Peter the peregrine, one of the first chicks to fledge from Salisbury Cathedral in 2014, has successfully fledged two chicks of his own at a quarry in Hampshire. It's a remarkable come-back for the falcon after he was shot early last year and had to be nursed back to health, spending two-and-a-half months recovering at the Hawk Conservancy Trust.
Peter was spotted by Keith Betton, Hampshire's County Bird Recorder, who takes up the story:
"I have taken a keen interest in Peregrines in my role as County Bird Recorder. They have had a tough time over the years but are fighting back after decades of persecution and poisoning. The first pair to nest in Hampshire chose the 200m high chimney at Fawley Power Station in 1993, and almost all of our Peregrines have nested on man-made structures since then. This year we have pairs nesting at 25 sites, including Winchester Cathedral.
"I knew of Peter because he was found shot near Stockbridge in March last year. In fact one of the first calls made by the Hawk Conservancy Trust was to me to see if he was one of our local birds as he wears a blue ring marked GX. We put orange rings on Hampshire chicks so I knew he was from further west and it was with great excitement that I set out to check our Hampshire nest sites.
"It wasn't plain sailing. Peter has a favourite perch and I could only see the ring if he was facing towards me (it's on his left leg), but annoyingly he usually faces the other way! However, on Sunday 15 July he was facing the other way, and using a powerful telescope I was able to read the ring number. It was a great moment when I realised it was Peter. He had a near-death experience and survived it, and now he is a dad with two lively chicks.
"Peregrines are amazing birds. They are the fastest animals in the world when they make a dive onto their prey from a great height. For years we persecuted them and now it is our turn to protect them."
Thanks to Keith for alerting us to Peter's whereabouts. His partner doesn't have a ring, so we don't know where she comes from. To date we have only had two reports on ringed peregrines that have fledged from the Cathedral Tower. Aveline (fledged in 2016) was spotted in a nature reserve in Milton Keynes last year and we have been tracking the movements of Sally, our resident female, via a GPS tracking device.
Sadly a fight over the nest meant that there have been no chicks this year but we have gathered some extraordinary footage which can be seen here. We have also been keeping an eye on activities on the balcony. If you follow the links you will see a male on the parapet balcony and Sally enjoying a pigeon feast near the larder. Hopefully this is a sign that things will return to normal next year.
Keith Betton will be giving a talk entitled "The State of the Nation's Birds" to the South Wilts RSPB Group in Salisbury on 11 September at Salisbury Arts Centre at 19:30. He plans to include the peregrines in that talk.
For any further information contact Marie Thomas on firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: 01722 555148.