ringing itself was an easy process compared to some of the sites climbed to ring their coastal cousins the Peregrine falcon. A short ladder climb as opposed to a 150 foot abseil followed to reach the nest. All appropriate safety precautions still observed to satisfy the H&S conscious amongst us. Having bagged the young and a short ascent , the two chicks were ringed with an E size BTO recovery ring and two lightweight plastic collar identification rings to aid in observing them.
With this quick process completed, the chicks were returned to the nest box, this it must be said was ripe to say the least at this stage of their development.
Having withdrawn to check on Owl boxes (empty) the Adult pair were quickly back into the box, no doubt with further food offerings to the rapidly growing young. they will be in the box for another 2 weeks before they start the process to branching out and fledging; the next stages in their rapid development toward becoming self sufficient. Kestrels will hunt together in the family group over the coming months, honing their newly aquired skills.
SWP are happy to work with landowners in providing homes for birds, where suitable habitats exist.
The Kestrel boxes sited last year are already paying off in bringing suitable nesting sites on the edge of great habitats. The UK Kestrel population is in decline as reported by the BTO and currently put on the AMBER list.
Therefore projects such as ours will hopefully help local numbers recover or at least stabilise the local population.
Here we see two young in one of the SWPG boxes; the adults are able to provision large quantities of food as a result of siting the boxes adjoining excellent habitat.
The landowner was thrilled that birds had occupied this particular site so quickly having only put the box up late last year. The birds will be ringed under licence and fitted with BTO recovery rings.
Kestrels typically lay between 4-5 eggs in a single brood, occupying varied habitats such as open grassland, heath, farmland and even towns they can often be seen hovering beside busy carriageways.
Length: 34 cm
Wingspan: 76 cm
Weight: M: 190 g F: 220 g
Special thanks goes to Dave Scott for supplying BTO E Rings to get the job done at short notice.
A fine evenings work saw the team ring four very healthy looking eyasses. They were brought to the top of the cliff to carry out the ringing process.
This will be utilised to aid in collation of further dispersal records. This site has already had a number of re-sightings reported as well as one known year old juvenile fatality; the bird in question was found some 140+ kilometres from it’s original Devon location on the side of a carriageway in Wiltshire.
You can now help support the work of the South West Peregrine volunteers. A beautiful 13 month Calendar for 2019 has been produced by local company ‘Studio Twenty Seven’, and they will make a donation from each sale to the group. All photography in this calendar was the hard work of South West Peregrine group member Mike Stephens.
Calendars Cost £5.99 plus postage and packaging at £1.65.
They will make an ideal gift or Christmas present for you any of your friends or family who love British Wildlife
Peter Welsh captured this young Sparrowhawk waiting in a small copse with another sibling in close proximity, both waiting patiently whilst the parents were out hunting. The vocalisations that can be heard in this clip are between the two young hawks. The closing sequence of the short video see’s this bird flying to meet the male who had just returned with a small prey item.
Read a little more from our species pages, click here