January Round Up for Bath and Bristol peregrines

Bristol and Bath Peregrines – January Round-Up

A Bath peregrine with a feral pigeon carcass that the pair were passing between them Sam Hobson
A Bath peregrine with a feral pigeon carcass that the pair were passing between them Copyright Sam Hobson

An unseasonably mild start to 2013 saw the Bristol town centre peregrines starting to get excited about the forthcoming breeding season. On the sunnier days, they were pair-bonding, with ledge-displays on or near their scrape and on the morning of the 9th (so warm I saw my first red admiral and bumblebee of the year), they made 3 food-transfers. They were suddenly spending a lot more time on their scrape – ready to defend it from un-paired adults that are moving around the country at this time of year, looking to set up territories.

By mid-January, cold weather from the east had started to move in, bringing a considerable drop in temperatures, and already the pair-bonding in early Jan seemed like a distant memory. On the 16th, I visited the Bath pair and found woodcock, snipe and male and female teal feathers, which with the flock of 80 lapwing I saw overhead heading SW, was a sign of things to come.
By the 19th, heavy snow had dumped across the region and hard weather movements of birds caused a sudden increase in unusual items to turn up in the prey remains. This time it wasn’t just nocturnal migrants the peregrines were hunting either – whilst watching the Bristol town centre pair, I saw flocks of lapwing and golden plover moving SW in the middle of the day and groups of starlings, winter thrushes and skylarks passing through in an almost constant stream.

Male peregrine at Bath cathedral clutching skylark Copyright Sam Hobson
Male peregrine at Bath cathedral clutching skylark Copyright Sam Hobson

Skylarks seem to be a particular favourite of peregrines, as I not only found the remains of at least 5 individuals (including a whole wing), I witnessed the Bath tiercel catch one and the Bristol pair bring in 2. They were feeding on the skylarks for over a week, as when the SW passage had finished and the snow was beginning to melt, they had the opportunity to stock-up on them as they were making their return journeys NE.

Bath pair calling at intruder
By the 24th, the snow was nearly gone and temperatures were returning to their seasonal average. In Bath, an intruding flyover adult falcon caused a bit of commotion. Neither resident left their perch, but both were looking skyward and calling at the intruder for a good 10 minutes.

By the end of the month, things have gone full-circle and the Bristol pair are increasingly back on the building they nest on. On the 31st, myself and Ed had a good look around under their perches in town and found snipe, fieldfare and a nice jack snipe skull.

Jack Snipe skull at Bath peregrines Copyright Sam Hobson
Jack Snipe skull at Bath peregrines Copyright Sam Hobson

So far in 2013, remains include juv. moorhen, woodcock, snipe, jack snipe, fieldfare, golden plover, skylark, dunlin and many male and female teal in Bristol and woodcock, snipe, skylark and m and f teal in Bath.

Sam Hobson

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