Our two chicks are now just about large enough to see their heads poking out from above the rock that fronts the nest scrape. When the falcon is feeding the chicks, look closely at the webcam and you can see the developing eye and the fluffy down of the eyasses!
The tiercel has continued to bring in starlings for the chicks and the falcon. This is the same prey choice that we have seen over the years at this stage from the male. People often ask me whether this concentration of starling hunting affects their population. The answer to this is a resounding no!
Predator prey cycles are in a constant balance. Often prey that is caught is weaker or diseased individuals. In addition to this, Peregrines have been hunting starlings for millenia, prey always evolves a defence mechanism. With starlings and many other small birds, this is breeding voraciously and fledging tens of young in the spring. Any gap in the community vacated by a predated starling, is quickly filled by a new one. If there is less competition for food from other starlings, this increases the survival of those chicks born and the population soon returns to it’s original level. A similar case is that, despite the recent recovary in the sparrowhawk population to it’s natural level (following DDT related declines) many of the species they feed on, such as Blue tits and Chaffinces are actually doing very well.
Unfortunately Starlings like some other farmland species such as meadow pipits and skylarks are declining in the countryside due to changes in farming practices and habitats. In some areas starlings also struggle to find nest sites, something that is also causing declines in house sparrows and swifts.
Luckily in this area Starlings are doing quite well. The one brought in by the tiercel this evening was taken down to the eyrie. He then continued to feed the falcon. Sometimes she seems quite impatient and takes the food straight off him. This time it was nice to see them share an intimate moment, as despite the fact she is easily capable of tearing the meat off herself, she let him do that part and then he fed it into her beak!
This bonding moment was in stark contrast to earlier. The falcon has been doing a lot of shouting at the tiercel. This is mainly begging calls, getting him to bring food to the ledge. I have noticed, however that even after he has fed her she doesn’t leave him in peace. After hunting the tiercel likes to go and sit on his favourite perch for a while to preen and have a rest. She can see this and looks up and shout up at him, presumably to tell him to go out again and get more food! Sometimes he seems to ignore it and other times he seems to have had enough and flies off. I don’t blame him it really is a shrill call that she gives out!
Tom Wells – Peregrine Protection Officer