Tag Archive | Salisbury Cathedral

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.

Salisbury Cathedral peregrines 2016

Whoo, they’re back, and they’ve laid: an egg on Easter Monday (28 March), and another eight days later (5 April). Hopefully there will be more to follow: last year the peregrines successfully hatched and fledged four chicks.

Last year Salisbury Cathedral had a link on its website to a webcam by the nest; I hope it can manage the same this year. It will be wonderful to watch the birds’ progress. Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) are such amazing and special birds, and this breeding success is a real achievement.

And if you’d like to get an idea of the kind of views the peregrines enjoy while flying round the spire, watch these (but only if you have a strong stomach / head for heights):

I’ll add the link to the nest webcam as soon as it’s put up and I find it.

UPDATE 13 April 2016:

Still no webcam available on the Cathedral website, but there is a series of photos that show that she laid a third egg on 7 April and by 11 April there were four! Hurrah!

Four eggs by 11 April 2016.

Four eggs by 11 April 2016. That nesting box isn’t going to stay clean for long …

Proud parent 1 07 04 2016

UPDATE 2 MAY 2016: In response to a query from Steve Hodgkinson (see comments below) about whether the nest had been abandoned, it seems like the eggs should start hatching on or around 8 May.  The Cathedral website says ‘It will take 30 days for the eggs to incubate and the process won’t start until the whole clutch of eggs is laid. Phil Sheldrake, Conservation Officer at the RSPB estimates that we should see the youngsters hatching by the end of April.’ I estimate the hatching date slightly differently using that formula: say she laid her fourth egg on 8 April, 30 days from that date = 8 May. So the eggs should be hatching in the next few days.

UPDATE 23 MAY: All four eggs have now successfully hatched. The first was born on the morning of 16 May; two more followed on the morning of 17 May and the last one on the afternoon of 17 May. The news was reported on the Cathedral’s website, but it appears that they are not providing a webcam link on the website this year, although visitors to the Cathedral can see a live feed. There are other opportunities to see the birds:

‘For those interested in a spot of peregrine watching, a marquee manned by RSPB volunteers with telescopes will offer a grandstand view of the birds from the Cathedral Lawn, Monday-Friday throughout the summer, and there are plans to introduce once-a-week Peregrine Tower Tours with Anya Wicikowski, RSPB Community Officer. Anya will accompany regular Tower Guides on the tour and answer any peregrine-related questions visitors might have. Dates and times of tours will be made available in due course.’

Thanks to Marie Thomas for the hat tip – I hadn’t looked at the Cathedral website for a while so had missed the news.

UPDATE 10 JUNE: Sadly two of the chicks have died – it’s thought the recent cold, wet weather might have been a contributing factor. The remaining two chicks, a male and a female, were ringed on 8 June.

UPDATE 30 JUNE: The male, Raphael, took a tumble during what is thought to have been his first test flight and fell 68 m (224 feet) to the ground: luckily he was okay and cared for overnight by a wildlife charity.

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.

The Salisbury Cathedral peregrines are back

I wrote last year about the peregrines that were nesting on the spire of Salisbury Cathedral, and for the first time in 61 years had successfully hatched chicks—three of them.

Last year: peregrine parent and three chicks, Salisbury Cathedral, 27 May 2014.

Last year: peregrine parent and three chicks, Salisbury Cathedral, 27 May 2014.

Good newsthey’re back, they’ve nested, and this year they’ve laid four eggs!

The eggs were laid over Holy Week and over Easter, which seems satisfyingly appropriate for an ecclesiastical nest site. The first egg was laid on Tuesday 31 March 2015, and with an approximately 33-day incubation period, it should hatch in the first few days of May, with the others hatching around the end of the first week of May (the Cathedral’s press release says mid-May. I’m not sure how they arrived at that date).

Last year there was a live webcam on which you could follow the progress of the family. The press release says the nest is being monitored by two cameras, but I’ve had a good poke around on the Cathedral’s website and they don’t seem to have provided a link to them yet. Maybe they’re going to wait until the eggs have hatched. I’ll add the link (or write a new post) as soon as I find it.

2 MAY UPDATE: The webcam is back – link here (webcam at the bottom of the page).

Even without pics, this is terrific news.

Young peregrine fledging, Salisbury Cathedral, 2014.

Young peregrine fledging, Salisbury Cathedral, 2014.

The last year that peregrines successfully nested at Salisbury Cathedral prior to last year’s brood was 1953. And lo! One of my favourite websites, Britain From Above, has a series of photos taken of the Cathedral in September 1953. I like to think that as the pilot circled above the Cathedral, somewhere alongside him in this photograph are the fledged chicks from that year’s brood:

Salisbury Cathedral, 5 september 1953. Image from the Britain From Above website: click on photo for details.

Salisbury Cathedral, 5 September 1953. Image from the Britain From Above website: click on photo for details.

Salisbury Cathedral website.

Rather belated update: A total of four eggs were laid in the 2015 breeding season, and all four chicks fledged successfully in mid July.

Making space for nature: peregrine falcons at Salisbury Cathedral

Here’s a story that warmed the cockles of my heart: peregrine falcons have successfully nested for the first time in 61 years at Salisbury Cathedral, in a nest box placed half way up the spire. The breeding pair have produced three chicks, and even better: there’s a webcam on which you can watch their progress.

Peregrine falcon and chicks on Salisbury Cathedral spire, 2014.

Peregrine falcon and chicks on Salisbury Cathedral spire, 2014.

The 800-year-old Salisbury Cathedral is truly stunning. Its spire is the tallest in the UK, standing at 123 metres (404 feet) high.  In 1995 I was very lucky to work on an archaeological project in the storerooms of Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, opposite the magnificent west front of the Cathedral. At the time the west front and spire were being restored and I would watch the tiny ant-like stonemasons way up on the scaffolding, and admire their skill and nerve. It’s wonderful to think that peregrines are now flying around that same spire. Lovely news (perhaps not so lovely for the pigeons, mind …)

Salisbury Cathedral, showing the spire and the West front. Photo by Hugh Chevallier, June 2013.

I can heartily endorse the wise words of Gary Price, the clerk of works at the Cathedral: “I feel privileged to have played a small part in securing the peregrines’ presence here at Salisbury Cathedral for many years to come. It’s reassuring to know that a few small steps by various people can make all the difference to the local wildlife.”

This is such exciting news, and next time I go shopping in Salisbury I’m going to sit in the Cathedral Close until I see a peregrine. 🙂

Salisbury Cathedral website link.