Vic's Diary 2022-23

Vic Pearson is an active and knowledgeable Buxton naturalist and longstanding BFC member, with a particular interest in our local ravens and peregrines. We are privileged to present here his diary entries for 2022-23, written especially for the website. These are presented in date order as they were received, with the latest at the top.

December 2023: First real freeze, then storms and flooding.

01/12

Very cold again, hard frost all day.

Site C brief visit, Jack(?) Snipe seen as it flew across the road near Smalldale. Only had time to note the luminous back feathers. Kestrel came across the field low and went into the quarry. Buzzard similarly flew low across field and up into the plantation at the last second.

Site B had Peregrine on the works chimney rail.

06/12

Afternoon visit to Site A, no Peregrines seen.

08/12

Derby Peregrine on the nest platform at 0830. Went to Site A at 10 a.m. as rain forecast later. Rewarded by sight of Peregrine on grassy ledge. Usual noisy Jackdaws around the cliff, and resident Crows keeping me under observation from a distance.

10/12

After heavy rain (44mm) and gales, able to get out in mid-afternoon to Site C.

Female Peregrine, on clifftop, looking Buzzard like, finally confirmed by telescope as Peregrine. Much smaller male Peregrine further along clifftop.

Then to Site A, where 2 Ravens flew over as I arrived, calling in alarm as male 

Peregrine flew up at them out of the quarry, then away presumably hunting as 

I could not find it when I went in. Distant Buzzard circling and calling over the plantation, and the resident Crows came back as I left, as usual. Standing water in the fields, and tree debris on the roads. 

11/12

Nil at site A. Cold. damp, and grey day. 

12/12

More rain, clearing at Site C. Peregrine facing into the cliff on a favoured pinnacle, its white cheek patches standing out as it groomed. Otherwise invisible. Standing water on the side roads. Another Peregrine blank at site A, then more rain moving in. Very gloomy in the quarry, no distant Ravens or Buzzards calling. 

Derby Peregrines bonding daily on the Cathedral platform, much brighter weather down there!

13/12

Cold North wind at Site A. Peregrine on green pinnacle again after a few days’

absence. Note conspicuous white patches on cheek. Still no Raven or Buzzard signs.

 

15/12

Site C, Peregrine on big cliff pinnacle as on 13/12. Site A, nil Peregrine, but Raven pair fly by calling. Buzzard over wood. Generally a bleak outlook, as the shortest day nears.  

16/12

Gloriously mild and sunny after the recent grey days. Site C, no Peregrines, but a Raven landed on the clifftop with many Jackdaws circling above. On to Site A, the usual Buzzard over Long Dale. A Kestrel in the quarry, no Peregrines at first, but pleasant to sit and wait without being chilled. After half an hour, a Male Peregrine arrived quietly from behind me, and began plucking small prey, which I had not noticed being carried in. Could clearly see feathers floating down from

the ledge.

The resident Raven pair came gliding in, calling, which evoked an immediate vocal response from the Peregrine, and flew on out of the quarry.

Then I realised that the Female Peregrine had landed on the clifftop and was walking about and making short flights of a few feet or so as though it was chasing something. After a while flying to land next to the feeding male. Note the size difference, male much smaller.

 

The Ravens reappeared with a third Raven in tow, swooping down over the Peregrines and again leaving the quarry.

The Peregrine male flew off with what was left of the prey, going to a ferny overhang, 

then to a new perch to continue feeding. The female had remained silently on the plucking ledge without demanding anything from the male. They were still there when I left.

17/12

Much cooler feel, windy and overcast. Buzzard in usual place in Long Dale, lifting out of the farm shelterbelt. Not a day to linger at Site A. Female Peregrine was on the same ledge as yesterday. Raven pair came in as I left, the Crow pair watched me out. Becoming a familiar pattern. 

18/12 -24/12

Storm Pia restricting me to watching the Derby and Sheffield live Webcams.

Derby having birds on the artificial platform regularly, with grooming and bonding displays. The Sheffield bird was seen to retrieve and eat a small, cached prey, possibly Starling.

25/12

Storm Pia finally clearing enough to visit Site A. Scanning the cliffs to no avail, 

I walked nearer and flushed a Peregrine from its hiding place. It flew away before turning back and making a dummy landing, then settling onto a small willow shrub. A second Peregrine flew in, but flew away fast without perching or

calling. Birds hard to see clearly in the gloomy light. except when silhouetted against the sky. In Long Dale, a Sparrowhawk was flying close behind a Magpie, driving it away before sitting on a low outcrop. Presumably not hungry enough to make a proper attack. Several Buzzards and a Raven in the area, and a big flock of Fieldfares. Plenty of Hawk food available. Another Fieldfare 

flock near Earl Sterndale, and more Buzzards over Hindlow Ridge. 

26/12

Calm and dry for a change, with better visibility. 

Site C, Red Kite came out of hilltop wood, normally a Buzzard refuge. Flew to quarry and glided over clifftop area. Raven appeared near car while I watched.

Site A, Peregrine female on grassy ledge, with very obvious white bib. Sat quietly until I left. Raven flew in, calling, but did not stay. No Peregrine reaction. Robin and Wren kept coming near to investigate me. The latter interested in old Redstart nest site in tumbledown outbuilding.

 

On return journey, a large starling flock on a field next to the road, with very attractive post – moult plumage showing clearly.

27/12 – 28/12

Storm Gerrit strikes, with heavy rain and a Category 5 tornado in Stalybridge.

Derby Peregrines active on the nest scrape throughout the day. No birds at Site A, but many Buzzards in Long Dale (6).

29/12

Cold, but not as windy. Peregrine pair flew over the road on the way to Wormhill. Most likely the Tunstead pair.

Site A, nothing seen until I walked nearer to the cliff, then a Peregrine came silently from nearby willow scrub and settled on a cliff ledge, moving to the Elder bush alcove before leaving past me and over the road. As I left, the Raven pair flew onto the clifftop near a previous nest site, croaking as they perched closely together. Then left to circle over the neighbouring fields, watching me leaving the area. Still 2 months from nesting, but becoming more wary. Several blackbirds and a thrush feeding on windfall apples on the quarry floor, adding some variety to the scene, with the familiar Wren and Robin in 

attendance, and Jackdaws dropping in.

31/12

Sheffield St. George’s Peregrine pair both had prey early and could be seen feeding and caching, with some bonding on the platform. Female has an orange ring, will try to read the number in better light.

Site C visited before the forecasted rain, light good enough to make out the Peregrine pair 50 metres apart, overlooking the quarry workings from the remains of the big cliff.

On the way to Site A, a mixed party of Fieldfares and Redwings, then a solitary Buzzard sitting in the middle of a field sown for Barley, looking for worms in the sodden ground. In the quarry, I flushed a Female Peregrine from the top of the cliff, where its raised wings were visible as it prepared for flight. It headed out of the quarry in a leisurely manner towards the skyline plantation, where it could be seen circling slowly. As I left, it came gliding back slowly increasing speed, whizzing past me into the quarry at close range. A good way to end the year despite the frequently adverse weather this month.  

  

November 2023: Derby Cathedral Peregrines daily bonding on the nest platform, as Winter gradually strengthens.

5 /11

A cold Site A after days of Storm Ciaran with prolonged rain. Relieved to see a female Peregrine fly across to current favourite green perch, as soon as I arrived. Then further scanning revealed a second Peregrine almost hidden behind a rocky outcrop on the adjacent cliff face. Both birds flew quietly. 

2 resident Ravens with a 3rd bird in tow flew in from the hilltop plantation. calling. Then a 4th Raven flew over powerfully,, its wingbeats audible long before I could see it coming. Finally, my first Fieldfare flock of this autumn crossed the quarry. 

Earlier, no Peregrines at Site C, and a Heron over the Wye at Miller’s Dale, on my long

survey circuit. No Peregrines on the chimney at site B. Probably busy hunting after all the rainy weather.

6/11

Male Sparrowhawk on a wall near Hargate, stalking a Fieldfare flock in the shelterbelt. Buzzard and Crows having an altercation near Flagg. Raven and Red Kite in Long Dale. At site A, the Peregrine pair restless,continually moving about the quarry.

Male Peregrine, showing yellow feet (below left).

Female Peregrine, on “plucking ledge” (below right).

On my return a huge Fieldfare flock on the entry to Earl Sterndale, as a heavy rain shower came across.

07/11

The Derby Cathedral Peregrine Live Webcam provides valuable insights into

activity on the nest platform through the year which would otherwise be concealed from ground-based observers. In recent days, the Peregrine pair has been seen doing bonding activities, renewing the scrape area by scratching the gravel. Such was the case this morning at 08.45. 

08/11

In Long Dale, not far from Site A, saw a Female Peregrine labouring against the wind, carrying large prey item. Also 2 Ravens circling over the farm wood above the Dale, could have been the resident pair from the quarry. No signs in the Quarry  as I walked over to check the  trail camera, then a male Peregrine flew onto clifftop and watched me as  changed memory card.

 

Kestrel carrying small prey (shrew? vole?) to top of powerline pole near me as I left. and starting to eat it. Coming back along the dale, a Red Kite was gliding slowly on its long wings  

9/11

A cold wind and no Peregrines today at the three sites visited. Only distant views of Ravens. Buzzards and Kestrels around as usual. Red Kite in Long Dale. A hundred Starlings comically trying to bathe in a tiny pothole at the side of the road near Flagg.

10/11

Cold and dry with sunny spells. Site C revealed a Greater Spotted Woodpecker in a small Elder bush, a Raven circling over a distant wood. No Peregrine signs.

Site A:  Found Peregrine on green perch, flew quietly, followed from clifftop by second Peregrine a few seconds later. Raven pair flew by in close proximity calling, later came nearer obviously checking me, will they come to the bait spot in front of the camera? Crows and Jackdaws already there as I was leaving. Suddenly feeling colder as the sun dipped down. Wintry feel.

11/11

Another cold dry day. Drove around Dale Head/Axe Edge, 2 Ravens, then a third on Upper Edge. On to Site A via Long Dale, Peregrine on green pinnacle again, picking at feet and grooming. Buzzard sitting on fence post on cliff top. Site C had Raven patrolling quarry edge and calling. An unspectacular day, but important to establish the birds’ routines at different times and continue to familiarise them with my presence.  Fieldfare flocks seen at various locations over the fields. 

13/11

Gale force winds at Site A. Sat for some time with no action. On leaving, a last look back revealed male Peregrine flying in to land on plucking perch, so retraced my steps and watched as it started feeding on small prey. Peregrine flew after about 15 mins., leaving prey behind. Could just make out red flesh and a dark wing, possibly a Starling. Changed direction to fly right over me looking down. Before that, a Red Kite came over, buffeted by the wind, seemed to be investigating bait point on the quarry floor. Then headed out towards the hilltop plantation. Saw it again when I came back along the dale, flying more easily when out of the turbulence within the quarry.

Large Starling flocks in the pastures and many Gulls.     

14/11

Site A:  no Peregrine signs. Yesterday’s prey gone from ledge. Rain imminent (rainbows in distance), so left. Many Woodpigeons feeding on Beech mast by roadside at Hargate Hall. At Site C, the rain had just passed over, so I stayed long enough to see a Male Peregrine float into view, coming close before gliding into quarry and out of sight. No signs at Site B.  

15/11

Windchill factor high at Site A. Encouraging signs that at least one Badger has survived the local intensive cull. Found a very fresh dropping which was not there yesterday. Only noisy Jackdaws flying in from the fields at first. So I walked over to check the camera, Straight away a Male Peregrine came in, flying around me, then away to land on the cliff quietly, on a new ledge. Stayed there while I retreated to leave it undisturbed. Many Starlings again.  

16/11

Foggy start, slowly clearing until around midafternoon the light improved enough to venture to Site C. Half an hour before sunset, a Peregrine came gliding in along the clifftop, following the contours to land on the highest crag.

Site B, located a Peregrine on the works chimney in the fading light.      

17/11

Sunny and cold at Site A. Put some peanuts down where I saw Badger signs on 15/11, hoping to find paw prints over the next few visits. Raven pair flyover and calls, and a very brief Peregrine flyby along the edge of the quarry, barely visible. 3 Buzzards stacked vertically as soaring became possible.

 20/11

After 2 days of rain and wind, and a foggy start, weak sun briefly emerged over Long Dale. At least 8 Ravens, a Buzzard and a Red Kite. A Peregrine at Site A on the grassy plucking ledge. Peanuts all taken.

On the way back, at least 12 Ravens socialising over Long Dale, the Red Kite was further along, gliding very low near the farm buildings, and the Buzzard was sitting on a post looking over the Dale. Becoming misty again. 

21/11

Cold and dry. 20 Ravens at least over Long Dale, calling and wheeling around. There must be a dead sheep in the top field somewhere. More birds appearing at intervals, impossible to make an accurate count. Sparrow Hawk male skimming low over a wall into a shelterbelt in Wormhill. Very brief rear view.   

24/11

“Autumn is thrown down. Winter stands.” J. A. Baker, “The Peregrine “.

After two miserable days of gales and rain, a glorious day of cloudless sky. Leaves nearly all gone. Much colder, barely above freezing, Raven swarm seemingly gone from Long Dale. Female Peregrine on a sheltered ledge on the sunny side of Site A, near the breeding site used in recent years. Looking well fed.

25/11

Puddles still frozen on the lane leading up to Site C at 1500 hrs., hoping to see the Peregrines coming back to the cliff at roosting time. Saw the Raven pair instead, as they sailed quietly along just above clifftop height, with an occasional tumble display. They went into the usual corner out of sight, half an hour before sunset, as the Gulls came in to the lagoons in numbers.

28/11

After 2 rainy days, with wet snow flurries yesterday, very cold and clear again. Derby Peregrine back on the nest platform, grooming after a bath, and shedding some down feathers.

Site C late afternoon, white bib of Peregrine shining in the sun on the 2022 nest ledge. 

29/11

Barely above freezing again at Site A, with a hard ground frost. Checking the sunny ledges, immediately found a Peregrine hidden behind the Elder bush. Flew out past me, heading towards the hilltop plantation. Then a second bird flew off from somewhere high on the main cliff, and followed the same flight path. Both silent.

October 2023: Ravens gather again over Eldon Hill, Buzzard grabs a Jackdaw, Peregrine pairs back.

01/10

Tawny Owl calling outside my window in the early hours.  Late visit to a drizzly Site A.  No Peregrine signs.

02/10

Site A again, no Peregrines present but one had just flown off the clifftop according to a birder I met in the quarry.

04/10

Barn Owl evidence at Site A. No Peregrines.  

05/10

Eldon Hill, first Raven flock of the Autumn, 14 birds lifting into the wind.

No Peregrines at Site A.  Blackbird in garden feeding on Whitebeam and Rowan berries.

07/10

Site A:  On arrival, heard a Kestrel’s high-pitched call and saw it flying in front of the cliff face, making several dummy landings near this year’s Raven nest.  A female Kestrel was flushed out from its hiding place and was followed around by the male, which could be identified by its grey tail with a black band, the female having a plain brown tail with brown bars.  Obviously a bonding ritual, maybe with a new partner. Eventually perched together in a cliff alcove.

While this was going on, the Jackdaws were flying in with a strange stall/turn flight pattern on occasion.  Almost a hover, sometimes after a slight upward glide. Seemingly a display of some kind, done individually.

The resident Raven pair made a brief visit, perching on the fence behind the cliff.  No Peregrines again.  Many Buzzards seen as I returned, with 5 seen near Earl Sterndale being the most conspicuous display.

08/10

Site A: Peregrine on pinnacle perch for an hour, grooming in sunshine.

09/10

Hill fog finally clearing to warm sun at Site A.  Peregrine on grassy ledge, grooming quietly. Jackdaws which had been sunning on the cliff face, suddenly got very vocal in and around the Aspen grove at the base of the cliff.  Could not detect any reason.  Then I saw a Buzzard, dropping down the cliff face with a Jackdaw in its talons, and carrying to the scree below.  causing a big eruption among the Jackdaws. They impotently mobbed the Buzzard, which I could see mantling its captive with its wings   4 Magpies were more assertive, moving in close and rattling loudly, but the Buzzard was unmoved.  The Peregrine was watching from the adjacent cliff face.  Decided to move in nearer as I wanted a photo of the Buzzard if possible.  The Peregrine started calling, and the Buzzard took off and landed on the cliff near the Peregrine.  and was watching me. Obviously not wanting to relinquish its prey.  I was amazed to find the Jackdaw still alive, with shallow breathing, and blood on the rocks nearby.  When I tried to pick it up, it had enough strength to flutter away for a short distance. Then was exhausted.  I left it there to take its chances, slim though they undoubtedly were.  The Peregrine had gone along with the Buzzard while my back was turned but the Buzzard would surely return.  A jolting reminder of the reality of predatory life.  The urgency of hunger.   

Buzzards are clumsy killers, being scavengers by nature.  Peregrines are surgical, quickly breaking the necks of their prey with their notched beaks.  I have only once before seen Buzzard attacking a bird, when it dropped on 2 Woodpigeon on a cliff engaged in a mating ritual. That time my presence nearby was enough to put the Buzzard off.

I left as the mist was descending in the dales and the light was going fast.

Farmers in the fields across the road were still taking a second mowing of the red clover.   

10/10

Warm and sunny at Site A at noon.  Red Kite over mown clover fields along with 5 Buzzards.  Peregrine female on same ledge as last night.  Jackdaw gone, not a trace left, so likely the Buzzard returned.  Heard wings overhead as male Peregrine with gaps in feathers flew around me before leaving. Female was still on ledge but then gone unseen.

Then to the Manifold Valley with hips, haws and black bryony berries filling the roadside hedges. . Site J had a Tawny Owl calling from the wood, then a Peregrine wailed and a female Peregrine was flying in front of the crag and heading up the valley.  May have been a second bird. So the breeding pair from this year seem to be holding their territory too.

14/10

A cold night, 5° C.  Becoming sunny with a cold N wind at Site A. No Peregrines or Ravens, but a Red Kite came over and landed on one of the mown fields.  Drizzle setting in as I left, in the Dale a Raven sitting on the road took off to land on the low crag at the side.  Possibly attracted to a roadkill and not wanting to leave.

15/10

Overnight frost on the estate roofs, cold wind and brilliant sun at noon at Site A. Exhaustive binocular search eventually revealed a male adult Peregrine lying out of the North wind on a sunny ledge partially hidden by an elder bush, with Jackdaws perched around closely.  Sometime later a second adult appeared from an undetected perch and flew out of the quarry.  As I left in turn, Raven pair flew in quickly from the distant wood and were seen settling on the quarry cliff near their old nest site.  As though they had been waiting for me to depart.  Two Red Kites over the dale completed the day.   

16/10

Site C More overcast today but bright enough to pick out Adult female Peregrine on the breeding ledge used in 2022, her white bib very clear despite long range view.

Male ad Peregrine similarly conspicuous on the adjacent cliff.  Sending a clear message that the site is occupied? No birds at site A at noon, so returned at 1700 hrs to find Adult Peregrine on favourite sunny perch on the main face.

17/10

Strong Easterly at Site C making for watery eyes.  Fortunately, did not have to wait long before a Female Peregrine flew onto a prominent crag lookout. No Ravens at Eldon Hill, so went to Site A where an Adult Female Peregrine was on the same perch as yesterday.  A Little Owl looked out from a small crevice (photo).  Then, a Male Peregrine made a brief dramatic entry, displaying in front of the Female with two passes in front of the cliff, climbing vertically and diving down again.  Left as suddenly as it had arrived.  No calls were heard.  A Buzzard was hanging in the wind over the wooded hill.  No Kites or Ravens today.

18/10

Site C: Peregrine pair located below the clifftop sheltered from the blustery East wind on perches just catching the weak sun.  Harder to see than usual as they were facing the cliff, not showing their white bibs.

Site A had the Female Peregrine on her green stained pinnacle.  years of fertilising by bird droppings stimulating algal growth.

After a few minutes, a Male Peregrine flew from an unseen perch, going over my head and away out of the quarry.  The Female remained unmoved, as she had been earlier when 9 Woodpigeon flew directly over her, only feet above.   

19/10

Site A: Peregrine grooming on a grassy ledge often used as for plucking prey, hint of feathers nearby.  Otherwise quiet.

21/10

Weather settling down after Storm Babel yesterday, over 3 inches/75 mm.  of rain.  Rivers high in Ashwood Dale and Manifold Valley.

No Peregrines at Site A. Only distant Raven calls and Buzzards.  Site J in the Manifold had both Peregrines grooming in small trees near the cliff face.  Encouraging signs for next year’s breeding season. Sites A and C have been similarly re-occupied by the adult pairs.  

23/10

Cold and overcast, sun only briefly breaking through at Site A.

Photographed jellylike Nostoc (Cyanobacteria ) colony, a very ancient evolutionary lineage dating back 3 billion years. Possibly the original source of free oxygen on Earth and the precursor of plant chloroplasts.

Also, poisonous Black Bryony berries in the Manifold Valley.

24/10

Another dull start to the day, and little activity except for a Stoat running across the Long Dale road.  The excitement of the breeding season seems a long time ago.  The Peregrines not as predictable in the quarry and the Ravens only heard at a distance.  Recent rockfall scar with enormous boulder beneath the cliff, may provide another breeding ledge for next year, an unexpected by product of Storm Babet? 

25/10

Sunny and cold at Site A, Male Peregrine flew in as I arrived and could be seen on the clifftop, with the Female back on her sunny pinnacle again.  When I moved nearer, the Female flew unseen, the Male remained on the cliff for some time before heading across the quarry to land on a sunny ledge by the Elder bush, its yellow feet and white bib obvious.

3 Buzzards soaring nearby and 5 Ravens calling and wheeling over the hilltop plantation.  

26/10

A break in the overcast tempted a late afternoon visit to Site C, on a rare calm day.  Rewarded by a Male? Peregrine on the crag showing the white bib.  A Female Peregrine appeared in front of the cliff, coming down to land above the 2022 nest ledge, again showing the bib clearly.  After some time both birds launched off together and intercepted an intruding Peregrine, driving it off into the lower quarry and not returning.  No calls heard.  The usual Kestrel and Buzzard presence.

27/10

Cold and foggy until late afternoon, sunny spell tempting a visit to quarry site C.  Female Peregrine, almost as large as a Buzzard, on clifftop.  Confirmed by telescope when it landed on previous breeding ledge now almost covered by a rockfall and spent some time exploring a hidden corner. Then grooming.  Male Peregrine some distance away on the same face.

Then briefly to quarry Buzzard, a Peregrine visible perched on a rail on the works chimney.  At this huge site the birds can hunt at night because of the floodlights, racing pigeons are frequent targets as they follow regular flight lines and can be trapped within the quarry.  I have seen the Adult birds training the Juveniles to hunt in this way.     

28/10

Sun finally breaking through at 3 pm at Site C.  Both Peregrines on the clifftop

close together.  Looking out over the quarry.

29/10

The start of ” Daylight Savings Time “.  A calm sunny day at Site A.  6 Buzzards drifted over the quarry in a compact group and kept going.  No signs of Peregrine on the usual perches, but careful scanning of the cliff face revealed the blue/grey back of a Peregrine hunched over and grooming its feet.  Then looking at me over its shoulder. Did not react as I walked over the quarry floor and left some food scraps near the trail camera, and it was still there when 2 Ravens which had been circling and calling quietly dropped down onto the cliff top. That set off some warning calls from the Peregrine, but all was calm as soon as the Ravens left. Crows and Jackdaws were already investigating the food on offer.

31/10

Foggy until late afternoon, then weak sun showing 2 Peregrines at Site C on the high crag.  At Site A, both Peregrines with very full crops on the cliff face.  Male near cliff top (below).

Closer view of Female Peregrine perched lower down (below).

Called at site Buzzard briefly and found Female Peregrine on the Works chimney rail again. Many Wood Pigeons returning from the fields as the hunting hour draws near.

September 2023: Into Autumn, how long will the juveniles linger?

27/08

Site A Juvenile Peregrine flying round quarry calling, then flew off, to return as I left. 

28/08

Site A, Juvenile Peregrine on pinnacle, flew quietly. 2 Ravens. 4 Red Kites seen in the dale. Cool and cloudy again.

29/08

Site C: Evening. Raven over cliff displaying and calling, Buzzard nearby. Adult Peregrine seen, then 3 Juveniles flashing around and soaring steeply into the wind. Swallows feeding over the cliffs.

30/08

Site C cool and windy with sunny spells. Juvenile Female Peregrine, carrying pipit sized prey which it dropped and retrieved in the air. Then away over the quarry, dropping prey again, not seen to retrieve. Finally 3 Juveniles interacting and leaving fast. Raven pair, then 3 Ravens in a group, Buzzard reacting to gull flying over its tree.

31/08

Wren in garden Fuchsia, tiny in comparison to the sparrows.

Noon to A. Warm and sunny. Raven with staccato calls from wood on hilltop.

Male Adult Peregrine flew across cliff face and perched on sheltered ledge, its full crop clearly seen.GS Woodpecker calling from hidden tree perch, identified by its undulating flight. 2 Red Kites in dale.

01/09

Site A: Adult Peregrine flew over fast and kept going. Later a Juvenile male Peregrine landed on clifftop, groomed briefly and left.

Received final Peregrine breeding report, 60 chicks over the South Peak area, very encouraging. Of great interest was the sighting of a Juvenile Peregrine, ringed in Dovedale this year, at St Aidan’s RSPB reserve near Castleford, 50 miles to NE., on 31/08.No sign of local monitored birds leaving yet.

02/09

Sunny and warm at A. Perfect soaring weather but no Red Kites or Buzzards! However, excitement in the quarry as a wheezy Juvenile Peregrine hunger call heard on arrival. Slowly entered, and scanned the cliff, but to no avail. Finally located movement on the quarry floor, 2 Peregrines busy with prey behind a small sapling. When I moved to find a better angle, although still 100 m away, Adult Female Peregrine flew up to the cliff and faced me with incessant warning calls to the remaining Juvenile Female Peregrine which was furiously plucking what turned out to be a racing pigeon, ringed this year (pic). 

 

A Juvenile Male was also looking on from the clifftop, flying right over me on its way out.

Evening Site C: 2 Female Juveniles chittering as they foot – grappled over the quarry, plummeting down as a Male Juvenile followed them in a steep dive.Then only faint calls heard. Huge gull flocks on the freshly ploughed fields and leaving the quarry lagoons .

03/09

Another Red Kite seen on the way to Site A, being attended by Crow in flight. In the quarry Adult male Peregrine on pinnacle perch in warm sunshine (pic). Flew unseen.

Later, another Peregrine(?) flew in swiftly and went out of sight behind trees on the quarry floor. Another 2 Red Kite sightings nearby and 2 Ravens in synchronised flight with strange gurgling calls. Wall Browns, Blues, Damselflies. Now very warm.

Evening at Site G, to confirm Juvenile Peregrine numbers. Last year they were still around at this time. At last, the alarm call of a Raven as a Juvenile Peregrine female flew across the face of the huge cliff. Many Swallows over the pond and Dragonflies seen. 

04/09

Site G evening visit. No Peregrine sightings but Juvenile and Adult calls heard. Raven calling from distant hilltop, flew in as soon as it saw me leaving.

05/09

Site A. 

Adult Peregrine flew in, circled me and left. A new plucking point found on the cliff. A pair of Ravens flew over calling, then a few minutes later a second Raven pair on the same flight line. As I left, did my usual last scan of the skyline wood. A Juvenile female Peregrine was soaring above, coming into the quarry on a fast shallow stoop. Very warm, no Red Kites.

06/09

Site C 

Morning visit, Adult Peregrine flew off sunlit perch. Have Juveniles gone? Will need more evening visits to be sure. 

07/09

27 degrees C. Site A has Adult Peregrine in a small shrub on cliff face. No calls.

08/09

Very warm again. Site A , resident Adult Peregrine on cliff .When I dozed off in the sun for a second, it had flown to the shrub perch and started calling until I left. May have been trying to attract another to visit? Not an alarm call.

Evening Site C. Sand Martins still around the quarry edge. Usual Kestrel and Buzzard hunting over the rough grassy areas. No Peregrine s.

09/09

Site C: A hot day, 29 degs. Brief Juvenile Peregrine? Buzzard, Kite. Site G: nil.

11/09 

Site A: Adult Peregrine on grassy ledge, noon.

13/09

As I left the house, a Sparrowhawk flew over the local shops. Then outside Monyash saw a Peregrine hunting low over the fields. Then to Site A. Adult Female Peregrine on clifftop, watching me over shoulder. Flew over my head and away. Found an old Peregrine kill on quarry floor. (Racing pigeon.)

14/09

Site C A Vole ran across as I drove up the track. Many Rooks collecting grit. No Peregrine/Raven signs. Many Tufted Duck on the lagoon. Usual Canada Geese and Gulls.

15/09

Site A sunny and warm, no Peregrines or Red Kites. Red Admiral butterflies. 

16/09

Return of Juvenile Peregrine s at Site A  I First saw Adult Peregrine on clifftop, then flying away. Juvenile Peregrine flew in with small prey trailing a white wing, to ferny overhang, calling briefly. 50 plus Goldfinch flock on Hardheads.

17 /09

Pleasant early Autumn feel as the equinox nears. Site A again, hoping for more Juvenile sightings. Thorough cliff scan revealed nothing, but as I walked nearer Juvenile Peregrine female flew up onto cliff and gave a quiet wail. Male Juvenile arrived quietly on clifftop and flew nearer to female. Both flew unseen, after a while the male Juvenile returned, soon followed by Adult female, welcomed by a wail from Juvenile male. Then both sat quietly. Greater Spotted Woodpecker calling from top of a power line pole. On return up the dale road, a short tailed Vole ran across.

18/09

Late visit to A after rain cleared.3 Ravens over the Dale then 2 over the skyline wood. Adult fem Peregrine on grassy ledge flew off, then seen as soon as I left,

following the Jackdaws returning in pairs from the fields into the quarry. 

20/09

After rain finally cleared at A, Adult Female Peregrine on a grassy ledge looking out calmly.

21/09

Sunny and calm at A at midday. Raven called and Peregrine came in from high over the wood toward the quarry. No Peregrines seen in quarry, but Juvenile Peregrine came gliding in soon and landed on fern ledge, looking out quietly (pic) until Adult Male flew in, then Juvenile wailed briefly, no response from Adult, which was lying down on a ledge hidden behind an Elder bush. Size comparable with the Jackdaws perched just above. Digesting dinner? Or just ignoring Juvenile?

22/09

Many Ravens seen on the way to Site A, pleased to see old Raven “friends ” Big Boy and Big Girl on Upper Edge. Then Raven groups soaring over Long Dale. In the quarry, resident Raven pair flying round and calling, coming over to check me out, with twanging and bell like calls. Going over in the rain to change the trailcam memory card, Juvenile Male Peregrine suddenly appeared and also had a good look at me before settling briefly on the clifftop. No sign of alarm. Later I watched as the Raven pair circled, cannily letting the Jackdaws take the meat scraps I had left. Such intelligent birds and ultra careful in their approach to any food on offer, while I am watching. Even though they obviously recognise me after years of visits, not taking any chances.  

23/09

Sunny spells on the way to Site A. Red Kite seen 3 times, may have been same individual. Adult Peregrine on a fencepost above the quarry, flew quietly. Also a Buzzard on the clifftop. Jackdaws first to the food scraps as usual, then resident Crow pair, then Magpie. Evening visit to Site C, Adult Peregrine came across the lagoon below my vantage point and went out of sight into the huge quarry workings. Raven also quartering the area. Sand Martin colony still visible, despite huge stone pile nearby. The quarry workers may have installed a protective bund in front of the nests to protect them. No birds around now, may have left for Africa.

24/09

Early evening visit to Site A. A Buzzard flew off as I got out of the car, and a Juvenile Peregrine left the quarry followed by a 2nd Juvenile. An Adult Peregrine gave an “ee-chip ” or “creak ” call from nearby, as I went down the track into the quarry. After a few minutes an Adult male? Peregrine came flying in low and swooped up to a favourite small bush on the cliff, Jackdaw perched very near gave a useful size comparison . Sat for half an hour or more quietly, then a Buzzard low overhead triggered a warning call. A Kestrel hovering overhead had no effect. When I moved near to leave some meat scraps, the Peregrine never moved. Similar lack of interest when the Raven pair flew over with low twanging calls. 

25/09

Noon at Site A, drizzle becoming rain. Female Adult Peregrine on favourite grassy ledge, Almost immediately Male Adult Peregrine flew in to perch on same cliff and spent some time grooming, looking bedraggled after bathing? First time both Adults seen together since June when they were feeding young on the nest. Ravens being seen more often in the quarry, and flying over to monitor proceedings.  

Site C evening visit, brief view of Adult Peregrine gliding into a hidden corner. Raven pair croaking nearby appeared out of quarry and went into same hidden corner, maybe to roost. Many Canada Geese similarly leaving the lagoons for the neighbouring pastures.

26/09

Pleasantly warm at Site A. A Buzzard with a conspicuous white chest was sitting in the willow bush normally used by the Peregrines. After it flew I moved in to photograph the old Raven nest with lots of orange twine incorporated, the Ravens often do this, but it can be hazardous to the fledglings if they get their feet tangled in it. As I was doing this, a Juvenile Peregrine glided in over the cliff and went away after inspecting me. 

27 /09

No Peregrines or Ravens at a short visit to a drizzly Site A. On my way home, 2 House Martins at Pomeroy on the A515. 

28/09

Site A: Raven pair in the quarry, and a Buzzard on the clifftop. No sign of Peregrines. Has last night’s storm finally driven away the Juveniles?

29/09

Early at Site A. Wren and Dunnock near me on the ground, many Goldfinches in the trees. Raven barked a warning alerting me to Adult Female Peregrine flying in, to land on the clifftop. Joined within seconds by Adult Male Peregrine. No juveniles now? Both Peregrines flew off together. 2 Red Kites in the dale and Swallows. Roadkill young Hare, ideal for Buzzards Kites and Crows.

Evening Site C: Peregrine Adult on clifftop bombed by Raven, which then soared up to dance with a Buzzard.

30/09

Site A Increasing feeling of a change in Peregrine dynamics, with both Adults seen and no Juveniles. A Buzzard also being more often in the quarry, possibly attracted by the many Rabbits there. One on the clifftop for a long spell seemed to stimulate the Adult Peregrine on his favourite perch into calling loudly. Or it could have been the unseen arrival of the female Peregrine on the adjacent cliff face. The male seemed ready to take off, ejecting “whitewash” several times, but the female flew first, making the Jackdaws erupt noisily from the trees nearby. A few minutes later the male followed on the same flight line. A solitary Swallow seen, flying low over the quarry, heading South. 

1st to 28th August 2023: Plenty going on!

01/08

Site A: Juvenile Peregrine female watching calmly as I wandered the quarry floor taking photos of Stemless and Carline thistles. She finally flew to a higher perch while I was distracted by evidence of another Racing Pigeon kill, again with white Primary feathers. Then away out of the quarry and did not return. One Kite, then a second, with gaps in tail, flew over. As I was leaving, had a last look back. 4 Red Kites in a compact group were coming over and I watched for some time as they wheeled over a recently mown barley field, in a compact group. Possibly Adult(s) with Juvenile birds from a local unknown nest, an exciting prospect. A Raven croaked over a nearby farm as its mate approached, briefly settling in the very tops of the farm trees, before heading to the remains of an ancient tumulus and perching on the topmost mound, giving them the widest possible view. Yet another Kite seen on way home!

 

Red Admiral on Hardhead. Stemless and Carline Thistles. Lovers of the barren quarry floor.

03/08

Juvenile Peregrine flying away from Site A as I arrived, no birds inside the quarry for once. Very quiet. Gatekeeper butterfly would not settle long enough for a photo. House Martins overhead reminded me that I haven’t seen Swifts for a few days, have they gone? Woodpigeons flying in and out, and over the fields of Red Clover across the road. Distant Buzzard calling from over the wood, and a Raven seen coming away from the same area. Found more Juvenile Peregrine kill evidence, a Jackdaw wing and breastbone with bite marks. All flesh efficiently removed.

05 /08

Site C Sand Martin colony partially buried by gravel tipping, always a risk in working quarries. At a nearby farm, many Swallows lined up on power lines. In the village, many still flying.

 

06/08

Sunny spells with intermittent heavy purple clouds at Site A. All 3 Juvenile Peregrines calling and flying around the cliff as I walked nearer to check the camera. Then flying off. Definite change in their behaviour, more willing to leave their familiar surroundings. Heard a Buzzard calling and found it perched high in a Pine tree in a distant wood. A big flock of Goldfinches flew by, shining in the sun. 

 

07/08

Evening sun at Site C. About to leave when Juvenile female Peregrine glided in and was greeted by a second Juvenile female rising above the remnants of the devastated cliff and hanging like a Buzzard in the brisk West wind, before coming right over my head and looking down. Lesser Black Backed gulls feeding on the newly mown fields. Swallows skimming low near the farms, and over a pond in a restored quarry. Ravens conspicuous by their absence now. Although distant calling often heard.

 

08/08

Temperatures slowly improving at Site C. Able to make out Juvenile Peregrine male? silhouetted on the clifftop, feeding. Female Juvenile Peregrine appeared from further back and took over from the male, could hear strident calls from 400 m. away. Many House Martins at Millers Dale Station.

 

09/08

Site A:  Adult male Peregrine seen for the first time since 28/03 on his favourite pre breeding perch in the quarry, and no sign of the Juveniles today, for the first time since fledging. Flew silently while I was studying Felwort on the quarry floor. Saw first Peacock butterfly of the year. Many Swallows feeding around the cliff, and warm air rising from the quarry floor boding well for soaring birds. 2 Ravens flew over high above, could hear their brusque conversation before I could see them. Finally, 2 immaculate Red Kites interacting, one dropping something as it flew low over the dale. Presumably inedible as it never came back for it.

10/08

Another very warm day at Site A, but no Red Kites. However, a dramatic return of 3 Ravens, likely some of this year’s brood, with an unsuccessful attempt to drive the Juvenile male Peregrine from its prey. The Peregrine was feeding on the clifftop when the Ravens dropped down alongside, causing a loud retort, and the Peregrine flew off with the remains across the quarry to another plucking spot. The Ravens persisted, harassing at close range before finally flying off. The Peregrine finished feeding and calmly sat looking across at me for some time, eventually flying off with what little remained of the prey and leaving some very obvious white feathers behind on the cliff. Photographed verge Hemp Agrimony, an unusual setting for a damp loving species. Literally at the roadside. Didn’t have to leave the car.

Juvenile male surrounded by feathers on the clifftop.

11/08

Site A:  Many Rooks cawing as they flew with the Gulls to feed in a distant stubble field, as the big Clover field nearby was being cut and baled. No Peregrines in the quarry! Raven flew in briefly over cliff, may have been checking for scraps after yesterday’s encounter. 

Evening at Site C. 2 Juvenile Peregrines rose up against the West wind for the usual aerobatics and began bullying the much smaller Kestrels away from the big cliff. 2 Ravens came over with their contrasting style, rolling and tumbling interspersed with level glides. For a while the Peregrines and Ravens took turns in dominating the airspace. At last, the 3rd Juvenile joined the other 2 for a chase around the cliff. Last year the Juveniles lingered until late September, a month later than at Site A. But about the same as Site G, both exposed and high locations compared to A.

 

15/08

Sunny and warm after 3 rainy days. On the way to check Site A, via Monyash, saw a Juvenile Peregrine flying low near the Wormhill road, most likely one of the 3 from Tunstead brood. Arriving at A, 3 Buzzards were calling from above a wood on the skyline. At least one with the hoarse call of a young bird   Another Buzzard was on the clifftop but soon flew off. No Peregrines on the cliff, but on leaving I saw a Buzzard flying and calling over the wood again, and a Juvenile female Peregrine rose from the trees in response.   

 

16/08

Another warm sunny evening at Site C. Many Sand Martins still feeding over the quarry edges. 2 Juvenile Peregrines calling overhead, before rising high over the main quarry on the thermals. Finally, so high I lost track. Suspect they were scanning for prey, for a late feed. They seem independent now. I will keep following their activity as long as possible to hold on to summer.

 

17/08

No sign of Juvenile Peregrines at Site A, but Adult male Peregrine back on a favourite pinnacle, seems to be reclaiming his patch. Flew off silently towards the hilltop wood where 3 Buzzards, including at least one young bird, had been soaring and calling. Came back unobserved after 20 minutes and began grooming on the sunlit pinnacle (photo below). The Buzzards continued calling intermittently and Raven pair seemed interested in the activity, doing a close flyby. A Buzzard came into view carrying a long stick held across both feet and went into the trees, surely late to be nest building? Evening Site C: no Peregrine signs.

18/08

Site A:  Very quiet, no Peregrine signs, no Ravens or Buzzards heard. On my return, saw double flowered Soapwort on the verge by the wall.

20/08

Soaring weather again so ventured again to Site A. A Juvenile Peregrine was seen immediately as it flew across the cliff face, circling briefly then heading away. Came back sometime later and settled in a bush (photo).

A Buzzard flew over low, triggering an immediate loud response, the Peregrine flying out, then landing out of sight behind the bush.. A Red Kite then showed up, gliding slowly over the next field. Peregrine emerged from its hidden perch and flew off again rapidly, following the line of the abandoned railway to the North. I followed much the same route home, seeing 2 Red Kites and a Raven over the Dale, flying together. Managed to capture a distant shot, showing the relative sizes, and the forked tail of the Kite. 

21/08

Site C , one Juvenile Peregrine seen briefly, using the wind to lift above the cliff, then vanishing downwind. Sand Martins and Swallows still around. But for how much longer?

 

22/08

Another windy evening at C, giving a chance to see the various flying styles of the raptors. First the Buzzards, hanging in the wind, looking ruffled with ragged outlines. Then a Kestrel with controlled swoops, not hovering. Next, the Raven pair, later joined by a 3rd Raven, motionless for a long spell high above the cliff, again facing the wind and using its energy to obtain lift. Finally, various flashes of Peregrine activity, 3 Juveniles in close formation excitedly calling, and what may have been an Adult Peregrine carrying small prey remains, motionless for a long time in the face of the wind, dropping the item and catching it again. The overriding impression of effortless mastery. For complete contrast, 20 Canada Geese honking and labouring low over the clifftop, expending energy, not able to use natural uplift like the Raptors. 

 

23/08

Adult male Peregrine on perch again at Site A, in warm sun.

 

24/08

Mid-afternoon at A. Could see nothing on the cliff despite detailed scanning, until a Juvenile Peregrine flew up somewhere low down, on the quarry floor? Pictured on the clifftop in the sun, before laying down flat for some time. When I walked nearer to check for prey remains, sat up to watch me, but did not fly. When Ravens gave a warning, a Red Kite was seen drifting over. To add to the excitement, 5 Buzzards were circling high above a tumulus on the horizon. Coming back up the dale, another 3 Red Kites together.

26/08

Noon at Site A, within minutes a Juvenile Peregrine flew in carrying prey. When it landed on ferny ledge overhung by boulder, could see that it had already had a feed. Sat motionless for an hour without feeding again, while two Buzzards circled overhead. Swallows briefly buzzed the quarry, and a huge vortex of Gulls formed above the fields, attracting many hundreds more to the feeding ground over the next few minutes. The rattle of stones dislodged from the scree heralded the arrival of the marmalade cat from a nearby house, as it stalked the quarry bottom. Could explain the dead shrews found on various occasions.  

 

27/08

A cool damp day at C. Juvenile Peregrine flew around quarry, calling, and finally leaving unseen. Returned and settled on cliff as I left. 

 

28/08

Another cool day. Late afternoon visit to Site A, Juvenile Peregrine on pinnacle used by Adult bird on 17/08. On my way home saw first one Red Kite, then further along the dale, 3 flying together.

2nd to 29th July 2023: The Joys of Fledging, a change in the weather, flora of the verges, breeding results.

02/07

House Martin young peeping out at Pikehall. No Peregrine signs at site K again, after years of use. Almost certainly at a new site in this sprawling quarry. At site J, birds found on 29/06 seem to have fledged completely, as not seen. A plucking ledge found, and the nest areas now more visible, as the vegetation has been trampled down.

04/07

After a cool, windy, rainy day yesterday, a sunny pleasant start prompted a visit to site A, to see if the Juvenile Peregrines were still around the quarry. Rewarded by immediate views of one flying out. Then a long display as the Adult male, calling loudly, was pursued by the 2 Juvenile females and one Juvenile male, making persistent hunger demands. As I stood quietly, the Adult male flew nearer, making warning calls. Soon the excitement died down, the Adult fading away and the Juveniles adopting various clifftop vantage points. Many Wall Browns, Ringlets and Small Heaths around the Ladies Mantle, Thyme and Bedstraw on the quarry floor. Later, rain and thunder. Swifts only in one and twos over the Spring Gardens Viaduct, and Fairfield estate.

05/07

Waited until early evening for the gusting wind to ease at Site C, hoping to see the Juvenile Peregrines in flight. At least the cold North East wind has changed, bringing a more comfortable feel. Approaching along the lane, saw unusual flight of a Kestrel, more like a Sparrowhawk, flying very low over the grass, then saw a Buzzard rise and fly off. Maybe a dispute over a prey item? Overlooking the quarry towards the main face, soon saw a Juvenile Peregrine gliding near, then an Adult on the clifftop, its white breast prominent in the evening sun against the dark cumulus clouds behind. Suddenly, 3 Juvenile Peregrines were frolicking together, the only way to describe their obvious growing mastery of the invisible air currents around the huge cliff. Rising into the gusts, then tumbling down at speed before using that momentum to flash away horizontally. When they drifted nearer, I could hear their rasping calls. 

06/07

Evening visit to Victory Quarry for Field Club outing, hoping to see Barn Owls. Left just before they appeared from their cliff cavity, but several members saw them. They should have young by now and may need to start hunting before dark, as the nights are so short. This site was used some years ago, then the Jackdaws took over.

07/07

4 Swifts over the houses at 7a.m. in a cloudless sky. Another attempt at finding Peregrines was frustrated by dust and noise from rock breaking and crushing in the quarry. 4 Ravens flew over in a tight formation, probably this year’s young, and 2 Crows were trying to harass a Buzzard, but it soared effortlessly higher. 2 Ravens, old acquaintances from past years, came over from a neighbouring quarry, the male looking rather worn at close range. Posed obligingly on a fence post.

Also captured this image of a day flying moth, a worn looking Golden Y, nectaring on Meadow Cranesbill.

08/07

3 Swifts over the rooftops at 0800. Later to Site A at 1500 hrs. could hear the Juveniles. rasping calls from the road, and one came flying out to investigate my whistled response, before rejoining the other 2 Juveniles. on clifftop. Found pigeon remains on quarry floor, the Adult birds having brought prey back for the Juveniles to pluck, part of their training. Adult male flew in quietly to monitor the situation, as I left. One Small Copper, many Meadow Browns, Small Heaths, Common Blues.

09/07

Early visit to Site A, with dew on the grass and many flies. One Juvenile Male Peregrine on clifftop, remained while I wandered the quarry floor underneath taking photos of Pigeon remains, seemingly the Homing variety. There had been many Wood Pigeon and Jackdaw feeding on the quarry floor beneath the gaze of the Juvenile Peregrine, when I arrived. Fledgling Whitethroats flitting between the low scrub thorns.

10/07

Site E with Natural England to confirm Peregrine breeding, nothing seen, birds probably having fledged by now. Enough circumstantial evidence from local observers, such as loud calls from the cliff recently, that the birds were successful. Evening views of 20+ Swifts over Ashwood Dale, flying very high under overcast sky.

11/07

Cooler feel after rain. Swifts seen under overcast sky at 0930.

Site A: 3 Juveniles still in quarry, two on cliff and one on scree below, almost perfectly blending with the rocks. Left as a cloudburst rainstorm arrived, in Monyash the roads were flooded.

13/07

0700 hrs.  Many Starlings gathering on the rooftops outside my window before flying off together to their feeding grounds off the Estate.

Single Juvenile Peregrine at Site A. perching quietly on the clifftop, only flying when I moved away to photograph a Redcurrant bush and had my back turned. Typical secretive behaviour beginning to show. Fritillary, many Meadow Browns and Small Heaths as soon as the sun came out. One Small Copper. A shrew ran in a blur across the track as I climbed over the gate.

15/07

Swifts appeared after the sun broke through at 0900 hrs. A big thunderstorm with heavy rain later. Then another sunny spell with Swift sighting.

16/07

Cool windy day. Single Swifts between the showers.

Site A: A Juvenile Peregrine, looking dark brown and hard to follow in flight against the cliff, landed next to a second Juvenile which I would not have seen otherwise. No calls. Becoming more secretive? Scabious and Figwort flowers in the quarry. On the roadside verges, Sweet Cicely showing dark seed pods. Mugwort, Meadowsweet, Bindweed and Fireweed.

17/07

A day of thunderstorms with lightning and heavy rain, finally becoming sunny at site C. Towering cumulus clouds were a backdrop as 3 recently fledged Kestrels hovered over the quarry edge riding the updraft from the gusting West wind. Suddenly one of them was interacting with a Juvenile Peregrine, which drifted away to be joined later by a second Juvenile. Relative sizes indicating one of each sex. Shared exhilarating soaring and plunging games before settling together on the clifftop. Many Rooks exploiting the rain-soaked turf, and on the lane picking at grit for their crops, presumably to enable digestion. Many are Juveniles, very similar to Crows in their head markings/beaks. Verge flora: Fireweed, Bindweed, Mugwort, Ragwort, Burdock.

19/07

Site A: Sunny afternoon after misty start. Juvenile Peregrines still around. A male Juvenile soon appeared, silhouetted on the clifftop. Flew past me and went over the road, heard a Raven croak a warning. A Juvenile female was next on the clifftop. flying out of sight into low goat willow trees. When I walked across the quarry floor to photograph Viper’s Bugloss flowers (below), the Juvenile took off from its hidden perch and flew quietly around, not wanting to leave, even when a Raven came near, which drew harsh calls and close response from the Peregrine, already reacting as an Adult Peregrine might. As I left, the argument was continuing.

20/07

Pleasantly warm and sunny, many Swifts over Fairfield Road and Holmfield houses on Leek road. The Swifts have had a good year, with many new nests found by Lindsey and Rowan Wakefield.  At Site D, resident Ravens came over to investigate me, recognising my car parked on the verge and looking for a handout. Second Raven pair not entering the first pair’s patch, watching from a distance. A Juvenile Raven, recognisable by its immaculate plumage compared to the worn looking Adults, appeared and was soliciting food from the Ad female, following it to the grassy hillside where it was caching it. Totally ignored by the Adult, seemingly weaning off the young bird’s dependency. Photographed a spectacular stand of Nettle Leaved Bellflower by the roadside.

Poppies on the disturbed ground on the verges as I drove back, a rare splash of scarlet at this time of year, when yellow and blue colours dominate.

21/07

After a showery start, sunny spells at Site A. Juvenile Peregrines still around and relaxed about my presence. A female Juvenile sat for a while on a recently favoured perch, before flying over me and looking down as though checking me out, before flying out of the quarry. This has happened too many times to be a coincidence, The male Juvenile had meanwhile been grooming on the clifftop in the sun. As soon as I moved away to leave, he flew to the perch the female had just vacated, a good vantage point to look over the quarry floor, with the sun at its rear. 

23/07

After heavy prolonged rain yesterday, a slow improvement until an optimistic visit to Site C immediately paid off, with 3 Juvenile Peregrines calling and wheeling round close to me. An Adult Peregrine then appeared, causing great excitement with the Juveniles, following the Adult right across the huge quarry to the far side. Shortly faint food demands could be heard, and I could see the 3 Juveniles following the Adult female along the clifftop before they all dropped out of sight and nothing could be heard. Almost certainly a food drop had occurred. Since my last visit, the section of main cliff that held the nest ledge had been blasted away. The birds fledged just in time!

Then to Site G. 4 Ravens calling and cavorting round the huge rock face. Heard distant Juvenile Peregrine calling from the far end of the quarry so walked up the track, but nothing seen. On return, there were at least 8 Ravens gliding over the cliff, so maybe this year’s young have started forming flocks to assist in food finding/gathering. High above, at the limit of binocular vision, a solitary Swift was feeding. 

Below. Poppies on the verge near the Recycling Centre.

24/07

Site C on a cool windy evening. 3 Kestrels hanging in the stiff breeze. One engaged a Juvenile Peregrine in mock combat, taking turns to swoop on each other. After a particularly serious stoop by the Peregrine, the Ks made a strategic withdrawal. A second Juvenile Peregrine appeared, then a 3rd, before they flew off in sequence out of the quarry, maybe heading off to roost away from the recently devastated nest area.

25/07

Site A: Juvenile female Peregrine on clifftop, a male Juvenile arriving with a showy dive before flying on. After a while heard male Juvenile calling as it flew back, the clifftop bird launching off to meet it and escorting it back in, with great excitement as a 3rd Juvenile was suddenly in the mix, as though food was available. However, none was on offer, and silence reigned again, with a lone Juvenile quietly grooming on the clifftop. Much ado about nothing? Many martins and swallows in a sunny spell, and a small copper reluctant to pose for a photograph. On the way home, a Red Kite and 2 Ravens catching a thermal over the daleside, with rain clouds waiting over Buxton to disgorge their contents.  

28/07

Incident packed hour at Site A. After a few minutes an Adult male arrived, carrying what may have been a Racing pigeon with a white wing trailing behind it. Seconds later, a Juvenile female landed on the clifftop next to the male who immediately relinquished the prey item and flew off. The Juvenile took it and dropped down to a ledge and started plucking. Soon decided that a less exposed ledge beneath ferns was preferable, going there to start some serious feeding, and plucking more white feathers. Meanwhile a Juvenile male had arrived but soon left, having missed out. A Red Kite was next on the scene, with 2 Juvenile Peregrines circling and calling above. Finally, a second Kite with missing tail feathers came over. The first Juvenile Peregrine had finished feeding and was standing quietly under its sheltering ferns. Distant Raven called. Red Admirals and Large Whites brought out by the sun. Warm breeze ruffling a small Aspen grove as several Wood Pigeons crossed the crime scene untroubled by the various raptors. Below – white Primary feathers an easy target for Peregrines. It does not pay to stand out in a crowd.

29/07

At a meeting at Carsington Water to discuss this season’s Peregrine breeding results, with volunteers from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Police Rural Crime Officers in attendance. In the South Peak Raptor Group area, over 40 young fledged successfully. Mostly from quarry sites (22). Natural crags produced at least 9 young. Urban sites had a mixed year, at Derby only one egg hatched from a suspected first-time breeding pair, while at Chesterfield a whole brood starved after the death of the Adult female following injury. This demonstrates the importance of quarries for Peregrine breeding, despite the incredible increase in blasting due to the HS2 rail project. At one site, the main cliff is being quarried away, fortunately the 3 young fledged just in time. It will be interesting to see how the birds adapt next year in the working quarries.   

 

2nd to 26th June: Fantastic floral displays along the verges and in the dales!

02/06: Site A: Managed to get a confirmation of 3 chicks, now they have grown enough to be visible behind the flowers on the ledge. Also aided by the adults trampling them down as they land to feed the rapidly growing young. Both adults present and monitoring, occasionally shading the sun with their wings outspread. Wall Brown, Grizzled Skippers, Small Heaths. Buttercups, Cow Parsley, Red Campions spectacular. Early Purple Orchids now past their best. The Lemon flowers of Mouse Eared Hawkweed distinguishing from the taller Hawkweed. Pink and blue Milkwort varieties. Viper’s Bugloss. It’s too much to take in all of a sudden!

Site C, early evening: Only brief views of clifftop Peregrine. Then a close-up of a Little Owl as it took off from the lane and perched on the adjacent stone wall, glowering at me when I stopped to attempt a photo! Then flying up to an old barn roof.

 

03/06: Site J: Early visit to avoid the tourist traffic in the Manifold. No conclusive proof of breeding site, but a female Peregrine calling and responding to a high soaring Buzzard being chased by a Crow. Perched in a lookout Ash tree for some time, then flew off down the valley.

Then to Site A for some exciting activity, as the female was again shielding chicks from the sun as the male monitored from cliff, then flew off hunting, returning before long with large prey item, landing on a ledge behind long grass out of sight. Presumably plucking prey, though no feathers seen flying. Finally called out and flew to the female, leaving quickly with no prey drop-off seen, then off hunting again? Female staying brooding.

While this was going on, able to watch a Whitethroat nearby, as it flew back and forth between a nest site in a small bramble clump and a goat willow tree. Collected Barn Owl pellets from a roost in a shed. 3 Raven young calling from cliff top then, giving quivering wing display to trigger adult feeding.

Evening, Site C: male Peregrine(?) next to “slot ” ledge. Female(?) flew into slot and could be seen walking around, then hopped out to briefly join male, before leaving unseen. Jackdaws all the while leaving and entering small crevices in the cliff face right behind.

 

04/06: Site D: no signs this year, maybe because of disturbance by quarry expansion nearby.  Ravens nest, found earlier in year, unused. Although at least 2 young fledged from unknown nest. Young Hare in quarry.

 

05/06: Site C: Quarry blast, then watched Goldfinch pair repeatedly going to drink at a cattle trough. Pipits and Wheatear on the lane side walls. Finally saw Peregrine flying quickly into the slot under observation. Chicks must surely be visible soon? Too far off to hear any food demands from the nest area, over the adverse winds.

Later visit, early evening, feeling warmer. Male Peregrine on lookout near the nest, went into slot and moved around, kept moving to various clifftop vantage points, seemingly anticipating something. Finally, a female Peregrine, looking very big compared to male, arrived carrying prey and immediately flew into slot. Male staying on the cliff top. Female hunting alone for larger prey to feed several young? The suspense is growing, next few weeks should be conclusive. Last year, saw wing flapping young on 13/06. 

 

06/06: Site F: Cold, overcast, quarry dust drifting across the cliff partly obscuring the small alcove where 2 chicks, showing dark quills, were wing stretching at the entrance. Possibly a third in the dark interior. No adults present.

Evening at C: About to leave as I was starting to shiver in cold NE wind, last look at the slot and chick head peeping out, as adult Peregrine flew by. Wing stretching seen, possibly 2nd chick’s head to the side. 3 Raven young on the opposite clifftop. Sand Martins working hard for the few flies available. Many geese on the lagoon. 

 

07/06: Still a cold blustery E wind making for difficult viewing at C. Also heat shimmer rising off the rock face, like looking through water ripples. A white chick was briefly seen, showing wing movement before moving back out of sight. Adult Peregrine then dropped out of the slot and was lost to view against the rock face. A typical tactic of concealment, not remaining around to give the nest away. A ragged winged adult Raven flew by, followed after an interval by a second Raven on the same flight path. When the second bird barked a warning, I took notice of a Peregrine soaring very high, making small circles over the main quarry, before sloping away. Visual acuity of birds never ceases to amaze me. So many times I have found birds of prey, often just specks in the sky, by taking note of alarm calls.

However, a distant raptor-like silhouette attracted my attention without any assistance. Not a Buzzard, gliding slowly above the cliff into the wind, without any effort. Not a Kite. Then a lapwing look, but too big? Coming overhead as I frantically ran through the possibilities. Not a Gull. Bright sunlight shining through the wings gave a golden glow contrasting the black wingtips. Then into the distance as my neck, aching from twisting around contortedly, made me change position at last. The whole event was over in less than a minute. Could I have seen a male Hen Harrier?  As so often, we never get a second look!  

 

08/06: Site G: Peregrine chick now showing dark feathers and leaving the scrape area to move about the ledge. Photo’d at base of a small willow. Both adults present some distance away, not concerned by my presence on the right of way across the quarry.

 

 

09/06: Site C: Chick moving about. After movement behind, adult came off the slot quickly and vanished. Hare in field near road, slowed down in case it came across for an evening feed. Seen many young hares killed recently, they have no road safety awareness yet. 

 

10/06: Bedroom window at 07.30: 3 Swifts, young sparrows being fed in garden Birch tree, 2 Collared Doves unsuccessfully trying to oust Blackbird from a prominent perch on a phone pole. Late visit to site C, very windy and warm, no chicks seen, but female Peregrine on clifftop.

 

11/06: 5 Swifts. Very warm, with thunder and rain.  At last a change in the weather pattern.

 

12/06: Site F: Another stifling night, then early visit revealed chick with juvenile plumage standing at entrance to nest alcove. Adult flying away silently. Hard to see through dust arising from quarry drilling nearby. Birds unconcerned! Barn Owl dimly seen in a hole in the cliff face.

Site A: Heard adult Peregrine wailing as  approached down the lane, seen on clifftop. Female Peregrine shading chicks still on the scrape from the strong sun, one chick has moved outside the nest area into long grass. Still at white fluffy stage though. Ravens now gone. Red Admiral, Common Blue. More thunder and rain later.

 

14/06: Visited Site E with Natural England after phone call at 08.30. Needed to confirm Peregrine breeding on this popular climbing crag, so restrictions can be imposed. Meeting arranged for 16.00 hrs. Driving to the site, turned a corner to see a Hare in the middle of the narrow road, and two hikers approaching from the other side, which threw the Hare into a state of confusion, running to and fro between us, Stopped the car and waited, for at least a minute, the hikers similarly pausing. Hare finally calming enough to exit via the roadside hedge.

Arriving on site, I could hear Peregrine calls from across the dale. Soon we saw a male Peregrine fly off a suspected nest site, then a female Peregrine stood up in full view. After some ledge activity she flew off. We can now reasonably close that part of the crag until the birds fledge in August. The  Ravens long gone, having nested late after the first nest collapsed after heavy snow. The new nest built just around the corner from the Peregrine ledge clearly vacant. Under the small central overhang in the photo. Peregrine site lower to the right, behind Ivy.

Also visible on the right hand face is a Small Leaved Lime tree, this is a natural wild tree, being planted by Natural England as a replacement for Ash trees infected by Ash Dieback.  

 

15/06: Site J:  Another attempt to pin down elusive Peregrine nest in this spectacular valley. Peregrine heard before long but unseen. Many Swifts over the valley flying higher and higher as the thermals increased, then a Peregrine appeared from the crag to join them before sloping down fast out of sight. Reappeared from the opposite direction having circled round behind the crag, soared high and was joined by the male Peregrine from even higher. Drifted away up the valley alone, not seen to return. Red Admiral, Speckled Wood seen close by, as a Jay’s harsh call drifted across from the far side wood.

 

16/06: Site C: Peregrine flew into scrape area but no chicks seen.  A quarry blast shock wave passed by under my folding chair, a fraction of a second before the sound arrived. Empty Ghost Swift moth pupal cases on the ground indicating that the moths had emerged. Amazing that they can burrow through the compacted ground. Curlew flew by calling, over the newly mowed fields.

17/06: Site C again. Clearer day after showers. Finally good views of 3 chicks showing dark markings, and ejecting white guano from the edge of the nest. Moving around inside the “slot “. Adult on guard nearby.

Then Site F, 2 juveniles about a metre left of the teardrop shaped nest alcove.

18/06: Site L: Frustration at this problematic quarry after recent good fortune elsewhere. Heard several Peregrine calls but could not pin down location. May have seen chicks on last year’s ledge, but so far away to be sure, and no movement seen to confirm. More Ghost Swift pupal cases. Rain with thunderstorm later.

 

19/06: Site C to confirm chicks moving about and wing flapping outside the nest area. Possibly 2 weeks from fledging, dark patches showing. Female monitoring the situation from the clifftop. 

 

21/06: Site A: 3 Juvenile Peregrines showing well grown feathers, should now be safe from human interference as the birds are capable of flapping away a short distance.

Many young Jackdaws on the quarry floor feeding, could be targets once the Juvenile Peregrines learn to hunt.

Site J: A faint repeated wail from the crag, then adult male Peregrine seen to visit various ledges, but not settling long. Female Peregrine flew to Ash tree nearby, no food exchange seen. Still no sign of young. Frustrating! A Crow came overhead from behind my hidden spot, was able to keep it in sight as it flew steadily across the valley to another Ash tree where its young greeted it with fluttering wings demanding food. A cock Pheasant call sounding close by, was actually coming from far across the valley, could see the bird glowing in the sun as it stood motionless in the pasture. Many Swifts again. Back in Buxton, a spectacular squall was seen moving away in the distance.

 

22/06: 5 Swifts seen at 0700 from bedroom window. Site C 3 Juvenile Peregrines have now moved from the scrape area to the cliff, much wing flapping seen. Ghost Swift moth wings found near where pupal cases photographed. White, with fringe hairs, reminiscent of Barn Owl feathers, a similar adaptation to reduce noise in flight?

 

23/06: Many Swifts over High Edge. Site L: Nothing conclusive at this difficult to access Quarry location, hint that the birds may have fledged from a hidden scrape behind a slab of rock. No calls heard. Red Valerian covering the rock face.

 

25/06: Groups of 5 and 6 Swifts over Fairfield at 0800. Blackbird pair investigating the garden hedge. Site C, single Juvenile on clifftop, flapping and making short clumsy flights. Many Swifts in Peak Dale, and later 5 Swifts skidding high over Fairfield rooftops, after showers cleared.

 

26/06: Site A: Juvenile Peregrine seen flying out of quarry. 2 others still on the ledge, calling. Surrounded by Jackdaw feathers! Soon 3rd Juvenile had returned unseen. Adult male arrived, driving off a Red Kite which was drifting high overhead. Noticeable gaps in the feathers. Redstart young now fledged. Blackbird perched on wire directly overhead with a beak full of nest material. Buzzard repeatedly chased by 2 Ravens. Sweet smell of Ladies Bedstraw. Skippers, Heaths, Meadow Browns. Below – 2 Juvenile Peregrines out of nest at last.

Breeding survey nearly complete now, only sites E, J, K and L remain to be checked again. 12 young definitely confirmed so far.

4th May to 1st June: Warming up at last? But the Northerly airflow persists.

Twayblade (31st May) (VP)

04/05

Site C North wind lingering, but dry. Arranged to collect Barn Owl pellets for Wild Weeks event when disturbance to nesting pair can be avoided. 

05/05

Ravens seen at adjacent quarries at the same time as another Raven pair flying together into yet another quarry, nesting unconfirmed at present. Rain later, temp. 17 deg.

07/05

Site C 4 Raven young wing flapping on nest, adult flying off. Sandmartin colony has approx. 100 entrances. Site G Raven nest empty, one young visible on clifftop (red gape) with adult in attendance, no feeding seen.

09/05

First Swift seen from bedroom window! Woodruff flowers in garden.

Site A Peregrines very secretive, slipping in quietly unseen despite monitoring the nest site. No calling to give the game away! Young Ravens still in the nest. Twayblade plants emerging.

10/05

Rain. Violent thunderstorms across the midlands, with giant hailstones reported. 

12/05

After report of a Peregrine flying towards site F, checked again for signs. Found a plucking point on a ledge beneath a tree, and a possible perching place marked by white splashes. Also, indications that the Barn Owls are in occupation of a hole in the rock face. Then a Peregrine flew in, but kept going, obviously hunting. Cold N wind still. Later visited quarry site B, as I approached through the wood I could hear Peregrine chicks calling for food, could see at least 2 being fed on the old Raven nest by the female.

13/05

As I arrived at Site A, saw a Peregrine leaving on a hunting trip. An adult bird could just be seen, well-hidden low down on the scrape. Redstart nesting in a ruined shed, and among apple blossoms. Meadow Saxifrage and Early Purple Orchids showing. An evening visit to site C revealed silaging had begun, with rook parties feeding on the cut areas. Sand Martin colony busy. Raven young still in the nest on the far side of the huge quarry. Temperature 18 degs. max. after early cold wind.

14/05

3 Peregrine chicks revealed when adult female arrived with prey. 4 Raven young now fledged and high in the treetops at the top of the cliff, joined by the 2 adult birds for a short visit before heading off to forage.

16/05

Collected BO pellets for Wild Weeks event. Site A Noisy Peregrine/Raven interaction near the Raven nest, involving both Peregrines, then fem Peregrine returned and was feeding young, still small and hidden by vegetation. Then settled down on scrape quietly.so I left. Later report of Raven/Buzzard interaction over the Reserve. Visited site J in Manifold valley which was used a few years and immediately heard Peregrine calling and was lucky to see it fly quickly into a hidden alcove, did not see it emerge. All Raven young now fledged and calling from the opposite side of the steep valley. Orange Tips, Jack by the Hedge, wild Garlic flowering. 

17/05

Housemartins back at Pikehall, arrived on 15/04. Drew a blank at another Peregrine quarry site, which used to be occupied but not found for the last few years. Such a big site, like so many in the area, with adjacent new workings hard to see into. May try again in July when may hear fledglings calling.

18/05

Still a cool feel in NW wind despite sunshine.

Site C revealed exciting prospect of an unexpected ledge being visited, not the one used last year. Female went into an overhung “slot ” and did not come out for a while, then reappeared to join male for a possible food exchange. Male Peregrine displaying/driving away Jackdaws. Really need 2 pairs of eyes to follow the interactions of the Peregrines now.

19/05

Site C Female Peregrine appeared from “slot “, taking prey from male Peregrine and going back into presumed new scrape. Male Peregrine earlier seen flying off hunting and returning

with no prey seen. May have been forced to use prey cached on the cliff somewhere. Goldfinches in small elder bush only yards away, coming and going. Almost certainly a nest. 2 Curlew leaving the quarry lagoon. One Raven young still on the nest.

20/05

Max. temp.19 degs at 1600 hrs. after cool start.

Site A Scope revealed 2 chicks behind the flowers! Both parents seen, but no feeding. Male arrived silently to brood. Female flew off for half an hour, then stayed on clifftop preening and drying wings. Raven young calling from nest. Swifts over Fairfield.

Site C Raven nest empty!

21/05

Site C Warm in the sun despite NE wind. Midge cloud sheltering behind Elder bush with much larger Robber flies seemingly predating them. Goldfinch pair with a briefly intruding 3rd bird. No Peregrine signs. Raven/B skirmishing very high.

22/05

Site A Warm. Peregrines spending most time away from young. Then sneaking in for quick visits. One Raven young out of the nest, lower down the cliff. Whitethroat, Redstart in small thorn scrub, possible Stoat den located. Lapwing flying over recently ploughed field, very conspicuous for a hungry Peregrine!

Site J Peregrine wailed, but not seen. 

3 Swifts over Dukes Drive viaduct.

Site C Male Peregrine carrying prey with long white wings trailing behind, plucking on clifftop. Then fem Peregrine flying back to “slot “, flying straight in out of sight. Later flew off with remains, white wings still trailing behind. Male went into slot sometime later. No urgency to brood now. B hunting slow and low into the wind over rough grass area.

24/05

Site C Hard to see clearly, wind shaking the tripod. Did not deter the Buzzard hunting low over his favourite patch of rough grass, kept amazingly steady. Peregrine on clifftop also undeterred from grooming, until unexpectedly a gull dived down and made it fly off. Never seen that before. Returned later, however. Maybe the Peregrines have been predating the gulls on the lagoon?

25/05 

Site A   Female Peregrine on and off the scrape, male on clifftop, then gone unseen. Elusive behaviour continues.

Site J no Peregrine signs. Manifold Valley spectacular in garb of Gorse and May, much maligned in past years by conservation organisations seemingly addicted to scrub removal.

27/05

Site C Further indications of the “slot ” being in use. Both male and female seen to enter on various occasions, sometimes together. A Buzzard high overhead attracted a desultory attack by the male Peregrine.

Goldfinches around the Elder, Pipits on the wall, Sandmartins busy round the quarry margins, and a young Hare on the lane.

28/05

Out earlier than usual hoping to miss the holiday traffic. Good number of Swifts near the viaduct on Dukes Drive. Then a close view of 3 young Hares crossing the back road to the Manifold valley site J where I hoped to get confirmation of the new Peregrine nest site. Found Peregrine in a tree near the crag sitting quietly, until a nearby walker caused it to vanish without a sound. 4 Raven young calling 

hungrily from the opposite side of the valley, until an adult flew in to supply.

Then 3 more Ravens, looking like a ragged roaming band, flew by to investigate the fuss. A female Sparrowhawk circled high on the increasing updraft, as a large number of Swifts hunted insects beneath. Suddenly an eruption of raucous Jay, Magpie and Crow calls from the depth of the wood, possibly indicating they had discovered a Tawny Owl roosting quietly. Ended as quickly as it had begun. I left as the holiday traffic was causing mayhem on the tiny lanes, and the magic spell had broken.

Late afternoon at C. No birds seen on the cliff, but after a short wait a Peregrine was suddenly flying by very fast, heading to join another Peregrine over the quarry and heading off together hunting? Never saw a return, but in classic Peregrine style, the male was back on the cliff, doing something in a hidden corner. Was he caching prey? He spent some time moving about the cliff, then chasing Jackdaws as they returned from feeding in the fields. Went into the bedding plane “slot ” out of sight, then reappeared further along the ledge. The female had finally appeared and was grooming on the clifftop. Any young in the “slot ” must not need much attention other than the occasional feed. Waiting for them to come to the front of the scrape when they reach the wing flapping stage and can be seen from my vantage point across the quarry, as happened last year.  

29/05

Early visit to site F, fresh NW wind again. Female Peregrine plucking prey in a blizzard of feathers on clifftop. Checked a small cave where chicks had been raised successfully some years ago, delighted to see at least one chick just inside the entrance. Then the male Peregrine arrived and began calling loudly so checked again, the female had arrived at the cave and was feeding what sounded like more than one chick. Left her feeding, and the male calmed down as I moved away. Located a Barn Owl hole with whitewash near to the Peregrine cave.  

30/05

Quarry C Evening visit revealed female Peregrine near the bedding plane site, after a while the male Peregrine flew onto the hidden scrape, the female then flying to the clifftop and preened quietly. Real division of labour regarding child rearing! Still no sign of the chicks, but it must be imminent.

31/05

Cold damp morning with drizzle. Heard chicks hunger calls as I approached, saw the male on the clifftop hunched over, then there was the female feeding possibly 2 chicks, before brooding one closely. 3 young Ravens walking comically on the clifftop, male Peregrine gone unnoticed. Twayblade flowering. Whitethroat in scrub again.

01/06

Cool again in N wind.

Quarry G. Heard Peregrine chick calls, then this year’s Raven brood flying away following an adult bird. Adult Peregrine alarm call then seen flying to perch on a vantage point from which she? could keep an eye on me. Took some time scanning the rock face, finally rewarded by the sight of a Peregrine chick raising its head briefly. Then sinking down into a hidden corner. Some dark feathers showing. Jackdaw nesting a few feet away feeding young. Maybe the safest place to be, within the amnesty zone so often seen near Peregrine nests! 

 

Peregrine chick sticks its head above the parapet (1st June) (VP)

April to May, the usual cold start to Spring lasting all month!

Peregrine nest 3rd May 2023 (VP)

Weather dominated by northerly airflows with a high chill factor, although mainly dry.

03/04

The first Peregrine nesting signs at site A, with the female down on the same ledge as the last 2 years. The male flew in calling and carrying what appeared to be a white racing pigeon and started eating it on the clifftop. Ravens very vocal but not nesting yet, although 3 nests have been built.

04/04

At a working quarry, site B, Peregrine seen standing on the Raven nest from last year.

05/04

Cold drizzly morning, site A, bedraggled female standing looking out, male sheltering beneath an overhang nearby.

06/04

Site C: 2 Peregrines on clifftop close together, above potential nest site used last year.

07/04

Site C: Peregrine landed on clifftop before gliding down to grassy ledge, then returned to clifftop perch.

Raven on nest, male Raven flew in over quarry to land on clifftop nearby.

Sandpiper pair flying over lagoon whistling loudly.

08/04

Site A: Peregrine on scrape seemed to be adjusting eggs.

Jackdaws raiding Raven nest for nest material. Driving home, several Buzzards and a female Sparrowhawk. After a cold start, a calm sunny day.

10/04 

Site C: Cold in the wind at this very exposed location. Male Raven flew out of the nest alcove female on nest behind him. No Peregrines, heavy rain/hail storm back in Buxton.

11/04 

Site A:  Peregrine down incubating? 3 Stock Doves living in the nearby cliff. No sign of Raven on the nest yet.

Site C: Brief visit luckily caught what seemed to be a territorial battle between male Peregrines, one being driven off from the nest area.

12/04

 Storm Noa arrives adding to wintry feel. Glad to stay in!

15/04

Site C: A busy Sand Martin colony revealed in the middle of the working quarry!

Also 4 Shelduck on the lagoon. Raven pair flew off together before female returned alone, male came back for her then both flew off together again, maybe to a dead sheep after the storm.

16/04

Site D: has 2 Raven pairs resident and they have become confident with my presence after many visits, which is useful in attracting Peregrines out of the quarry to where I can see them. One came flying out today  very purposefully as though hunting, climbing away into the mist. Curlews bubbling over Upper Edge, small flights of 2 and 3. 2 young Hares crossed the back road from Dale Head.

17/04

Site A:  Peregrine on scrape low. Cool feel, no sun. Then heard Peregrine call faintly. Finally realised the male Peregrine had sneaked in unseen and was standing by the female, which then flew off after briefly moving to a nearby cliff.

Raven female flew onto a different nest slightly hidden from view. Explains why the Jackdaws were able to rob the first nest with impunity! It was a dummy all along and had me fooled.

18/04

Site B: Raven nest showing “whitewash” indicating presence of young. Male Raven driving Jackdaws away with warning calls, then a Peregrine joined the fray briefly. Female Peregrine just visible on the old Raven nest from last year. Too windy to hold binoculars steady for long at site C!

19/04

A call from English Nature. The Raven nest at site E collapsed in the recent snowstorm and gale but the birds have rebuilt nearby.

22/04

Site C: Peregrine on cliff above putative nest ledge. Female may be on eggs as not seeing the pair together often. 2 Ravens synchronised bonding flight directly above the Peregrine cliff, 2 Buzzards also above.

Site A:  Peregrine still low on scrape. While watching, flutter of wings behind me made me turn around to see a Redstart fly off the ruined shed I had been leaning on. Nest nearby indicated? Other sights include Wood Anemone, Dandelions taking over from Coltsfoot, Butterbur flowers, and the slowly fading Blackthorn blossom.

24/04

Site C: Raven nest has a hint of whitewash. Peregrine flew past nest ledge and returned to drive a Jackdaw away.

Site A:  Female Peregrine on scrape, male Peregrine wailed and appeared on clifftop.

Site B:  2 well feathered Raven young on nest, clear whitewash signs.

Peregrine clearly seen incubating on nest. Red Campion flowers in wood.

25/04

Site F:  No Peregrine signs at all. Maybe just very late? Or could have found alternative site? They have been consistently here for years, so unlikely. Very cold wind.

26/04

Site A:  Male Peregrine flew quietly from top of Goat Willow in quarry bottom. Female staying low on scrape. Hatching maybe a week/10 days away.

Site C: Raven flying in with very obvious beakful of food. While I was leaning against the car watching, a male Sparrowhawk landed on the wall a few strides away, before realising he had company and hurriedly flew off across the lagoon, and was then obviously attracted by the Sand Martins hunting along the embankment at the far side in large numbers. Then a distant view of a Curlew displaying with rapid wingbeats to gain height, before gliding down.

28/04

Site A:  Peregrine on scrape. No signs of Raven young yet. Found dead shrew and left for the scavengers, first come first served. Roe Deer prints. Stock Dove. 3 Wheatears seen on way back up the dale.

29/04

Site C: Warm in the sun, no wind! Raven young just visible on nest, whitewash more apparent. Peregrine chasing Jackdaws from nest ledge, then soaring high on the thermals above the quarry.

Site G: At this very exposed site, 3 Raven young at wing flapping stage with much whitewash on nest. Buzzard circling high above brought the Raven out in response. Swallows around the farmyards.

01/05

Misty at first, improving at site C but still windy as usual at this quarry. 3 Raven young moving on the nest tucked into a sheltered alcove. Adults away scavenging. No Peregrine signs.

Site A at noon, in time to see the Male Peregrine, with a saffron tinge to his breast in the weak sunlight on the clifftop, female incubating on the ledge. Male disappeared before flying in low to briefly take over as the female flew off, soon returning to resume nest duties. Very smoothly done, could easily miss it. 

Meanwhile the Raven pair were calling steadily from the clifftop, the male eventually appearing with a food item which he prepared nearby, then dropped off at the nest, before he quickly and silently left. Then spent some time caching more food items in various locations within the quarry. A pair of Buzzards got the crows croaking, Ravens indifferent today. Adult Male Sparrowhawk flew by as I left. Later a juvenile male Sparrowhawk seen flying low into a village garden.

02/05

Site D: 2 Hares crossed the road to Upper Edge where the skylarks were singing. Stonechat female. 4 fledged Raven young heard and found on distant clifftop being fed in relays by the adult birds. Again, not where I thought they’d be! They have a habit of humbling my certainty.

03/05

Cold drying wind persisting but the sun compensating. Forget me Nots, Sweet Cicely flowers just appearing on the verges. Tiny Elm leaves, Ash flowers.

Site B: has one fledged Raven at the base of the cliff below the nest on the whitewash plastered rocks, 2 young remain unfledged.

While photographing a newly excavated Badger sett, I heard a faint rustle in the bushes and saw a Roe Deer moving away slowly.

Site A:  Peregrine almost hidden now behind the growing vegetation, now including Dandelion and Cranesbill flowers. Managed to photograph the now whitewashed Raven  nest and 3 Scarlet gaped young just showing above the rim.

A feeding stimulus to the nearby adult, so I made my excuses and left.

March-April 2023: Late snow fall, roads blocked, mini tornado, heat shimmer, daytime Barn Owl, Peregrine on the nest!

10/03: Heavy snowfall, trees down, no traffic moving.

12/03: Thaw setting in but snow drifts in the disused quarry making walking difficult. Rewarded for my efforts by the sight of a Barn Owl flying in front of the cliff before vanishing into a crevice. Female Peregrine on a favourite perch, 2 Ravens keeping an eye on me. Nest built but not seen incubating yet. Maybe clutch not complete?

13/03: Mini tornado strikes Great Hucklow.

14/03: A little more snow, then an overnight freeze.

15/03: Another quarry visit, Peregrine flew away calling loudly. Raven maintaining surveillance discreetly.

16/03: Wind in the South at last. Checked another Peregrine quarry site with a clear, though distant view of a likely nesting ledge. A female bird seen going out of sight at the back of the ledge. May have been feeding on prey item cached there. Male on clifftop flew off. Single Raven on clifftop above the nest, female maybe incubating low?

18/03: Derby Peregrine has laid first egg! Urban birds usually early, benefitting from the “heat island effect”.

Heat shimmer on the distant cliff making focussing impossible! Luckily a Sparrowhawk flew low along the track and passed right over my head. Raven head just visible above the rim of the nest tucked neatly into an alcove on the far cliff.

At another quarry site, the Raven nest used last year had a Peregrine standing on it. The new nest being patrolled by the male Raven calling loudly as it kept moving the Jackdaws along. Female seen going onto the nest later.

19/03: Heat shimmer gone, enabling a clear view of Peregrine sitting on the ledge used last year.

20/03: Both Peregrines seen in courtship flight, the male climbing high above the female before diving down. Reports of Merlin chased by Peregrine pair nearby. Raven seen settling on nest. Wheatears back.

22/03: Ravens in synchronised formation flight before heading off together, later female flew back alone and settled on the nest.

24/03: Hen blackbird in garden collecting grass stems from drive before flying into the privet hedge.

25/03: Hen blackbird collecting moss! Then quarry check revealed vigorous interaction between Peregrines and Ravens, before male Peregrine brought in a starling sized prey item soon after, then buzzed a crow flying low across the quarry bottom very near me. Wheatear seen.

26/03: British Summer Time! 25 Whooper Swans on quarry lagoon.

27/03: Peregrine on old Raven nest again, Raven nest on higher level face, vertically above.

29/03: 2 Peregrines diving repeatedly in front of favoured ledge from last year, scope revealed a Buzzard standing there apparently unconcerned. Perhaps it felt safer there under a slight overhang ! Watched for half an hour and it was still going on as I left. Or will the Buzzard try to claim the site? My odds are on the Peregrines. 

30/03: More interactions between Buzzards and Peregrines, with the Buzzards unusually taking the initiative. Earlier saw the Peregrine on a different cliff apparently investigating a new nest site.

31/03: Rival being driven off by resident male Peregrine at another quarry site. Much competition for the breeding females with foot grappling and calling at many sites.

01/04 Peregrine finally on old Raven nest and incubating! (Derby Peregrines on 4 eggs already). On the new Raven nest above, female incubating, male visiting and driving off Jackdaws with clucking alarm calls. Woodpecker drumming in wood loudly.

Peregrine on nest (Vic Pearson)

February-March 2023: Into March and the activity ramps up!

13/02 Peregrines seen more consistently around their quarry haunts and often attracted out by Ravens displaying too near to potential nest sites – not that they need an excuse to get involved in disputes with their noisy neighbours! The Raven’s synchronised flying is always a delight to watch, and remind me of Lancaster bombers, with the Peregrines more like Spitfire fighters by comparison to their heavy wingbeats. It seems like a ritualised martial arts encounter with no blows being struck.

16/02 More spectacular displays by the Peregrine male, diving

in front of a likely breeding ledge where the female was perched.

18/02 Raven seen carrying a twig to the nest cliff, but did not go to the nest while I was watching. At another quarry site, thousands of gulls laid on a spectacular pre roosting flight display, spiralling into a high column to be seen from a considerable distance?

19/02 Distant telescope view despite blustery winds of female Peregrine activity on the ledge, occasionally moving to the back out of sight. Possibly working on the nest scrape, or simply feeding? The pair raised 3 young here last year after several blank years. Male watching from clifftop. On the way home, moved a dead hare off the road to a safe spot for the Buzzards.

20/02 Another Raven nest under construction with 2 alternative nests on the same cliff. 2 Sparrowhawk sightings on the way back.

21/02 Raven nest renewal near Wetton Mill. Old nest metres away, maybe too close for a Peregrine takeover, but ideal for the Jackdaws!

23/02 Peregrine pair on the clifftop took off minutes apart, heading in the same direction just before twilight. Likely hunting together. A visit to another site just before sunset revealed a Peregrine on lower cliff near a previous old Raven nest site in a perfect alcove, then a Raven making a clucking warning call near a newly built nest on a high rock face. Very likely to be used. Finally a Peregrine very obviously flying off to hunt over the Recycling Plant on Waterswallows Road.

 

25/02 Limping Fox caught on trailcam at dawn. Then heard a faint noise from nearby. A healthy Fox was climbing out of the quarry up a well-worn near-vertical cliff path, as agile as a cat. Fieldfares flew out of an Aspen clump. Then a Peregrine flew in, looped around me and landed on the cliff on a pinnacle stained green by algal/lichen deposits caused by years of bird use.

26/02 Female Peregrine feeding on prey took off and flew leisurely away. Back outside the quarry then a male Peregrine took off from unseen perch, only to land again on the clifftop revealing a bulging crop. This pair should be in good breeding condition!

Back outside the quarry, a rocket-like whine overhead denoted the return of the female Peregrine, zooming back in with furled wings, as the male called a greeting. Maybe coming back to finish her meal. Ravens monitoring me warily as nesting time nears.

27/02 At the site from 23/02, Raven male driving Jackdaws from new nest area – then a female Peregrine getting involved after being seen near her nest site nearby.

28/02 Another Raven nest confirmed occupied.

02/03 Frogs croaking in garden pond! Same day as last year. Ermine Stoat crossing road and entering wall at High Edge.

04/03 Brief Peregrine/Raven encounter at Hindlow. Raven nest may have begun. Frog spawn in pond! Huge Frog orgy. Same date as last year.

07/03 Peregrine on clifftop. Then Buzzards above brought out both Peregrines for a response, both diving repeatedly to defend their personal space!

08/03 Raven confirmed on nest from 27/02. Female left nest, male Raven patrolling, then female Peregrine getting briefly involved, then landed near yet another old Raven nest. Keeping her options open?

09/03 The snow arrives! Classic Raven nesting weather.

February 2023: Peregrine up close; ravens start building nest

13th Feb:  Peregrine in tree with its crop full. I never expected to get so close, or whether it would be in focus enough.  The other news is that there were the first definite signs that the Raven pair has started to gather sticks for a new nest on a different ledge. At present it’s just a loose pile.  They will likely build on the ledge they used last year and use the sticks there. Will know by the end of the month. No signs yet at “my” other sites, although there seem to be 2 pairs at [X] quarry, like at [Y] (confidential as the farmers are not keen).

Peregrine in tree with its crop full (Vic Pearson)
Raven nest: the start of the build (Vic Pearson)

January 2023: Raptors, corvids, stoats and foxes

Fields full of gulls and rooks, starling and lapwing flocks building up on muckspreading operations. Otherwise generally very quiet. Still the occasional Red Kite seen, and Buzzards and Kestrels hunting more from low perches, presumably to conserve energy. A spell of hard frost seemed to bring out a rash of Stoat sightings with some funny trailcam captures, Foxes also hunting at night.

Ravens very secretive as the breeding season approaches, with distant pairs heard calling and flying together, but not giving away their nest locations yet. At one closely monitored site, a hint of new sticks appearing on a previously used ledge.

Peregrine sightings becoming less predictable and the birds secretive, calling less when flushed from the cliff and leaving unobtrusively. Many times I would not have seen them, if I did not know that it was a regularly occupied site and knew where the favoured perches were, often only getting a brief view of the birds leaving over the clifftop. On several occasions, only the behaviour of other birds gave them away. Once a Rock Dove suddenly clattered away from its clifftop perch as a Peregrine was trying to sneak away. Other times the flight of Crows or Jackdaws gave a clue that a Peregrine was entering the quarry. The most spectacular event was a Peregrine return attack. I was in the car and about to leave the roadside layby when my eye was attracted to a what I thought was a Buzzard hanging in the stiff wind over a wood 500 metres away.

Then as the bird started a shallow dive towards the quarry I had just left, with many Jackdaws noisily congregating within, the realisation dawned that it was a Peregrine stooping in. After entering the quarry, it emerged again and flew back to resume its hovering tactic in the same spot. I was amazed to see it repeat the identical process of stooping into the quarry. But this time I did not see it reappear. Maybe its ploy was successful the second time. Never saw that behaviour before.

Rookeries becoming active again! And the days noticeably lengthening.

 

October into December 2022: Winter is Coming: Exciting new developments

The migrant Fieldfares arrive and descend on the Hawthorn berries. Longtailed Tit flocks with associated Goldfinches and Blue Tits. Raven groups travelling the country in larger numbers. Skeins of Geese. Hill fogs reducing visibility at the higher quarry sites but starting to find Peregrines again after the post-breeding lull. Partial Solar Eclipse on 25/10 seen through thin clouds for nearly an hour.

01/11: Snipe flushed from rough grassland, jinking high. Red Kite.

03/11: Peregrine pairs seen more often, flying together or perched at usual haunts.

04/11: First air frost overnight.

07/11: Found Barn Owl dead by the road, then a Barn Owl pellet beneath a scrub willow on the quarry floor.

08/11: Thunder, then cloudburst rain flooding roads.

10/11: Dayglo moss providing welcome colour on quarry floor and field walls.

11/11: Stoat on roadside verge. P caught on trail cam swooping on a Crow. Fox also seen.

13/11: Woodcock remains on quarry floor, probably killed by P.

16/11: lone hunting P seen flying across the road. Weather slowly becoming colder, cloudy and damp.

22/11: Snipe seen again at same place.

24/11: Huge Fieldfare and Starling flocks.

25/11: Red Kite quick to spot food items left on gate post, but the Ravens were on the scene to protect their booty. Stoat hunting along the track. Peregrine flashed in to buzz the Ravens.

27/11: Blackbird feeding on Fuchsia pods in garden.

27/11: Sparrowhawk female flew across road with classic flap and glide.

30/11: 2 Roe deer on trail cam.

01/12: Peregrine on foggy cliff flew off calling harshly, then Red Kite circling low over food drop, as Ravens came in to stake their claim. Red Kite perched on clifftop watching. How do they see so well in the fog? They must associate me with food now. Not taken them long!

Stoat on grass verge.

03/12: Ravens prospecting a site they used in 2021 but abandoned this year after a rockfall removed the ledge they used. This could have an effect on a neighbouring pair, which themselves moved away to an unknown site in 2021 after years of occupation and were able to move back this year. There were 4 pairs on adjacent sites which could have been too much competition. All may be revealed in March.

A Red Kite was hunting nearby, spending a lot of time on the ground apparently feeding. Spectacular colours showing in the sun.

Peregrine pair went over hunting together, later the larger female came back to its home base, where another Raven pair were displaying. A third pair also came over from another quarry to add to the confusion.

 04/12: At another quarry, the resident Ravens were holding their territory with calls and a prominent display. The nest used last year is still there. Will the Peregrines try to take it over? They fledged 3 young this year from an unknown nest site, having previously used an old Raven nest for the last 2 years, raising 3 young and 1 young respectively. 

August into October 2022: Juvenile Peregrines' Progress, Red Kites Invasion

Thanks to the continuing fine weather, and the success of the Peregrine breeding season this year with only one site known to me being an apparent failure, I was able to maintain virtually continuous monitoring of several families as they developed, to determine when the young finally became independent. The Juveniles are recognisable by streaked underparts, a darker upper plumage and a distinctive cream terminal tail band, the call being weaker than the adult birds and ” wheezy “, noticeable when they are demanding food from the parents. Often the first indication that they are around. That was the case at Quarry Site 4, on 17/06, and over the next few days I was able to confirm 3 Juveniles in flight and hunting with adults, chasing feral /racing pigeons around the quarry. The nest location remained unknown owing to the vast size and inaccessibility of the site.

26/07: At Quarries 2 and 3, chicks were still at the all-white, downy stage. At Quarry 6,

young had left the nest scrape but were fully feathered and still on the cliff nearby. Quarries 1and 8 at a similar stage. Quarry 5 revealed a late surprise with calls from a food demanding Juvenile, again the nest site unknown and previously thought to be a fail.

08/08: at site 2 had the 2 now fledged young flying with a third Juvenile presumably from a nearby brood. This location had a ringed female adult parent, could not read the ring number but will try over the winter.

07/08: First of many Red Kites seen between Hartington and Earl Sterndale. At least 20, with a peak of 6 on 25 / 09. Some seen at close range, and one caught on Trailcam having its tail pulled by a crow. (Video below.)

17/09: Last sighting of Juv P, interacting with Ad P before flying off, at Quarry 5.  Juvs last seen at Quarry 3 on 19/09, flying in at roosting time for the Jackdaws and causing havoc briefly before they all vanished into their cliff crevices.

Autumn Equinox on 23/09: Peregrines now back to routine behaviour after breeding, holding their home cliffs and becoming more secretive and harder to spot. Often not on their usual perches and facing into the cliff faces so they blend in more.

Started seeing dead hedgehogs on roads and the dreadful Badger Wipeout continues locally. On a positive note … 2 Weasels and one Stoat seen. 

14th June to 7th August 2022: Peregrines, Barn Owls, House Martins, Kestrels Ravens, Hares and a Red Kite

Most of this period was taken up by visiting Peregrine breeding sites to determine breeding success/failure. Early thoughts that it would be a disappointing year because of the intensive quarrying to supply the demands of the HST railway project, proved to be completely wrong! Breeding was successful at most sites I visited, with more young fledged than in any year since I began surveying over 10 years ago. Maybe helped by the very benign weather, with no heavy rain or cold spells at the early stages of chick development. Some sites were successful for the first time in years, to my knowledge. Not all nest sites were found, owing to the huge size and inaccessibility of the working quarries, but persistence paid off when continued monitoring late in the season revealed fledged birds in the air, which I may have missed in previous years, assuming the breeding had failed. Something to think about in the future.

14/06: First warm/hot day at last, after a long, dry but cool spell.  Painted Lady pair dancing in the air.

Started to find Peregrine chicks, visible now in the open with white downy plumage. 3 sites confirmed over next few days. One site has adult female with rings, metal on right, orange on left leg. Possibly a new bird, could explain breeding success after years of apparent failure?

18/06: Chicks fledged/out of nest at some sites now. Some quarry sites have 3 young.

Peregrine young training begins, with a pigeon being chased around unsuccessfully. Fledged young wonderfully camouflaged against fallen rocks at the base of a cliff.

23/06: Housemartins photo’d in nest at a friend’s house in Pikehall.

28/06: Fledged Kestrels have left an ivy-covered ledge in Ravensdale.

30/06: Swifts over Fairfield rooftops at 5 a.m.

01/07: Cooler day with showers freshening things up.

03/07: More Peregrine pigeon training seen, apparently unsuccessful.

08/07: Barn owl young on cliff near Winster, Little Owl on barn ruin roof. Hot again after a brief cool spell.

13/07: Fine group of Nettle Leaved Bellflowers photo’d.

14/07: Pair of Kestrels diving repeatedly on a ” barking ” Heron perched on a wall. Barn owl seen leaving cavity nest at same site on 16/07.

19/07: Inspected at close range by fledged Peregrine. They seem to have little fear at this stage and often linger nearby if I keep still.

21/07: Cooler spell with drizzle and longer spells of rain.

23/07: Aspen trees shedding leaves early due to drought stress?

26/07: Late addition to Peregrine records with fledged young seen carrying prey at a site presumed to have failed. Adult bird calling nearby caught my attention.

28/07: Little Owl seen on clifftop vantage point.

29/07: 4 Blackbird fledglings in garden feeding on Fuchsia fruit pods.

Later, a visit to view Peregrines revealed pigeon prey cached on a ledge. Before I could get a photo, a fledged P left in a hurry, taking the pigeon with her! It all happened too fast for me to see it.

04/08: 2 Hares jumped up from close by. Several sightings recently, all near quarries, on adjacent rough ground. Raven photo on Elder tree, and fence post.

06/08: Raven flushed out 2 Peregrine juveniles previously hidden on cliff. Suddenly a 3rd Juvenile, definitely not from this site, joined in the action. Mystery!

Evening Field Club meet at Miller’s Dale, some members may have seen juvenile Peregrines across the valley along with 2 Ravens.

07/08: My first Red Kite sighting of the year, flying North along Long Dale near Hartington.

30th April to 8th June 2022: Continuing with Peregrine & Raven Monitoring & Searching

30/04: Longdale Buzzard nest has Spruce greenery on top, adult bird flew off furtively from the far side, when it returned immediately mobbed by Crow gang.

Peregrine adult on ledge, should be on eggs by now. Raven young visible in nest.

A Buxton site visit with Lindsey, Rowan and Redwin to show Raven young out of the nest and on adjacent ledge with huge amounts of “whitewash ” a giveaway. Rowan spotted a Sparrowhawk, he doesn’t miss anything. I never saw it. Lindsey collected Raven pellets and nest lining, including carpet fragments (!) from beneath the cliff. Becoming colder and showery.

01/05: Overnight rain freshened things up, buds opening at Tunstead Old Moor, no P signs at a previous site .GS Woodpecker being elusive, always at the far side of the big Beech trees. Cuckoo Pint plants standing out on the wood floor, otherwise barren. Badger latrine pits a territorial marking.

02 /05: Topley Pike Peregrine found, down on a ledge in a small alcove. Finally located Raven nest at a new location near the clifftop, young birds now fledged nearby, among rocks. Male Peregrine on old Raven nest at the far end, standing ready to defend female.

 03/05: Monitoring Peregrines at vulnerable site, 2 walkers nearby having coffee and biscuits were pleased to be shown birds plucking prey. R young at side of nest.

Monyash Buzzard around nest tree, Longdale Buzzard head visible above nest.

More Raven fledglings at Buxton site with 2 Raven families interacting comically, defending their territories loudly. An evening visit to another site revealed 2 young, one with a pale patch on head. Peregrine heard wailing weakly.

06/05: With Lindsey to check for Otter signs in Water cum Jolly Dale, spraints found on a Mink trap. Then with Joe Alsop from Natural England to Ravensdale to check for Peregrines, one seen flying away over crag.

07/05: Monitoring P site, female on ledge scrape, male on cliff with very full crop and bloody chest clearly visible. R young flapping on nest area, nearly lifting off. Adults flew in, one remained on cliff watching. Sunny and warm.

08/05: P still incubating low at vulnerable site, 3 R young still around nest area.

Longdale B flew off nest again, very wary birds. Monyash B responded similarly, with 3 crows in immediate pursuit. At Ravensdale, with walkers passing by in pleasant sunshine. R family over Wardlow Cop, then very interested in a Yew tree on a crag, with a P on a ledge underneath it. Reported to Natural England as a possible nest site.

Big Sparrowhawk flew into a tree on the clifftop.

09/05: Ravensdale again, no sign of P. Mystery large Raptor with long relatively narrow wings and tail and direct flight flew over me, typically frustrating brief view ! Only a silhouette. Did not feel like a Buzzard.

10/05: Dowlow sandmartins back. Peregrine flew out of Hindlow quarry to drive off an intruding P. 

11/05: Tunstead Rs still have 2 young in the nest, adult flew out clucking a warning. Sunny and windy after rain. Plenty of sand martins feeding behind shelterbelt.

12/05: Cool and cloudy at Peregrine site, finally confirmed chick being fed by male, female flew off ledge to pluck pigeon which had been seen earlier cached under an overhang.

Went back and took over feeding duties from male who flew off to another cliff face. Eldon hill still has one R young in nest, no P signs. Ravens on Upper Edge feeding fledged young with much squawking.

13/05: A new badger sett excavation near Dove Holes quarry, and many swallows and sand martins. Cool, cloudy, windy .Evening visit to check on Peregrines, man in quarry caused me concern enough to take a car number just in case of chick theft.

14/05: After last night’s scare went down again in the morning, all clear. Very warm and sunny, met 2 other monitors, Richard and Laura. Monyash Buzzard calling from nest in Sycamore.

15/05: Dove Holes quarry with Simon to watch the Swallows nesting in cowsheds. Swifts seen from bedroom window earlier.   

17/05: Peregrine session, 2 chicks confirmed. Male with them, then female flew in with plucked prey. Then cached on usual ledge. Swallows flying into shed .

18/05: Ravensdale blackcap, seen very close going into bramble cover. 

21/05: Upper Edge Raven families in usual competition, one pair with 4 young, other with 2.

Long Dale Buzzard flew off nest as soon as car stopped. Peregrines still safe. Lisa providing monitor support.

22/05: Topley Pike, one P chick confirmed being brooded. Raven young fledged and flying across quarry to be fed by adult.

23/05: Peregrine monitoring with Margaret and Richard. Male brought in prey and fed chicks. Female later on clifftop feeding. Then took over brooding.

Upper Edge Swifts on Robber flies. Ravens. Swallows near farm . Weasel flashed across road and vanished into grass verge. Evening visit to Water cum Jolly with the Wakefield family. Mandarin ducks with ducklings paddling frantically across the water to keep up. Canada geese. Water vole seen by the hawk-eyed Rowan. Lime trees planted be Nat England to replace Ash dieback. More Otter spraint found by LW. Swifts, Swallows, Housemartins at Cressbrook Mill.

27/05: Peregrine check showed 2 chicks starting to exercise wings. Stoat in grass verge .

28/05: Millers Dale Peregrines at least one chick, with attendant adults raising the alarm.

Shocked to hear of mistrial following 2020 P egg robbery at Stoney Middleton, despite solid evidence. Very discouraging. St. George mushrooms coming up.

29/05: Margaret and Helen Peregrine monitors. Both adult Ps flew off together as though hunting. Then returned to cliff after about half an hour without prey. Trail camera picked up Fox at night above P ledge. Strange event in evening as I watched Pigeon fly from garage roof into the bedroom window right in front of me. No damage apparently. A surreal experience, for me and the pigeon.

01/06: Peregrine chicks have some black quills showing and have moved out of the nest scrape into longer grass. Whitethroat seen flitting between low hawthorns. Evening visit to see Swallows at Dove Holes quarry. Curlew, Oystercatchers in pasture.

03/06: Ravensdale Wild Garlic smells, Red Campion, Cow Parsley along verges still with Sweet Cicely, Bluebells past their best. Saw Kestrel fly into ivy on cliff, could see chicks in there.

04/06: Cold morning at Peregrine monitoring. Margaret reported 2 chicks were fed earlier. Viper’s Bugloss, Twayblades plentiful. Fox caught on trailcam again last night.

 05/06: A reminder that not everyone is sympathetic to all wildlife, and sometimes it is best to keep the mouth shut. A farmer casually saying the Ravens need killing as they peck the lamb’s tongues and eyes nearly triggered a response. Pointless to say that the lamb was almost certainly dead before the Raven came along, very unlikely to attack a healthy lamb. Although they could be vulnerable during birth. It’s understandably an emotive subject.

06/06: Housemartins nesting on a Pikehall farmhouse. Red Admiral on track. P chicks very fat, on scrape again with adult watching from cliff.

07/06: Millers Dale chick has almost complete plumage and should fledge soon, maybe next week. The busy time is nearly over and I can relax and let my body recuperate for a while. It will seem strange at first, but Nature will provide another agenda I’m sure.

 

30th April 2022: Update with Ravens, Peregrine and more

Raven 24/04/22 (VP)
Raven 24/04/22 (VP)

11/04: Checked Sand Martin site at Dowlow … the sand pile has partially collapsed, no sign of nesting yet. Peregrine display flight past the Raven nest in Hindlow.

12/04: installed security camera near Peregrine nest site. Peregrine on eggs there, male nearby.

13/04: At least 12 Ravens on sheep carcass at Eldon Hill. Resident breeding pair nearby. Peregrine pair present but no sign of nesting yet. Photo of Raven young at another site with extensive whitewash of the nest cliff.

14/04: Ballidon Raven nest located.

15/04:  Ravensdale Raven nest with young being fed at regular intervals. Blackthorn blossom, Wild Garlic scent, Windflowers, Orange Tip and Brimstone butterflies. Curlew pair at Upper Edge, calling.

16/04: Another brief Peregrine sighting at Hindlow. Quarry working flat out. Ravens visiting nest to feed young.

18/04: First Peregrine chick at Derby.

20/04: Sparrowhawk and 3 Buzzards at Tunstead/Old Moor.

21/04: Cold drying wind continues. Barn Owl seen in cliff alcove again.

22/04: Sparrowhawk at Millers Dale, headless shrew on quarry floor. Fox scent. 3 young Hares near Upper Edge.

23/04: Swallows over river at Wetton Mill, Raven nest – young being fed. Red Campion, Stitchwort.

25/04: Barn Owl at cavity entrance, shuffled back out of sight. Still cold feel.

26/04: Bumble Bees droning among Blackthorn blossom.

29/04: Encouraging signs of Peregrine activity at a problematic site. Generally very quiet at usual haunts. Effect of the Badger cull very obvious , near total destruction over large areas.

30/04: A Raven nest vacated this week after 4 young fledged! Indicated by the amount of guano on the rocks below. The birds are still in the immediate area and mastering the art of flight, by the end of Summer they will move away and join other Ravens without a territory of their own, learning how to forage for food like the ones I saw at Eldon Hill feeding on a dead sheep. They will find a mate and eventually establish their own territory before they can breed. The mortality rate is high in the first Winter, but if they survive that the odds improve. 

10th April 2022: Update with Peregrine and Barn Owl News

08/04: After 2 more miserable days with wintry showers, a slightly warmer morning at Dove Holes quarry, rewarded by a good view of 2 Peregrines overhead claw grappling and calling harshly, looked to be the same size. One left and the other flew towards what remains of the main cliff face. The birds try every year but usually fail, despite courtship behaviour and showing every sign of settling.  At another site one of the birds flew in with bloody prey with the other bird on the clifftop, both calling. This is another site which promises much but rarely produces young. Ravens soaring nearby. Big snow flurries later.

09/04:   Another disused quarry site which failed last year, had no birds present. 

10/04:  Visited yet another old quarry site to see if the nesting Peregrine had endured the snow, hail and sleet. Indeed there “she” was, incubating low.  These are tough birds capable of dealing with extreme weather, and rarely desert eggs. When they do foul play may be suspected. Only Goshawks and Eagle Owls pose a serious threat to birds on the nest.

Later, a visit to a working quarry which can be viewed from a public path revealed another Peregrine near a site which has failed in recent years owing to increased public presence over the Covid lockdowns and increased visibility due to quarry expansion. Unexpected was the sight of a Barn Owl in a crevice behind a recent rockfall, they will be lucky to survive if they hunt in front of the Peregrine cliff!  

5th April 2022: An Egg for Easter?

31/03: sunny spells and blizzards, very cold in wind. “Whitewash” appearing on a Raven nest indicating that there are well grown young inside. Other nests not showing this yet.

02/04: Still cold but dry and calm. Found Buzzard nest, visible from road. Raven young seen in the nest. Peregrine flew out of quarry, then returned soon after. Wheatear seen.

03/04: Still a cold feel. Peregrine standing on a nest ledge used before with the male not far away… looking promising. Buzzard standing on the nest seen yesterday. At quarry site, Peregrine flashed by with a whoosh of wings right in front of Raven nest.

05/04: Driving drizzle finally clearing to brighter spells in the afternoon. Another Buzzard nest found not far from the road after persistent alarm calls finally registered! Peregrine definitely down on nest, laying or incubating? Male nearby monitoring the situation.  

29th March 2022: Winter into Spring?

As I write these words, it seems like the weather has played the usual trick of delivering a cold snap just as winter seemed to have finally relinquished its grip. After storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin finally passed leaving floods and disruption in their wake, finally calmer conditions though still with a cold edge due to wind chill brought a first Curlew over Upper Edge near Hillhead quarry on 23/02, and the Ravens of course were not deterred from nest building and I started checking on our local breeders in quarry sites. The first bird was seen to land on the nest and settle on 26/02, and generally there was a remarkable synchronicity in timing, with most pairs using/renovating old nests, but where quarrying had destroyed the old ledges the birds were quick to build on new ones. Their facility in nest building almost anywhere gives them a great advantage over Peregrines which often struggle to find acceptable sites, relatively few birds using natural crags and often depending on old Raven nests to raise young in. The two species are generally found in fairly close proximity and have evolved an uneasy relationship often engaging in aerial disputes, which can prove useful in locating breeding pairs, especially in the huge inaccessible local quarries such as Tunstead, Dove Holes and Hindlow. It will be interesting to see how the recent quarry expansions influence breeding success. The Ravens have been unaffected but the Peregrines have been less able to adapt on recent evidence. Within the next month I will be looking for evidence of breeding by the Ps at sites in “my” patch. The Derby pair started laying very early, on 12/03, with a complete clutch of 4 eggs by 17/03.

Among other observations …

First frog croaking in garden on 02/03 with spawn in huge amounts by 08/03.

Magpie breaking twigs off Buddleia and Sparrows collecting papery bark from Fuchsia in garden.

Curlew reports increasing, trilling and flying together, and reacting to a Kestrel hovering overhead at Wardlow Hay Cop, with a female Sparrowhawk and a male immature in Ravensdale, where first indication of Raven young given by sight of adult bird carrying a white sac of faeces from the nest.

Jackdaws bringing sticks to cliff nests.

Bumblebees emerging from hibernation and looking for nest sites in the grass.

Chiffchaffs singing, Wild Garlic, Wild Arum coming up.

Next milestone …

Sand Martins should be arriving soon, once this late cold snap is over. Fingers crossed !