As the rain has dried up this evening the male has gone away hunting, leaving the female on the eyrie. She seems keen to stay on the eggs whenever she can at the moment, only escaping the nest to feed. Sometimes the tiercel remains keen to incubate, but I have seen him come down to the eyrie only for the falcon to call him away. Other times the male can be less keen to begin his duties, he can be preening on his favourite perch ignoring her calling at him incessantly.
The male returing to the eyrie can be the only time when the pair interact at close quarters at this time of year. When it is the falcon on her way back to the eyrie, the tiercel has usually flown down into the gorge before she has even landed. I really do think he is scared of her! When the tiercel comes to eyrie, she is always slower to leave. The falcons maternal instincts to stay at the nest are finally overcome by the want to stretch her wings and catch some prey so she leaves the eyrie. Sometimes I think she is a bit of control freak and doesn’t fully trust the male with the eggs, despite this being his 13th breeding season!
If the falcon has been incubating along time, such as in the morning, she will usually fly to perch in the oak tree near the eyrie. This is so she can clean her feathers before she goes out to hunt. When a peregrine is incubating they don’t truly switch off, usually keeping at least one eye open. Therefore they may use their time off the nest to have a rest. A peregrine won’t remain asleep long though, always suspicous of other birds and ever expectant that another peregrine may just be waiting to invade their territory. I certainly wouldn’t describe peregrines as laid back birds!
They sometimes sit watching other birds flying around, possibly wishing they could catch them. A peregrine however usually relies on ambush and speed built up over distance to kill their prey, so is unlikely to catch a bird in the gorge from a tree!
Tom Wells – Peregrine Protection Officer