The young male.
am writing this from an uncomfortable stool in my hide overlooking the Peregrine nest territory that I have been assiduously, some would say obsessively watching on most days, since the eggs hatched, 10 weeks ago.
One of the young females.
It's now Wednesday the 20th and 2 days since I last visited the Peregrine site.
Now with the the youngsters in their 10th week, they have started to develop a strong suspicion of humans which is exactly what they need to do as they step towards independence and then adulthood.
I am quit sure that they are still being fed by the adults at the moment and even the other day I had a very exciting encounter when the adult tercel flew in with prey. However, the youngsters spend a lot of time just sitting quietly on a few favoured perches now but at times they are away from the vicinity totally.
The adults now are never perched here near the nest ledge which is exactly the way it has been in previous years.
I have spent a couple of hours waiting for them to come in to the tree today and one did arrive and stayed for a just a short while but since then, nothing. It's not been too tedious however, my iPod is full of my favourite music and there is something special about Beethoven and Tchaikovsky when you are in such a peaceful place, perhaps this is what heaven will be like?
I am sure that there will be more peregrine pictures to follow but I think that the opportunities are going to become less and less now. At the end of the week I am off to the island of Minorca in the med for 7 days and on my return it will be interesting to see if they are still here.
I was pleased to see today that the Blog has now exceeded 200,000 page views, with 114.000 different people reading my blog. This is an amazing statistic and I could never have imagined when I started blogging in October 2007 that it would have been so popular. There are 1800 entries. I would never have imagined that so many people would be interested in what I have to say.
I like to think that I post interesting content and here is a video of a young Peregrine Falcon that I was lucky enoughto film yesterday.
I haven't been able to get to the Peregrine territory much this last week because of family commitments but this morning I spent almost 4 hours there and for most of the time I had one or two young Peregrines in front of my lens. The youngsters are 63 days old today...... that's 9 weeks of course. Quite oddly the adults didn't come in to feed their youngsters while I was there which was just bad luck (for me). They must have been fed before I arrived. I had been worried because on my previous visits recently I hadn't seen all three youngsters together and I was a tad concerned that one of the female's had succumbed. Mortality rates in young Peregrines are known to be high especially when they are still too young to feed themselves.
I can tell the difference between the young male and his siblings. It's very easy when they are together but when just one is in front of you it's not quite so easy. Firstly, the young tercel (that's the male) came on to the branch and I could confirm that he was OK, that was good news. Then after a short while, one of the female's flew in, so now I knew that there were two. I was very thrilled that while this female was in front of me, another female came in and landed on a perch beneath. It was great to confirm the presence and safety of all three young birds! I made a point of photographing the heads of both the young male and one of the females because you can clearly see that there is a difference in beak size and shape as well as different markings on the head.
The head of the male is more rounded and the beak is slightly shorter. Compare the markings on the head on the picture of a young female below.
This is one of the females flying in to "that favourite perch". I tried very hard to get some in flight shots today but it didn't really happen as much as I would have liked.
As far as behaviour is concerned now, the youngsters spend a lot of their time just sitting around but always looking very alert. From time to time they leave the perch and fly around obviously honing their flying skills. They are not quite as vocal as they were last week but from time to time they will call to each other. At the first sight of an adult they will call and scream in a very excited way.
It's Sunday the 10th of August now and the young Peregrines are 8 weeks old, plus or minus a day.
There's definitely a change in behaviour today (Friday). It was quite a while before I even heard a Peregrine let alone saw one today. Then suddenly I heard one, then two calling close behind me. It was good to hear them because I had almost started to worry for their safety. Then just to reassure me further, one of the young females landed on the branch in front of the hide as you can see, she flew off and then came back to the same place 30 minutes later, staying then for just a short while. Occasionally I heard peregrines calling quite a distance away and then there was another calling somewhere to my left and much nearer so it seems as though everything is fine but they are definitely keeping a low profile today. I am going to have to cut short my session soon because of a dental visit but I managed some nice photographs such as the example above.
Sometimes the audio is a little subdued, this is because at times I need to speak in a quiet voice so as not to disturb the birds in front of me.
The session yesterday started with real excitment and finished up even better. I managed to get in to the hide without disturbing any birds even though there was one of the youngsters on the branch just in front of the hide when I got there. Using the tree and hide as a shield, I slid in on my back to get inside, the bird had again departed but within seconds was back and very excitingly for me, he had a small song abird in his talons. This is the first time that I have been lucky enough to be able to photograph this at close range and I was thrilled. He proceeded to eat it and after a short time one of his sisters flew in to join him. To my surprise he flew off after let his sibling take the prey from him. There was no tussle, noise or argument, he was quite content to allow his larger and stronger sister take the prey from him. This was interesting behaviour proving perhaps that right from the start of their lives, young males are sub-dominant to the larger females of the species.
I continued to watch and wait and not too much later the young male returned acting very excitedly. This time I was set up to try and catch some in flight action and I snapped off the camera as he landed. When I looked up and out I could see that beneath him the female was also in the tree and she was plucking prey. I was very excited at this because this was just the kind of behaviour that I wanted to photograph. Within minutes and with the youngster calling excitedly and expectantly, the adult flew up withthe prey.
I quickly swapped lenses being careful to be as quiet and discreet as I could be. There was a lot of noise and commotion going on and this helped to mask the sound of the shutter which is something that I am sure disturbs the adults. I managed to photograph both birds as the feeding took place. In the end, this turned out to be the highlight of 3 years work…..if you can call it work…. I had planned to be in the right place at the right time in the hope of getting the shots that I wanted and it was paying of for me. Can you image being there and having all this wild activity going on just in front of you, a real privilege.
When I looked through the viewfinder and I knew that I had photographed the female so close I was ecstatic. She continued to pick small pieces of her prey to feed the youngster. Judging by the colour the kill looked to be a Collared Dove with noticeable white underwings and the creamy buff feather colour quite evident. If you compare the image above with that of the adult male that I took last week then you can clearly see the differences in the two sexes. Here is a link to last weeks picture.
The young tercel resting on the tree.
I had a very good 7 hour session yesterday at the Peregrine territory. When I arrived it was pandemonium with a cacophony of screams and calls from the youngsters who were spread out all around me. They go mad and scream like this whenever the catch sight of an adult because they know that this will usually finish up with one or more of them being fed. As it happened the young tercel was the lucky recipient and he brought his prey to the tree and proceeded to eat it from a spot that was totally obscured by oak leaves. I could only just see what was happening through glimpses between the leaves. Then when he had finished, a Jay came in to the tree and proceeded to scream at the young peregrine. A brave bird but it was enough to disturb the peregrine who flew up to the branch right in front of me and from that moment onwards there was either, 1 then 2 and at times all 3 young peregrines right there for me to choose which one to film and photograph. When you consider that I am only 20 feet from them, then its a magnificent spectacle to say the least. I think I have mentioned that my 300 lens is out of action which is somewhat limiting because the 500 is too large and this means that I can't always get all of the birds in the frame particularly when there are two together, and then three….. well forget it. I watched the young tercel, obviously hungry again, actually eating dead decaying wood and afterwards you could see where he had been breaking it off. Then later he decided to try and see if oak leaves were edible. I suspect that this is all about investigating his environment as much as anything.
A very alert young female screaming for food but also keeping a close watch on the hide, suspecting that there is something not quite right. She has inherited the necessary cautious and alert instinct that makes them so, so hard to get close to.
The young Tercel who I have fallen in love with.....considering that I have been watching him from the moment he hatched, even seeing him as a wet nestling minutes after he emerged from the egg, I also witnessed his first flight, it's very satisfying for me to see him doing well.
Just wonderful opportunities yesterday, I am thrilled that all my patience and planning came together so well. I spent 25 hours in this particular hide without one photo opportunity and now that the young peregrines have left the nest ledge the photo opportunities have increased, not only because the youngsters are not as vigilant as their parents but there are now 5 birds flying around! When I served in the Royal Marines we talked about the 5 "Ps". Thats Planning, Preparation, Patience, Perseverance which leads to good Performance…. there is a slightly more crude version of that but you get the picture.
If you listen to the audio clip below you will be able to share in the capture of this photograph. The youngsters have been left he nest for a few days now and are already able to fly strongly. What's more, they are able to land successfully which is a real skill that doesn't come easily. I knew that as soon as they had mastered this they would be using the old oak tree as a good resting place and so it proved today with the young tercel spending 1 hour and three quarters on the branches just in front of the hide that I erected there in anticipation of just such an event. The image below is just about how it was and trimmed a little for artistic effect but not cropped. In fact the big problem at the moment is that my 300 lens is broken and I had to use the 500 which is a little large and I could hardly get all the bird in the frame and compose it nicely. I base hundreds and hundreds of shots and some great movie as well.
I have started to use audio on the blog recently and today I recorded the comings and goings from the nest territory as some interesting behaviour took place, listen above. I use the word territory because the young peregrines have now fledged the nest ledge. It has been an incredibly interesting day and I have a tale to tell. Listen to the audio and also watch the movie but here's a summary of proceedings. When I arrived it was quiet but I quickly located one of the 3 youngsters. It was exactly where it had been yesterday, beneath the nest ledge and about 10 feet to the left. All 3 youngsters had vacated the nest and finished up here, but yesterday and today, only one remained. It wasn't long before I heard the familiar sound of a calling peregrine and this went on for a while with the youngster chipping in to answer. I felt absolutely sure that prey was going to be brought to the youngster and after the calling had gone on for at least 15 minutes it rose to a deafening crescendo as the adult falcon flew in with a magpie. The screaming was very loud because accompanying the adult was the young tercel! The magpie was duly fed to both young birds and after a short while the young tercel flew away strongly. This was the first time that I had seen any of the the youngsters fly and it was brilliant to see how adept he was, flying like a skilled adult already. He is no doubt, enjoying his new found freedom to fly where he likes. After the feeding had gone on for 10 minutes or so, the falcon attempted to take the prey away from the youngster but the baby peregrine was having none of that and a tug of war ensued with the both birds pulling as hard as they could from either end of the carcass. I filmed this with much excitement. The female gave up and left the young one to it. She landed in her favourite spot in the old oak and remained there for a while. Then I saw that the other young female was also in the tree, meaning that I had located all 3 youngsters and glad to see them safe. The youngster was right next to the other hide so I waited until the adult had left the tree and then went to take up a position there in the hope of a close up of the youngster. I waited and waited, in fact for 3 hours and I could hear the youngster calling now and then. Eventually the young bird moved on to the exact spot where I had the camera focused and with very little difficulty, recorded video and took photos of the young falcon. The excitement continued as an adult arrived to feed it and they both flew off, adult and youngster. No doubt the youngster took delivery of prey, seconds later the adult tercel was on the branch again but I couldn't photograph him this time though. What an absolutely superb day.
Here's the 43 day old youngster.
Listen to the Audio-Boo above and you will have an insight in to what feels like to be at a Peregrine nest site. Incidentally I am licensed by Natural England to photograph at this Scedule 1. nest site. (It is against the law to photograph without a license).
This morning the young Pergrines had well and truly fledged the nest with two being absent completely and the third on a ledge neaby. I never did see the other two but he adult tercel came in to feed the youngster still present. I a quite certain that allthree will be seen together in the territory over the next few days adn weeks.
Here is a picture of the remaining youngster.
The following photograph was taken as a Schedule license holder for peregrine at this nest site.
Listen to audio clip above, recorded within a minute of taking the photo below. I have been planning this shot for months and since I managed to get a hide errected which is overlooking this perch, I have put in a total of more than 25 hours just waiting. The perch is a favourite of the tercel (pictured). He likes to just sit there and relax as he keeps guard over his youngsters from a distance. He also uses this perch to pluck his prey. In the 25 hours or more of sat waiting for him, this is the one and only time that he has perched there. He was in the right spot for just 4 seconds or so before flying down to the youngsters beneath him. I can't be sure of what prey he has but I suspect it is a Greater spotted Woodpecker again.
Please listen to the AudioBoo recording below. This is another way to publish to the blog, rather than in written word I tell the story….it's the way ahead, a great way to publish content to the blog.
At 40 days, the young Peregrines have now fledged the nest and they begin the next stage of their young lives. It's been a mamoth task by the adults to reproduce this year and they have been involved in nesting activity since March. They are magnificent creatures and equally magnificent parents, intelligent, dilligent and persistent. Att every step, even with a disasster they have been undaunted and their persistance has paid off in the end. There is still a long way to go. Now they have the task of teaching the youngsters to hunt for themselves. I am looking forward to watching as much of this as I can. So, please listen to the audio clip below and enjoy. Photo's of the newly fledged birds to follow.
The oldest of the two falcon eyes, (females), now left the nest ledge and on the rock face nearby.
The adult tercel with a Great-spotted Woodpecker, on his favourite perch, plucking the kill prior to delivering it to one of his youngsters.
This is the adult tercel delivering his kill to the young tercel.
The handover takes place.
Having delivered his plucked woodpecker to the young tercel, the adult tercel flies clear of the ledge.
The peregrines are now 37 and 39 days old and about to fledge the nest. Here is a short movie of them yesterday. Not the youngster with the most down is the youngest bird. The smaller bird with no down is a young tercel and other is a falcon. I expect when I return today to check, that at least one if not both the older youngsters will have fledged the nest.
Quite a dramatic difference in the appearance and size of the two oldest chicks now. Their sibling which at 34 days, obviously a falcon because It is even larger but is not as developed as the older siblings with still lots of fluffy down evident. In the image here the bird being fed appears to be a young tercel. It will not be many more days before this one fledges the nest ledge. I was quite surprised to see the falcon feeding the chicks today. this is the first time for several days that I have seen the chicks being fed. Prey has been delivered to the ledge and the chicks then left to fend for themselves. This seemed to be what I have observed before and I have a theory. The tercel catches smaller prey at a size that the young eyass can cope with whereas the falcon being a much bigger bird, catches larger prey such as Magpie and other corvids.
My quest for that photo of a lifetime continued today. I arrived at the site full of anticipation as normal. It was quiet and the light was perfect which added to the feeling of expectancy. Surely my hours of waiting will pay off? Before I moved over to the tree hide I scanned the oak and the favourite perches, neither adult was in the tree so after checking on the large chicks on the nest ledge, they are fine, I quickly made my way to the hide. Just as I moved off I heard the scream of the tercel in the distance from an area that they have been favouring just lately, it's always reassuring to hear them.
The falcon does a fly past after a Buzzard is heard nearby.
I have changed my tack at the Peregrines nest site now. Having taken literally thousands of pictures all from a distance of 40 yards or so, I have decided on a new approach.
To me, watching these Peregrines is the best free show on earth and today, even though rain was forecast I still went to check on their progress and safety. It's quite striking to see the delicate and good mannered way that Peregrine chicks feed and are fed. I watched one of the youngsters today with a small prey item, a bird of un identified species. As it fed itself, the other siblings made no attempt to steal it or even take a beak full, just quietly standing aside, preening and investigating their temporary home. At this age of 28 and 26 days, you can determine the difference, if not on size then by the noticeable difference in the emerging plumage. The older two have discernibly more "real" feathers, brown and buff, pushing through the down with a speckled appearance on both the breast and back being obvious now.
The female regurgitates a pellet.
When I first arrived I had heard and then discovered the female sat on the rock face nearby. She had given herself away by calling now and then. Peregrine calls to my ears are blood curdling screams. I quickly found her in my camera's viewfinder and then watched as she regurgitated a pellet which is something I know they must do but hadn't seen before. As I sat quietly, the male......that's the tercel......silently came in to the nest ledge with the prey that I mentioned above. I knew that was going to happen because of the reaction of the watching female who called almost maniacally, reaching a crescendo as her mate landed on the ledge. Hehanded over the kill and left just as quickly.
Later on, after I hadn't seen the female for a while there was a really harsh, almost frightening scream from somewhere beneath me and close. The youngsters on the nest immediately reacted, their calls are getting louder and stronger every day and it's now interesting to see that they recognise the calls of their parents and when they hear them they expect to be fed.
They were right, the female flew from near me to a spot under the old oak. She was carrying a large prey item and it seemed as though she could hardly fly with it. I suspected that she had gone to pluck it and when she still hadn't delivered it to the ledge I reasoned that she was eating it herself but she wasn't but It took 15 minutes for the female to deliver it to the very excited youngsters and then they gorged themselves greedily, fed by the falcon. It was a magpie yet again, a very popular prey item with the falcon. She is a Magpie specialist.! She had removed the tail and wings....and the head of course, this is the usual way of killing the prey.
I have a Schedule 1. license to photograph at this nest site.
The young Peregrines are 28 days old tomorrow, no longer looking like tiny defenceless chicks but bigger and stronger than ever. I watched one feeding itself like an adult earlier and it's almost incomprehensible to see how they have developed in such a short time. They seem now to have a body bulk at least as large as the tercel and look plump and well nourished. Still predominantly white with down, they have the makings of a proper tale and wings to match. I was incredibly lucky when I arrived, almost immediately, prey was bought to the ledge by the falcon. This time it was a Magpie, this seems to be a large part of the falcon's diet, I have seen 4 as prey now. This kill was an adult, the chicks made short work of consuming it. On this occasion he fed it to them.
I have a Schedule 1 License to photograoh at this nest site. It is a against the law to photograph at a Peregrine nest site and territory without a license.
Day 25 at the Peregrines nest and again, some changes in behaviour now. The young are getting adventurous, investigating their surroundings with more and more interest. One bird in particular seems to be more active than its siblings, not only moving around the ledge much more but also preening and stretching.
When I arrived I could see the youngsters on the ledge and then through the camera lens I saw that the female was there as well. She had obviously just fed them and continued to do this as I watched. The kill was a Magpie (pica pica), the second or perhaps even third that she has bought to the ledge, ( that I have seen). My observations seem to point to a large difference in prey between the two adults. The tercel seems to bring smaller prey such as, for example, Swallows, a Bullfinch and other small passerines, the largest prey being a Collared Dove and of course Great spotted Woodpecker......5 in total. The much larger female catches larger birds. Magpie, Jackdaw etc. and of course, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers of her own. Woodpeckers as prey is a surprise to me.
As the female continued to feed, the tercel flew in with a small prey item which he attempted to feed to the chicks but they were not interested in his offering, probably because they were well fed already by the falcon and it wasn't long before he flew off again. (See above). I could see that they were also losing interest in her prey as well and backed away from her as their crops began to bulge with food. The female finished the magpie off herself and then just like I had seen her do yesterday, she made her way to a high bank on the ledge taking a wing from the kill with her. Here she was above the youngsters. This area is probably warm and a little more sheltered than lower down. I watched her snoozing, I suppose this is as good a spot as any to rest after a feed. Here she remained for an age, reasonably alert with eyes closed only momentarily. Life must be good for a Peregrine.
One aspect of behaviour from both adults is well worth recording. I have said often that both birds do not seem to have any concerns about movement from the hide and even when I am entering and exiting, the birds are seemingly oblivious. They do react if they see movement anywhere else, even if this is further from them than the hide. With eyesight 10 times more efficient than ours, to me it is pretty obvious that they are fully aware of my presence but choose to ignore it. However, I have become aware that this is no longer the case. For example, yesterday, the female came in with it's Magpie kill and I am quite sure she was going to deal with it, quite close to the hide on a nearby ledge. However with much moaning and noise, she stared at the hide and then flew off again carrying the Magpie in her talons. She returned to the nest ledge a little later with the now plucked prey and fed the youngsters. I have now camouflaged the front of the hide to prevent any disturbance.
I hadn't been to the Peregrines since last Friday, it had been incredibly wet and had I allowed myself I could have been worried. It's now 4 days on and as I expected, any fear of them not coping with the wet conditions was totally unfounded. Not only have they survived, they are now 4 days bigger and stronger. Sleep is the order of the day and calm pervades. Adults are noticeable by their absence but from time to time I hear a Peregrine's distant call. I am not skilfully enough to identify either male or female by call when isolated but if they are together the male is more high pitched. This is due, no doubt to the size difference in the birds and specifically the organ that makes the sound. In music and sound production, smaller is always higher. Already I note a change in behaviour. The calls went on and the male flew direct to the nest with prey which was almost certainly a swallow. Instead of staying to feed them, which was happening until last Friday when the chicks were 20 days old, we have moved on now to the chicks learning to feed themselves. It's fascinating to see one of the chicks holding the prey down with its talons as it tries to take meat from the breast. I can clearly see now that it is a swallow. To describe the chicks: they are 24 and 22 days old. They are fluffy white, predominantly covered in down. Wing feathers are emerging and these form a dark band along both wings. There is the start of a tail in all three, at the moment a stubby dark band. As they feed, there is no sibling rivalry whatsoever, one is trying to feed itself as the other two look on, then one joins in. It's all quite a gentle affair with no grabbing and tussling, very good mannered and peaceful. From time to time they flap their emerging wings and preen regularly. To continue to paint the scene, there is again no sign of the adults apart from, as described, the occasional scream call from somewhere in the distance. I have yet to see the female today. This is typical behaviour and follows the pattern that I recall from previous years with glimpses of the adults a rare treat when the chicks are this age.
At last I managed to get a photo that I am almost happy with. In the wet and dismal conditions the tercel was sat in a reasonably dry spot. It looks like I have finally worked out how to get the best from the camera and lens. If you are not a photoggrapher then you may think that its just a case of pointing the camera at the subject and pressing the shutter. I can assure you that there is so much more to it than that! Fine judgements and adjustments are needed and getting to know how to get the best out of the camera and lens is very important.
It's a wet day again and a little damp in the hide to say te least. The inevitable drip is not the most comfortable so I don't know how the young peregrines are feeling, huddled together for warmth and with no shelter whatsoever, save for perhaps some shrubs above the nest scrape and a slight overhang above. The parents have made no attempt to shelter them for the time that I have been here, preferring to sit either next to them on the ledge, a foot or so away, or in the case of the tercel about 50 yards away on on the rock face as you can see above. I find it incredible that the adults are seemingly oblivious to the wet conditions that the youngsters are having to endure. But they dont seem to be doing too badly. They were fed several hours ago at 11 0'clock, sorry to say but it was another Great spotted Woodpecker, that makes 6 now! I had just missed the tercel feeding before I arrived. I know this because I could see that he not only had a full bulging crop but also blood from the kill on his breast. I f you didn't know or realise this, birds have a sack in the throat which is part of the digestive system. Food is packed in to this sack, called the crop, before it then passes down in to the stomach. This enables birds to gorge on food which is then stored in the crop. Perhaps this is not that important for peregrines but birds are able to take food "on board" quickly and then fly to safety to begin the digestive process. This is a good strategy that enables vulnerable birds to feed quickly to escape predation. ...... by a peregrine perhaps!! Even though it's raining, as I have said, I still waited for some action. I have a remote camera set up on the favourite food exchange spot and I was hoping to record some better video of this exciting part of their behaviour. (No luck I am afraid).
I was very keen to discover how long it was going to be between a kill being brought, I remained for almost 6 hours because thats how long it took, yet another woodpecker! Oddly the female seems to be doing most of the hunting now.
She definitely caught the woodpecker because the male had spent most of the afternoon sat on the rock face. Even when she brought in the kill he didn't react, choosing to sit up there probably digesting the meal that he had consumed just before I arrived.
Now with the chicks at 19 days the adults are likely to be away from the nest ledge for longer and longer periods and that's just the way it is now. At the beginning of the visit, prey was brought and exchanged as normal, that was 2 hours ago and since then the adults have been away. From time to time the distant sound of a peregrine scream breaks the silence and no doubt patience is all it is going to take before they return yet again, and for certain they will.
The young chicks, now at 18 days continue to thrive. They are more mobile on the nest ledge and I watched one flapping and moving around the scrape this evening. In spite of a 2 1/2 hour session not a great deal took place for long periods, quietness mostly being the order of the day. But patience always pays dividends. Suddenly the tercel arrived with a small plucked bird which was possibly yet another woodpecker, it had remains of white feathers on the wings and I can't think of any other bird that fits the description. The hand over, which I nearly photographed, took place in the oak tree and then down she came to the nest to feed the chicks, all pretty routine stuff. The feeding took just a fraction of the usual time, a minute or two. On completion, she left the ledge and came to a perch very close, but out of sight of the hide and screamed loudly, flying back to the oak tree she continued to scream which I took as a sign to the tercel to get more prey. In her usual position she seemed to wait for his arrival.
All photographs of Peregrine Falcon on this blog have been taken legally as a holder of a Schedule 1 License. No disturbance whatsoever has taken place . For the protection of these birds the location will never be divulged. Further, in discussion with an official from the BTO licensing team I was given the all clear and a strong endorsement to post photographs on the Blog and I quote, "tell their story". Further to this I have been in close contact with environmental academics from Exeter University and asked for advice. I have been told that there is absolutely no problem with what has already been posted.
The chicks are now 17 and 15 days old. The falcon (and I) sat waiting for the tercel to return with prey. She is perched quietly on her favourite branch beneath where the tercel is inclined to land with his kills. She will then excitedly fly up to him and a frenzied exchange will take place. Exchange is too polite a word in fact because the falcon will grab it from him before taking it off to the nest ledge and the youngsters. This has happened already since my early arrival in the morning, it was another swallow, a tiny morsel for three now large chicks. I expect he would l be back with more before long. Interestingly this is the second swallow that I have seen as a kill. Quite remarkable when you consider the acrobatic flight of the species. I can't be certain, but this one looked as though it was a newly fledged juvenile so I assume at wasn't a fast flyer. In the end she gave up wating and flew off strongly. Sometime later she came back with much excitement as usual. She had made a kill and it was a Jackdaw. She flew in to the oak and then preceded to pluck and eat some of it. All the while the tercel was on a nearby perch and nonchalantly preening and seemingly took no interest whatsover apart from keeping out of her way. After the Jackdaw had been well and truly plucked, it was delivered to the chicks and fed to them.
Ascertaining the species of kills can be difficult, especially smaller prey items. However so far, I have seen a reasonable list of prey which has included Swallow* Great-spotted Woodpecker* Collared Dove, Bullfinch, Blackbird* Jackdaw, Magpie, Pigeon and unidentified*. Species marked* indicate more than one of each.
I returned later in the evening to see if I could discover anything new. I was surprised to see that the female was on the nest, obviously ready to stay with them for the night hours. The tercel was on the nearby tree obviously keeping watch. Suddenly a Buzzard came a bit too close and he called his alarm, launched himself from his perch and flew at the Buzzard (Buteo buteo), it seemed as though contact was made, the Buzzard taking as much evasive action as it could. They both disappeared from sight and I don't think the Buzzard fell. I was half (well less than half expecting the tercel to return with the buzzard as prey….. sure that would never happen! Meanwhile the falcon remained on the nest with her chicks.
As I sit here watching and waiting at the peregrine nest site, the oldest chicks are now 16 days. I have been searching my limited vocabulary for a suitable word to describe the adults behaviour now. Words like dramatic, extreme and sea change spring to mind but I think marked fills the bill. In what way is this, I guess you are asking? Well for example, it's quiet now, very quiet. When I arrived I could see the chicks on the ledge and there was no sign of either parent but after a search of the area with binoculars, I could see the falcon in the old oak, but hidden. But after only a minute or two she had slipped quietly away. That's the first change, parents are spending less and less time on the ledge with them. Brooding appears to have finished completely, not only that but in between feeds the tercel is away from the nest site for increasingly long periods. I arrived early this morning and so far the only activity worth noting is the sight of three comatose, sleeping chicks. A buzzard calling nearby and my own rather boring company! I suspect that at this age the chicks are easily catered for, they eat every few hours, it was 5 between feeding yesterday, and sleeping. Their growth is dramatic and they are now plump and fat the size of a quail. the bare skin around the dark eyes, yellow in adults, is a delicate powder blue. The beaks are white and the feet and legs are already a deep egg yolk yellow colour. The talons are already impressive weapons, long sharp and steel blue. Annoyingly there is a growth of grass just in front and to the right of the nest bowl which limits viewing quite often. This growth of both grass and naval wort plants perhaps proves that this is a regularly used nest ledge (as I know it is). This is the only area of the face where plants flourish proving perhaps that years of peregrine guano is a good fertiliser.
As yet, they are not moving around the nest ledge and exploring but I have seen them mouthing feathers that litter the ledge. They instinctively preen increasingly more regularly. Their voices are getting louder, first heard when they were 12 days old.
I have just witnessed some amazing, remarkable behaviour, probably one of my best ever wildlife experiences. As I sat here with no sign of either parent, there was suddenly the sound of both birds circling around in front of me, calling and screaming. I immediately sighted the tercel on a ledge. He continued to scream as usual. The falcon came to him with a really large prey item and delivered it to him. , He proceeded to pluck and eat from the kill. As he dealt with it, plucking and feasting, the falcon was on her favourite perch, calling loudly. 15 minutes went by when suddenly the female left her perch, flew towards the tercel and grabbed the now half eaten prey from him and flew back to her favourite tree. She had second thoughts about landing there but went with the carcass deeper past the old oak and beneath to a spot where I couldn't see her, presumably to feed on the remains. The kill was too large for the tercel to fly with as I saw him struggle as he dragged it to a better position. All this is remarkable because the falcon had obviously killed the prey and flown in with it but the tercel, too small to carry it himself, was then offered it by the larger female.
What happened next was not unexpected. The falcon emerged and flew from her hidden perch with the remains of the carcass to the nest ledge where she proceeded to feed the 3 youngsters. After several minutes and after they had all had their fill, I witnessed some remarkable behaviour. I photographed her on another ledge with the leftovers, she picked a spot and then stashed it deep in a hole in the rocks. I had heard that they do this but I haven't witnessed or photographed it before. With feeding over, she went back to her favourite perch, the chicks were asleep and the almost ungrateful tercel flew off as if he felt uneasy about being near his mate. So the female today provided food for herself, her mate....who she fed first, the 3 chicks and still had some to stash for later. She is one hell of a successful bird!
Before I start my post for today I wanted to just note that the page views for my blog have now exceeded 200000. I have posted 1750 posts..... That's three times more pages than War and Piece! Blogging is a fantastic way for ordinary people like myself to communicate with the world around them. Thank you Sir Timothy Berners-Lee.
Immediately on arrival today I could sense a change. As I parked the car I saw a peregrine flying strongly over my head, it was the tercel and the first time I had seen one well away from the nest site.
At the site and now from my hide, the falcon was in the favourite tree, nothing new there. I looked through the binoculars at her but was surprised to hear the guttural clucking that is associated with feeding. The tercel was on the nest ledge! This is the first occasion that I have seen the male feeding the chicks this year. Last year when the chicks were much older both birds had fed the youngsters. It seems that we have reached the stage where this duty is shared. The female remained on the tree, calling grumpily throughout. When feeding was over, he then flew up to the tree to a perch above her as normal and they continued to grumble to each other.
Now the sad part. I had said when I left yesterday that the younger chick which had hatched two days later and was 12 days old , looked a bit worse for wear. It seems as though it has succumbed overnight because when the observed feeding took place, all I could see was 2 strong heads taking food. This is a massive shame but if it proves to be accurate then it's not unexpected. Sad as I am, there is also a sense of relief that the two older birds have survived and with the forecast predicting less rain in the coming week it looks like the remming two will go on to fledge successfully.
I am observing the nest with "live view" on my camera as I write this, hoping to see the third chick which was not tiny. However, obviously getting wet and chilled had been too much for it to cope with. There is just the slight chance that the bird has survived but this is unlikely because surely it would have been taking food like its older siblings.
Both parents have been spending increasingly extended periods off the nest these last two or three days and this, coupled with the wet conditions, has proved too much for the younger chick. Further proof, if it were needed, of the vulnerability of these birds. Nature takes its course, one Peregrine Falcon has fallen at the first hurdle.
The two adults stayed in the old tree for 45 minutes until the tercel departed silently. I expected him to return with prey but he didn't have a kill with him when he came back a while late. The falcon, then after more than an hour, coinciding with a rain shower, came down to the nest ledge where she fed the youngsters unenthusiastically with the remains of a previous kill. Then very surprisingly and perhaps unusually, she departed the nest area totally or that is what it seemed, although she could be sitting on a perch that I a not aware of. The male was also away during that period and there was no sign of either adult for an hour and a half. The young birds were not only unbrooded but unprotected from any predators.
Eventually when she came back she went straight to the favoured tree and called out as if to try and communicate with the tercel. She still didn't go down to the chicks but instead continued to call. She left the tree yet again and this time the male returned but without prey. She joined him again and the calling continued. They continued to call to each other from different perches but still no prey! Then minutes later he left again (1553) followed 3 minutes later by the female, minutes later she was back again. The tension was building and I was pretty sure that very soon the male would return with a kill? I would describe the falcon at this point as agitated. Various alarm calls where being sounded around the nest area including a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Blackbird. It will be interesting to see what prey gets brought. My session had lasted for more than 5 hours and frankly I was hoping that this drama would come to an end. But the situation continued with both birds back in the tree and still no kill. I wish I knew what was going on.
I was quite sure that the male was on a hunt now as I saw him then fly off strongly in to the distance. Then something really different happened. A corvid landed on the tree and with much calling the female flew down to protect her chicks. She remained on the ledge with the chicks who were by now starting to call out with hunger perhaps.
The tercel was getting almost frantic now, her screams becoming even more agitated and intense as she circled around and landed back on that favourite perch. Eventually here he was with a kill, yet another Great spotted Woodpecker (thats four now) and then as a lovely end to my session.....I saw three chicks, it seems that all have survived after all!!!
Just a reminder that all photographs have been taken under the terms of a Schedule 1. Photograph License which allows me to legally photograph at this nest site. Without such a license it is illegal to photograph at a Peregrine nest site.
The tercel leaves the tree carrying a pigeon kill. The foot you can see on the right is in fact the pigeon's foot not the Peregrines.
The day's watching began with both birds off the nest ledge. The three chicks endured last nights heavy rain but I wasn't concerned having seen how they had shrugged off the heavy showers of the previous 24 hours. It's still very showery and in spite of rain falling, the falcon was content to be on the favourite tree with the tercel just above her. The male never seems confident enough to sit next to her, she is considerably bigger than him and in the world of Peregrine Falcons, size does matter.
My hide now has a waterproof cover which is making life for me quite comfortable. I have to confess that the birds tolerance to the rain and obvious wet is a surprise and has added to my knowledge of the species. As I worked on the hide yesterday, both parents ignored me completely yet they must have been aware of me. I discussed this with Professor Tyler the other day and we talked about the eyesight of these birds which is 10 times more effective than our own. Simply put, these birds are most certainly aware of my presence in the hide and on the walk to and from it. They are acclimatised to me and choose to ignore me. This was illustrated the other day when I left some equipment in the hide, I came back to get it and was dressed in every day clothes. This was noticed by the tercel who grumbled noisily, I left quickly.
In terms of food, their prey seems to be varied and opportunistic. The other day, woodpeckers featured but I haven't seen them being brought in the last few days. Small prey items make up the majority of kills. These kills are quite hard to identify once plucked. Plucking seems to start with wing feathers. I watched the falcon plucking the swallow the other day and she vigorously removed the wing feathers before moving to the breast. She removed feathers and skin from that area before feeding small pieces of meat complete with black down to the chicks.
Even though it has rained, on and off all day and sometimes very heavily, life on the nest ledge has gone on as normal. I was there for 4 hours and in that time the chicks were fed just once. This was a small song bird which I couldn't identify. Later the tercel arrived on the old tree with a larger kill which was already half plucked but he continued to pluck and then eat it. This was a big surprise, I expected the female to take it and then feed the chicks again but she didnt, instead allowing him to consume most of it even though she was not on the nest but on a branch beneath. All the time this was happening, the chicks were on the nest in the cool rain. I am sure the falcon knows what she is doing but I did expect her to spend more time sheltering the youngsters. The youngest of the three chicks did appear to be wet. Time will only tell if the siblings continue to do well. There are still at least two weeks to go before fledging.
This little video shows from 17 secs to 1.25 the chicks being fed on a Magpie.
As I travelled out to the Peregrines this morning I was at a low ebb. It was still raining and had been, on and off for the last 24 hours with more of the same forecast.
I trudged along towards my hide and I was already wet through, how could the youngsters endure this?
How resilient are they?
How clever is the falcon?
Would she see the need to try to keep them dry?
At the hide, I barely dare even look, I lifted my binoculars and through the gloom I could see the falcon on the nest ledge and next to her, a bundle of white fluff. I prayed for movement... and there it was, the chicks, well at least one of them was OK!
As you can see from today's pictures, I need not have fretted because all three are still as strong, well stronger in fact, than ever. They had pushed under the her as much as they could and obviously by huddling together they have avoided getting chilled and also been protected from the rain by the falcon and possibly an overhang above them.
I am learning all the time about this species. It is my third year of observing this nest site and every day I discover something different. It is a fabulous way to spend a day. Sat comfortably in front of a Peregrine Falcons nest, observing their lives and recording it on film and photograph. The only way to really learn about wildlife is by observation. You can read as many text books as you like but seeing things first hand and coming to your own conclusions is the only real way.
The male is not seen all the while at the site and on the face of it, he seems to have an easy time. He never visits the nest ledge alone. I never saw him incubating this clutch of eggs, but I did see him on the first failed nest. He has taken no part in the brooding of the chicks when I have been watching. However, he has caught, to my knowledge, all of the prey for the three chicks. He rarely delivers his kills to the nest but instead he will perch on a favourite tree or opposite and scream to the falcon who will come to him and take the prey. Thi is quite often preceeded by her screaming for him to bring food. I am told that his duties will include patrolling the large territory and he will have favourite perches well away from the nest site.
When the chicks first hatched it seemed that they were fed three times a day and this continued for the first week. Now feeding has increased dramatically and they appear to have food brought to them every 2 to 3 hours or so. Prey items have included Great -spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Bullfinch, Swallow and Blackbird with a couple of kills unidentifiable due to the plucking that takes place off the nest quite often. If the falcon is impatient she will grab the kill from the tercel and complete the plucking on the nest ledge making it easier to identify the bird.
I am writing this at the hide and I can see that the female is off the nest and in a tree nearby. She had been in that spot for at least the last 30 minutes. As the chicks get older she will spend increasingly longer periods away from the nest. As I write, she has now joined them on the ledge and is feeding them on the left overs from a previous kill. Closer examination of my pictures taken earlier shows that this kill is in fact a Magpie - pica pica. I saw this as a prey item last year. It seems that the tercel is not particularly selective when it comes to choosing prey.
Back again for more at the Peregrine nest site today. I had decided on a different strategy from the outset and it was quite hard to maintain my discipline. I wanted to stake out the obvious plucking perch that had become apparent yesterday. I am thinking that with patience I will be able to see, film and photograph some good stuff. I have constructed a new hide that is above the nest ledge.....but I can't see it....overlooking the original hide and the plucking station just beneath. This is obviously used very regularly because not only is there a nice safe secure perch but underneath there is a ledge that has caught so much guano that it looks like the decorators have been in to whitewash. Underneath there is further evidence of plucked prey with bones and enough feathers to stuff a cushion. From the original hide I have seen both birds fly to this spot but I can't see it from that position even though it is only around ten feet away which is a real shame.
My arrival this morning coincided with the delivery of a prey item to the nest ledge, the hand over taking place off the ledge in the old tree. Then the falcon was seen to feed from a pigeon carcass which had been on the ledge from a previous delivery. After that it was quiet for more than 3 hours but eventually there was much excitement and commotion with an obvious kill delivery to the nest. From this position I had good views of both birds flying around screaming as they interacted. We now have rain which may possibly be changing their behaviour to a degree but I am unsure of that. Certainly the chicks will need to be protected from this rain, if they get wet then thy will chill, this is the biggest danger to them particularly at the age they are with just fluffy down to insulate them. If this gets we,t, then any protection that provides will be useless.
Just prior to leaving the light rain had turned to a serious downpour. I have to say that the falcon didn't appear to be protecting the chicks from the rain whatsoever. I am somewhat concerned. There is rain forecast for the next couple of days and I can only hope that the falcon gets to grips with the situation and does protect the youngsters.
This image may go on to cause quite a stir. It is quite obviously a Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) I have no idea how often this species is taken as prey by a Peregrine but I now have photographic evidence that this is the case. Can you image the skill that woudl be necessary to catch a swallow in flight.
Todays session was quite significant at the Peregrine site. The chicks are now some 11 days old with the youngest one two days behind but physically not noticeably smaller. As far as behaviour was concerned, the tercel was perched on the old tree when I arrived and the Falcon was on the nest ledge with the youngsters but not brooding them. It was around midday and I was expecting some feeding activity. It was quite a wait and I was not encouraged because there was a visible large bulge in the crop of the adult bird meaning that she had fed recently. The male left the tree after a short while and wasn't seen back again for well over an hour. I first heard him call which was answered by the female, he flew in to the nest and delivered a small bird which looked to be a Bullfinch, there was an obvious white rump and I can't find another bird that would fit the description. This small finch was not going to satisfy the youngsters so it wasn't a big surprise when later on yet another prey item was delivered, this time to my utter astonishment, a swallow. In the meantime, I heard what sounded like the flapping of wings from just beneath the hide. I went out of the hide to an area that gives a good view beneath the hide and was surprised to see that this has become an obvious plucking perch. This is a favourite place that is used by a bird to despatch and then pluck the kill before it is either eaten or delivered as prey. This is going to offer some great photo opportunities in the weeks ahead. It was worth noting today that two new species were brought to the nest in the shape of the Bullfinch and Swallow. Also, it is obvious that there is no pattern to the hand over of prey. Sometimes the female will leave the nest ledge to collect a kill from the tercel or the male will bring it to the ledge. There seems no pattern as to which method of delivery is executed. It did occur to me though that the female and male not only have different sounding calls. the male being slightly higher in pitch than the female but I suspect that there is also a trigger in the male's call that indicates that he has made a kill.... and here it is!
Not really too much to be said about todays 4 hours watching Whinchats on Dartmoor. This is a bird that I always get a thrill out of seeing. It is an African migrant that I have seen them in their winter territories in Western Africa which was a thrill. On Dartmoor they are not too hard to find if you know where to look. The male is a very smart bird with the female not quite so colourful as is the norm.
With the chicks now 8 and 6 days old I returned as normal for a late afternoon and early evening session. I think there is a pattern of feeding. Logic tells me that the chicks are going to require food to get them through the night, obviously this gives a good chance of seeing this interesting part of the life cycle.
When I arrived I could see a peregrine in the old tree even before I had focused on the eyrie. It was the tercel. The falcon was on the ledge, shielding the chicks from the strong sun, panting with beak open and using her outstretched wings like a parasol. I got organised and sat quietly as normal. It wasn't very long before the tercel flew strongly away from his perch. I was sure that he had gone on a hunt. What magnificent and perfectly evolved animals these birds are.
Obviously, as I hadn't been watching for the whole of the afternoon I can only guess at behaviour but I would assume that both parents and chicks had spent a very quiet time in the strong sunshine and heat of the day. As soon as the sun had started to dip, the heat dropped a degree or two and this was the trigger for the tercel to leave to carry out his particular parental duty, that is, to catch prey for the chicks. Yesterday, even though I couldn't see him, I knew he was somewhere in the old tree because downy feathers were rising to be blown gently in the afternoon breeze as he plucked and ate a kill. I have seen this before so I knew that nothing else could be the cause. I was correct because when the tercel eventually delivered the prey it was partially, if not almost entirely eaten. So much so that, apart from a few remaining wing feathers there was nothing to indicate the species but it looked very much like a gull of some sort.
After nearly 3 hours of waiting this afternoon and as it got cooler and cooler, still the tercel hadn't returned. It seemed as though my original guess at behaviour was well off the mark. Wildlife watching is very much like that. One day, yesterday for example, within minutes you will witness some excitement and have great photo opportunities, then the next day there is nothing to see at all. Both the falcon and I listened intently for the characteristic screaming of the tercel which would indicate his return but all I heard was a nearby Great spotted Woodpecker, proving that in spite of the Peregrines predating two of these recently there are still more, I wouldn't want to be a woodpecker living near here!
Then at around 8, the falcon left the nest and seemed to be calling for the tercel to return. The young birds in the eyrie stretched for food but still there was no sign of his return. We had all started to run out of patience.....even the cameras battery started to run out! But I was really interested to see if they would be fed before dusk turned to real night.
Mu wait was rewarded when suddenly at 8 20 the tercel returned. There was a great deal of excited screaming as the hand over of prey took place, not on the ledge this time but on the favourite tree. I quickly trained my camera back on the eyrie to see the female frantically plucking a bird. One of the chicks was even pulling at the tail of the kill which was yet another Great spotted Woodpecker. This species seems to be easy to catch. I am told that they are a particularly stupid bird, more common than they have ever been, so obviously a good food source.
I returned on Monday to find the falcon on the eyrie and the youngsters in the nest scrape as normal. The falcon is now not brooding but just stays with the chicks on the nest ledge. I never see the tercel on the ledge, he is sometimes perched nearby but usually there is no sign of him. After a short time waiting, suddenly again I heard the distinctive sound of the males scream . It was quite obvious that he was perched out of sight and beneath me. The female left her ledge flew over to him and took delivery of a female blackbird and carried it back to he chicks. She plucked it as normal and began to feed the chicks as before.
It doesn't get much better than this, a really exciting couple of hours….wildlife watching and photography at it's very, very best. The 3 chicks are progressing well. The falcon fed all 3 chicks very diligently starting with the oldest first and then carefully making sure that the 3rd and smallest was fed well. Surprisingly for such seemingly aggresive birds it is not a free for all on the nest ledge. After the feeding, which took 10 minutes or so, the falcon picked up the remains of the kill and left the nest ledge, returning a few minutes later to brood the chicks. They are now 7 and 5 days old. Yesterday they had fed on a Great-spotted Woodpecker and the re was evidence of that around he eyrie with feathers of this species really noticeable but it was impossible to say what tis evenings kill was except to say that it was considerably larger than a woodpecker.
This is a great way for me to quickly add video to the blog, its not high quality HD but none the the less interesting for that. It's basically a screen shot of the live view from the back of my Pentax camera filmed with my iPad.
It shows the "falcon" tenderly feeding the youngsters with small pieces of meat from a kill. There was some really interesting observations today. Normally I wouldn't visit around noon but other commitments today dictated that this was the only time that I could visit.
I made my way to the hide and could see the female on the nest ledge with the white fluffy chicks very noticeable. When I had gone last evening the sun was beating down strongly on to the ledge. It was interesting to see how the female shielded the young from the heat with her wings. I wonder, is this learned behaviour or instinctive? Today, it was much duller with the ledge in the shade and with warm ambient temperatures, the chicks were not being brooded and I could see them very easily. I had been trying to discover if the 3rd egg had hatched and it wasn't long before I discovered the good news…. all three eggs have produced chicks.
It is obvious that the incubation commenced after the laying of the second egg and when the 3rd was laid the others would already be 2 days in to development. The 2 eggs hatched on Saturday and when the 3rd hatched it was already 2 days behind. With the chicks 6 days old, the 4 day old sibling is considerably smaller. As I watched the falcon feeding the chicks it was obvious that she is a good mother because I observed her feeding the younger chick very carefully.
At first there was no sign of the tercel and the falcon seemed to be wondering what to do. She left the nest several times, returning each time without a kill. Finally she left again and I heard some screaming, she then returned with a prey item and fed the youngsters which took around 10 minutes. I was surprised that she didn't fly off with the remains as I had seen before.. The ledge must already be a smelly, fly attracting area. To my utter surprise, some 30 minutes later, or perhaps longer, suddenly the tercel announced his presence with much screaming and commotion. Nothing new there. She immediately left the ledge and flew to the nearby tree where she took delivery of a female Great-spotted Woodpecker (sadly). What was going on? The answer was obvious, she flew down to the ledge and then fed the chicks again with the unfortunate woodpecker. All in all, a very interesting 2 hours with many good photos and video recorded.
We went out to watch for Cuckoos again today but things have already changed. Instead of the usually regular visits to what was obviously their favourite perch, not one Cuckoo landed there today. Having said that, a male called both to our left and then later to the right but in spite of seeing, probably that bird fly past us, it didn't choose our tree to land in. It was disappointing but not a surprise as in previous years June 19th was the last day that I photographed a Cuckoo. It is known that some of the tagged UK Cuckoos have already departed on their southern migration so I guess our birds may be doing the same already.
We had the usual small birds land in the same tree today, apart from the male Pied Flycatcher which was noticeable by it's absence, four new species landed in the tree. A Great spotted Woodpecker, Willow Warble, Linnet and Stonechat came to the tree to add to the great list of birds that have visited these four hawthorn trees while we have waited for Cuckoos.
At the end of the afternoon I went out to the Peregrine Falcon site. (I have a Schedule 1.license to photograph at this site). The Falcon was sat brooding the chicks taking great care to protect them from the sun with her extended wings acting as a a good sunshade, interesting behaviour. From time to time the little kicks could be seem either underneath the female or poking out from the side of her wings. I waited as long as I dare but by 10 past 7 the Tercel hadn't delivered a kill for the falcon and the chicks. I had to leave at that point with the promise of a good game of World Cup football on the TV….. I really shouldn't have bothered and should have waited for the tercel to catch the "evening meal" which I am sure would have proved much more entertainment.
I am a Schedule 1. License holder to photograph at this Peregrine nest site.
The site is top secret and the location will never be revealed.
The Peregrines at my licensed site hatched their first chicks last Saturday. I returned last evening to observe and photograph. I was hoping to establish how many of the 3 eggs had hatched. I was staggered to see the progress of the two "eyases" which seemed to have noticeably grown. This wasn't immediately noticeable for me though because they were being brooded by the Falcon and hidden from view. However, I could hear the tercel (English spelling), screaming from nearby. I was expecting it to fly to the nest ledge because I could see the Falcons eyes (the female that is), following him as he circled around. Eventually I was able to train my camera on to him and I could see why the Falcon was excited…..he was carrying a kill in his right talon as he nonchalantly perched on a rock with his other foot (see above). Its quite often hard to determine the species of the kill because the head is usually removed and then it is plucked making identification almost impossible. I was primed and ready for him to fly to the eyrie which he did after another few minutes of screaming, why they do quite so much screaming I have no idea. Eventually he left his perch and swooped in to the ledge with his prey which caused even more excitement from both him and his mate. She screamed even louder as he landed.
He lands with the kill and the falcon screamed at him.
After the prey was taken by the falcon the tercel remained for a short while and they both tore off little bits of flesh to feed the tiny chicks which as yet, I hadn't seen properly. But I had my first real look of one of the chicks. The female is on the left and the male on the right, note the difference in the plumage.
The tercel left the ledge after a a minute or so and flew to a nearby branch, still screaming as they always do, this left the female to feed the chicks. I could now clearly see that there were two and the third egg, probably now not going to hatch.
Here the tercel leaves the nest ledge.
You can see one chick and the falcon behind the flying tercel. Now the falcon is left on the ledge to delicately feed the chicks, clearly two with the unhatched egg visible.
Here is a short video from the live view on the back of the camera filmed with the iPad. When you consider that the distance is around 75 yards, this is quite a good way of seeing some close up activity.
We had hatched a plan to get some better photos of Cuckoos which involved sitting on a tiny seat under cam netting for 3 hours (and a few minutes more!) It was a success. We set up in front of the trees which we had noted was a favourite perch. Several small interesting birds came to feed before suddenly a Cuckoo flew quickly from right to left and then a minute or two later we heard one call. Then suddenly there was the female followed by a noisy male who called loudly from what we have called "the Cuckoo Tree". She was obviously fed up of being chased by him and left very quickly. The male remained and we got some good shots before he left again making a noise almost like a dog with asthma from the tree behind us!
This is the male (above), note the difference between the smaller female below and her noticeably browner iris which is yellow in the male.
I am licensed by Natural England to photograph at a Peregrine Falcon nest site, which is a Schedule 1. bird. Without a Schedule 1. photography license it is against the law to photograph in the nest territory.
This is my 3rd year of photographing at this nest site and in that time I have enjoyed some memorable sessions. This year has been up and down. The first clutch of eggs was predated just prior to hatching which was very disappointing to say the least. It is unusual for Peregrines to go on and produce a replacement clutch if they lose their first clutch so late on. They chose to use the same ledge that had been so successful for them last year. After another 32 days of incubation, 60 days in total with a break of 2 of the eggs hatched yesterday (14 June). I watched a wet but lively little chick in the nest scrape yesterday afternoon and when I returned in the late evening…..I couldn't resist another look…..the chick had dried out and was able to raise it's head. When I returned again today I was pleased to see that there were two very strong snowy white and active little chicks.
One of the big problems I face as a photographer is the distance from the nest which makes it quite difficult. I have been looking for a way to get good close up views, almost asking the impossible really but I have an excellent live view on my Pentax K3 camera. This means that I can focus on the nest and then use the digital zoom to get an incredibly close-up view of the birds on the eyrie. I then realised that with the my iPad, I could take good video of the cameras's live view, and there you have it and you can see the results above.
But, back to the birds. As I sat watching and waiting I could see the Falcon brooding her clutch, suddenly she left the scrape and I could see the two chicks in the nest. She quickly returned with a prey item, it looked like a Blackbird and then proceeded to feed the young birds, pulling small pieces of meat off the carcass I was immediately taken with the tender, carful and very dainty way the parent fed the chicks. After a few minutes she lifted the carcass and flew off the nest with it in her beak. A few seconds later, in came the Tiercel to brood the youngsters. What was interesting about this was that the Falcon left the nest to take the prey item from the Tiercel and then took it to the chicks. Afterwards, while the Tiercel brooded the chicks the Falcon was perched in a nearby tree before eventually flying back to the nest to take over her brooding duties.