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Plym Peregrine Project |
The peregrine falcons in Plymbridge Woods have already started their courtship rituals ahead of their upcoming nesting season. The long-running Plym Peregrine Project will be entering its 17th year, allowing visitors to have amazing views of the fastest animal on Earth as they raise their young from eggs to fledglings.
The project is located a 10 minute walk from the car park in Plymbridge Woods where the volunteers will help you get an amazing view of the birds.
With the chicks in the air and rapidly becoming more independent the Plym Peregrine Project will wrap up on Sunday 10th July. After this, the team will continue to monitor the birds and ensure that their nesting site is secure.
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.
3 chicks are spread out together on the rocks above an old nest site…
… whilst the other one is being fed by mum.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
The resident falcon is seen below flying in the quarry with a bit of lunch.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The falcon is easily identified by her hanging talon in flight and the tiercel by his faded chest feathers.
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.
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.
Hopefully we’ll get some clear answers soon, but the pair are still giving us plenty to see!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There was a flurry of commotion over the weekend... read more»
As a charity, we depend on people like you to help us continue our vital work. Making a donation would be a fantastic way to support the project. Your donations will help us to buy better equipment which in turn will not only help protect the birds but also enable us to engage with visitors to Plymbridge woods giving them the chance to see these magnificent birds.