A blog post by Phil Sheldrake on 2 April
Well I think it’s safe to say our peregrines have settled with a clutch of four eggs. The fourth was laid on Sunday morning and our falcon seems to be sitting very tight now. She will continue to do so throughout the incubation period, maintaining a constant temperature for the embryos to develop inside the eggs. Occasionally the tiercel will take over the duty allowing her to stretch her wings and feed. It is a period when she can recharge her batteries after expending the huge amount of energy required to produce the four eggs. It is the calm before the storm. In a month’s time there will be chicks to feed, and she will need to be in top condition to satisfy their appetite.
It is of course uncertain whether we will be able to ring the chicks this year due to the current Corona virus restrictions. We have ringed all of the chicks hatched at the Cathedral since peregrines returned to nest in 2014, a total of 15, each fitted with a standard metal ring and a blue plastic ring. The blue plastic rings have a two-letter code on them which, surprisingly, can be read at a distance with a telescope or even binoculars, in fact we were able to identify a chick we ringed in 2016 from a photograph taken near Milton Keynes the following January.
Our most well known chick, however, is ‘Peter’ ringed in 2014. Peter was found shot, but alive near Stockbridge in March 2017. Huge thanks go to the Hawk Conservancy Trust near Andover, who were able to nurse and rehabilitate him back to full health, and give us the emotional experience of releasing him back to the wild! We next received news of Peter in 2018 – he had paired with a falcon and was nesting in mid Hampshire, going on to successfully fledge two chicks. And he was back again last year….and is there again now, nesting. Fantastic! I wonder what lies in store for those embryos developing at 220ft high up on the tower?
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.