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!