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A London bird!

You may wonder why I am sharing these photos now…
2 days ago I finished reading New Girl’s ring, that involved a lot of patience and luck but little by little I managed to piece it all together. I immediately submitted the number to Euring (https://euring.org/) and got an email back from the BTO this evening.
It turns out that I watched (and probably a few of you too) her grow up on a RSPB webcam and then I saw her take some of her first flights! She is no spring chicken, she was born in 2010 in Vauxhall, London, from the Parliament pair. What did she do in those nearly 9 years? We’ll never know as it doesn’t look like her ring was reported in those years.
So there you go, a London bird 
And for those of you following the Nottingham Peregrines, it means she’s Archie’s big sister!


So, she is one of the 4 young on the first shot, at the nest site, could be one of the 2 on the second, and is in one of the circles on the 3rd shot, at Parliament.
 

Day 3 of New Girl

It’s day 3 for New Girl at the hospital and she spent the whole night roosting on the ledge.

It looks like she’s set to do the same again tonight. Interestingly, she’s using the exact same spot as Charlie, against the wall.

Tom

New Girl

Tom

Tom has been trying to entice her in the nest box and only succeeded once but that was because he had a bit of food which she snatched off him and then she left 


He brought her a feral Pigeon which she ate for about an hour before putting the rest in the larder on the ledge.


She started to spend some time at the camera end of the ledge and she’s now used to the noise of the camera when it is moved so I have managed some close ups. I have managed to read the first 3 characters of her ring, I am now confident I should be able to get it all and then we’ll know where she comes from…

(On Tuesday, on her first visits to the ledge, she was flying away as soon as I would move the camera, which was one indication that this was neither Tom or Charlie – it’s not taken her long…)


They mated on the ledge for the first time at 3:30pm.

Will there be the patter of big feet after all this year…

 


She still has blood on the feathers on her right legs and she appears to be injured on her left bottom eyelid which gives her a bit of a funny look. Was that there before or is it a result of the fight…?
Look wise, she looks a lot more like Tom, her chest is white like him not honey like Charlie’s and her cheek patches go a lot higher than Charlie.

There is a new girl in town…


Monday 1st April at 2.14pm, this is the last capture on camera on the ledge that I have for Charlie…
I was walking from Hammersmith shortly before that and could see two Peregrines fighting over the skies around the Ark and Novotel. When I got to the hospital I could see 2 Peregrines on the hospital and 2 Peregrines up in the air. Unfortunately the sun shining right over the hospital prevented me to see much of what was happening and prevented me from taking any meaningful photos. It was enough for me to see that Tom was perched on the North Wing corner. There was a bird on the wall over the ledge but I couldn’t make out who it was, that bird was being dive bombed by one of the birds in the air. Then, there was a bird on the ledge, it went onto the ledge, the recording told me later that it was Charlie. She was there screaming for a couple of minutes then she took off and went around the North Wing and that’s the last I have seen of her.
Tom turned up on the ledge late afternoon with food, no one turned up, I started to wonder if something was wrong, but, occasionally, Charlie hasn’t heard Tom so he had to go and find her, it could be that.
Time to go to bed and Charlie had not turned up to roost. I checked the cctv as soon as I got up the next morning, no Charlie roosting on the ledge. I checked the hospital and there were 2 birds perched on corners. One is Tom, the other has its back turned so I couldn’t tell but something was telling me it wasn’t quite right. So, I went out with my camera. By then the birds had moved towards the front of the hospital. Again, one was Tom. The other was definitely not Charlie, the pattern on the head wasn’t right… Then they flew off and I managed a shot of the legs of the bird, no green ring but a metal ring on the right leg… A new girl…


She has blood on her right leg, I suspect from the fight with Charlie.

Since yesterday morning, she has been spending a fair amount of time on the ledge. Tom has brought her food which she has accepted. Tom has tried to entice her inside the nest box for a courtship display, she is happy to join in but from outside. I have seen them fly together and this morning they chased an intruder together.  That intruder could have been Charlie, unfortunately the action was a bit too far for me to make out individual birds.

What next, only time will tell…

New Girl likes Parakeet 😉

 

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!