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!

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