Are you fed up with peregrines yet? If you are, I'm afraid we can't be friends. I will never tire of them!
We are exactly half way through the "30 Days Wild" challenge already! The past fortnight really has flown by. Today was another volunteering day with the Chi peregrines and even though it has only been five days since I was last there, the chicks have changed so much yet again. They only have small tufts of white down left now and I've been desperate to go up the turret and give them all a good brush; they just look so scruffy!
They are five weeks old now so only have one week left before they will be fledging. One of the female chicks, number 63, has been particularly adventurous and restless today. Several times she hopped up on to one of the castellations and had a good look around. Through the scopes, I managed to see her poking her head out through the gap which was the first time I've seen her in the flesh, so to speak, rather than just on a screen. My money's on her being the first one to take the plunge!
Feeding time this evening. I think the one standing on the box is 63, judging by her head tufts.
Both adults spent a good portion of the morning perched on the cathedral but as the day brightened a bit, they took advantage of the warm air and breeze to do some flying. We didn't see them for some time apart from occasional glimpses of them very high up. I was watching them above us for a while and counted at least three falcons, possibly four in total, and there was definitely some kind of fight going on between two of these, so I took it to mean there were one or two intruding peregrines, possibly the females from a few weeks back. Unfortunately, they were far too high for me to do anything other than speculate.
The parents didn't bring any food in for a good few hours after a brief 11am feed and, after some time, the chicks were showing signs of being hungry; having been asleep for most of that period, they were suddenly wide awake and perched in row, cocking their heads up in search of their parents. Eventually, about 20 minutes before we were due to pack up for the day, the female flew in, squawking loudly and carrying a big prey item. She did several loops of the cathedral before dropping out of sight and then reappeared but flying very low. Once she had landed on her favourite prey-plucking spot, we focused the scopes on her and saw that she had brought in a very large pigeon, probably feral. She was gaping a great deal and made no attempt to start plucking the catch. Instead, she left it where she'd landed and re-positioned herself on one of the pinnacles above the nest turret, near where the tercel had landed in the meantime. Our explanation for this behaviour was that she had really struggled to bring such a large prey item in and consequently had to take some time to catch her breath before delivering the food to her chicks.
Falcon with her prey
I was pleased to see a bit of activity from the adult birds just before leaving, since we'd gone most of the day without seeing them! They always make up for their absence in some way or another and this was a prime example of that. The Cloister's garden, where we are based, is always buzzing with wildlife as I mentioned back in May and today was no exception. I was particularly taken by a goldfinch picking at insects hidden beneath the leaves of an overhanging tree only a few feet away from me. They are one of the prettiest birds to be seen in a garden but it isn't often I get to see them at close range. I just love that yellow stripe!
By the time I'm next on shift at the project, the chicks may well have started fledging already. I really can't wait to see them in action, learning how to be the fastest creatures on the planet!