Cathedral Peregrines Update | 10 June 2013

Day 41 | Well, what a week that was. A mere 38 days after hatching during which the four chicks have grown from a fluffy ball of down weighing a few grams to, in the case of the females, close to a kilogram and almost fully feathered, have all fledged the nest and dispersed to various parts of the cathedral. Some are on the roof, others on various ledges on the outside masonry structure, but all are above ground level, safe and well.

It all kicked off at 17:20 BST on Thursday afternoon, 6th June. Just after the good people at the Watch Point had packed everything away for the day and were heading home, Murphys Law struck. One of the larger females, identified as TZ from her orange leg ring, had just started vigorous wing exercising on the ledge of the box when it made an unceremonious backwards exit. Moments later the office at Sculthorpe Moor received a call from a thoughtful but concerned member of the public in SWEDEN who wanted to warn us of the situation. That person didn’t leave their name but, although the phone lines were quickly jammed with other similar calls, we would like to thank him. It also aptly demonstrates the impact this story has had on so many people around the world.

Our ‘troops’, some of whom had started the journey home from the Watch Point, and others 20 miles away, were quickly called up to form a search party and look for the fledgling to ensure it was safe and well. It was with much relief all round that it was located on one of the small pinnacles on the cathedral tower, apparently unfazed by it adventure. As it happens it couldn’t have landed in a better place. The area at the base of the pinnacle is used by the adults to cache food! It will be no surprise that it hasn’t felt the need to move from there since.

Fledgling T3 stretching its wings after making its first flight  Photo: Andy Thompson
Fledgling T3 stretching its wings after making its first flight Photo: Andy Thompson

Fledglings 2 and 3 (ringed T4 and T3 respectively) left the following day in a similar ‘backwards first’ manner. T4, the male of the group, went at 4:40 necessitating an early morning search by some, including photographer Andy Thompson and Watch Point manager Carrie Kerry. It was eventually found in a tree in the Dean’s garden but the shenanigans didn’t stop there. It has since been on walk-about on the rooftops of Tombland – the main street next to the cathedral – before coming back again.

The third fledging (T3) was at the more helpful time of 16:01, and landed safely on the Presbytery roof. The forth and last, TX, waited until Sunday morning at 08:14 before bailing out of the nest, some 38 hours after the third and also landing on the Presbytery roof.

Video clips of all these events can be seen by following the links to posts on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/HawkandOwlTrust

All the birds have since been fed well if somewhat erratically by the parent birds and, as expected, appear to be adjusting to their newly found surroundings. Fledging is of course a natural event for the young peregrines. Evolution and their genes will have subliminally prepared them for it. Any trepidation will be felt only by us humans not used to a risky life in the wild and having only our own wits to depend on.

The story of these young peregrines does not end here. They will stay around the cathedral for the next few months. Firstly they have to strengthen their wing muscles and become more – much more – adept at flying, often through playful mid-air jousting with their siblings. The parents also have to teach them to hunt for their own food. This sometimes involves a spectacular mid-air encounter where the adult drops live prey to their offspring flying below to catch by momentarily flying inverted. Eventually, in the autumn, the youngsters will start to drift away but will be seen around the cathedral until then, and occasionally afterwards. The parents, particularly the male, will stay around until early winter before they go wandering for a while, returning in the New Year to start all over again.

Consequently the Hawk and Owl Trust plan to keep the Watch Point open until the end of July in order that the public can continue to see their progress so you still have the opportunity to come along to watch the fastest bird in the world.

This is perhaps a good time to give you a little insight into what has been needed to bring this fabulous history-making story to you. Many of you will already appreciate the hundreds of hours of time and effort required back in the winter of 2010 to just get the nest box erected and camera system installed. This would never have happened without the committed support of Norwich Cathedral and some incredible people, including those from the Norfolk Fire Service who gave up their spare time to put the box in place. There are of course many others too numerous to mention here as individuals but all of whom have been vital to the success of this project. More recently the 40-or-so stalwart volunteers who have given up endless hours of their time for free to help at the Cathedral Watch Point have provided the backbone service to the visiting public, sometimes well above and beyond the call of duty. Talking of which, these people have been more than ably lead by our fabulous Watch Point manager Carrie Kerry and backed up by ‘super-vol’ Jan Smith and our own little whirlwind, Lin Murray. The Hawk and Owl Trust thanks all of you without exception, including of course our supporting sponsors.

Finally of course the Trust would like to thank you, the public, for following this project with such enthusiasm. Without your interest, let alone your donations, this would not have been the success it is. If you have enjoyed our work why not consider helping our conservation projects by joining the Hawk and Owl Trust. Simply go to www.hawkandowl.org to join or donate what you can towards next years project!

David Gittens | Volunteer – Wildlife CCTV,
Hawk and Owl Trust – Sculthorpe Moor

For the live video stream, and to help with the costs of running our webcam please visit www.upp.hawkandowl.org/live/

15 Responses to Cathedral Peregrines Update | 10 June 2013

  1. What is the latest news on the youngsters. I visited on the 16th June to hear that one had sadly died. What were the results of the post mortem and how are the others getting on please?

  2. I live on the Unthank Road. On my lawn at this very moment is a falcon, breakfasting on what looks like a dead pigeon. Quite a sight.

  3. David, thank you for that delightfully well written summary. With 4 healthy chicks (now adolescents), it has been even more gripping and beautiful than last year, and you and all the volunteers deserve immense gratitude. I come from Norwich (I visited the Lower Close watch-point end-April) but now live in Paris and a lot of French friends and family have equally become hooked, as well as taking a wide interest in Norwich. The only aspect I would hope could improve this year is that you could give us more regular updates as we move into summer, autumn, winter, so that we know what is going on with parents and youngsters alike. Last year, there was only one brief update after summer… Once again well done to all involved, I shall (and am already) miss following the “perries” on a daily basis.
    Kind regards.

  4. Thank you so much for the regular Peregrine updates. Love sharing the latest with friends who are as hooked as I am! Especially love the amazing photos and video clips. So inspiring 😉

    • It has been a great privilege to be able to bring our wild peregrine family to you via the many wonderful photographs we have been given by the generous photographers including Andy Thompson and the amazing video footage compiled by our techno geek Mr David Gittens. He has been working closely with one of our sponsors Icode, who generously supply all the webcam equipment and ‘knowhow’.

  5. Please please can you do a little video of the fledglings? I miss seeing them so much and I can’t get to Norwich as I need to work but a little video clip would help a lot, maybe a weekly update one; is this possible?
    Thanks.

  6. We’ve been glued to the webcam again this year, had an exciting visit to the cathedral yesterday to see lots of action! Thanks to everyone involved for allowing us to share this experience. My daughter and I actually saw the 3rd fledge as it happened and only missed Sundays by minutes! Lets hope they all remain safe and well and continue to lead long healthy lives.

  7. There is no way to thank you enough for all the efforts you and others take to protect these wonderful birds. They have been with us every single morning and we experienced a feeling of loss once the first was gone, and then the next… It is good to know that you keep an eye on them. We will be in Norwich beginning of July and live just around the corner of the cathedral. We will definitely see you at the watch point. I hope that you’ll have the time and money to produce another DVD for 2013. Thanks again.
    Jenny & Reiner from Bonn, Germany

  8. I was fortunate enough to see the third fledging live. It is hard to explain how thrilling a moment that was. Many thanks to the H & O T for making this excellent web cam available and allowing so many people to learn more about these magnificent birds.

  9. Hi

    We are lucky enough to live in Norwich and will be visiting the Cathedral to catch sight of these marvellous falcons, we have watched on a daily basis via the webcam and feel extremely lucky for this to be on our doorstep.

    Last years were a joy to watch also, but this year to hatch four and for all of them to fledge is just great.

    Many thanks to the Hawk and Owl Trust and the volunteers for all their hard work and dedication.

  10. I guess this proves how wonderful technology is, but of how little use it can be in perceived or actual urgent situations. Watching the youngster (fledgling #1) topple backwards I instantly tweeted the news and concern (from Canada). I tweeted again. No reply came to either tweet (at least as far as I know). It needed a good old fashioned telephone call to get the news quickly to those who needed it.

    I have never been a great Twitter user, admittedly, but it was a major disappointment to me in that time of real concern.

    It has been great to watch the growth of this little family. Thanks to all.

  11. Hi all,
    We have just read the latest update and also the comment friend our dear friend Des from Holt. We want to also thank you fantastic people for enabling many people, from all over the world, to be enthralled and entertained by the wonders of life at the Cathedral. We hope to be there again in person sometime soon, but knowing that you good folk will continue to support the peregrines is wonderful.
    Thank you all again and we hope the summer warms up for you too!
    Kind regards
    Steve and Gabrielle
    Albany Western Australia

  12. Hi,
    I would like to say a massive thankyou to all you dedicated folks for helping to bring peregrines back to Norwich- my Australian friends were here last year, when we witnessed the chicks fledging, and they have continued to watch the live cams every day this year too, in fact more so than me(and I live in Holt);they have kept me informed of the nest progress regularly! I think Steve and Gabs have already contacted you to express their admiration of your work, so again, thanks from me!
    Yours sincerely
    Des Power

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