The recent warm weather has been very different to last year when, you may recall, some parts of the country were experiencing significant snowfall while here in East Anglia we were in the blast of a cold easterly wind for weeks on end. Not so this year. There is a definite Spring-like feel in the air so it will be no surprise that the Norwich Cathedral Peregrines are well into their pre-nesting season rituals.
Two nest ‘scrapes’, clearly visible in the image below, have already been made by them in the gravel of their nest box some 80m up the spire of Norwich Cathedral. The female will choose one when she lays the first egg. The pair have also been visiting the nest box more frequently, calling loudly to one another while the male ‘swaggers’ at the female. They have also been seen mating, even on camera, and the male has been bringing his mate prey offerings, demonstrating to her that he is both willing and able to provide for her and any chicks that might come along.
However, it’s not been all plain sailing for the pair. At this time of year other peregrines that have not found a nest site and partner search for them in earnest. Desirable nesting sites are in short supply. Those that have staked their claim on one have to vigorously defend it against those that are still searching, as happened to the Norwich pair last year, and it has happened again in 2014. Our little male gallantly tried to defend his nest against a determined intruding female (image above). After much hollering and aerial tussling she was finally repelled by the resident pair. This life-in-the-wild event was caught on camera (http://youtu.be/WphCJSBTsRo).
When we examined the footage afterwards it was noticed that the intruder had an orange/red ring with the code ‘DP’ on her left leg. Much excitement followed as we realised that it would be possible to find out not only where this bird had originated from but also how old she was. This investigative work has been carried by our friends at the British Trust for Ornithology in Thetford who have informed us that the intruder bird was from London and about three years old.
Clearly the bond between our pair is very strong and the laying of the first egg is expected any day now as last year it was laid on 21 March. There are indications that it might be earlier this year but no-one really knows for sure. There is still a lot to learn about life-in-the-wild of these spectacular birds.
One thing we do know is that we, the Hawk and Owl Trust, need to be ready when it does happen, particularly as this year we are doing even more things to bring this mesmerising event to the wider public. We have put out an appeal to ask for more volunteers to help out at our Cathedral Watch Point. We had well over 30,000 visitors last year and expect even more in 2014, so more helping hands are welcome.
The Hawk and Owl Trust Watch Urban Peregrine Watch Point is planned to start on Monday 31st March. We are thrilled that locally based company Viking Optical have once again generously agreed to help sponsor the event and provide us with telescopes which we can use to show visitors the peregrine falcons ‘close up and personal’. There are even small scopes for the kids!
We will of course be streaming live video images 24/7 from the web cams on the nest to the Hawk and Owl Trust web site. These live images will also be on show at the Watch Point. This was very popular last year so we have broken into the piggy-bank and bought equipment which will make this an even better experience.
Finally, we are excited to tell you that we have partnered with Norwich Castle Museum and will shortly be showing video clips and live images straight from the Cathedral nest cameras on a large screen in the Castle Rotunda. This will feature as part of their ‘Wonder of Birds’ exhibition, which starts in May and runs through to the end of September. See www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk for more information. The Cathedral is only a short stroll from the Castle so visitors can visit both sites. Our thanks to all at the Cathedral, and particularly FreeClix/WiSpire who have helped get the wireless link set up between the two sites enabling us to stream the images.
So, we are all ready for the possibility of egg laying to start in just a few days time. Live video streamed from the nest camera is available on our web site right now (www.upp.hawkandowl.org/live/) and will continue throughout the season.
You can also ‘Like’ our FaceBook page if you want to be kept up to date with what’s going on with the Cathedral peregrine family and see the latest video clips. We also regularly ‘Tweet’ the action using @hawkandowluk and #nrperegrines.
Better still, why not pop down to the Cathedral Watch Point where our team can give you the latest information and you can see the birds live. Our Peregrine Watch Point officers, Carrie, Nick and Jan are back with us for another season – an would be delighted to see you. More than that, the sight and sounds of peregrines screaming overhead is a wonderful experience. Bring the kids as it’s a great opportunity to get them close to nature – and see the fastest bird on earth!
Head of Information
Hawk and Owl Trust
07881 657 944