Cathedral Peregrines Update | 8 May 2013

Day 8

Its Day 8 for the eldest chick and it started pretty-much like the last ones with the first feed at just before 5am. All four chicks are doing well and growing – noticeably. Compare the image of the chicks taken from the top camera yesterday (below top) with the image taken just 3 days before that (below bottom). They must be getting close to treble their hatch weight now.

Cam2 Top 2013-05-04 07-11-51 Day 4 four chicks feeding B

Cam2 Top 2013-05-07 15-19-53.000Getting six to eight high protein meals a day is the key to this rapid development of course. One chick meal does not equal one prey-kill though. Nor does it mean that it is always fresh. Some food brought to the nest may be just part of a carcass, the remainder being saved for another time. The carcass may also be a couple of days old, pulled from a stash somewhere high on the cathedral away from prying eyes of scavenging gulls and the like. These birds waste little.

Providing food is only one of the jobs the male – aka tiercel – has to do. He also needs to keep a sharp eye out for predators, like buzzard, other peregrines looking for a territory and perhaps surprisingly, the larger gulls like the black backed gull. Both buzzard and gulls are more than capable of taking a chick from the nest opportunistically. It’s a regular threat too, as notes made on Tuesday by the ever vigilant Hawk and Owl Watch Point staff show:

11.15 Tiercel sees off a gull.
11.35 Tiercel sees of a pair of buzzards.
12.20 Tiercel returns with another fresh kill and sees off buzzards while still carrying it!
14. 50 Tiercel after buzzards again, this time in a stoop after spiralling high on a thermal.
17. 15 Falcon on the nest spots intruding peregrine and screams loudly at tiercel on spire. He eventually sees the intruder off after making what looked like talon contact with it.

The falcon shading her brood from the sun and watching for intruders.
The falcon shading her brood from the sun and watching for intruders.

This is no easy ride for the peregrines. Defending a territory can be a dangerous business. If intimidation using in-flight postures that show how fit and strong they are then they try threatening swoops with feet, and talons, deployed. If that doesn’t work in deterring the intruder either then the tussle escalates further. Talon contact, where the birds actually try to grasp the other, is serious. It’s the talons that are the lethal weapon for birds of prey, not the beak. The long, hypodermically sharp talons pierce flesh and vital organs with ease.

But hey, this is all part of the normal day for a breeding peregrine. There is no option but to just get on with it.

There will be another update on Friday, then a break for a while as I’m away for a week. You can keep up to date with happenings with the peregrines at Norwich Cathedral by going to the Hawk and Owl Trust web site – and also by keeping a close eye on the Facebook page and Twitter feed (links on the web site).

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