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South West Peregrine

Cornwall & Devon Peregrine Falcon Study Group since 2007

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Peregrine Ringing

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Roger working on the deceptively large ledge

Sunday 4th June, another three young were colour ringed along with the metal BTO rings; this was a tricky site to reach, but the ledge was large enough to allow the ringing to go ahead in-situ.

Peregrine Falcon Ringing 2017 from South West Peregrine on Vimeo.

This is a fourth consecutive season the pair have bred  and over that period 11 Chicks have all been raised to fledging. The ringing carried out under licence and with landowners permission went once again without a hitch, due to good teamwork and planning the climb in advance.

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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.

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’.

The Ledge

A short film put together from numerous Trail Cam clips on a pluming ledge and cache used by an adult breeding pair of Peregrine Falcons (Falco peregrinus). It was the groups first time using this kind of technology to aid our fieldwork and studies, therefore we are pleased with the results and the capabilities of the device. It is no doubt a useful tool.

In this short ‘Winter’ study we have managed not only to capture both adult birds utilising the cache, but it shows the Tiercel (male) was at times reluctant to share the spoils with his mate. The powerful neck muscles in the Falcon (female) are clearly visible in the clip and some interesting vocalisations are also picked up.

Clear evidence of nocturnal activities with the birds visiting the cache not only in dusk and dawn but also during the small hours as well were recorded. We did not pick up prey being delivered at this time, but it is an indication that birds are still active in these remote and unlit areas; on the lookout for nocturnal migrants such as Woodcock aided only by moonlight. These are regular prey species as recorded in the study by Nick Dixon and Ed Drewitt at Exeter (St.Michaels), the longest running Urban collection of prey samples.

The camera itself was hidden inside of a fake rock, so it was less obtrusive to the birds. In the first couple of frames it does appear that the birds are aware of the device, but they quickly became use to its presence and in some night shots it would appear they were even sat on top of the rock.

Field studies like this will hopefully lead us to a better understanding of prey taken at different sites, as well as the interaction between the adult pairs. It may throw up other interesting factors, such as intruding birds, the ability to pick up tagged birds or as in our case small mammals also feeding on the prey remains (below – image only).

Screenshot 2015-08-29 at 15.51.36

This was shot using the Bushnell HD Trail Cam, supplied by HandyKam of Redruth, Cornwall.

An opportunity to witness Cooperative Attacks by Urban Peregrines on Common Buzzard.

Sunday 7th of June members of South West Peregrine joined Urban Peregrine researcher’s Nick Dixon and Andrew Gibbs, the co-authors of the British Birds Article ‘Cooperative Attacks By Urban Peregrine on Common Buzzard’ (May 2015 Issue), opposite the home of the study pair at  St Michael’s & All Angels Church, Exeter. A small team of watchers all alone on a multi-story car park roof, armed only with binoculars, scope, flasked coffee and notebook. 

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We had arrived early and already the Tiercel was in the air as we got into position, an alarm call being directed at the Falcon as he began to ring up (series of flaps and glide in a tight circle, gaining height on an early thermal) made him easy to pick out in the clear blue skies. The Falcon, now sat upright, alerted, on the gable end above the eyrie (a box installed and located behind a trefoil),looked on at her mate; calculating her route to join him. A Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) came into our view, effortless gliding and roughly following  the course of the River Exe far below; at this point still unaware of the dangers of drifting into this ferociously guarded territory.

It is worth noting that the two young are only days away from estimated fledging with the young male expected to go on Thursday 11th of June (42 days from hatching). So no threat is directly posed to the young eyasses from this passing raptor at this point in time.DSC_2481

The Tiercel quickly reached a height just above the Buzzard, still hecking his alarm, the Falcon had by now left her perch and with rapid wing beats headed on a looping course behind the Church spire, climbing quickly to join her mate. Before she arrived in position the first stoop from the male on the Buzzard was witnessed, not a full speed attack and not directly at it, but in doing so the Buzzard now knew it was in danger. A second and more threatening stoop this time by the female made this threat intensify. The Male was now almost instantly, back in position above the Buzzard, who was heading in a South Westerly direction, within seconds the Tiercel was in again, quicker and now more threatening himself this time around.

Nowhere to hide

Calling from the pair could still be heard from our vantage point and we watched in awe as the Falcon was once again diving at the helpless buzzard; It flipped onto its back presenting its talons has a means of defence. It began to lose height deliberately and wing beats where seen has it tried to make its retreat. We witnessed 14 stoops in all before the Buzzard made good his escape and the pair turned back toward the spire. 

Exeter May 15_078

What we witnessed as a group over the next 4 hours will go down as one of the most remarkable accounts in our relatively short 8 years as a group watching Peregrine Falcons together. Nine attacks in all where witnessed, both Adults spent the majority of this time in the air defending this territory only briefly returning to pitch in on the Spire or Cross, always remaining on high alert. Attacks seemed to be called off once the intruder was approximately 1km away from the Church Spire (in any direction) A number of hits on Buteo buteo where observed, these seemed in the main to be by the larger and possibly more aggressive Falcon.

The Maximum number of attacks by the pair on this beautiful morning was 45 in total; one buzzard was sent spiralling to the ground, seemingly having flown its last flight. However on trying to recover this bird it was seen making an escape first to a nearby tree and then into a clump of trees in a nearby garden. During this time both birds remained on high alert and 2 level flight attacks were launched from the spire until the were certain any imposed threat had passed.

Exeter May 15_Feathers fly

We said our goodbyes at around 13:00, the afternoon watch was about to commence, what we had witnessed formed the basis of conversation all the way back to Plymouth.

Anyone wishing to read the full detailed account of the Dixon/Gibbs Study helped by local watchers should read the published Article in British Birds

Exeter May 15_106

SWP thank Nick Dixon and Andrew Gibbs for the opportunity to join them and in their sharing so much knowledge.

Check out Nick Dixon’s profile as an Urban Peregrine research specialist on his website

‘Quarry Falcon’ – Limited edition signed print is now available

Available Now – 100 copies of this fine ‘Quarry Falcon at rest’ by local Artist David A. Scott so do not delay.

Dave Scott - Artist, South Devon
David A. Scott – Artist, South Devon

You had better be quick if you want to be the owner of one of these fabulous Limited edition and numbered signed prints.

At a very reasonable price of £55 plus £7 P&P the item will be shipped to your home, It will be protected in a special Art mailer tube to ensure its safe arrival.

Only 100 copies are being produced and early signs are that they will be going quickly with much interest already being showed.

The dimensions are 17” x 23” ; printed onto a 300gsm watercolour paper using lightfast inks which are guaranteed by the manufacturer for 100yrs we are informed.

The original picture was painted in Acrylic onto board & the image size was 24”x 19” (already sold in a matter of days after completion)

Please contact Roger on the following email mail@southwestperegrine.org.uk to place your order. Alternatively Call on 07864877125.

Passage Osprey and Red Kite on Local Patch

SWP Field worker Bob Bosisto managed to record two additions along with active Peregrine Eyries on his local patch in North Cornwall. Bob had spent the day on the coastline checking out traditional eyrie haunts and whilst recording data  for the BTO still found time to point the Camera skyward and capture two record shots of Osprey and Red kite. Red Kite are occasionally seen whilst out and about as numbers steadily increase, but the Osprey is great to see making it’s way northwards no doubt heading back to a breeding territory.

Red Kite Cornwall 15

We always laugh at what people are missing out on as they take in the stunning Cornish Views, always take time out of what you are doing and look skywards, you never know what you might spot.

Passage Osprey

First of the Season

The first of the Season for the group have appeared at the same eyrie yet again (they like to get it done and dusted early it would seem)

Having watched them incubate over the past couple of weeks we had estimated the date of the first Eyass to be around the 24th of April, and as it turns out on a Visit on Wednesday 22nd the Falcon was still sitting tight, when she left for a short spell to stretch her wings, you could tell she had just finished a long stint; she looked stiff and a little fed up as she circled the cove. Within two minutes she was back though, a mum’s work is never done ‘or so I was told!’

The next visit on the 25th (as this is of course all voluntary, if only it was paid employment) proved a joyous occasion. On arrival, and glassing over the eyrie she almost had a smile. You could just tell it had happened, within minutes she was forced to reveal a new bundle of fluff, or at least a wing or thigh (who can tell from 200+Metres through a scope with cam attached)

Next a head, also an egg, still yet to hatch. How many? the mind starts to wonder. Two hopefully, that would be nice ( as it was raining hard by now). Thirty minutes Peregriinning (this I believe is now a real word, I have used it on many occasions and like minded people don’t bat an eye) passes quickly no matter the weather. The equipment is getting looked after more as I remove my hat to ensure water does not reach the camera as leaning over is no longer enough. (yeah right)

She’s calling; her mate has arrived with food and has gone to pluck the quarry. She is agitated, calling across the cove, restless but still dutiful in covering the young eyasses. He is taking to long and we all need food I guess is her thought, as she awkwardly lifts herself over the white fluff.  then she departs the eyrie (on a mission) a big smile (this time from me) yep two, their bodies huddled together to maintain warmth. Nope wait, is it?, yes it is, there is a third and still one unhatched.

Three confirmed, and Egg (Thats the BTO NRS record card sorted). She is a brute when ripping the meat from the carcass, and then so delicate in the way in which each hungry youngster is fed; only a little at a time. You have to say Nature is just Brilliant.

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