It’s been a slow weekend here at the watch site where the birds are concerned. I’ve been told by our dedicated volunteers that on Thursday the falcon was sitting for a long time at the site they have been scraping this year, a possible indication that she was finally laying. I got very excited for the weekend but it turns out none of them spent too long at the nest. There is still a possibility that there is something there though: Peregrines will usually not incubate their first egg right away and wait until they have more, they only need to keep it warm enough to stay alive. Because it was very sunny on Friday and Saturday and the scrape is hidden by a rock, there might be an egg in there that was just being kept warm by the sun. We will need to wait and see how things develop. However they have become much more active on Sunday and have mated at least 4 times!
As the birds have spent a long time away or just sleeping this weekend, I got the chance to talk to people about other related subjects. One of them was raptor persecution in Scotland, namely of peregrines. As most of you must know, our main job here at the watch is to keep the breeding pair under 24h surveillance and that job becomes even more important now that we might have eggs.
I wanted to tell you more about raptor persecution but I found so much material on it that it would probably take me months to do a comprehensive review and give you a proper view of the situation, so please take what you are going to read now as just a little taste of it.
Unfortunately, and despite the legislation in place protecting all birds of prey in the United Kingdom, cases of raptors showing up poisoned or shot are still frequent. There are several reasons that may lead people to do this: a high percentage of cases seems to be related to hunting estates or grouse moors because the raptors can occasionally hunt grouse and cost the gamekeeper good money. However it is important to remember that those areas are more accessible to people so dead birds might be found there more often just because they are easier to find. In any case, we shouldn’t be finding any dead birds at all! Earlier this year, on the 21st February, a peregrine was found dead in a shooting estate in Stirlingshire. Further examination showed the poison used was a banned pesticide called Carbofuran (read more here: http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2015/02/22/16552/).
Some people will steal eggs to collect them or sell them to falconers because these birds, and peregrines in particular, are very well prized in falconry. We had a demonstration of that in 2010 when our pair fostered 3 of the chicks seized at Birmingham International Airport when a man was caught trying to smuggle 14 peregrine eggs to Dubai (you can find more of that story here http://blogs.scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/fallsofclyde/2013/04/03/recapping-of-2010-and-our-foster-chicks/ and here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-11002924).
Furthermore, nests might be destroyed for several reasons. One of them is a consequence of the great adaptation peregrines have gone through in cities where they nest in tall buildings or derelict structures. Because the species has the highest level of protection under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981they can’t be disturbed during the breeding season, delaying the development of new structures and leading some people to destroy the nests to speed up the process.
Finally, sometimes the reasons are unknown. Just last month another peregrine was found shot dead outside Derbyshire’s Wildlife Trust Head Quarters in Belper for no apparent reason (read more here: http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/2015/03/02/shot-peregrine-found-dead-at-derbyshire-wildlife-trust-headquarters/).
To have two reports of dead peregrines this year already is quite concerning. We can only guess how many more cases have been missed because they were in less conspicuous areas. If you ever find a dead bird of prey or see any suspicious activity please report it by calling the local Police as soon as you can. Because not all regions have a dedicated Police Wildlife Crime Officer be sure to pass the information to the RSPB or SSPCA (if the animal is still alive and injured) as well so that the case is further investigated.
Numbers to remember:
Police (to report a crime): 101
RSPB Scotland: http://www.rspb.org.uk/reportacrime
Scottish SPCA: 03000 999 999
See you soon,
Cat Fonseca – Scottish Wildlife Trust, Peregrine Ranger Intern
Help support our vital work and join us today!