A blog post by Phil Sheldrake on Easter Monday.
I feel a bit short-changed today. After a glorious three days of Easter, the sun is now battling a sudden drop in temperature and a keen breeze. This will not affect our peregrine’s resolve; she will continue to sit through whatever fortune the weather brings. The temperature she will maintain constant for her eggs – and nature has devised a clever mechanism to help her achieve this.
Feathers: good for flight, shedding water when it rains and keeping warm. This insulating layer is not so good when you’re trying to keep your eggs warm though, so nature has a solution; a brood patch. Feathers are naturally shed below the chest to reveal an area of skin that is well supplied with blood vessels, you may have noticed when our peregrines settle to incubate they will shuffle from side to side, this is to help ensure the eggs have the fullest possible contact with this ‘brood patch’. Both our falcon (female) and tiercel (male) will have these patches.
If you’ve been tuning into the webcam you may have noticed our occasional visitors to the balcony – some rather smart jackdaws. I say smart not just because they are always impeccably turned out (they are a fine looking bird), but because they know peregrines only hunt in flight, they are not in danger here, and there are some juicy morsels to be had picking through the remains of our falcon’s last meal. And the peregrines seem confident the jackdaws will not chance a temporarily vacant nestbox to snatch their precious eggs…..or are the crafty corvids confidence tricksters just playing a waiting game?
About Phil Sheldrake
Phil Sheldrake is the Cathedral’s Nature Conservation Adviser. He describes himself as a social conservationist, focused on bringing people and the natural world closer together. Phil began life as a teacher, but 25 years ago a lifelong love of wildlife signaled a career change and he swapped the classroom for the great outdoors. Starting his RSPB career as a reserves warden in Wales, he went on to manage the Wessex Stone-curlew Recovery Project and most recently covered Wiltshire & Gloucestershire d as Conservation Officer. He is a founder member of the (Eurasian) Curlew Forum, a national network for curlew conservation groups across England. Phil first approached the Cathedral in 2011 with the idea to provide a nest box for the peregrines he had seen roosting on the Tower over winter. In 2014 his efforts were rewarded with peregrines returning to nest successfully after an absence of 61 years. Since then Phil has continued to support the Cathedral in development of the peregrine project including the provision of the webcam to give us a window into the life of this charismatic bird. Phil works closely with another peregrine expert, Granville Pictor of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society and Cathedral Clerk of Works, Gary Price. He also co-ordinates the peregrine ringing, with the help of naturalist Ed Drewitt of the British Trust for Ornithology.