Monday, 5 September 2016

Lincoln Cathedral Peregrines

As you'll know if you followed my #30DaysWild blogs, as of June 2016 wasn't proving to be a very good year for seeing peregrine falcons. I had not one but two unsuccessful attempts at spotting the pair which call York Minster their home. But all that changed back in July, when I caught up with the Lincoln Cathedral peregrines.

Peregrine falcon in flight

This is the 10th year that the peregrines have nested on the cathedral, and it's been another successful season. Three chicks have been successfully fledged, taking the total raised since they first nested up to 27. All three chicks and both parents were being regularly seen through the summer; I was thrilled when I was able to see two of them. The first which I spotted was a single bird sat on the nesting platform on the side of a tower. This was exciting enough after so many failed attempts to see them in York. But it was when I walked around the corner to Minster Green that the show really began.

Peregrine falcon on Lincoln Cathedral nest platform

I was trying to find a better angle to photograph the first peregrine on its perch when the second appeared overhead, almost too fast to process. We were still debating if it was definitely a peregrine when it appeared again, flying slower this time and unmistakable. It was a juvenile, and appeared to be having some difficulties with the stronger than normal winds that day. Trying to land on a weather vane on top of one of the towers, it circled round and round, passing closer each time but never quite close enough. I could see it reaching out with talons extended, but overshooting and being carried past by the wind. On one pass, it even managed to catch hold before a bigger gust blew it off again, as if in slow motion. 

The juvenile peregrine wasn't just practising its aerial manoeuvring; it was also keeping a close eye on the local pigeons. Whenever one broke cover within sight, the peregrine drew itself upright on it's perch, watching intensely. And if there was one which might be within catching distance it was off, swerving round the architecture or diving from a tower. It flew in high speed chases around the Chapter House, as the pigeons darted from ledge to ledge so they were airborne for the shortest time possible, I once read that urban peregrines will  fly out to fields to hunt, rather than predating the resident pigeons, but it seems no one had told this peregrine. 

I didn't see it catch any pigeons, but it was a privilege to watch the fastest animal on the planet make the attempt. I'm so glad I didn't give up trying to see a peregrine falcon this summer.  

Have you had a fantastic peregrine encounter this summer? I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, 24 July 2016

30 Days Wild 2016- In Conclusion #StayWild

So, 30 Days Wild is over for another year, and finally, my blog posts are finished. It's been a great month, and I've thoroughly enjoyed my daily random acts of wildness. From picnics and natural history museums to wildflower and bird of prey identification, it's been a hugely varied and entertaining month.

My two main highlights were probably the opposite extremes. One was exploring Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Askham Bog nature reserve, where we had a fantastic encounter with a roe deer. The other was going on a snail safari in my back garden. For me, these sum up what 30 Days Wild is about. It's making time for nature and wildlife, whether that's something big and exciting or small and ubiquitous.

30 Days Wild may be over, but I'm planning to #StayWild. In the past I've struggled to keep on top of blog updates, and while doing daily posts has been really hard (and taken me a lot longer than I'd planned!) it's been a brilliant exercise. 30 Days Wild just goes to show, you don't need to travel far or spend all day to have a wildlife encounter worth writing about. Sometimes, the most interesting or exciting things can be found just round the corner.

If you want to see what I got up to for 30 Days Wild 2016, all of my posts are here. And if you took part in 30 Days Wild yourself, I'd love to hear what you got up to in the comments!

30 Days Wild day 30- Ducklings again

For the first day of 30 Days Wild this year, I went down to the beck in my village to look for ducklings. So, for the final day, I decided to go back, and see how much they'd grown.

I didn't see any ducklings large enough to be the ones from the 1st June. Many of the ducklings leave the beck once they get older, I suspect to go to other areas where there are more food resources and the population density of ducks is a little lower. However, there were still several families of ducklings, some of which looked very new indeed.

It was a great way to end this years 30 Days Wild. By the end of June it's beginning to feel like the frenzy of nesting birds is drawing to a close so it was a timely reminder that, even as Spring has turned to Summer, there's still an awful lot going on in nature.

30 Days Wild day 29- Sticklebacks

One of the nicest things about the village I live in, in my opinion, is the beck (or small stream) which runs through the centre. It's full of ducks and moorhens, and at dusk you often see bats flying overhead, catching the midges which rise up from the water. On sunny days in the summer holidays, it will be full of children, having boat races or trying to catch the tiny fish which shoal over the rocks. Today I went out to try something I've not attempted before- getting a photo of these fish.

Most were too small and fast for me to get images of at all, never mind good enough ones to identify the species. Then there were those hidden by the reflections, visible only as little darting silhouettes. The smaller ones kept to the shallows, sheltered by the banks or hidden amongst the water weed which grows where the current is slower. The larger ones are right in the centre, fighting against the current, swimming hard just to stay still. One fish, however was stationary and well lit enough that I could see the bright blue eye and blush stomach which identified him as a male three-spined stickleback in breeding colours.

As one of many Springwatch viewers who followed Spineless Simon's story in the 2015 series, it was great to be able to get close to one of these charismatic little fish! And if you didn't see it first time round, I thoroughly recommend this highlights video