Ringing the Cathedral fledglings

THE four peregrine chicks that have been hatched at Salisbury Cathedral have been ringed, reading for their imminent fledging.

The chicks, that hatched in the nestbox on the South Tower balcony, were ringed by Nigel Jones from the British Trust for Ornithology, assisted by Phil Sheldrake, the Cathedral’s nature conservation adviser.

The two females and two males, who are just over a month old, were also weighed and measured before being returned to their nestbox. Each chick was fitted with two rings: a small metal BTO ring for tracking and record-keeping and a larger orange plastic so-called Darvic ring bearing a unique two-letter ID that means anyone with sharp eyes, binoculars or a telescope can identify the falcons – and let the Cathedral and BTO know where they saw them and how they were.

Phil Sheldrake says: “This year’s pair have been model parents and have done well to raise four healthy chicks. We had to wait for the final hatchling to appear, but they all seem to be progressing well. Feeding four chicks is a big undertaking and both parents are constantly out hunting to feed themselves and their youngsters.”

The Cathedral’s Clerk of Works, Gary Price, who manages the nesting site for the Cathedral said: “It’s great to have the chicks on the tower again. They have already provided hours of interest for staff and webcam watchers alike this year, and they are part of the Cathedral commitment to the environment. Along with their nestbox we have installed bat boxes, swift boxes, insect boxes and we have committed to no-mow May to help the creation of wildlife corridors across the Close.”

Ringing is an important part of the Cathedral’s peregrine project because it helps the BTO and Cathedral to learn more about the peregrines hatched in the Tower – where they go and what they do. From Peter the peregrine (who was shot, rehabilitated and is now raising his own family in a Hampshire quarry) to Aveline (spotted in near Milton Keynes in 2017), Pansy (who sadly died in an accident) and Osmund (a 2020 chick who was spotted in Guernsey this year, these rings give a clues as to the secret lives of these magnificent birds.

The 2022 Salisbury chicks will probably remain on the South Tower balcony until June, when they are expected to fledge. They will stay around the Cathedral for at least a month after that, learning survival and hunting skills from their parents before striking out on their own.

When fledging starts at the end of June, the Cathedral’s RSPB partners will also be offering a peregrine themed Date with Nature experience on the Cathedral’s West Lawn, just outside the entrance to the Cloisters.

From Wednesday 26th June until 24th July a team of RSPB volunteers and specialists will be on hand with telescopes and information, allowing visitors to watch our youngsters close up as they make their first move out into the world, leaving comparative safety of the balcony to practice flying and hunting.

Photographs by James Fisher.