Sunday, July 04, 2010

Peregrines 'reunited'

For the past three years I have been closely monitoring a pair of breeding Peregrine Falcons, this is a huge privilege and has provided quite an insight into the home life of the fastest living object in the sky. Last year I ringed the four chicks the pair produced, three being female and one male. The situation has changed slightly at the nest site this year and it was looking like ringing would not be possible but events over the past week have worked in my favour but its been far from straight forward with daily twists and and turns, rivaling any soap opera .

Monitoring indicated the birds had produced three youngsters, which were all sitting around the nestbox and exercising their wings in preparation for their first flights. Then it all started to go a bit 'off piste'. I took a call from the site security guard who had found one of the juveniles on the ground near a fox run - panic, especially considering I was 180 miles away! Four hours later I was greeted by a very grumpy and some what huge juvenile female Peregrine. The bird was captured, assessed, ringed and then placed on the highest point we could access. I looked up and could see the parents and two other chicks perched high above, looking down in interest or bemusement, not sure which!

The following day, in a quick visit, no sign of any birds, they could not have all flown, why would they have left the site, where were the adults?

Some of my questions were answered the following day when what seemed like a daily ritual happened - I got the call from the security men, 'Peregrine down'. I attended and was eventually very lucky to find and rescue the same juvenile female from a field of tall grass. It was a baking hot day and highly likely that this bird had now not fed for three days, faced with these facts and after quickly speaking with a few contacts including Nick Dixon I made the choice to take the bird to the excellent Raptor Foundation near St Ives, for a short period of care. Fine so far, then two days later whilst at the Oval watching the cricket the call came again, another Peregrine down. Robin Edwards kindly did the honours and the Raptor Foundation had its second in-mate, another female.

The following day the call came once more but thankfully on this occasion it was a juvenile Kestrel, phew!

So yesterday I attended at the Raptor Foundation to collect the two juvenile Peregrines, after only four days in care they looked so much better, they had been fed up and housed in a big outdoor flight enabling them to gain wing strength. I ringed the second female and boxed the birds for their homeward leg.

That afternoon they were taken out of the boxes and released at the site, thankfully both flew, with one going out of sight behind a building and the other landing high in a tree. I decided to leave them alone and let nature step in, we had all done our bit.

Today I returned, spent three hours at the site and went home a happy chap! Firstly, I found the second of the rehab birds (ringed on its left leg) perched just below the nest box and screaming for food, then both parents and lastly the non-rehab juvenile male. But where was the original rehab juvenile female, the one that had flown off a round a building and hadn't been seen since?

I had to wait for almost two hours to find out, the adult female flew off and returned fifteen minutes later with a pigeon kill at which point complete pandemonium broke out ! Firstly the juvenile male, ambushed the adult female in flight as she was coming in with the prey, then followed her to a perch and began screaming until he was fed. All the noise brought in another sibling, which launched itself at both birds causing them all to lose balance and move position. This juvenile was ringed on its right leg and to my delight was the missing other juvenile female ! Just to add to the party, the adult male appeared carrying a second pigeon and was literally bowled out of the sky by the now far too excited juvenile female which easily took the prey off the much smaller adult male. It landed with the prey but appeared quite unsure what to do next. Whilst all of this was going on the second juvenile female calmly remained perched lower down screaming. So all in all quite an eventful week !. A big thanks to all involved but the phone is now turned off !

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