Bath Urban Peregrines Project 2014 – Update 02

The good news for the start of the 2014 season is that the three resident Peregrines at St John’s Church in Bath survived the storms and are all looking very fit and healthy. It remains to be seen if GB (2013 tiercel) will be tolerated by the adults to remain through the breeding season. In the past few days the adult tiercel has been seen to be openly aggressive to a somewhat bemused GB.

On 11 Jan only the falcon was on the church, having recovered her normally pristine look after her December mud bath. She spent some considerable time chuntering away to herself while craning her neck and looking skywards, as did I in the hope that the tiercel was heading back in. Instead, a hot air balloon which had apparently been causing her some concern appeared from behind some buildings.

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Is the adult falcon’s head turned skyward searching for prey? No, this hot air balloon is what she was looking at. © 2014 hamishsmithphotography.co.uk

Under normal circumstances, “normal” in the experience of the Bath and West Wilts Group peregrine watch team covering the majority of daylight hours, the shot below is one of the four views she and her mate would be staring at and perch hunting over.

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A peregrine’s view of Bath from nest box level, looking to the north of St John’s Church on a misty day. © 2014 hamishsmithphotography.co.uk
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The current nest box configuration pictured in 2013 with the adult falcons, GA & GB. © 2014 hamishsmithphotography.co.uk

As reported last month, the HOT Bath and West Wilts Group, who manufactured, installed and are responsible for the upkeep of the St John’s hosted nest box and its camera system, are currently progressing a programme of work to update the box and its systems in advance of the 2014 breeding season.

Discussions are progressing well with a national supplier of covert wildlife camera and recording systems, and with the clergy and administration staff of St John’s who have been supportive throughout. Initial investigations of the church structure have highlighted no insurmountable physical barriers to the work.

The intention is to extend out to the front of the nest box (pictured below) to a distance of approx 300mm and to incorporate a 50x50mm edging perch rounded at the top. Having taken advice from such wildlife experts as Jemima Parry-Jones (The International Centre for Birds of Prey), it is considered that this HOT proposal will ease the task of the adults landing prey, provide space for the nestlings for pre-fledging exercising of their wing muscles, and assist in averting repeats of the unplanned back-flip ‘fledgings’ that we have seen in previous years.

Hamish Smith
HOT Bath and West Wilts Group

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