Exploring their territory

The chicks have now all fledged. All 4 of them have been seen playing together in flight and exploring the quarry. The picture below shows one of the juveniles having a rest between flights.

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The picture also clearly shows the vertical chest stripes of the young. Mature peregrines have horizontal bars on their chest.

Dave – Peregrine Project Ranger

Chicks in the air!

Theres been a bit of speculation as to how the chicks have been spreading themselves out on the quarry, today we have our answer with the first confirmed sighting of a chick soaring through the sky!

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One of this years unringed chicks in flight.

Dave – Peregrine Project Ranger
david.houghton@nationaltrust.org.uk

And then there were 4?

In an odd twist today, the volunteers spotted 4 chicks on the quarry face having an explore. We knew we originally had 4 eggs and then young chicks in quite a small nest, then at the end of May we were disappointed that there were only 2 chicks on the nest during the bird’s ringing. We assumed, given the size of the nest, that the other 2 chicks had been knocked off to their demise as they were nowhere to be seen.

However, this morning the team identified 4 chicks on the quarry alongside both adults. They have only just emerged as they explore their surroundings and fly for the first time, so it was quite a surprise. This means that wherever the chicks had fallen to the adults continued to feed them. All of the chicks look healthy, although it does mean only 2 are ringed – hopefully their unringed siblings don’t get jealous of the bling.

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3 chicks are spread out together on the rocks above an old nest site…

 

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… whilst the other one is being fed by mum.

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When Mum takes the food to the others, the lone chick follows (you can see it lurking in the shadows!).

If you want to get a view of these fantastic birds as they begin to learn the arts of flying, hunting and survival pop along to the project where our brilliant team of volunteers will be on hand to give you the best views possible.

Dave – Peregrine Project Ranger
david.houghton@nationaltrust.org.uk

 

Just going for a stroll

The volunteers spotted one of the chicks walking, climbing and leaping around the quarry over the weekend. We saw this behaviour last year as the chicks familiarise themselves with their surroundings and test out their courage!

We can’t see if this is the male or the female chick, but they have managed to cross the entire quarry and perch on a tree below Dad’s favourite spot.

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Hopefully it’s able to down from that branch! But it’s only a matter a days until they spread their wings for that first flight.

Dave – Peregrine Project Ranger

A quick chick update

The chicks are growing fast. Now they are over 3 weeks old the first of their flight feathers are poking through. Soon all of their white fluff will be gone and they will take their first flight. This photo, taken during BTO ringing, really shows how much fluff they have to shed! Unfortunately, there are now only 2 chicks, but both are looking very healthy for their age.

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Dave – Peregrine Project Ranger
david.houghton@nationaltrust.org.uk

Feeding Frenzy

With the chicks rapidly growing, the parents have been on a continuous cycle of hunt, pluck and then feed – although admittedly there is frequently some siestas in there when the weather is good!

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Both adults will hunt. The females larger size allows her to catch larger prey which is beneficial when hungry chicks growing fast. There might be a food pass in the quarry when the food is brought in, we’ve seen the female passing a catch to the male who will then perch on the quarry and pluck the feathers of the catch ready to take to the chicks.

Dave – Peregrine Project Ranger
david.houghton@nationaltrust.org.uk

Chicks!

During the week the peregrine chicks have hatched. The adult pair might have their hands (wings?!) full raising 4 chicks to fledglings over the next few weeks, especially considering a peregrine chick doubles in weight every 6 days!

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Looks delicious

The resident falcon is seen below flying in the quarry with a bit of lunch.

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Peregrine falcons have been known to prey on nearly 140 species of bird in the United Kingdom. Although (thankfully) the resident pair in Plymbridge Woods do not enjoy that full menu.

As chicks approach the birds are frequently being seen on the quarry face stashing food in nooks and crannies on the rock, these are called caches and serve a very important role. It’ll help the birds maintain a steady flow of food to newly hatched chicks, particularly if the weather is unsuitable for hunting or if there has been a period of unsuccessful hunts.

Whilst the prospect of a 4 day old magpie carcass might not be appealing to many humans, it’ll still provide vital protein, water and nutrients to chicks.

Dave – Peregrine Project Ranger

Eggs and nest found at last!

The Plym Peregrine Project team are happy to confirm that the resident pair have nested, we were able to confirm 4 eggs on a nest tucked away in a nook on the quarry.

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This marks the 6th year the current pair have nested. They might be getting old, but they never fail to surprise us!

Typically, once the nest had been confirmed it turned out that it had been in view of the viaduct the whole time! Volunteers were able to see the falcons rear feathers shuffling about as she rolled the eggs. We aren’t sure when the eggs were laid so we will be keeping an eye on the birds behaviour to indicate when they might begin hatching.

Come and visit platform to see the proud parents to be and their nest.

Dave – Peregrine Project Ranger
david.houghton@nationaltrust.org.uk

 

A little about the resident pair

Whilst we wait for the pair to give us some hints as to their nesting plans this year we get a good chance to quickly look back at the current adult falcons who call Plymbridge Woods home.

By no means are the the first pair to use the quarry face as a nest site. Peregrines have been active at the site at least 20 years, perhaps even over 50 years. A resident pair will have to fend off the territory, swooping in on any perspective new feathered tenants who swing by to check the place out. The victors keep the territory.

This pair first moved in back in 2011 making this their sixth breeding season in the Plym Valley. They have held the territory against countless other peregrines; even so far this year they’ve seen off at least 6 unwelcome intruders.

During their stay, they have had 10 chicks successfully fledge and leave the nest; 2 in 2011, 3 in 2013, 3 in 2014 and 2 in 2015. Unfortunately, the damp and miserable summer in 2012 meant the chicks were not successful.

One of their chicks from 2011, catchily named BX, was discovered with a nest of her own on Dartmoor in 2014, meaning the current pair are grandparents.

BX as a chick way back in 2011
BX as a chick way back in 2011

The falcon is easily identified by her hanging talon in flight and the tiercel by his faded chest feathers.

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‘Mum’

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‘Dad’

The pair are now entering their twilight years, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens during the current season. But they’ve surprised us before and it’s safe to say they’ll do the same again.

Dave- Peregrine Project Ranger
david.houghton@nationaltrust.org.uk

 

Still waiting!

This season is fast becoming a bit unusual. So far, although the pair are around the quarry there has been no sign of a nest site. Maybe this is due to their advanced age or due to the mild winter? Or maybe they’ve nested just out of site from the viewing platform (how inconsiderate of them!).

Regardless of this, clearly the resident female isn’t feeling her age as she flew into the quarry having a bit of a snack on the go.

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Hopefully we’ll get some clear answers soon, but the pair are still giving us plenty to see!

Dave – Peregrine Project Ranger.
david.houghton@nationaltrust.org.uk

A week of mating and waiting

We’ve had an exciting first week of the Peregrine Project for 2016. The birds have been performing courtship rituals and mating regularly. We have been able to confirm that the birds are the same nesting pair as last year, making this their sixth year nesting in the quarry. The falcon is recognized by her distinct talon that hangs in flight and the tiercel can be recognized by his fading breast feathers.

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Whilst the pair hasn’t picked a nest yet, a lot of their activity has been focused on an old ravens nest the pair has used previously. We are just waiting for the falcon to settle down and lay some eggs before we can confirm the nest location.

An absolutely stunning Good Friday gave the birds the opportunity to stretch their wings; they flew high on the updrafts until they were nothing more than specks against the blue sky.

Hopefully there should be some eggs towards the end of the month.

Dave – Peregrine Project Ranger
david.houghton@nationaltrust.org.uk

What a difference a day makes

The public viewing platform opened on the 23rd allowing the the volunteers to enjoy a fair range of weather over Easter; glorious sunshine on Good Friday followed by heavy showers on the Saturday.

Spot the difference

Good Friday
Good Friday
The next day
The next day

The 2016 Peregrine Season is fast approaching

With spring just around the corner all sorts of birds have been getting ready for their nesting period, including the pair of peregrines that have been making a lot of noise in Plymbridge Woods.

The Plym Peregrine Project platform is due to open on March 23rd. Feel free to come and have a look at these magnificent birds as they prepare to raise another clutch.. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to see the falcon laying her first egg!

If you’re interested in getting involved, click the flyer below for more information on the opportunity.

 

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– Dave, Peregrine Project Ranger.

Picking a nest for a new season

The 2016 peregrine nesting season is fast approaching! The pair of birds in the quarry have been scoping out a potential nest site, or eyrie, to use for the upcoming months. Peregrines will nest on a ledge and don’t build a nest themselves, rather they will acquire a nest from a different species or they will simple scratch out a shallow bowl on an appropriate ledge. We’ll be keeping an eye to see where they nest for this season, whether it is an old site or a new one.

The nest site during the 2015 season was a scratched out 'bowl' on a ledge.
The nest site during the 2015 season was a scratched out ‘bowl’ on a ledge.
In 2014 the peregrines nested in an old ravens nest that they took by force.
In 2014 the peregrines nested in an old ravens nest that they took by force.

– Dave, Peregrine Project Ranger.

 

Norman Moore

We recently became aware of the passing of conservationist Norman Moore. Whilst I never had the pleasure of meeting him I was well aware of his work. Norman played a large part in the research during the 1960’s that identified the impact of DDT on bird of prey species. Particularly peregrine falcons and sparrowhawks. This research helped forge lasting policy and protection that has led to the slow recovery of nesting birds of prey.

Norman passed away on the 21st of October, aged 92. Obituary in the Guardian.

David – Seasonal Peregrine Ranger

A glimpse of the fledglings

In the weeks since the 2015 peregrine season ended the Ranger team have had a few sights of the juveniles in flight together around Cann Quarry. The pair are both still going strong as the time for them to leave. The size difference between the female and male chick was clear as the falcon overshadowed her brother. Whilst the Ranger team worked on the ground, the fledgling pair called loudly as they chased each other playfully through the air.

Soon the young will leave the nest area for good. Their biggest challenge will be this coming winter as they become exposed to the elements and have only themselves to rely on for feeding. In the wild only a third of peregrines survive their first year.

Peregrines are able to breed at 3 years old. Until then they will explore their surroundings venturing as far as they need to in order to survive.Once they are able to reproduce they will find a suitable habitat and seek a mate. It is a tough challenge for the peregrines to reach this point.

Personally, I hope that in 3 years we hear about KT or KV on a nest with successfully chicks of their own.

David – Seasonal Peregrine Ranger

Wrapping up the 2015 season

The fledglings have been spotted bringing catches back to the quarry and taking extended flights around and beyond the Plym Valley. They will still try and grab a free meal from Mum and Dad when they can, and have been enjoying emptying the food caches their parents hide around the quarry face.

The recent heatwave has been beneficial to the young peregrines as they soar to remarkable heights effortlessly on the warm updrafts. Slightly closer to Earth, they have been mastering the art of airborne food passes and several bits of dinner have been lost beyond the trees below. Despite this the fledglings have been seen successfully passing food during inverted flight providing an impressive sight to visitors and volunteers on the viaduct.

It is close to two months since the young first hatched and the difference in their appearance is remarkable. In their first 6 weeks they grew from tiny balls of white feathers to full-size fearsome raptors. From slow waddling chicks to the fastest creature on the planet.

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The chicks in their first week.

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The young as they appear now.

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With the fledglings becoming less dependent on the nest site as a feeding site and roost it is time for the Plym Peregrine Project to begin wrapping up for the season. The public viewing platform will close after this Sunday 5th July. Over the summer months we will continue to keep an eye on the peregrines, and we will continue to post updates on their progress.

If you are interested in conservation, wildlife and the outdoors and would like information on how to get involved for the next peregrine season please click here.

David – Seasonal Peregrine Ranger

Still sticking together

 

KT AND KV

Seven weeks have passed since the fledglings at Cann Quarry hatched. The two young have spent the last week enjoying short flights around the quarry as they continue to strengthen their wing muscles. Having now mastered landing they no longer need to crash land in large areas allowing them to perch all around the Valley and explore their surroundings. The juvenile male (KT) is particularly curious about his surroundings and has been spotted walking along the top of a camera in the quarry giving it an assessment.

Despite fledging a few days later than her brother, the female juvenile (KV) has quickly caught up in flight. Both are still sticking together and can be seen flying side by side around the Valley, sometimes playfully swooping at one another as a way to get to grips with hunting tactics.

David – Seasonal Peregrine Ranger

A little bit about Mum and Dad

The current breeding adult Peregrine pair have been nesting in Cann Quarry every year since 2011. They took the quarry territory from an aging pair and have managed to hold off many prospective successors since. The two current chicks represent their fifth breeding year and make a total of 10 fledged offspring from this pair.

Female Peregrines (Falcons) are a third larger than the males. If you want to differentiate between the pair a size comparison is often the easiest way. Luckily the Plym Valley falcon has distinctively darker feathering on her head and, for unknown reasons, she has a limp talon that hangs whilst she flies.The male Peregrine (Tiercel) in the Plym Valley can be identified from the slightly lighter feathering on his head and by his fading front feather pattern.

Male and Female 06-04-15The Tiercel and Falcon on the nest during the 2015 season

They were able to raise sucessful chicks during their first mating year in 2011 producing two female chicks.  As the young chicks were rung we were able to track their progress. One of the birds from this brood was spotted on Dartmoor last year raising her own chicks, making our pair grandparents!

The pair returned to the quarry in 2012 for their second nesting year. Unfortunately, the summer of 2012 was the wettest summer on record for 100 years. The resulting rainfall and lower tempuratures meant that the chicks were unable to survive their first few fragile weeks. Sadly, no chicks left the nest this year.

Following the events of the previous year, in 2013 the breeding pair took over a nesting site previously used by ravens. This nest provided shade and shelter and they were able to raise a successful brood of 3 chicks who mostly left the nest.

In 2014 a familiar face had returned. A male juvenile, nicknamed ‘Junior’,  from 2013 had refused to leave home. The breeding pair had the challenge of raising 3 chicks whilst Junior stole food, made a fuss and caused havok. Ultimately, the 3 chicks succesully fledged and left the nest. However, Junior’s fate remains a mystery. He was last positively id’d in November 2014 and by now if he has survived will have his full adult plumage.

2014 24The returning juvenile during the 2014 season

There has already been plenty of action during the 2015 season. The pair have successfully fledged 2 chicks from an initial brood of 3. They still have several more weeks of hard work ahead of them in order for the young to have the best chance of surviving their first winter in the wild where the mortality rate is 70%.

David – Seasonal Peregrine Ranger

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