June 2023 - Peregrines leave it late, but worth the wait!
On a hot, muggy late June afternoon 11 members met BOC Peregrine Falcon watcher Gareth to find out more about these magnificent and enigmatic avian raptors, and hopefully to see them. Our meeting place, on Bristol Downs above Avon Gorge, was very close to the nest, directly below us in a shallow cave in the cliff. Impossible to see and inaccessible except with climbing gear, the nest is a safe haven for these once almost extinct birds, making a good comeback but still persecuted in some parts of the country, especially in grouse shoots. They particularly favour urban environments, including Bristol and Bath, tall buildings and cliffs like Avon Gorge forming excellent breeding sites.

Gareth explained that the birds are late nesting this year and normally any chicks would have fledged by 20th June. Although no eggs were seen in May, the adults were bringing food back to the nest (mainly pigeons, caught in flight) in an amount suggesting that one chick had hatched. In a good year, a pair could raise up to 5 young. This might be because the female is a young 2 year old from Cheltenham (identified by her ring), yet to reach full sexual maturity. 

Imagine our delight when, after an hour of mistaking herring and lesser black-backed gulls for peregrines (wishful thinking) and hearing their evocative high pitched cry, not one but 3 flew past us at speed, and 2 settled in dead tree branches over in Leigh Woods. A close inspection with telescopes, cameras and binoculars showed that one of these was an adult, the other a juvenile - the first time that Gareth had seen it! Their speculation was correct. We then enjoyed watching an adult trying (in vain) to feed the newly-fledged juvenile, the preferred method of dropping it on the nest ledge not being available. 
Photo: Martin Farrell
Photo: Roy W Rowe (Creative Commons)

Huge thanks to Gareth for his expertise and enthusiasm, and to Liz Wintle for organising this very enjoyable and successful trip.

Dave Sage
Other photos: Rita Andrews & Liz Wintle

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Protecting wildlife for the future
Keynsham Group
Avon Wildlife Trust
Registered charity 280422

Email: keynshamawt@gmail.com