After a flurry of Bank Holidays and regal nuptials, it’s time to bring the tales of Symonds Yat up to date. Our Peregrines are almost certainly on eggs, as the traffic to and from the nest hole will testify. The female is doing the majority of the incubation as expected and the male spends lots of time sitting sentinel on the cliff face a short distance from the nest site. The changeover occurs usually every hour, with the switchover being very quick – one in, one out. No small talk. No chit chat. No “have you done this dear, have you done that, remember we’re having the vicar over for tea tomorrow”, etc. You know the sort of thing.
By my calculations (beware – mathematics was never my strong point) and taking account that mating was still occurring on the 11th April, I predict that the clutch was completed between the 13th – 18th April. Incubation is usually between 28 – 33 days, so I anticipate hatching will be around the 16th May. If my arithmetic hasn’t failed me for the first time in my life, I conclude that our young Peregrines will then fly 39 days later close to the 24th June. Well, that’s the theory. In practice, I may be proved spectacularly wrong. We shall have to wait and see.
There have been a number of intruders the past few weeks too. Individual Peregrines, male and female, adult and juvenile, have strayed into our pair’s territory. This is not to be tolerated and our pair has swiftly and forcefully seen all comers off. A recent highlight for me was an altercation between our female Peregrine and a Carrion Crow. Members of the crow family regularly mob birds of prey and the latter usually shakes off the former, regarding it as a minor irritation. Our female took objection to this particular affront, however, and quickly flipped over, turning the tables and talons on her assailant. The crow beat a hasty retreat and I am sure has now reviewed its mobbing agenda!
We’ve had a very decent roll call of raptors since starting this year’s project. As well as the usual daily sightings of Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Buzzard and recently Hobby, we’ve had a Red Kite hop over the border from Wales, as well as a passing Osprey, that would have stayed longer if it wasn’t for a mobbing Raven. Pride of place though has to go to the Black Kite. The cousin of our Red Kite, the Black Kite is mainly a summer visitor to Europe and a rare vagrant to Britain. It breeds in most of Europe, in Russia and in Morocco and Algeria. Most British records are in spring and sightings are increasing. This particular sighting was by my colleague Chris and on my day off no less! I remain suspicious.
The resident Nuthatches finally wrested control of the nest box from the Blue Tits and are obviously breeding, as they have become markedly quieter of late. All’s well that ends well for the Blue Tits though, as we managed to get permission from our friends the Forestry Commission to put up another nest box a short distant away. The Blue Tits wasted no time and moved in the next day! Our female Mallard continues to sit tight on her eggs below the viewpoint. The Canada Geese successfully managed to fledge their young and six goslings now tail their parents up and down the river. Lastly, I’m happy to report that the Kingfishers have reappeared and are busily buzzing to and from their nest hole on the riverbank below us. Halcyon is a name for a bird of Greek legend which is commonly associated with the Kingfisher and one can’t help but feel peaceful watching the blue flashes far beneath us.