Time flies

Better late than never, here’s a recap of the 2012 season and a brief look ahead to 2013.

2012 was the worst breeding season on record for many nesting birds in the UK. Peregrines may not have been affected as badly as more insectivorous species, but some nest sites that would probably have produced young failed because of the poor weather. Sites on man-made structures without sufficient shelter or drainage were worst affected. One such case was documented in harrowing detail on the webcam showing the Peregrines nesting on the roof of Nottingham Trent University’s Newton Building (BBC News – Webcam turned off as peregrine falcon chicks die in Nottingham).

A handful of sites in London failed due to the weather.1 A few other sites failed due to the unsuitability of the structure (in some cases simply a lack of substrate), and a couple due to human disturbance. The season was not without successes though. A reasonable number of sites fledged young, with a number of pairs fledging three or more juveniles (including the Fulham and Barnes and Parliament pairs) and what we believe to be the first brood of five young in the London area (Sutton Peregrines).

The family at Charing Cross Hospital were the internet stars of the year, having their life on the nest ledge captured by HD webcams installed by Simon King and closely monitored by Nathalie Mahieu. Sutton’s ‘famous five’ were all the more remarkable given that they make their scrape in shingle on the roof on an office block without a roof over their heads. These were among the last pairs to fledge young, which meant the chicks had hatched after the worst of the season’s heavy rainfall. Special mention must be given to the band of volunteers at Sutton, their organizer Rob Dolton, and the building managers at Quadrant House, who between them performed several successful rescue attempts and without whom at least one or two of those birds would have been lost.

The Tate Modern pair continued their record of consecutive successful breeding attempts, fledging a single juvenile male. High winds were an issue during fledging at this and other sites, with chicks finding themselves swept off the nest ledge a day or two early. The adults demonstrated their command of flight navigating strong winds to bring food down to the juvenile tiercel when he struggled to find a good perch on his first blustery days on the wing. While monitoring this nest site we found a Nightjar which had been blown off a ledge the resident birds use to cache their food–the first instance of this species on record for an urban Peregrine site2 and a most surprising discovery in the centre of a big city.

As Dave Morrison has already pointed out on his Parliament Diary, several of the birds that fledged this season were fitted with colour rings. If you should see an immature or adult Peregrine sporting an orange colour ring in or near London please contact us. We’re also keen to hear about any Peregrine activity you observe on buildings in London from January/February onwards. While we may not be able to install nest boxes at every site that attracts Peregrines, it is important to monitor Peregrine activity especially nesting attempts.

We’re hopeful for another successful breeding season in 2013, ideally with a bit less rain and good fledging conditions. Will the Sutton birds repeat their brood of five? Will the Tate birds succeed another year? Watch this space.

1. Data collected by Dave Morrison.
2. Communication with Ed Drewitt.

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