Cathedral peregrine finds her own parish

FLO, one of the 2021 Salisbury Cathedral peregrine falcon fledglings, has set up home in the centre of Hertford, 90 miles from home as the crow (or the falcon) flies.

British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) ringer, Nigel Jones contacted the Cathedral peregrine team to let them know that Flo (named for Florence Nightingale to mark the work of the NHS during the pandemic) had taken up residence on some prime real estate in the centre of the Hertfordshire county town.

Pictures of Flo captured in September by Kevin Garrett, Rose Newbold and Tracey Burrows, all indicate that Flo has moved on to the tower of All Saints Church. She was identified by her orange colour ring with the initials TND.

There were other potential sighting earlier in the year, in May, two miles down the road in the Lee Valley area.

According to Hertfordshire BTO ringer Barry Trevis, Flo has a mate and is the right age to start breeding. He has installed a nesting tray on the church to encourage the peregrine pair to settle. So, watch this space – or nestbox – maybe next year Flo the Falcon will lay her first clutch.

Flo’s mate is ringed with a metal ring but does not carry a colour ID ring. The metal rings are somewhat harder to read from afar.

This is not the first time Flo has been in the news. In 2021 her first attempt at fledging on 6th June ended with a crash landing in the Salisbury Museum café gardens. Luckily Kate Barker, one of the museum staff, called in the Cathedral peregrine team – nature conservation adviser Phil Sheldrake and Clerk of Works Gary Price – and was on hand to photograph and film Flo’s ‘rescue’. The fledgling was duly returned to the Tower balcony to start all over again.

Other cathedral falcons have been traced after fledging. In 2017 Peter (blue ID ring GX), who fledged in 2014, was discovered in a Hampshire quarry where he had established a nest and raised a number of chicks.

In the same year Aveline (blue ID ring SC), who fledged in 2016, was caught on camera by wildlife photographer and blogger Ashley Beolens around 80 miles from Salisbury, in Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve, Old Wolverton near Milton Keynes.

In April this year Osmund (blue ID ring YK), who fledged in 2020, was spotted on the coast of Guernsey more than 100 miles away from his birthplace in Salisbury.

Nigel Jones, who rings the Cathedral falcons, said: “It is great to see the colour ring system working so well. It allows us to discover where the fledglings go and whether they survive. Around 70 per cent of young peregrines die in their first year, so every success story is welcome.”

The Salisbury peregrines usually settle on the Cathedral’s South Tower balcony around March, but are often in evidence during the winter months, just keeping an eye on things. So far 27 chicks, including one adopted orphan chick, have fledged from the Tower since 2014, when the peregrines returned after an absence of just over 60 years.

Pictured: A rather cross-looking Flo after she landed in the museum gardens; All Saints Church at Hertford; Flo in her new home.