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.
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.
Head of Communications & Marketing
Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust