A blog post by Phil Sheldrake on 23 March
I must have been one of the last few to see an empty nest box yesterday morning. And then, amongst the Covid gloom, Gary’s Facebook post jumped at me. An egg! A Mother’s Day egg! Isn’t it fantastic that nature can sometimes just stop you in your tracks? The blackbird that’s singing from your rooftop in the evening, the pigeon that was showering in the sun under the drainpipe next to Reeves in Butcher’s Row this morning – I love the way it demands my attention.
Now that first egg has got us, we wait for more. Our lady peregrine will go on to lay a clutch of 3-5 eggs, each being laid every two to three days. During the laying period she will sit on the eggs to maintain warmth within them when the ambient temperature dips, as she is now as I write, however, full incubation will not begin until the penultimate or last egg is laid. She will soon spend hours patiently sitting, steadfast to her task, only leaving to feed – a stark parallel to the lives we now find ourselves withdrawing to. Perhaps in some not insignificant way our peregrines will help us through.
And, of course…..I couldn’t let this go without mentioning it – I did say we’d have an egg before the end of March in my blog on Friday….and here we are!! In fact, this is the earliest 1st egg we’ve had since peregrines returned to nest at the Cathedral in 2014. I hope you’re all enjoying the live action on the webcam – a big thank you to Marie Thomas for once again making it happen. And you may well have noticed our brand new nest box this year – thanks to Gary Price, Clerk of Works and his team! Happy watching!
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.