Peregrines don't make a nest like many birds. They simply make a scrape in whatever material there is.
To this end, I put some gravel (actually smooth sided shingle from a local garden centre) in the tray.
Last year's spent gravel was removed some months ago, but I haven't replenished it as we were hoping to replace this old wooden tray. Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond my control, the new tray will have to wait for another year.
Here is the male Christopher Robin (CR) wondering where the gravel has gone!
This is usually a very quiet time of the year for the peregrines, so it was really great to see both birds on the nesting tray displaying to each other.
Plans to replace this old tray in time for the 2020 breeding season have had to be postponed. This means that the tray will now need servicing and new gravel added. Hopefully this will be done over the next few weeks.
After a few very quiet weeks, the last few days have suddenly seen a good variety of birds visiting the nesting tray.
Here is a Great Tit...
...and a Pied Wagtail.
And here is a special visitor...
A Black Redstart.
This is quite a rare bird, with only about 400 birds in the country, according to the RSPB web site. It's not the first time one has been seen at the Abbey at this time of the year, but it is a privilege to see such a lovely little bird feeding on insects on the tray.
And the Abbey's peregrines are still in evidence too. Here is Bellatrix, the female.
Let's hope she doesn't get to see the Black Redstart....!
Both peregrines are around, which at this time of year is a really good sign for next year's breeding season.
Here is a clip of the female Bellatrix landing on the nesting tray, calling to the male CR who is out of sight to the camera.
The reason there isn't any gravel in the tray is that we are (hopefully) going to replace it before the breeding season gets under way. If it doesn't happen this year, then it will definitely happen next!
This is going to cost around £500 in total. Details of how to contribute will be published shortly. Watch this space!
Bella made a brief visit to the nesting tray, but another peregrine was nearby as you can hear in the background of this video clip. Whether this was CR or Matilda, it's not possible to tell.
Apart from this, there has not been any peregrines seen by the camera for weeks.
The nesting tray itself was originally put up (temporarily) in 2012 in order to manage the single bird (CR) who was regularly seen on the Abbey tower. The idea was that if he ever attracted a mate, then this was the place they might choose to lay eggs. If they had chosen the tower roof, then this would mean that it would be legally out of bounds for 3 months or so. We now know that the tray was successful and that two chicks have successfully fledged.
However, the tray is now showing signs of deterioration, and needs replacing this winter. Plans are being put together to make a new tray which will be better constructed and slightly larger. As our birds get more experienced at breeding, they are likely to produce more eggs, maybe up to four. If four eggs do hatch and they are all females then the old tray is going to be far too small!
This new tray is going to cost a few hundred pounds, and although some funds have already been promised, we will shortly have to pass the (virtual) cap around.
So please watch this space for ways to contribute to the continuation of the story of Tewkesbury Abbey's Peregrines. It's amazing what crowd funding can achieve!
When Ed first arrived, he looked at the female peregrine sitting comfortably on the tower and observed that this bird still had some of its juvenile plumage, meaning that it was only into its second year of age. This means that this can not be the same female as we had last year, in other words this is NOT Bella!
When the abseilers reached the tower roof, however, she flew off complaining loudly as she circled the tower.
When Tim had lowered himself to the level of the nesting tray, he put the two chicks (and the unhatched egg) in his bag...
... which he lowered to the roof.
With the chicks safely down, they were taken inside the tower where Ed had set up his table ready to process them.
The two chicks were laid out side by side on the table, and it was clear to see that the one on the left was indeed larger than the one one the right.
Firstly, some measurements were taken, including leg diameter and length, as well as that from the back of the head to the tip of the beak. After studying the vital statistics, Ed said that this indicated that the larger chick was a female, and the smaller one was male.
Then, each chick was given a ring on its leg, the female being "PAR" and the male "PBR"
After this, they were returned to the nesting tray, where Tim took their photo.
Within 15 minutes of them being left alone once more, the (new) female returned to the tower and sat on the tray, no longer showing any concern for her offspring.
The Tewkesbury Abbey Young Friends have been asked to choose the names of the chicks, so watch this space for their (official) names. We will also need a name for the new female!