Peregrines continue to test our emotions, by Erin McDaid of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust
In March I wrote of my excitement at the prospect of watching the 2021 peregrine nesting season unfold at the city centre nest we monitor in partnership with Nottingham Trent University, on its Newton Building, writes Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust's Erin McDaid.
With years of involvement with the nest-cam project I should have known to expect the unexpected, but I the events that took place after I wrote the piece took me and everyone involved by surprise and triggered real emotion among regular webcam viewers.
We had received unconfirmed reports of a third adult peregrine in the vicinity of the nest, and when we received news that our resident female — affectionately known as Mrs P — hadn’t been seen for some time at the nest and was feared missing, intrigue about the third bird turned to concern.
Sadly, soon after being made aware that Mrs P was missing we got a report of a dead peregrine found in the city centre. Concern at the potential loss of the resident female was compounded by the fact that she had already laid two eggs.
In the days that followed, the mystery third peregrine was increasingly seen around the nest site and then caught on camera.
We were able to confirm that the new bird on the block was a female and we began to observe the tentative courtship playing out on camera between our male, Archie, and the new female, subsequently identified as P9 by her leg ring.
As well as coming to terms with the change in partner, Archie valiantly tried to protect the existing eggs and in the weeks that followed, P9 was increasingly seen around the nest and our worry and concern was tempered with excitement when she eventually laid two eggs of her own.
We now find ourselves observing a pretty unusual situation with four eggs from two females in one nest.
While we no longer expect Mrs P’s eggs to be viable, this nest and these birds have taken us by surprise before, but the most likely scenario is that we must look forward to seeing eggs hatch from the second clutch and hope that P9 makes a success of what we believe is her first breeding season.
We are also actively trying to establish a cause of death of what we are pretty sure was Mrs P.
Because she had no identification ring we can never be 100% certain, but the circumstances seem pretty clear cut. Mrs P had been reported missing, the dead bird appeared to have her distinctive extra-long upper beak, and a new female quickly took her place.
We will never know for sure but there may have been some sort of physical interaction or chase that perhaps led Mrs P to crashing into a building while trying to avoid an attack. Another scenario could be that due to Mrs P’s age, she was relatively old for a wild peregrine, she may have simply succumbed to exhaustion due to being harried by the newcomer or having been prevented from feeding or resting.
Given that our involvement with this nest site is primarily to ensure these protected birds are properly monitored, we have arranged x-rays to check for any evidence of poisoning. We are also awaiting the results of a detailed post-mortem and will publish what information and updates we can.
We have no reason to suspect foul play and can take heart from the fact that, given past success of the nest, it is likely there are peregrines with Mrs P’s DNA raising chicks of the their own across the UK.
You can follow the comings and goings at this extraordinary nest at nottinghamshirewildlife.org/peregrine-cam
To give an insight into the work that goes on behind the scenes we are also hosting a free online webinar on the evening of Thursday, May 20, which can be booked via our website.