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South West Peregrine

Cornwall & Devon Peregrine Falcon Study Group since 2007

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Ringing Project data updates

Other than the groups general survey work, the ongoing ringing project continues to deliver good data. This season, whilst lockdown may have prevented much of the work SWP would hope to have carried out in any normal year, there are still interesting observations that get uncovered.

One of our regular monitored sites, in Devon has had the same breeding Falcon since 2014, she was herself ringed at Cann Quarry (Plymouth) back in 2011 (Darvic BX Black on Yellow), she has bred successfully in all but one season , when the site was particularly prone to an amount of disturbance. This year, four eyassess were raised to fledging. In one of the first post lockdown visits, it was great to reconfirm the same breeding female; but there had been a change in the male, as he too was carrying a Darvic ring. This has since been captured, thanks to a local Raptor conservationist John Deakins, who has given permission to use the image that clearly shows the Male with Darvic JN (Black on Yellow)

Darvic JN (tiercel) and two of the four young – image courtesy J.Deakins

Moorland and Coastal sites are not always as easy to confirm ring ID’s as some of the Urban sites that have cameras monitoring the birds every movement. So it’s always good to get this information back, to feed into the growing data held and shared with the governing authorities.

This years breeding male (JN), is confirmed as a 2014 offspring coming from from the same site as the female (BX – 2011) both originate from the same breeding adult female at Cann Quarry . Both birds were ringed under licence at this popular site by Dale Jackson.

BX, with her previous mate back in 2015 – image courtesy G.Curno
BX in 2020 with her brood of 4 – image courtesy G.Curno
The mother of both BX and JN, a prolific breeder herself at Cann Quarry. Image courtesy Rich Edmondson

Survey Impacts of Covid-19

Like many organisations, Small Groups and individuals, Field work in support of the BTO’s NRS Scheme has this season been massively impacted by the Covid-19 Pandemic. We were unable to conduct any early site visits in the first couple of months, other than those that remained within our daily local exercise limits. Restrictions have also impacted those in the group who have had to self isolate and protect themselves as a priority throughout this period and that is still impacting some right into June as we pen this short piece.

We have operated within the bounds of the BTO licensing advice and guidelines; so once a limited amount of travel was introduced within the local region, we were able to get some of the initial leg work and confirmation of activity at a number of sites done, albeit with a reduced fieldworking team.

We have tried to remain working in pairs, for most of our Peregrine Coastal work, any meetups have lead to the Social Distancing being observed and maintained throughout. But these occasions have been minimal, with most of the team operating with a family member when out ‘in pursuit of the peregrine’.

Social Distancing in 2020

We had hoped to follow up on the trends we had been encountering over the past number of years (covered in the Paper ‘Significant decline in population of coastal Peregrine Falcons in north-west Cornwall‘ in an earlier blog this year and now Published in ‘British Birds’ June 2020). We thank Co-Authors, Richard Sale and Steve Watson for many hours of work putting this together.

Roger Finnamore and Steve Watson

We have made a number of changes; we have utilised social media a lot more to keep in regular touch with the team. We, like many have adopted online web conferencing to allow us to get together and discuss what little Survey work was accomplished, early on in this Lockdown. ‘Zoom’ the current tool of choice, proved a godsend and will likely be adopted more and more in the future as the New normal, for more regular group get-together’s, rather than just the annual meet up.

Data collection, saw us finally transition most of the group’s work from the NRS Card index system, to the BTO’s Demography Online, lets just say, this is one area where Covid-19 helped make this decision, this is now seen as a huge step forward for those that were a little out of date. I’m sure a few cards will continue as a backup.

We wonder if the reduced human traffic around the coastline has had any impact on bird breeding success rates. Personally, I have seen what appears, increased numbers in some of the seabird populations at certain sites I have visited; more Guillemots and Razor Bills than normal. Increased numbers of Fulmar, nesting and hugging the cliff tops as we search out Peregrine ledges. Skylarks and Rock Pipits. The senses have been heightened no doubt, the background noise (traffic and planes) has dropped, is it therefore just ‘Us’ noticing more?

The Atlantic Coast

It is sad to read that in some areas , this has been seen as a time to increase Raptor Persecution, hoping that the pandemic will aid as cover to their criminal activities, at least this was highlighted in the media at a prominent level, we hope justice can be served.

Nature in general has been a big comfort and I for one certainly hope that this has been a wake -up call for the Human Race, let’s hope that lessons have been learnt and changes that have been enforced, can now be acted upon to make the positive changes required. Will our Leaders Act?

Luke Recording Young Peregrines Ledge Activity as part of our NRS Studies

By the time we visited some sites, many new ledges were being used on familiar territories. We found that where we had young , it was unlikely permission would be granted to ring from the landowners; from a number of enquiries they were uncomfortable allowing the climbing that would be necessary and this is understandable. So we decided to halt the groups ringing proceedings. At some sites, the birds were already past the ringing phase by the time we discovered them, this year.

Typical Coastal Prey Remains at a plucking point

We hope that 2021, under the ‘New Normal’, will see us back to a more productive Season, with one and all, out and about again. We thank all of the team who will be submitting records in this most extraordinary year, for their many hours of continued dedication and many miles of travel.

Large proportions of the South West are being covered and recorded by various groups and individuals.

Coastal Peregrine Coverage since 2014 BTO Peregrine Survey

Talk for Rame Wildlife Group

South West Peregrine enjoyed presenting their Peregrine talk to the welcoming people of Rame Wildlife Group. The Village Hall in Millbrook was full of keen wildlife people to listen to the groups activities monitoring both coastal and inland Peregrine sites throughout Cornwall and into Devon.

The Rame Wildlife Group

Roger Finnamore talked extensively about the Peregrine the ringing and monitoring activities carried out by the team, along with lots of video clips interactive displays from the Groups Work.

Roger talking about Ringing on the Cornish Cliffs

Luke Curno gave supporting presentations on his Buzzard Study video created as part of his TV and Film Production degree at Plymouth as well as a video on successful Kestrel and Tawny Owl box installations right here in Cornwall.

Luke and his Devonshire Buzzard Video

We would like to thank Rame Wildlife Group for extending an invitation to us and our host Bruce Taggart for helping set up on the evening. The Team can be contacted for similar presentations throughout the year.

Peregrine Decline Cornwall

Significant decline in population of coastal Peregrine Falcons in north-west Cornwall

a paper by SJ Watson and RG Sale

Paper
Data collection in Cornwall

to view the Paper please follow the link.

A Paper by SJ Watson and RG Sale

 

 

Birdfair 2018

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.

South West Peregrine Bird Fair
Peregrine Network

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.

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Birdfair 2018

 

Meldon Wildlife Festival

Date for the Diary August 21st 2018

The team will be at this years Meldon Wildlife Festival, come alonng and visit this great family event.

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.

Location: Meldon old quarry

Booking required: no

Charge: FREE

Burrator Discovery Centre

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

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The Burrator Discovery Centre – full of facts

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Talking Birds of Prey and Wildlife Crime

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Explore Burrator’s history, flora and fauna on one of the lakeside walks

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Answering the publics questions

Lethytep Wildflower Conservation

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.

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Lethytep’s Wildflower Meadows – an inspiration to all who visit

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.

 

Weekend ringing of Kestrels

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.

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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;

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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.

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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.

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Roger Finnamore having completed the ringing process

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David with one of the chicks, a new experience for this delighted farmer

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.

 

 

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