It's been a busy few weeks for our Salisbury Cathedral peregrines - hatching began on Thursday 18 May (so far only one chick has hatched) and previous to that, on Friday 12 May, the adult female bird was fitted with a GPS solar powered satellite tag, under licence from the British Trust for Ornithology.
Photo 1 (Marie Thomas Salisbury Cathedral): First 2017 Salisbury peregrine chick hatching. Photo captured from the cathedral's the live feed, here: http://bit.ly/2PeregrineCam
This operation was carried out by a team very experienced in the fitting of these devices to raptors including golden eagles, goshawks and ospreys. It is the first occasion in the UK, however, that a tag has been fitted to an adult falcon - tags in the past have only been fitted to young falcons still in the nest.
Photo 2 (by Marie Thomas, Salisbury Cathedral): Dave Anderson, assisted by RSPB's Phil Sheldrake fits the satellite tag. The female is hooded to keep her calm.
Both adults were carefully caught, but only the female was tagged as the male was not heavy enough to carry the tag; the tag must not exceed 3% of the weight of the bird. The male weighed in at 680 grams with the female at 1166 grams. This size difference is considerable, but is in fact fairly typical for the species.
The whole operation was carried out speedily and on release the female soon returned to incubate her clutch of eggs which had been placed in an insulated container during the operation to ensure they were kept warm.
Photo 3 (Marie Thomas, Salisbury Cathedral): Phil and Dave attaching the tag
The tag should typically last for between one and three years and the attachment has a biodegradable link which means it will drop off the bird in due course. Past experience shows the tags have no impact on the wellbeing of the bird and will not impact on its hunting ability. What it does do is open up a whole new world on the behaviour of the bird as the tag enables the bird to be tracked in real time and its movements can be plotted on Google Earth maps.
To date, unsurprisingly in view of her incubation duties, she has only flown two-three miles from the nest on any occasion. What will be fascinating is where she goes when she starts hunting for the chicks when they are well grown, but still in the nest, where she goes in the weeks after the chicks have fledged, and perhaps most interesting of all, where she spends her time outside of the breeding season.
It is a mouth watering prospect for raptor enthusiasts and general birdwatchers alike. Get the latest news/ updates and follow the cathedral's live feed here: http://bit.ly/2PeregrineCam
Photo 4: Taken from the live webcam today at lunchtime - mum is still incubating four eggs. Look carefully and you can just spot the fluffy white down of the first chick nestling underneath!
Devon Wildlife Trust and RSPB are today calling on voters to ask their prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) about how they plan to restore nature in the West Country.
In an unusual move the two leading nature charities will be riding into Plymouth on a special campaign bicycle carrying a billboard with a ‘unique and wild’ election message. They will be cycling through the city between 10.00am - 3.00pm so if you see them, give them a smile!
Nick Bruce White, RSPB Regional Director, said: “We know that nature is close to the heart of people here in the West Country, with both our organisations having tens of thousands of supporters locally. We urge people to talk to election candidates of all parties about nature, how important it is to them and how if elected they will make sure it protected and restored.”
Harry Barton, Devon Wildlife Trust Chief Executive said: “Wildlife and wild places are critical to the health, welfare and prosperity of people in the South West. The debate around the future of wildlife cannot be allowed to go missing from this crucial general election. Today we are asking that people don’t let their candidates forget nature.”
The campaign’s novel use of a bike-powered billboard stemmed from a passion for cycling shared by both charities’ chief officers.
Harry Barton said: “We wanted a way to reach people, and pedal power fits perfectly with the ethos of each of our organisations.”
Devon Wildlife Trust and RSPB are asking voters to raise four key specific issues with their PPC:
1. What will your party do to ensure our wildlife laws remain strong and that steps are taken to restore the damage we have done to nature?
2. What will your party do to ensure that wildlife thrives in our seas once more?
3. What will your party do to ensure we have new farming policies in each part of the UK to provide for nature’s recovery?
4. What will your party do to make sure we move to a low carbon economy?
The bike’s campaign billboard leads with the slogan ‘The real losers in the polls’, before asking voters to ‘Let your election candidates know how much nature means to you’. The billboard also states that 56% of the UK’s wildlife is in decline, a figure that headlined the recent State of Nature report which was published in 2016.
RSPB and Devon Wildlife Trust are asking people to find out more about why this general election is so crucial to the future of the region’s wildlife by visiting a special election webpage www.GE2017wild.org and joining the debate on social media using the hashtag #GreenerSW.
The RSPB advises the public not to cut hedges or trees during summer breeding season.
Morwenna Alldis, spokesperson for the RSPB South West said: “As the sun starts to shine, temperatures creep up and daylight hours lazily prolong our bedtime, many of us experience an excited urge to spend more time in our gardens. This magnetic pull to reconnect with nature is something that the RSPB encourages – a tonic for our mental and physical wellbeing. However, we also find it hard to resist the urge, once outside in our gardens, to tinker with nature – chop back that hedge, get that tree taken down, manicure and tidy nature just as she reaches her peak. Where possible, please try and resist this urge for the benefit of garden wildlife.”
Photo 1: Wildlife garden
“From the beginning of March until the end of August many of our favourite feathered friends enter breeding season. Birds are now busy literally feathering their nests, incubating eggs and feeding ever hungry chicks. And there’s no place finer to raise a birdie family than in the secrecy of your bushy garden hedge or in the shelter of your budding tree.”
Photo 2: Blackbird gathering nesting material by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
All birds in the UK are fully protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. This protection includes active bird nests – so from the very moment that a bird places that first twig to create a nest, that nest is legally protected until all of the chicks have hatched and the nest is no longer being used (remember some species have two to three broods per year).
Under the Wildlife and Countryside act it is a criminal offence to:
1. Intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird
2. Intentionally damage, destroy or take the nest of any wild bird while it is being built or is in use
3. Intentionally destroy the egg of any wild bird
4. Intentionally or recklessly disturb certain wild birds or their dependent young while they are nesting (including disturbance of nesting young)
The RSPB is giving the following advice:
** Be super aware of your garden at this time of year. If you spot birds gathering nesting material or food and diving into your hedges and trees, it’s likely that they’re nesting there – so enjoy the nesting experience from a distance and let nature take her course, postponing work until the chicks have fledged. Obviously, if you have no nesting birds in your hedge and it’s getting unruly, it is fine to gently keep it in shape with secateurs.
Photo 3: Lush hedges perfect for wildlife by Felicity Husband
** If you are aware of an active nest and you see someone about to do some work, let them know so they can avoid that area, as they may be unaware of the nest. If they are felling a tree, again let them know so they can come back when the fledglings have left the nest and fell the tree. As all species of bird are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, if they continue and destroy the nest they have committed a criminal offence, which is a police matter. Call your county police station on 101 and report the incident to the local Wildlife Crime Officer for the area.
Morwenna added: “Our gardens are also a rich source of food for birds during the nesting season, as well as other wildlife. Wildlife will always favour feeding directly from nature’s pantry. Leave any garden maintenance until the winter to allow wildlife to feast upon sweet flower nectar, plump berries and even plumper invertebrates and rotting fruit.
Photo 4: Butterfly friendly garden by Eleanor Bentall (rspb-images.com)
“The key message is simple – during the spring and summer months nature is in turbo mode producing and nurturing new life. Give the next generation of your garden wildlife the best chance you can and give yourself a well earned rest and dose of Vitamin D, by popping your feet up in the garden this summer, glass in hand and just enjoy watching it thrive. The hard work can wait until winter.”
For more top tips on how to give nature a home in your garden, visit: www.rspb.org.uk/myplan
Photo 5: Lady enjoying her garden