Monday, 18 March 2013

What are the Bath Peregrines up to?

View from the Peregrine nest in Bath. Photo: Hamish Smith
Peregrines have been breeding in Bath since 2007 after the Hawk and Owl Trust (HOT) put up a nest box a few years earlier. The current breeding female is paired with her son who hatched in that first year.

Hamish Smith, who keeps an eye on the Bath Peregrines gave us the latest update as they prepare to lay eggs later this month.

"There hasn't been a huge amount of interaction between the pair in the past weeks, but more recently there have been some interesting behavioural changes.  

Both birds have been going through the motions of individually perch hunting from the church, but there has been little hunting activity in the vicinity.  It has become routine for the pair to head off in their favoured directions, and to return some time later with a kill.  In the time that I have been watching, there has been no evidence of prey sharing.
Fledged chick from 2011. Photo: Hamish Smith

In the past ten days, it has been clear that greater attention to detail is being paid to stamping ownership on the nestbox, the church and the surrounding airspace.  Within minutes of the HOT renewing the gravel in the nestbox a few weeks ago, the female entered the box and appeared to be shaping a scrape to her liking.

While the birds have in effect been ignoring one another in past weeks, in the week of Mon 11 March there were increased levels of activity:
  • On a number of occasions with no birds initially on the church, the female flew in, landed on the roof of the nestbox and started calling.  She then has flown off.
  • Wed 13th: Female spotted on the south side of the church on a gargoyle with a kill; male flew in, landed on the structure above her, and immediately started calling and looking down to her; she gave a cursory glance in his direction and carried on eating; female settled down on the gargoyle with a full crop, and the male headed off in the direction of Widcombe.
  • Thu 14th: 08:00 to 09:00, female on north side of church, very alert and watching the wildlife go by; male sitting on the edge of the nest-box. 10:00-ish, female gone and male sitting inside the box. At 11:30 the top of a Peregrine head was visible in the box, assumed it to be the male.
Juveniles tassling in Bath in 2011. Photo: Hamish Smith
  • Today, Sun 17th: Male flew in to the church calling as he came in.  He flew off in the direction of Lansdown then circled over the Rec and returned to the church.  After preening and lightening the load he spent some time staring skyward and calling at a wolf-pack of gulls that were circling the tower.  He then lifted, scattered the pigeons on the church in so doing and headed off after one of the gulls.  They dropped below roof-top level and climbed on several occasions.  He either came very close or actually hit the gull then headed off towards Widcombe."
Teal wing feather, 5th March. Photo: Hamish Smith
Various prey items have been brought in over recent weeks - between us we have found  a fresh Snipe head, various pigeon legs, a pair of pigeon wings, Teal feathers, Brambling feathers and Skylark feathers. 

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