A sad end for Storm, but hope for the season ahead

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Storm in her nest at the Newton building shortly after being ringed

Today we bring the sad news of the death of Storm, the only peregrine falcon to successfully fledge the nest during the 2012 mating season.

Storm was ringed under licence with a British Trust for Ornithology metal ring when about 20 days old and stayed in the vicinity of the nest until early autumn, when she moved away. We had no reports of Storm until we received a phone call last year which informed us that she had been found in unusual circumstances.

This was worrying and we finally heard what we had been dreading  – Storm had been found dead at Stapleton Park in Leicestershire, about 20 miles from the Nottingham Trent University nest. There had been some concern about the circumstances in which she was found due to the fact that she had lost a leg, but after investigation the death was attributed to natural causes. We’ve been restricted from bringing you the news until now, partly because of the investigation process.

Storm’s death is a very sad end to a gut-wrenching mating season during which heavy rain and strong winds led to the loss of Storm’s three siblings which hatched when they are at their most vulnerable to chilling. Storm’s trials and tribulations created great interest from the viewing public, with her being named, rather aptly, ‘Storm’ via a public competition. Storm, against all the odds, went on to fledge successfully.

Whilst it is sad that Storm has now died, we must remember that the breeding pair on the Newton building have reared many chicks over a number of years, so it is likely that some will have survived into adulthood. The fact that we were able to identify Storm shows the benefit of the ringing process. But we have no idea where she was between leaving the nest and being found, which highlights the limitations of what we can currently do to protect these birds.

Working with Nottingham Trent University we are currently exploring the possibility of using some form of small GPS tracking device in the future to help us keep track of the young birds once they leave the nest. If possible, this may enable us to help more birds in distress and may even help us prevent crimes against these birds such as trapping and poisoning.

In contrast to Storm, a second peregrine from a different local nest was more fortunate. This bird was again ringed and found in a distressed state on the ground near to its nest site. The bird was well grown and had obviously just fledged so was taken into care by a wildlife rescue charity. It was cared for until it had recovered and regained its strength before being released back into the wild.

More follows..


These two examples show the issues surrounding newly fledged peregrines, with very few birds surviving through their first year after fledging. Many are not lucky enough to be found and cared for until they are strong enough for release and instead become chilled and die, or are taken by other predators.

We do hope that the 2014 mating season follows suit from last year when all the chicks fledged successfully to the joy of avid FalconCam viewers. Our approach is always to watch and interfere as little as possible, even though we are sometimes watching nature in the raw.

The number of people watching the live feed has been a sensation, and the partnership between the university and the wildlife trust in seeking to help people learn more about these amazing birds has been a spectacular success with followers from across the UK, Europe and beyond. Everyone watching has had an opportunity to learn more about wildlife conservation, and the positive feedback from members of the public, and the strength of positive feelings towards the peregrines and their young, has been almost overwhelming. Long may it continue.

Erin McDaid
Head of Communications & Marketing
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

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Provisioning rate research at NTU

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Dr. Louise Gentle with some owl chicks at the Brackenhurst Campus, near Southwell.

Persecution, followed by intensive farming practices and heavy pesticide use, caused a decline in the peregrine falcon in the 1960s. The species has since recovered and adapted to the changing environment by demonstrating an increased use of urban habitats. However, despite being widely studied, there is still a distinct lack of information on the breeding ecology of peregrines.

Previous study methods have used human observations or expensive cameras. However, online webcams have become increasingly available and offer a simple, inexpensive and unobtrusive method for observing avian behaviours.

Recently, several of the BSc (honours) Wildlife Conservation students have undertaken research for their final year projects on the peregrine falcon, including the ones on NTU’s Newton Building.

Howes (2012) explored the provisioning rates of peregrines from nine UK webcams during the breeding season of 2011. Provisioning rates are a recording of the amount of food provided to the chicks by their parents. Findings revealed that provisioning remained constant for the female but were positively related to brood size for the male. In addition, provisioning peaked when the chicks were 11-20 days old, with the male providing most of the prey items until the chicks were 30 days old. Although prey items largely consisted of pigeons and starlings in equal proportions across all sites, coastal peregrines frequently captured more gulls, terns and waders than urban sites. Interesting prey items included a kestrel, a moorhen chick and several jackdaws.

Sanders (2014) investigated the provisioning rates of the NTU peregrines during both the 2012 (low success) and 2013 (high success) breeding seasons. Findings revealed that provisioning was four times greater during the high success year, influenced by the reduced provisioning from the male during the low success year. In the high success year all three chicks were fed equal proportions of food, whereas in the low success year the female preferentially provisioned one chick (the only survivor out of four chicks), suggesting that increased frequency of provisions were associated with higher fledging success.

Heaver (2012) studied differences in provisioning rates between two peregrine falcon sub-species in the UK and US. Findings indicated that there was no significant difference between the provisioning rates of the sub-species, suggesting that chicks are dependent on consistent provisioning rates in order to survive and hence contribute to population recovery in both the UK and US.

In conclusion, webcams offer an important tool for education and conservation purposes, adding to the scientific knowledge on the breeding behaviour of peregrine falcons, and highlighting the high potential of webcams in avian research.

We would like to thank all organisations who have allowed us to record data from their webcams.

Dr Louise Gentle
Senior Lecturer in Wildlife Conservation
Nottingham Trent University

 

If you wish to support NTU wildlife research projects please use the Give Now button on the webcam page.

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What will the season bring?

Starting the incubation period

Starting the incubation period

What will this season bring for our peregrine family and those of us who choose to watch?

Over the past few years, those of us involved with the Falconcam project here in Nottingham have come to expect one thing – the unexpected.

Whilst the nest site atop the Newton Building in the centre of our fair city has been very successful in terms of the number of chicks reared in recent years, the impact of the weather in the 2012, when we lost three out of four chicks, proves that even an experienced pair, on a generally sheltered nest site can still be at the mercy of Mother Nature. The late snow fall this time last year also gave us viewers a bit of a fright, but once again our peregrine pair came through – successfully rearing another brood.

We’ve had other surprises over the years too, such as visits from fully grown chicks from previous years, a precocious pigeon getting very close to the nest and one of the adult birds seemingly interacting with its refection in the window behind the ledge. For most of us these were behaviours never before seen, and for me, this opportunity to observe things we have never seen before, either as individuals or collectively, is the real benefit of the project.

Whilst the cameras were originally installed to help us protect the nest, the quality of the camera set up now gives thousands of us the opportunity to keep a watchful eye on what must be the nation’s most watched peregrine family.

Who knows what the months ahead will bring, but one thing is for sure, there will be plenty of people hooked by the goings on high on a ledge over Nottingham.

Erin McDaid
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

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First egg of 2014 is laid

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The mother falcon in the nest just minutes after the egg was laid.

Calling all falcon lovers – we have a new arrival!Our first peregrine egg of the 2014 season was laid at around 12.30am on Sunday 16 March. This compares to our first eggs being laid on 14 March in 2012 and 21 March in 2013. We’re currently trying to dig out the footage of this week’s arrival for you, but in the meantime you might want to reminisce about when the first egg of the 2013 season was laid.

If those previous years are anything to go by, when one egg is laid two or three more invariably follow. The footage we got in 2012 of the second egg being laid was truly remarkable in terms of showing the act.

Keep watching online as you might catch the moment itself as another egg arrives. Over the last six years 20 chicks have successfully fledged from the nest on top of the NTU Newton building and here’s hoping we can add a few more to that number this year.

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Merry Christmas from the NTU Falcons team

twinkle

Merry Christmas to all our viewers from the NTU Falcons team. Here’s a photo of one of the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust singing peregrine falcons sitting on our tree at home.

Click on the image for some seasonal sparkle.

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So long.. but not farewell

 

It’s the end of FalconCam 2013 and I can’t help but feel a little down at heart that another nesting season is over.

Although it’s sad to bid farewell to Ernest, Gwendolen and Amelia, it’s a joy to think of them soaring the Notts skies and establishing themselves as adult birds of prey.

For all intents and purposes, 2013 has been a hugely successful year for FalconCam.

Not only have our resident pair of breeding adult falcons had three beautiful, healthy chicks which have all fledged the nest, we’ve also enjoyed a number of successes off-camera.

The popularity of the project has burgeoned, with more than 156,000 visitors to the FalconCam home page since this time last year and a peak of 63,000 visitors in May alone after the chicks hatched.

We have also successfully launched our donations button, which has led to almost £600 being generously given by you, the FalconCam viewers, with some people pledging monthly payments going forward. This money will be split between Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and the university to further our work and research in this area.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of 2013 for our team has been the interaction with you. It was a real delight to receive dozens of drawings from the pupils of Lady Bay Primary School. It was also great to hear about Naomi Yeomans, Vanessa Sabin and their team of helpers from Capital One putting on a cake sale, raffle and tombola to raise £210.

It was a joy to receive so many nominations of chick names, and a privilege for us to name one of the birds Ernest as a tribute to a follower whose grandfather of that name - an avid viewer of our falcon family – sadly passed away.

There have also been times of adversity, such as when many people grew increasingly concerned for the birds’ wellbeing after they and the three eggs lay in deep snow as the cold winter continued into spring.

But these moments have been outweighed by times of joy, such as when the chicks hatched and video footage of the incredibly cute newly born chicks was broadcast on the websites of the national press and on regional television.

I’ll also never forget watching the chicks training for flight, flapping their wings frantically and exploring the ledge of our Newton building, much to the alarm of many viewers who were worried that they might fall off.

It’s only been three months since the eggs hatched, but so much has happened since then and in many ways it seems a lot longer.

In short, it’s been a pleasure. And from the team at Nottingham Trent University and Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust, we’d like to say a huge thanks to you for following and we hope you’ll join us again next year to once again witness this true marvel of nature.

Chris Birkle
Nottingham Trent University

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A wonderful window on wildlife

Falcon air training squadron video!

 

Whilst this years ‘falconwatch’ season hasn’t quite been as traumatic as 2012, our resident peregrine family have still provided us with our fair share of emotional ups and downs. From the parent birds’ tenacity in coping with the snow to the chicks ledge top antics; we’ve once again been treated to a privileged view of these majestic birds.

Whilst some would argue that nothing matches watching wildlife ‘in the field’, I would argue that webcams, such as those provided by Nottingham Trent University, actually have a role to play in encouraging people to re-connect with nature. There is real concern that young people today have a lack of empathy with the natural world due to the undoubted disconnect that our modern lifestyle has promoted between us and Mother Nature.

Now that fewer and fewer of us live or work in the countryside it is understandable that we have less of a natural affinity with it – and as our homes become more and more sealed off from the outside world this is likely to increase. We no longer live by the natural pattern of day and night and no longer directly rely upon the natural environment to provide our food and shelter.

However far removed we have become from nature, I personally believe that our connection with it is simply waiting below the surface, ready to be re-kindled – and projects such as falcon cam can do nothing but help.

Whether its children watching the peregrines in school time or office workers sneaking a crafty peek whilst at work – tens of thousands of people have been tuning in for the daily fix, and there is no doubting the emotional response that being able to see the birds in every detail has solicited.

Having been involved in this project for quite some time it would be easy to become hardened to this emotional response, but I have to admit that the sight of the chicks chasing each other in flight over the Nottingham skyline last week was truly uplifting.

As well as helping people re-connect with nature, there is also no question that camera projects such as this one are helping us build our knowledge of wildlife a fact highlighted recently on BBC Springwatch when clips from peregrine webcams from across the UK, including ours, were shown featuring a range of behaviours previously unobserved.

Now the chicks have fledged they will be seen less and less on camera, they can be seen readily in the centre of Nottingham – so if you are in the vicinity of the Newton building in the next few weeks, lift your head to the sky and keep your eyes peeled for a view of these very special birds in our very special city.

If you’d like to join our Wildlife in the City team for our final ‘Peregrine Watch’ event of the season, why not join us next Tuesday (25th June). For further details visit

www.nottinghamshirewildlife.org/events/

Erin McDaid
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust

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