Tag Archive | Salisbury

Salisbury Cathedral peregrines 2017

Good news: the Salisbury Cathedral peregrines have successfully nested again. The first egg was laid on Friday 31 March, the second on Sunday 2 April, and a third is expected at any time. (9 June 2017: scroll down for updates!)

The peregrine falcon nest at Salisbury Cathedral, April 2017. Two eggs so far …

The Cathedral has set up a webcam of the nest which should be available on this page. The Cathedral also has a Youtube channel, on which there are several videos about the peregrines.

At 18.04 pm on 6 April I can see there are still two eggs on the nest. I do hope she lays more. Last year’s brood had four eggs. (By the way, do use the ‘full screen’ facility for the webcam: it’s a tiny screen otherwise and the details will be barely visible if you don’t enlarge.)

A peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) on the beautiful stonework of Salisbury Cathedral.

Also great to learn is that one and possibly two other peregrines have been spotted around the Cathedral. These might be the juveniles from last year’s brood.

These good pieces of news follows on the shocking, shameful news that one of first chicks to be hatched at the Cathedral, in 2014, was recently shot and injured. It was found on farmland near King’s Somborne in Hampshire on 11 March, and is being cared for by the Hawk Conservancy Trust near Andover. Hopefully a full prosecution will be brought under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. A peregrine falcon is a Schedule 1 Protected Bird under the law, and injuring or killing it is an offence. The police and the RSPB are currently investigating.

I’ve followed the progress of the peregrines in a 2016 blog post and in a 2015 one, and in a 2014 one.

7 APRIL UPDATE: A third egg this morning, yay!

Three eggs! Morning 7 April 2017.

On the nest, 12.20 Saturday 8 April 2017.

Don’t know when number 4 arrived, but here it is on the morning of Thursday 13 April.

UPDATE 16 May 2017: Five eggs in total on the nest: the fourth was laid on Tuesday 11 April and the fifth on Good Friday, 14 April. So that’s 15 days between the eggs. The first egg last year was laid on 28 March and hatched on 16 May, so we should be expecting some hatching action any day now …

Five eggs. The webcam view on (a wet) 16 May 2017.

Apparently three or four eggs are the norm in the wild, but in urban areas where there is plentiful prey (read: pigeons) clutches can number as many as six.

UPDATE 22 May 2017: I’m not sure when it was born, but there’s a chick in the nest now:

The first hatchling!

UPDATE 30 May 2017: Great excitement while watching the wonderful BBC Springwatch programme last night as they are featuring the Salisbury Cathedral peregrines. The first part is here, starting at 49:25. They are doing a follow-up part tonight. I hope it’s good news: every time I have looked at the the webcam the adult is sitting on the nest, so I have no idea how many chicks there are. I guess I’ll find out tonight.

Beautiful shot of one of the peregrines from the BBC Springwatch footage.

Peregrine on the spire of Salisbury Cathedral, from the BBC Springwatch footage.

UPDATE 31 May 2017: Well, the BBC is keeping us hanging on … another wonderfully-shot update last night on Springwatch, full of beautiful images, but so far no news of any chicks. The second instalment is here, from 24:26. One thing I did learn is that the peregrines are feeding on kingfishers (Alcedo atthis) and greater spotted woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major), among other prey. I guess the kingfishers come from the nearby River Avon with its watermeadows. One of my few ever kingfisher sightings was one darting across the road that enters the central car park by Sainsbury’s in Salisbury: a small tributary of the river runs alongside it.

UPDATE 1 June 2017: Finally we learn from Springwatch that a lone chick hatched, out of the five eggs laid – talk abut stringing it out! This is in contrast to four chicks (only two of which survived to fledge) out of four eggs last year. The non-hatched eggs have been removed from the nest for health reasons, because if the spoiled eggs break the chick could be affected by the rotten contents. The eggs will be analysed to see why they failed: worryingly the spectre of insecticides causing thin shells was raised as a possible cause. The upside is that the lone chick is getting all its parents’ attention and is being fed like a king, with consequent fast growth. The third instalment is here, starting at 49:41.

1 June 2017: the lone chick in its salubrious nest, surrounded by carcasses, shit and flies!

1 June 2017.

UPDATE 2 June: Just a brief update in last night’s Springwatch, with a live web cam view of the satellite-tagged female on the nest and film of the male eating a hapless green woodpecker (Picus viridis). The segment is here, starting at 8:13; it’s followed by a longer segment on some cliff-nesting peregrines.

UPDATE 8 June: Well, what a difference a few hours make! I checked on the webcam yesterday morning and it was down; I didn’t check back so got the surprise via Springwatch last night: a second peregrine chick has been successfully introduced to the nest and is already being happily fostered by the adults.

The new chick on the right; the original, Cathedral chick on the left. 7 June 2017.

The foster chick was one of three chicks in a nest in Shropshire; tragically last weekend the parents were found dead, cause as yet unknown, on the ground below the cliff along with a dead pigeon. Toxicology tests are being undertaken, but poisoning is suspected. Utterly shameful if that is the case. Luckily the chicks were unaffected. They were removed from the nest by RSPB experts, checked over by a vet, and rehomed in the wild: the other two have been fostered to another nest in the Midlands. The segment on last night’s Springwatch starts at 10:51. The male, 25-day-old foster chick was put in the nest at around 8.30 yesterday morning, and was accepted immediately by both the parents and the original Cathedral chick. He’s a bit bigger than the Cathedral chick, as he’s six days older.

Just after introduction. 7 June 2017.

The female (with her satellite tag) feeding the new foster chick. 7 June 2017.

Grumpy! Why aren’t you feeding me, mum? 7 June 2017.

7 June 2017.

7 June 2017.

7 June 2017.

Not long and the chicks were snuggled together, and being fed by both parents. 7 June 2017.

The new family. 7 June 2017.

Such a beautiful sight. The new family. 7 June 2017.

More food. 7 June 2017.

The new siblings snuggled together with mum. 7 June 2017.

UPDATE 9 June 2017: Last night’s Springwatch had a brief update and showed that the fostering is going really well. The relevant segment starts here at 19:00.

The adult male is feeding the foster chick outside the nest, while the adult female feeds the Cathedral chick on the nest. 8 June 2017.

So far the Cathedral chick hasn’t ventured off the nest.

The chicks together, 10.50 am, 9 June 2017.

The foster chick trying out its wings: there’s been a whole lot of flapping going on. 9 June, 4.26 pm.

UPDATE 12 June 2017: Both chicks are now out of the nest, mainly hanging round on the parapet out of view of the webcam.

Fallstreak holes

I was in Salisbury this morning for a dental appointment, and was very excited to notice the unusual skies: the high-altitude small cobbler-like clouds (I know they have a name but I don’t know it) had four or five oval ‘gashes’ in them, each of which was filled with a fluffier, whiter cloud. These are called fallstreak holes.

Not one of my fallstreak holes from this morning - this one was over Oklahoma City in the US in January 2010. It is very similar to what mine looked like though.

Not one of my fallstreak holes from this morning – this one was over Oklahoma City in the US in January 2010. It is very similar to what mine looked like though. Photo by Paul Franson.

Wikipedia explains their formation thus:

‘A fallstreak hole (also known as a hole punch cloud, punch hole cloud, skypunch, cloud canal or cloud hole) is a large gap, usually circular or elliptical, that can appear in cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds. Such holes are formed when the water temperature in the clouds is below freezing but the water, in a supercooled state, has not frozen yet due to the lack of ice nucleation. When ice crystals do form, a domino effect is set off due to the Bergeron process, causing the water droplets around the crystals to evaporate: this leaves a large, often circular, hole in the cloud.

It is believed that the introduction of large numbers of tiny ice crystals into the cloud layer sets off this domino effect of evaporation which creates the hole. The ice crystals can be formed by passing aircraft which often have a large reduction in pressure behind the wing- or propeller-tips. This cools the air very quickly, and can produce a ribbon of ice crystals trailing in the aircraft’s wake. These ice crystals find themselves surrounded by droplets, grow quickly by the Bergeron process, causing the droplets to evaporate and creating a hole with brush-like streaks of ice crystals below it. Such clouds are not unique to any one geographic area and have been photographed from many places.’

But sadly not in Salisbury this morning by me, because I didn’t have my camera with me. Buggeration. At one point I could see five holes. When I came out of my dental appointment 45 minutes later they had gone, and in their place were fluffy cumulus clouds.

I love Strange Weather Days. I still remember the excitement when Chap and I saw our first (and still only) ever mammatus clouds, in New Zealand in 2008. Well, we have to get our jollies somehow, don’t we?

Salisbury Cathedral

I was with a friend in Salisbury on Saturday, and we spent the day looking round some of the sights (Mompesson House, on its first day of opening for the year), St Thomas Church (also known as St Thomas and St Edmunds Church, and as the Church of St Thomas a Becket) with its amazing Doom Painting dating from 1475, and at the end of the day, Salisbury Cathedral.

Salisbury Cathedral: the North Front.

Salisbury Cathedral in the gloaming: the North Front.

We were very lucky to hear the boys’ choir practising in the Quire. The light was starting to fade, and the candlelight made it all the more atmospheric. Their singing was absolutely beautiful.


View from the Lady Chapel at the east end of the Cathedral, looking all the way down to the west end. Behind the fancy ironwork screen is the Quire. The people were looking in, watching the boys’ choir practising.

Two Cedars of Lebanon in the Cloisters.

Two Cedars of Lebanon in the Cloisters.

The 123 m (404 feet) high spire seen from the Cloisters.

The 123 m (404 feet) high spire seen from the Cloisters.

Hopefully the peregrine falcons will be back in a few weeks to nest on the spire again.

Filming locations: Mompesson House

Mompesson House. Photo by Tony Hisgett.

Mompesson House. Photo by Tony Hisgett.

Mompesson House is a beautiful Queen Anne house, completed in 1701 and owned by the National Trust. It is located in the glorious Cathedral Close in Salisbury. It is the sort of house I can imagine living in: not too impossibly grand and high-ceilinged and museum-like, with cosy rooms full of interesting and lovely things, and with a pretty walled garden at the back. And of course, that view of the Cathedral to the front!  It houses a fantastic collection of 18th century drinking glasses.

Salisbury Cathedral viewed from the front gate of Mompesson House, 11 June 2014. Peregrines nesting on the spire just out of shot!

Salisbury Cathedral viewed from the front gate of Mompesson House, 11 June 2014. Peregrines nesting on the spire just out of shot!

In the summer of 1995 I was working on an archaeological project in the storerooms of Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, which is also situated in the Cathedral Close. If the weather was good I would eat my lunch sitting out on the Close, enjoying the fabulous surroundings and watching the world go by. One lunchtime I noticed a gaggle of people and equipment outside Mompesson House, and so wandered over. Some sort of filming was in progress, but I didn’t know for what. Lots of people were sitting on the grass and watching the goings-on, so I plonked myself down among them. We were very close to the filming set-up, and I was pleasantly surprised that we were allowed to be so close and were not asked to move back. There were lights and reflectors and cameras and cables and endless crew busying around.

Mompesson House. I was sitting a little to the left of where this photo was taken from. Photo by Derek Voller.

Mompesson House. Photo by Derek Voller.

And then as I munched on my lunch, filming started, and Alan Rickman rides up to the house and dismounts. Alan Rickman. In breeches. My sandwich hung half way to my mouth, and my mouth hung open. Alan Rickman. Alan Bloody Rickman. In breeches. Right in front of me. There were other scenes filmed too, with a carriage, but all I could think of was Alan Rickman. In breeches. Right in front of me.

Needless to say, I took a rather longer than usual lunch break and didn’t concentrate too well on my work that afternoon.

I asked around and it turned out that I had witnessed some of the filming for the Ang Lee version of Sense and Sensibility, with Alan Rickman playing Colonel Brandon, and Mompesson House standing in for Mrs Jennings’ London townhouse.

I can’t find any online photos of Alan Rickman in this scene. In 1995 not many (if any?) mobile phones had cameras—in this day and age everybody would be snapping away like crazy. I must rewatch the film and get a screengrab.

Alan Rickman during filming of Sense and Sensibility (not at Mompesson House, from the looks of it).

Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (not at Mompesson House: this scene was filmed at Trafalgar House near Salisbury, standing in for Barton Park, Sir John Middleton’s estate).

Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon in sense and Sensibility. Again, not photographed at Mompesson House.

Alan Rickman in Sense and Sensibility. Again, not photographed at Mompesson House: this scene was at the Dashwood’s cottage in Devon, actually a house on the Flete Estate in Devon.

Alan Rickman and emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility. Mompesson House in the background. I didn't see this scene being filmed.

Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. Mompesson House in the background. I didn’t see this scene being filmed. I was probably back in the storeroom, having a fit of the vapours.

I was in Salisbury today so snapped the photo above of the view of the Cathedral from the front of Mompesson House. I wandered over to see if I could see the peregrines—I asked a stonemason working on the east front and he said the nest was on the south face of the spire. I stood by the cloisters entrance and watched for ten minutes or so, but didn’t see anything. I could certainly hear one though, squawking away on the spire. So exciting!

Update 10 August 2014: I’ve just watched the film again and the scene is a blink and you’ll miss it one: it’s when Colonel Brandon is leaving Mrs Jennings’ townhouse to take the Dashwood girls back to Devon: he’s on horseback accompanying their carriage:

Colonel Brandon leaving Mrs Jennings' house with the Dashwoods. The scene I watched being filmed.

Colonel Brandon on horseback leaving Mrs Jennings’ house with the Dashwoods in the coach. The scene I watched being filmed outside Mompesson House.