Bath UPP 2015 Breeding Season Review

Bath Urban Peregrine Project – Review of the 2015 Breeding Season

Overall, 2015 was a very successful year at the Bath Urban Peregrine Project. It is widely agreed that the installation of the patio and its associated perch to the nest box at St John’s RC church had a dramatic impact on the ability of the eyasses to develop, exercise and fledge at a time of their choosing. Additional upgrades to the nest box camera system are planned in advance of the 2016 breeding season. This will introduce a long awaited audio facility which will enhance the experience for viewers and researchers alike.

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The Bath falcon inspects her clutch of eggs

On 25 March the falcon laid her first egg of the 2015 season, and by 1 April all four eggs had been laid. It is normally accepted that the laying of the penultimate egg (some falcons lay more than four eggs, and some less) is the trigger for full incubation to begin, and that’s the point at which historically the incubation timing starts. The benefit we have from the HOT nest box camera systems is that we can see and accurately record the point at which full incubation begins.

Incubation was being shared almost on a 50/50 basis by the falcon and tiercel, with their changeovers conducted seamlessly to ensure the eggs were exposed for the minimum amount of time at this crucial stage. 36 days after full incubation had started, and within less than 24 hours of each other, by early morning on 4 May three chicks had hatched. They continued to develop well and very soon knew where the food came from. When the chicks reached 23 days old they received their uniquely numbered British Trust for Ornithology rings. Each chick also received a unique blue Colour Ring as part of peregrine expert Ed Drewitt’s study on urban peregrines. In a well practiced process, under the authority of our Schedule 1 Licence the chicks are quickly but calmly removed from the nest and with the minimum of fuss, noise and handling they are ringed by BTO approved individuals. In addition, a set of standardized biometric measurements is captured from each chick before being returned to the nest. Although appearing mildly bemused throughout, through the care taken by our ringing team the chicks never appear stressed by this process, and normally within 15 minutes of their return to the nest an adult will have checked them out and provided a feed.

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Feeding time for the young Bath brood

On 14 June, 42 days from hatching, the first of the chicks (blue ringed JX – female) fledged, and on the following morning the second fledging (JZ – male) took place. Both made it safely to the rooftops in South Parade, historically a first landing point for early flights. The third ‘chick’ (JY – female) finally took the plunge on 17 June, and very soon all three were to be seen cavorting singly and together on various parts of the church and the surrounding buildings.

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The fledglings gather on a nearby rooftop

Unlike previous years the newly fledged peregrines didn’t attract a huge amount of attention from the Bath gull population, and they put on some pretty spectacular flying displays as they pursued the adults for food. As the days passed, their initially inevitable crash landings developed into a more graceful process and they began to look more as if they were hunting the Bath feral pigeons than escorting them past the church.

Five days after fledging completed, the 2015 Bath juveniles were spotted from ground level visiting and interacting in the nest box. What was even more surprising was the fact that later that night all three settled down in the nest box for a sleepover, and were in no hurry to leave in the morning.

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Even after fledging the your Peregrines often returned to the nestbox to sleep

Having discovered the ability to fly that high, the juveniles continued to use the box for feeding and roosting, and could clearly be seen doing so from the riverside walk, South Parade and on the webcam.

As their confidence grew they could also be seen interacting on and around the church

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Mid air ‘Dog Fights’ are an important part of training to be a top predator

The 2015 brood continued to be schooled in flying and hunting by their parents, practicing their skills singly and together. All three now appear to have left the immediate area of St John’s to make their way in the world, but we still receive reports of juvenilles having been spotted in and around Bath. We would greatly appreciate any sightings of the juveniles to be reported to the Hawk and Owl Trust to allow us to develop our understanding of the behavior of Urban Peregrines in the round.

The Bath and West Wilts Group wish to thank our sponsors and supporters, particularly the clergy and staff of St John’s, without whom the success of 2015 would have been a great deal more difficult to achieve.

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