Difficult decisions

Over the past 48 hours there has been a huge swell of interest in the plight of our peregrine family and we have responded to a series of queries from interested wildlife watchers. Two of the topics which keep coming up are: why doesn’t someone intervene and perhaps hand rear the chicks; the other relates to whether or not the birds need some form of additional shelter in the future.

Home: The falcons' nest box, before the chicks arrived

Home: The falcons' nest box, before the chicks arrived

In respect of the first question, whilst the sad decline of a number of the chicks due to the terrible weather over the weekend has made difficult viewing, the option of intervening hasn’t really been seriously considered by our conservation team for a number of reasons. Firstly, these are wild birds, nesting in a location of their own choice, and whilst we do have the privilege of watching the family’s progress or possible decline, we don’t feel it would be right to directly interfere with the brood. If we had tried to remove some of the chicks there would also have been the possibility that the adults may have abandoned the nest and any remaining healthy chicks.

Another key reason we haven’t intervened directly is that laws designed to prevent birds being targeted by egg collectors, thieves and people wanting to otherwise harm them mean that if we were to access the nest to remove the chicks we would almost certainly be committing a criminal offence under the terms of the Wildlife & Countryside Act.

With regard to the need for additional shelter in the future – whilst we will certainly consider all the options as part of the review we carry out each nesting season with Nottingham Trent University – the fact remains that the pair have reared a very large number of chicks in this exact location and have very rarely lost one, let alone more chicks in a season.

Another factor in the sad turn of events this year is the combination of a warm spell early in the year prompting the adults to lay their eggs early followed by the wettest April on record. Some of the chicks sadly seemed a little too young and fragile to cope.

Hopefully, in future years, with more seasonable weather, our family will continue to thrive.

Erin McDaid
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust


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75 Responses to Difficult decisions

  1. Katie Carlin says:

    Whilst it is hard to, I agree. The fact is there are falcons nesting in many other locations who undoubtebly will be facing the same plight, but this is nature and we cannot and must not interfere. Hopefully, these birds will return again next year with a more positive turn out, but if we interfere then the likelihood is they would not return to this location again and we would not be able to benefit from this insightful opportunity.

    Like

    • I so agree. As much as I am an animal lover, intervening would be wrong. I would not want to loose the possibility of them not nesting there in future years where we could all enjoy. The weather was horrible this time, and it came at the wrong time for them. My hopes and thoughts are with the surviving chicks.

      Like

    • Chris Golightly says:

      Surely covered nest boxes could be placed in other locations on the Newton building giving them a choice ?

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      • I agree – couldn’t you construct some cover for the falcons in certain areas of each side of the building and yet leave some areas uncovered, so that they can choose whether they are sheltered or not? I’m sure that, given just how waterlogged Mrs P got on the weekend, she would appreciate some choice.

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      • rick says:

        it is a shame about the chicks but there must be quite a high mortality rate anyway, i would think it was the wind chill factor that must have done for them i’m afraid once they got wet, have they ever raised a second brood?

        Like

  2. Pip says:

    Thank you for the update and explanation, a very difficult situation.

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  3. Steve says:

    11:25 Mr P has been doing his best to keep No 4 warm and now Mrs P has arrived with (belated) elevenses!

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  4. Thanks so much for your update and explanation of what’s going on at your end – I completely agree that if the nest was disturbed in any way at this stage (either by removing dead chicks or by putting up shelter) then the (already traumatised) female could abandon the nest and not return. It would be really interesting to see what your end of breeding season review recommends for the future – hopefully you might post it on the blog?
    Many thanks again for maintaining such a wonderful webcam and for taking the time to explain things to your viewers via the blog.
    I’m going switch back to the webcam now and continue cheering on chick number 4 and Mrs P… they can do it!

    Like

  5. Penny says:

    The one remaining chick is now alone with its dead sibling, and looks very wet and poorly. It has been fed, but must be getting very cold – how long can it survive like this?

    Like

  6. Tom F says:

    Totally agree! It bugs me that we are arrogant enough to presume that we could ever know better than these wild birds and are indeed ‘above’ nature itself. I think applying human emotions to these situations is the cardinal sin.

    Perhaps our government and their foreign policies could learn a lesson from the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust!

    Like

  7. Pip says:

    While I understand the reasons for not interfering with the chicks in the nest, I’m curious as to what would happen if this last chick reaches the fledging stage then ends up helpless on the pavement below (as often happens at that time). Will it be left to wander into the road and be run over? That, to me, would be taking the ‘leave it to nature’ stance one step too far.

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  8. chris morley says:

    erin my man everyone as an opinion on this but perhaps we should look at it this way,the more peregrines there are about the better for everyone,why should it depend where you live weather or not you see em,ok? as regards a criminal offence dont think so,the law is there to protect you are not doing this,nothing personal mate,besides the trust as a guy who is licenced to ” intervine” otherwise you would not be able to ring em? every bird is precious”my love” so can common sence prevail here i believe its to late to INTERVINE now but if this thing happens again the trust should act for the sake of all,i believe it must have been heartbreaking for you to do nothing so next time ACT mate i personally would risk the wrath of the law for the sake of these birds

    Like

  9. chris morley says:

    ps chichester have a roof on their platform and they are fine,could we learn from this?

    Like

    • David says:

      A valid point and having read their blog, it would seem, they have successfully raised 32 chicks in the last 10 years……………………maybe something in a bit of extra protection, maybe nothing.

      Like

  10. Debbie Blake says:

    You are so right in leaving things as they are. This is nature, survival of the fittest and while it is upsetting, people should remember this is just one nest. This may and will happen to many other birds but because we’re not watching, it’s no less a raw problem for the parent birds. We’re privileged to be able to see this however things turn out. My fingers are crossed for the remaining chicks.

    Like

  11. Nicola says:

    13.15pm Both parents on the nest. Mr P came back with food. Last remaining chick looking good/alert, & being fed well 🙂

    Like

  12. Tom F says:

    All looks well now! Granted only one chick left but I have high hopes for it! No competition and the female seems to be brooding OK and male returning with food. Fingers crossed

    Like

  13. Steve says:

    No 4 is getting so much food his crop is in danger of bussting. Easy up Mr P !!!

    Like

  14. Helen A;-F says:

    We are merely extremely priveledged observers, ‘spying’ on the lives of these beautiful birds. To intervene is to try and control nature and that is not our role as humans. These chicks have perished because of extreme weather conditions and despite the very best efforts of their parents and their instincts to protect their young. It is not the fault of the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust. The birds chose their nest site and we as humans should not be so conceited as to presume they are not capable of making the right choices and decisions to give their young the very best chance, without human involvement. Previous breeding years prove this site to be a successful one, just as it is. The remaining chick has been strong from the start and, as sad as we as observers feel at the loss of the other chicks, now the efforts of the parents can go into protecting and nurturing the chick which was always the one most likely to make it to adulthood and breed itself. That is nature. Survival of the fittest, so a species contains the fittest genes and survives into the future. Intervention with any species is only justified when human activity has directly led to an injury, for example an RTA. Time will tell us the fate of the remaining chick, which has it all on their little shoulders now, but it is certainly a fighter, so let’s hope for some better news as the days go on 🙂

    Like

  15. Stuart. Nottingham says:

    I totally agree that the birds should be left well alone and without human intervention, as for the sheter issue Peregrins nest on cliff faces and the like so the ledge at the Uni building is a penthouse suit in comparison, It is only the unseasonal weather that has caused problems for all manner of animals

    Like

  16. redtedng9 says:

    I think it is correct not to interfere in this situation. The falcons have bred very succesfully on this site for many years, and have reared strong youngsters such as the fabulous four last year.
    The storm on Sunday was extreme and savage for around twenty hours, and it is worth mentioning that temperatures in Nottingham started dropping from Saturday lunch and stayed very low until Sunday evening. The performance of the mother was nothing less than remarkable in trying to protect and save the chicks.
    The weather forecast is poor for the next week, with more cold and wet conditions predicted. There are clearly many people willing this family to get through this next test, let’s hope these superb creatures continue to flourish in the middle of our city .

    Like

  17. Belinda says:

    Been trying to get work done while keeping up with the falcons. Usually keep webcam minimised and just go back to it when I hear chirping but have lost sound over the last couple of days. Has anyone else got sound?

    Like

    • MikkinNotts says:

      No Belinda, I also noticed no sound on camera two since yesterday, I tweeted Notts Wildlife about it but but no answer.

      Like

  18. Katie Carlin says:

    Just when it looks like there might be hope for the surviving chick, it starts throwing it down with rain. Poor Mrs P is soaking, but she remains resilient, covering her last chick from the elements….it is actually quite inspiring.

    Like

  19. Lynne says:

    Can I ask Dave a question please? If the entire brood were to fail – though obviously I hope not! – would that mean that th birds thought the site was “unsuccessful” and not return next year? Or would they have enough memory of “good years” for it not to count too much?

    Like

  20. martin perryman says:

    up to 60% of eyasses perish in their first year, to survive in the wild you have to be 100% fit and up to the mark , I do not think the birds are ‘traumatised’ by the loss they accept what is and get on with feeding the remaining chick , they are not human and do not understand the concept of Mr. and Mrs. in fact they do not even know that we call them peregrines , they are two birds of the same species biologically programmed to reproduce and contend with whatever conditions are thrown at them. Most humans would have quit by now. I hope that the weather is a bit kinder to the remaining chick and it survives to fledge , I am sure such a survivor is in with a good chance especially as the competition for food just go easier .

    Like

    • lee rush says:

      Martin,
      Martin, Agree 100%,
      Nature provides 4 young to ensure that 1 or 2 survives, the remaining chick now has a brighter future.
      I Do though believe the Ledge should have a roof, the reason these hawks are nesting here is because there is an ample food source, Man made pigeons ! perhaps limited natural nest ledges, whilst i accept that the Peregrine is NO LONGER an Endangered species, if we can help with a simple nest design then please it must be worth it !
      I also understand that there is a BFC, RSPB, Birdlife etc approved box design that includes a roof !!!
      Waiting for her to feed the dead chick to the remaining Eyass…!!
      Survival ….hard to comprehend in our Human world ….
      lee

      Like

      • Chris Golightly says:

        Agree – the Peregrines have come to our cities because of the pigeons , starlings etc which in turn are attracted to our filth! Maybe they dont always choose the best nest site but the available one. In the wild they usually have an overhang to protect them.

        Like

  21. Christine says:

    2.25pm tuesday – more rain I see, let’s hope it won’t be so bad as the weekend. This blog has created some lively debate and other people are right to be concerned about other birds nesting that we cannot see, I dont like to see the sparrowhalk taking blackbirds from my garden, I feel for the pigeons and other birds that the peregrines kill as after all they probably had young to feed aswell and were just going about their businesss, I also feel for any animal that is killed by lions and tigers but at the end of the day they are doing it to survive, not just for the hell of it and what can we do ? NOWT, it is because we have been able to see, firsthand how the Notts peregrines are coping this year that we have all been upset, it reminds me of once when I considered buying my husband a nest box with a camera inside but I knew for sure that if I saw a blue tit not getting fed I would be up that ladder and it would be stuffed down my jumper and there would be me trying to collect caterpillars so I decided against it – what the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over. I am hoping and praying that number 4 makes it, there are 4 chicks at Chichester and Derby’s will be making an appearance any day now so all is not lost. You are a nice lot on this blog and I’ve enjoyed reading all comments wether I agree or not, we are all entitled to an opinion

    Like

  22. Tom F says:

    Its a wonder how they even survived as a species before we invented computers, live webcams and blogs? Is that ignorance or arrogance?

    Like

  23. C.Jones says:

    I orginally thought that Ms P had caught some food on her beak but it’s been looking abit odd since yesterday now – does it look slightly damaged to anyone else?

    Like

    • Tom F says:

      Your right It looks like something is protruding up from the lower beak (thanks webcam person for zooming in) first impression is that it looks like a small feather but im not sure a feather would stay there for that long?

      Like

    • Claire says:

      Yes I noticed it yesterday and just thought it was some bird guts (ugh) I wonder if she’s had a tussle with another bird of prey.

      Like

    • Tom F says:

      It looks as if the beak may be cracked and there is a small feather of something caught in it

      Like

  24. Belinda says:

    Sound is back – thanks

    Like

  25. Debbie Wiltshire says:

    The last thing Mum and chick needs is yet more rain.

    Like

  26. Louise says:

    Mr & Mrs P have caused a lively debate this year. If they weren’t on camera no one would know that any of this was going on. But they are on camera for everyone to see and it’s clearly upsetting everyone. I believe as they have been put on this webcam on the internet with the nesting box supplied for them! Then surely a nesting box with a roof could be supplied in future. No, they shouldn’t be interfered with, but in my view they already have in a way. If a nesting box can be supplied in the first place then surely another could be provided which is better next time.

    Just a thought!

    Like

    • Katie Carlin says:

      I imagine they will consider their options next year, but given the falcons have returned year after year and had such success no one was to know the site would be so unsuccessful this year, so there was no reason for them to change anything. Lets hope next year will be a better one, whatever the weather brings.

      Like

  27. Phoebe says:

    Hi I am new to this blog, I have been watching the peregrines and the chicks. I hope the last chick makes it through. I saw the zoom in on the falcon’s beak, it could be feather stuck or even wrapped arounf the top hook.

    Like

  28. Steve says:

    Mrs P’s gone off for a break and Mr P steps in to keep the chick warm. Number 4 is looking fairly perky at the moment. There is hope.

    Like

  29. Anny says:

    I was fortunate enough to log on to the webcam (4-30ish) just as the parents swapped over chick protection. Not sure who was who but So pleased to see that one eyass is surviving.

    Like

  30. NTU Environment Team says:

    Hi Phoebe,
    In our un-expert opinion (we are avid followers and camera operators, not falcon specialists), on closer inspection it appears that her beak is slightly damaged, in a similar way to how a finger nail might split. When she turns her head to the right whatever is on the beak cannot be seen, so we don’t think it is a piece of metal or anything impaled as some people have suggested. The damage doesn’t seem to be causing her any problems feeding herself of the chick, but we’ll keep an eye on it over the next couple of days.

    Like

    • Phoebe says:

      Hi Team,
      Thanks for replying, I have zoomed in on some screenshots I took and can’t be sure if it is something stuck or indeed as you say slight damage as it looks different on some of the shots. Let’s hope it clears up soon. She is doing a brilliant job with that chick.

      Like

  31. PamUK says:

    I just saw the swap over too and the incoming parent has taken one or two little investigatory pecks at the now dead Chick 3. I don’t believe it will be long before it gets fed to the last remaining chick. I was grateful for the camera person zooming in on the beak of the outgoing parent. I took one or two captures and have cropped and enlarged them. You can see them here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/66339356@N00/sets/72157629524594786/detail/

    Like

  32. Tom F says:

    This little fellow is going to do fine!

    Like

  33. Stuart Gunn says:

    hi erin, i would just like to say it seems chris morley has a point with the roof at the chichester site,it seems the extra shelter is paying off,It doesn’t seem to hinder them in any way so why not try it.Looking at the chick ratio it makes sense . And would it have been possible to save the weaker of the chicks and leave the fitter ones for the pair to raise,would that work.I understand the natural way is the best but these birds need every bit of help we can give,or whats the point.

    Like

  34. rob says:

    hi does anyone know if the 2 remaining chicks are still ok… i’ve only seen one being fed …(-_-)

    Like

  35. Phoebe says:

    A question: is there sound on the webcam because I don’t get sound?

    Like

  36. Pete says:

    Has anyone seen the male? I haven’t seen him since Saturday. Very disheartening to see Lady P. looking so bedraggled. Damned weather.

    Like

    • Pete says:

      Spotted him on the ledge, briefly 7.30 ish. 🙂

      Like

    • SueAtt says:

      Hi Pete, just to let you know Mr P spent a couple of hours on the nest yesterday afternooon, after feeding the remaining chick a very large amount of food. Mrs P went off for a well earned break!

      Like

    • rob says:

      i saw him come back yesterday and he only fed one chick the femail flew away when he got there if you ever only see one adult you might not know which it is.. unless you see the mum or dad come back and the other fly of at the same time

      Like

  37. joanne says:

    i couldnt beleive it when i logged on today to see that a thrid chick had been lost im hoping and praying for the remaining chick to survive this dreadful weather. x

    Like

  38. MikkinNotts says:

    Lets hope Mr & Mrs P can keep No 1 going for the next few days. Fingers & Toes crossed x

    Like

  39. Shirley Stirland says:

    5,49am chick having a good meal and being very vocal,looking very chirpy having made it through the rain yesterday,one day at a time.

    Like

  40. Christine says:

    05.55hrs – wednesday – another good feed – I know alot of people don’t agree with naming the chicks but I’m going to call this one ‘Gloria’ as in Gloria Gaynor – ‘I will survive’
    Question for Daventu and Erin – If you decide to replace the nest ledge for next season with something that has more shelter, why not ask people on this blog to pledge some money towards it – I for one would put my money where my mouth is – I know it is not all a question of money, it is time given voluntarily but it may be an idea
    Sadly I have to go to work today but will be back online this evening

    Like

  41. Christine says:

    06.15 – wednesday – Crikey it’s getting yet more food, it looks as though it’s had enough, can the chicks be overfed ?

    Like

  42. Chris Golightly says:

    All this about letting nature take its course rather disturbs me – There have been many cases of interfering with nature in an OK way,reintroducing the Red Kite in England and Ireland being one . Of course there are many more, and many people working tirelessly to reintroduce species and save them from extinction. Sometimes we need to give Nature a helping hand to undo the damage we have done.

    Like

    • Well said. The peregrines here have already been given a helping hand with a lovely, human-built gravel nesting platform – why not just extend this helping hand and add a roof for next year? Then let the peregrines choose where they want to nest.

      Like

    • Eddie says:

      The peregrine is not endangered. In fact in the UK its numbers are higher than at any time in recorded history. We have already tipped the balance all the way from one of DDT and persecution decline that was at its lowest ebb in the 1960’s all the way to the other side where the balance is tilted very much in the peregrine’s favour with saturation of old ancestral eyries and ever increasing numbers of new eyrie sites on the high rises in our citieswhere they are also drawn the abundance of feral pigeons in such locations. I’m a huge huge peregrine fan, I just don’t think that we need to go to the n’th degree to save every single chick hatched, and need to take a broader view of their biological status than just looking through the narrow lense of web cam.

      Direct interference in the case of reintroduction of the red kite to the UK or the work in the 60s and 70s of the Peregrine Fund in the US to reintroduce the peregrine to the US are cases where direct interference was required to give a species the base population from which to recover.

      Like

  43. hedgeypig says:

    Is that the male bird sitting on the dead chick and not the live one who’s stuck in the corner. The daft nit

    Like

  44. Sue says:

    We really are quite privileged to be able to watch such beautiful animals surviving faced with such difficulties. Good to see Mum back and immediately trying to move chick away from the corner. How interesting – the differences between the instinctive behaviours of the two parents. ‘How are they doing?’ has become the first question in the morning in our house!

    Like

  45. justme says:

    local radio has just said theres some nasty weather coming through the night…get the hot water bottle out and umbrella up Mr and Mrs P

    Like

  46. rob says:

    hi all
    it’s so sad to see only one chick left… lets hope that it survives.
    if anything happens to this one. will the parents lay more eggs and start again. does any one know
    (=_=)

    Like

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