Cathedral peregrines leave the roost

SALISBURY Cathedral’s peregrine season has drawn to a close, as the last of the three chicks leaves the rooftop roost and the livestream cameras have been shut down.

The two female chicks, Lily and Rose, have headed off, while Rex, the only male hatched this year, has stayed closer to the roost, and has been spotted on the South Tower balcony (pictured).

The three fledglings have become fairly proficient hunters after some intensive training given by their parents over the Close. Hundreds of visitors were able to witness some remarkable behaviour and see these amazing birds close up thanks to the RSPB Date with Nature team, who set up their telescopes on the West lawn throughout June.

The juveniles gradually extended their range beyond the Close in search of food, with the Water Meadows and the fields around Netherhampton being a popular spot. Male peregrines generally stay close to where they fledge, so visitors may see more of Rex than his siblings over the next few weeks.

Gary Price, Clerk of Works, who looks after the nestbox on the Cathedral said: “So far it looks to have been a textbook year. The chicks have pretty much stuck to their schedule. No-one crash landed when they fledged. The parents have been efficient and calm. We were sad when the fourth egg didn’t hatch, but other than that everything has gone like clockwork.”

The biggest challenge for the three young falcons will be making it through their first year. Less than a third of juveniles reach breeding age and according to the RSPB their lifespan is likely to be between five and six years. However, an essay on the Natural History Museum website mentions one falcon that reached the ripe old age of 21 years old.

One of the ways the Cathedral team keeps track of the peregrines is via the coloured Darvic ring on their left leg, which bears their unique initials. So far, they have tracked four falcons that fledged from the Cathedral: Peter (spotted in Hampshire), Aveline (spotted in Milton Keynes), Osmund (spotted in Guernsey) and Flo, who was spotted at Hertford last year and this year nested at the Shredded White Silos in Welwyn Garden City. Photographer Keith Garrett captured the two juveniles earlier this month, perched near their nest box and Flo at the same location.

The peregrine project has been a great success over the last decade, thanks to Phil Sheldrake (formerly RSPB but now with Natural England),who started the project to bring the peregrines back in 2014, working with Gary Price, the Cathedral’s Clerk of Works and Granville Pictor from the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.

Pictured: Rex, on the South Tower balcony, and Flo’s two chicks at Welwyn Garden City.