Peregrines at St Wulfram's

Thursday 14 May - It has been a roller coaster ride for our peregrines this year with many worrying moments for viewers of the webcam.

Firstly, an apology for the quality of the footage. This is due to the camera being very old. In its day it was state of the art but now it looks a little jaded and we are hoping the Lincolnshire Bird Club will fund a new one for the 2021 season.  Fr Stuart works tirelessly to keep it running but we all know the quality of the footage is poor.

However, we can see enough to tell this tale of woe!  It is nature "red in tooth and claw" so look away now if you are the squeamish type!

The pair started off in the winter showing an interest in the tray. This has happened before and then nothing else happens. So, we did not get too excited.

As soon as the female began to scrape in the gravel, we knew there were grounds for optimism. Unfortunately, the dreadful Covid 19 virus pandemic struck and the church was closed. Just occasionally glimpses of the nest tray were caught by church staff when they were performing vital duties.

Then on Tuesday 31 March, Fr Stuart saw an egg! We know there was only one because peregrines do not incubate until the penultimate egg. How exciting! We had waited a long time for this, the last successful breeding was in 2012, eight long years ago. Further eggs were seen at intervals and it was confirmed we had four eggs.

On 7 May the nest went live on YouTube just in time for the hatch. Late at night, on Sunday 10 May, the first chick was seen. A tiny bundle of fluff tucked under its mother sheltering from a biting north east wind.

By Tuesday there were two chicks and two unhatched eggs. Peregrines usually hatch all their eggs within a day or two, so we were nervous. On Wednesday, the smallest chick looked sickly and died that night and the following day the female removed the dead chick from the nest.

So, the situation today, 14 May is one healthy chick and two unviable eggs. What conclusions can we draw? The obvious one is the female is inexperienced and perhaps a first-time nester. She was often clumsy when moving around the nest tray (as was the male) and frequently stepped on the eggs. It is possible there is a crack in one or both. This would explain why they did not hatch. If she is our returning female in 2021, she will be more experienced, and we would expect a more positive outcome.

In the meantime, let us all root for the little chick who is flying the flag for St Wulfram’s in these dark days. With two parents hunting it surely won't go short of food! Let's hope he or she fledges successfully in about six weeks’ time.

Wednesday 20 May - Sadly, the remaining chick has died. It looked really healthy when it was fed just before dawn on Tuesday, 19 May. Unfortunately, it was lifeless soon afterwards.

The female completed the gruesome scene by eating the body. This is what we meant by "nature red in tooth and claw" earlier in this article.

We hinted before this was possibly an immature female and this may have contributed to the chick's demise. Of course, the chick may have been sick. We shall never know.

Hopefully, we shall see the peregrines next year when we expect to have a new camera.

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Peregrines have been present at St Wulfram’s for over 13 years with first nest being here in 2007.

The last time that chicks fledged from the nest here was in 2012.  With vital work to the spire required the birds were not able to nest here for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.  Unfortunately, the birds have not successfully nested during the past few years, but we know, through hearing their calls and evidence of their food remains, that they are never far away.

The nest site, known as an eyrie, is usually on a grassy or earthen cliff-ledge, quarry, or other inaccessible undisturbed location.  Buildings and other constructions are increasingly being used.  The nest itself is a slight scrape in earth or old debris on the nest ledge. No material is brought in to build a nest. The female forms the scrape using her chest and legs.

The Peregrines have chosen us—the tray has not been installed to encourage them to nest here. 

 

The installation of the camera and monitoring of the peregrines at St Wulfram’s is carried out by The Lincolnshire Bird Club and we are grateful for their interest and involvement.