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This site is dedicated to the Peregrine Falcons who decided to make their home and hunting grounds in Fulham and Barnes (as well as Hammersmith) in West London, UK.

19 January 2019: 1st mating on camera of 2019

Early afternoon on Saturday 19th January Charlie arrived on the ledge and after a short while decided to pancake on the wall of the ledge.  I find the following video interesting as it shows her settling, with a better angle than when she does this on top of the nest box as she tends to face the camera there.

pancaked Charlie

She pancaked for a few minutes but got up quite quickly and moved to perch on top of the nest box instead.

 

Charlie relaxing on top of the nest box with a full crop

There, she decided to pancake again and even have a bit of a snooze.

 

pancaked Charlie

pancaked sleepy Charlie

At 1.48pm, she suddenly got up and started bowing, I thought she was going to have a courtship display with Tom but no. Instead, Tom came and mated with her!  This has to be the earliest mating on camera for this pair. I had been wondering a few times a few days before if it was about to happen, from the way Charlie was presenting herself…

1st mating on camera of 2019

14 January 2019

Tom paid 2 visits to the nest ledge today.
Tom

Tom

He spent around 5 minutes during the morning visit, here is a clip of most of it:

In the afternoon, he was hoping Charlie would join him for a display, here is is popping his head out of the box looking at her at the other end of the ledge:

Tom

4 – 6 January 2019

Tom and Charlie have managed to do 2 ‘proper’ courtship displays inside the nest box since the last post. The season is properly started!
This was on Friday 4th January

Tom and Charlie

And this was yesterday.

Tom and Charlie

No visit to the nest ledge today but I saw Charlie perched on the usual perch and, this evening, she was on one of her roosting flues, as most days.

 

2 Jan 2019 – courtship

A couple of attempts at courtship displays today.
It all started early, before the cameras had switched back from night setting, with Tom landing on the nest ledge, followed by Charlie. Tom went to the nest box.
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But Charlie preferred to eat.
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After she’d finished eating, Charlie went to cache the remains in their usual spot on the ledge, feaked for a bit and was sitting when Tom decided to go in the nest box and tried to entice her for a display.

But, it looks like she wasn’t interested.

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So he finished the remains instead.
 
Later in the afternoon, I was walking through the cemetery, when I heard Peregrine calls and saw Tom land on the corner of the nest box. A minute later I saw Charlie arrive from the South, circle a bit and then land on the ledge at the other end. Tom immediately went into the box but Charlie took her time and by the time she got to the nest box Tom had gone on the wall.
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Her turn to try and entice him and fail 😉

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“What have I done to deserve this?”

A great start to 2019!

Eggs analysis

Charlie and Tom have not been very productive since 2013 to say the least:

  • 2014: 3 eggs, 1 hatched (Will)
  • 2015: 3 eggs, none hatched
  • 2016: 2 eggs, 1 hatched (PF)
  • 2017: 3 eggs, none hatched
  • 2018: 3 eggs, none hatched

This year, Dr Nicola Hemmings from the University of Sheffield offered to analyse the eggs. 

On the 11th of June, we went and retrieved the eggs.

The eggs were then packed and sent to Sheffield.

The first thing Nicola noticed was that the eggs were very pale compared to the other Peregrine eggs she has analysed. Notwithstanding the fact that these eggs had been turned over gravel for over 2 months and had probably faded a bit over time, the other eggs had been in similar conditions, so it is fair to assume that they were indeed paler to start with.  Peregrine eggs can vary in colour and the paleness of Charlie’s eggs is something that has been mentioned and commented on before.  I have sometimes wondered if it was an artefact of the nestbox cameras cutting out some of the red spectrum but it seems it is not the case, or not only.  Egg pigments are said to be linked to shell strength but these eggs survived extended incubation so they were strong enough. Nicola did otherwise think that the eggs looked OK. The eggs looking ‘dodgy’ would be expected if there was something wrong with Charlie’s reproductive tract, which is where I have suspected the problem to be since it all started when she laid eggs on an erratic schedule for the first time in 2015. This is one piece of the puzzle.

When Nicola then opened the eggs she thought that all three were unfertilised as there was absolutely no sign of embryo development (it just looked like slightly degraded yolk). However, when she examined them properly, she found that one egg had clear evidence that fertilisation had occurred: the germinal disc (where the embryo develops from) had many thousands of nuclei present, indicating that the early stages of cell division had taken place. From how the germinal disc looked (both by eye and microscopically) she is fairly sure that this cell division stopped very early e.g. within first day of incubation, or maybe even before the egg was laid, but it still appears that fertilisation did occur. The other two eggs had no evidence of fertilisation: no nuclei, no sperm on the perivitelline layer surrounding the egg (she couldn’t check sperm numbers in the first egg because the nuclei were covering the surface of the perivitelline layer and obscuring everything else). Her conclusion is that it looks like there IS a fertility problem, but not an absolute one i.e. the male probably isn’t completely sterile, but may have a very low sperm count or not be copulating enough/effectively, so not enough sperm are being transferred. That could also explain the early embryo mortality in the first egg, because there is some evidence that very low sperm numbers are linked to poor embryo survival as well as infertility. So it may be Tom…But a lack of sperm doesn’t necessarily mean a male problem (that’s just the obvious interpretation). Ultimately it just means the sperm didn’t get to where they needed to be (at least at the right time). We know they were copulating enough, the effective part is what we don’t know. It could be that Charlie’s reproductive tract is somehow preventing sperm from successfully getting through. The erratic laying does suggest problems with Charlie’s reproductive condition.

So we know that the eggs are not being fertilised, or not properly, but we do not really know why…  PF definitely looks like he was a miracle and can be exonerated from causing the failure in 2017 (I never thought it was his fault but many suggested it). Sadly, now, Charlie’s age is not on her side. ‘How old is Charlie?’ is the question I am invariably asked and, when the problem started, it couldn’t really be a factor, she was in her prime at 7 years old. She will be 12 in 2019, an age where Peregrines’ fertility starts to decline. 

We will have to wish for another miracle in 2019!