Last modified: 05 July 2013
Image: Graham Catley
After 13 weeks and thousands of visitors, the RSPB’s Date with Nature at Chichester Cathedral finishes on Sunday 14 July.
This was the 13 year the peregrines have nested on top of the Cathedral, in a nestbox provided by the Sussex Ornithological Society, and RSPB staff and visitors alike have been enthralled and delighted as they watched the family.
From a new ‘younger’ male bird partnering the female, the agonising wait for the eggs to hatch and then to find all three chicks were females, to the chicks’ first brave steps out of the nestbox - there has been plenty of drama along the way.
Lauren Terry, Project Officer for RSPB South East, said: “The Chichester Cathedral peregrine Date with Nature is a really exciting project, and this year has been no different. We have seen the surprise of a new male, the drama of multiple ‘intruding’ peregrines, the nervous wait for the chicks to hatch, visitors sharing the joy of seeing the chicks taking their first flights and of course the female being a truly amazing mother and bringing the total number of chicks fledged to 45.
“But I must admit the last couple of weeks is always my favourite time of the project, simply because is it so exciting and every day is action packed. You get such close views of the three young peregrines becoming more confident in flight, play fighting in mid-air, and mum has just started to teach the girls to hunt for themselves by carrying out food passes right above the RSPB marquee! Now really is the time to make a trip down to Chichester Cathedral.”
Although the RSPB will be packing up its telescopes after this weekend, the young peregrines’ journey continues.
The three juveniles, who hatched on top of the Cathedral at the end of April, and began flying around two-weeks-ago, have spent the last fortnight honing their flying skills. As they get stronger, the parents will take their young on flights further afield and by August it is likely they will start hunting at the coast during the day.
The young birds have also been getting to grips with basic hunting skills, in particular how to catch food in mid air. This skill is taught to them by their parents, who drop food in the sky for their offspring to catch with their talons.
Lauren continued: “We time the project to finish for when the parents start to take the girls further afield, to improve their flight skills and to teach them those all-important hunting skills. This often takes place at RSPB Pagham Harbour nature reserve, but the family still comes back to the cathedral to roost each night.
“The family will probably stay together until around late September, the girls will then head off on their own. Dad will then return to a bachelor life on top of the Cathedral, while mum continues to spend most of her time at Pagham – although she will pop back occasionally to check up on him!
“Then next February, the Chichester Cathedral peregrine story will begin another chapter.”