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South West Peregrine

Cornwall & Devon Peregrine Falcon Study Group since 2007

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Wildlife

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.

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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’.

‘Junior’ and the new chicks

So the chicks at Cann Quarry (Plym-Peregrines) are now one week old; they will  of course be reliant upon their parents to provide food, shelter and protection for the next month whilst they are in the old Raven stick nest, a home they must occupy until they are ready to take that first leap of faith and find their wings.

They will remain dependant and will be continued to be fed over those next few weeks; then as they gain confidence they will be encouraged to try a food pass high above the quarry; once mastered they will accompany a parent or both parents on hunting forays up or down the valley until finally they will take live prey, having watched and learnt the skills needed for that next big step, independence.

Yet these three young eyasses will also have one other challenge to contend with; and for once that threat is not man. It is older sibling brother by a year, ‘Junior‘ (HA, darvic ring Id) as he has been ‘tagged’ by the watchers. On the morning of Sunday the 25th May we watched the adult tiercel fly up the valley from Plymbridge, he carried with him a morning meal, a male blackbird from the looks through our binoculars. He headed to a favourite branch high in the oaks to the west of the viaduct, the opposite side to the stick nest containing the three chicks and the Falcon. just above the adult tiercel at two o’clock sat Junior.

The next ten minutes passed and then a call across the valley to let her know a meal was about to be delivered. As soon as he took flight he was hotly pursued by the young tiercel and by the time they were both overhead he had managed to grab this meal for himself and head to the south oaks of the quarry were it was devoured. The adult tiercel sat above him. The Falcon on seeing this left the nest immediately and after checking 3 caches on the quarry face, returned to feed the three hungry chicks, all now clearly visible in their fluffy down, as they were each fed in turn meticulously by their mother. The meal lasted 20 minutes and was uninterrupted as Junior was still occupied and looking magnificent. We asked the question, ‘Are these new tactics being employed by the parents to ensure meal time passes without fuss?’

Just a little later in the morning as she sat and brooded the young, a small flock of pigeons flew up the valley hugging the high tree-line; they were spotted immediately by the Falcon who left the stick nest and flew hard up the valley on the river side in pursuit. Her flight path was low,following the river, ensuring she remained undetected by the cover of the trees as she left our sight.

We speculated she was after them and how she may try and intercept the unsuspecting prey further up the valley at the next viaduct. We cannot be sure, but this was the probable conclusion to the fate of one unlucky pigeon as within 2 minutes she had returned to a favoured pluming ledge, where after only a few minutes her only issue was that once again Junior felt a little hungry. Sit back and enjoy the morning watch of 3 hours condensed into 4 minutes of YouTube time. Watch and witness for yourselves just some of the amazing scenes we are being treated to on an almost daily basis now.

 

 

A Pilgrim’s Tail

We have made a few changes to our blog ‘A Pilgrim’s Tail’ as we were rapidly running out of storage space.

So we hope that you enjoy the new layout, it has lots more going on than the old blog and links to many more items of interest to all you Peregrine enthusiasts out there, and from the responses we get there are quite a few of us!

You can view all of our latest post from our own fieldwork and studies, along with the guest posts such as that from Charlie Moores of BAWC.

We have a new Gallery section displaying some lovely images from around this majestic coastline, as well as a link to the YouTube Channel that offers you an insight into watching these birds along our shores.

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Birders Against Wildlife Crime

This months guest article comes from Charlie Moores. Charlie is a founding member of a new organisation named Birders Against Wildlife Crime(BAWC). In his piece, he explains the reasons why he and like minded friends felt the need to create the group.

The answer to why ‘Birders Against Wildlife Crime’ and other good questions. Just last month thirteen birds of prey were found dead in a two square mile area of the Scottish Highlands. They’d been poisoned. The majority were Red Kites, presumably part of a re-introduction scheme championed by the Scottish government and bitterly opposed by some agricultural and shooting interests. Amongst birders the reaction to their discovery ranged from outrage and a determination to catch the criminal(s) involved to a weary cynicism that no-one would be caught, ranks would be closed, and nothing would change.

There have, is the perception, been too many incidents like these and too few prosecutions. One poisoning incident is of course one too many, but despite what many birders might think our birds are well-protected. On paper anyway. In fact most of our wildlife is protected by hundreds of laws that have been hard fought for and which cover everything from poaching freshwater mussels to knocking down House Martin nests over a homeowner’s front door.Having so many laws brings its own problems though. Very few of us know or understand them. They are complex, there are numerous exceptions, and they’re not the same in different parts of the UK. Few birders (few people anywhere) wouldn’t recognise that using poisons to kill protected birds is a crime, but not all laws that impact wildlife are so clear-cut. Is it legal to use a dog to hunt rabbits, for instance? How would you recognise when a cage trap is being used illegally? How about taking a photograph of a roosting bat – is that legal or illegal?

Most of us don’t want to just see wildlife, we want to stop other people breaking the laws that protect wildlife as well. Compared with the poisoning of a Red Kite, for example, a council worker cutting back a hedge in the nesting season might seem almost unimportant, but more birds must be lost to casual nest destruction every year than are lost to poisoning. If we understood the laws relating to nests and eggs would we not be in a better position to change Not only are many of us unsure about the law, we’re also not sure what to do if we witness a crime or find a crime scene. If we had found one of those poisoned Red Kites what should we have done? What information should we record? As importantly, who should we tell: the police, the RSPB, a local wildlife trust maybe? All of them perhaps.There will be readers of this article who’ll be saying to themselves, sure, but that information is available on numerous websites. That’s true. So why did we think we needed to set up Birders Against Wildlife Crime (BAWC) anyway? Because while the information is available, it’s often very hard to find. Most organisations that cover wildlife crime are concerned with numerous other issues too. The specific fact we want may not be buried, but it’s rarely standing in the open either! As proof of that the birders who set up BAWC have well over a hundred years of birding experience between them, but – like most birders we know – couldn’t have answered every question in the last few paragraphs either.

So what we’re doing (‘doing’, note, not ‘done’ – this is an ongoing project) is to put all the information we need, written in plain English, in one place. We want to help make tackling wildlife crime as natural as picking up a pair of binoculars, so everything we’re doing is guided by one prevailing thought: we’re birders, we’ll be using the website, how would we want the information laid out so that we can get our questions answered quickly and easily?
On top of that we want BAWC to be an effective campaigning group. We don’t have members, we’re totally independent, and we’re not bound by charters. We’re free to ask the questions that some other organisations can’t. Why do birders feel that no-one will be held to account when Red Kites are poisoned? Why is that many birders feel that even if they do report wildlife crime nothing will be done? And if someone is caught, why are punishments often so insignificant?

There are a lot of questions to ask. And we’re not saying we have all the answers. Between us we do though. The expertise and knowledge held by groups like the South West Peregrine Group is invaluable. We understand that no-one has the right to simply turn up and ask for that knowledge, so we’re working hard to build relationships, to work alongside other organisations. We know it’ll take time, but we can help and promote each other. We can all benefit from that. Much more importantly though, our wildlife will benefit. If every time birders went into the field – wherever they were – they were looking out for wildlife crime and feeding information to the right people imagine what we could achieve. We will never be able to stop wildlife crime (we’re dreamers at BAWC but we’re not deluded), but if criminals knew that birders were on the look out for them, knew what to do if they saw a crime, and had the information at their fingertips to get that crime reported to the right people every time…

We may not be able to stop every crime from taking place, but we can help tip the balance back in favour of our wildlife. We can make it so that criminals are looking over their shoulders all of the time, that wildlife crime becomes a higher priority than it is now, and that when a criminal is caught it matters to them. Why did we set up BAWC? The simple truth is that we’re birders and we’re sick of crimes against our wildlife. We think we can make a difference. And we are determined that we will.

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