The confidence of the juvenile falcons in the air has continued to increase over the last few days. They are very playful and are constantly trying to out manoeuvre the other in flight. If one has an item/scrap of food they will often tussle over it, although it never gets violent, it is all part of the game. Usually the bird who originally was given the food keeps it, it is usually the hungrier and wants it more! The muscles around the necks of the juveniles and those used in flight, have noticeably grown since the birds fledged. This is giving the young falcons a more powerful and less cute appearance, like their mother, who is an incredibly powerful individual (just ask her partner, the local buzzards and a number of intruding peregrines!)
The adult falcon continues making the juveniles work for their food. She likes them to follow her along the gorge, yesterday she was sighted feeding the young down near Cora linn. The falcon has also started passing her latest offspring food in flight. The passes have not been that long yet, so have all been caught by the juveniles (The falcon does not want to waste hard earnt food!). Once she knows they are capable she will increase the length of the pass. Catching something with their talons is one of the first steps in learning how to hunt.
The adult female has become much more active recently after a quiet couple of weeks when her hunting was minimal to say the least! Lets hope this breeding season wasn’t one too many for her and she continues to raise fit and strong progeny for a few more years.
With the season coming to a close, it got me thinking about where our young falcons may go come the autumn. Like most animals, young falcons won’t expend energy needlessly. I would expect therefore, for the immature birds to find the nearest place where there is plenty of food, that is not a territory. There are a number of areas that fit this bill, most obviously would be estuarine habitats, where you find large flocks of waders, teal and starlings among others in autumn. There are a number of other areas that peregrines cannot breed in, due to lack of nesting sites, but contain plenty of food.
Not having to defend a nesting area, means the young a free to roam widely and probably will for at least the next year. Come the following winter the young falcons may be on the look out for a mate. Single tiercels will often defend a breeding site (such as a cliff) and then display and call to travelling falcons. If they find themselves compatible, the pair might settle. If a falcon has found a male by the time she is 2 it has been known for them to breed, although most are 3 before they would attempt to.
As I have previously discussed the adults are resident, so we know where they will be over winter!
The peregrine watch site closed down today, with the nesting season now over, most of the time there is nothing for us to point our scopes at! It has been great meeting all the visitors throughout the year and seeing the vast array of reactions to people seeing the worlds fastest creature at close range. To see the joy most people get from seeing such an impressive animal has been of the best parts of my role. It goes to show most want to conserve our most charismatic wildlife, for future generations to enjoy and not selfishly destroy it for their own agenda. Here’s to another successful year at this site and two more fit and healthy young peregrines to add to the population!
Tom Wells – Peregrine Protection Officer