Guest blogger: Louise Smith, Scotland's comms pro
The difference in the Edinburgh sparrowhawk chicks is crazy. Those bundles of fluff that we saw a few weeks ago have transformed into 6 miniature sprawks. They're an inquisitive bunch too and regularly seem to be exploring their surroundings, edging along the tree branches and having a little flutter about. We’re expecting them to fledge in the coming weeks.
The one thing they're missing though are names and we need your help! This weekend we're asking visitors to suggest names for our chicks. There's five males and one female so get your thinking hats on! The team will be in the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh on Saturday and Sunday from 1 - 4 pm.
Tracey, our girl on the ground, thinks it's time to show the celebs how it's done: “Celebrity babies always have weird and wonderful names so we think it’s only appropriate our sparrowhawk family enjoy the same treatment. I’m sure our visitors can come up with something to rival Harper Seven Beckham, Suri Cruise and Shiloh Nouvel Pitt in the name-stakes. We’ll be drawing 3 winning names on Saturday and 3 on Sunday. We’ve got some great prizes up for grabs, as well as lots of interesting and fun sparrowhawk games and activities planned.”
The six lucky winners will not only have the honour of naming one of the chicks, but each will walk away with a special prize pack containing a bird feeder plus food, a set of family tickets to the Scottish Seabird Centre and a set of family tickets to the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh Glasshouses.
At lunch time today, the groundsman from Yale College in Wrexham called at the Peregrines Date With Nature stand to tell us that a Peregrine Falcon had flown into a window of the college building and been killed. I went with him to retrieve the body and saw that it was one of the chicks. It had left its imprint on the window that it had hit.
We handed the body of the chick to the Wildlife Crime Officer, who checked the bird over and took it away. The details from its ring will be reported so that we can, hopefully, find out which chick it was.
It looks like our Bath peregrines are proving to be a handful even after they've fledged.
A few weeks ago the female chick, CV, disappeared. She can usually be found on her favourite perch on St John's church, sat with her brothers, but she went missing for a couple of days. Then Mike Rogers, from the Hawk and Owl Trust, received a phone call from Gillian Barrett, the lady who helps run the RSPB local group in the area, to say that a peregrine had come down her chimney and was currently sitting in her dormer room. Mike quickly gathered together his equipment and headed over to Gillian's. When he arrived he found CV perched on a table, quite relaxed if not a little dusty with some bent tail feathers.
CV in her temporary digs
Despite seeming rather comfortable, it was time for CV to go home. Mike released her back at the church, but despite a strong start, CV flew back down to the pavement and it become apparent that she needed a bit of R n R before returning home. Mike took her home to recuperate in one of his avaries where she was treated to pheasant, rabbit and squirrel. Not bad service at all!
After four days she was ready to go home and Mike took her to Pratts Hotel, where she was released from one of the bedroom windows. This time she flew away strongly and disappeared off, later to be spotted back on her favourite perch settling in for the night.
CV enjoying the view from the roof at Pratts Hotel.
Big thanks to Mike Rogers for the update and the brilliant photos.
Honestly, you go off for a fortnight’s holiday, in the belief that your Peregrines have three chicks and then you come back to four! Four?! How on earth did that happen? Well, many theories are circulating and I’m not going to go into them all. What we believe is the most likely cause, is that one of the eggs was later than the others and that the adult Peregrines have seen it through to fledging. One of the young males has been spending a lot of time separate from the rest and he's noticeably smaller, which would reinforce this view. Suffice to say, like proud parents, we’re delighted. It’s been five years since there have been four young Peregrines at Symonds Yat and it was another five years before that. Naturally, my colleague Tia and I like to think it’s because of our presence this year.
Despite sibling differences, all four were out yesterday, wheeling and tumbling with each other. I guess that once you discover that you’re the fastest animal on the planet, it’s hard not to go out tearing the air up. I should just point out here, that it’s probably highly unlikely that Peregrines know they’re the fastest animal on the planet. Unless someone’s told them. A jealous Buzzard perhaps.
I digress. All the young are now flying regularly and are very vocal. Yesterday we observed one bringing back pigeon prey, another stooping at a stationery pigeon on a branch (very dangerous) and a pair of them attacking a female Goshawk in mid-air (unbelievably foolish). Meanwhile, the adults are noticeably absent, until they come back with food. Great excitement all round ensues and then we see neither hide nor hair for about an hour afterwards, as digestion and dozing takes place.
One of the most curious bits of Peregrine behaviour was observed recently with our female having a bath. An observer on the viewpoint saw her fly down to the shingle on the curve of the riverbank and sit there for five minutes watching the water. All lenses were trained on her, as she took a few tentative steps towards the water, before then just wading in. Much to our collective astonishment, she then proceeded to duck and splash water over her back, preening herself as she went. A further five minutes of this went on, until she came back on to dry land to ruffle her feathers in the sunshine, whilst continuing to preen herself. This was a sight never seen before by many of our seasoned visitors and certainly one that few of us will forget in a hurry.
Our Edinburgh sparrowhawk chicks finally have names! Six lucky people who came along to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh over the weekend suggested the winning names. The only female in the brood has been named Leila and her brothers are called Lucky, Fluffy, Nev, Radar and Killer. It's good to finally have names to put with the faces!