I first saw a pair of Peregrine Falcons at Gloucestershire Royal hospital on the 25th May 2003. There had been reports of them there for at least a few weeks before this. As I work at the hospital I was then able to look for them on an almost daily basis.
A single Peregrine had been seen on the tower block in 2002 which prompted the placement of a peregrine nest box on the East side of the tower (the Peregrines were never seen to use this in 2003).
One or both of the pair were observed on a regular basis from May onwards. The birds almost always used the in the same spot on the north side of the hospital tower block, on a ledge between the 9th and 10th floor. The ledge is completely inaccessible and impossible to view directly from the tower itself. However using a mirror I was quickly able to prove that there was no nest present.
Whilst it is possible that they had attempted to breed and for some reason failed, before I first observed them, it seem more likely that they are a non breeding pair.
It was clear that they were a pair as the female was significantly larger. Their behaviour was also of a bonded pair. The male was seen to regularly bring food for the female. They displayed to each other and the female was often seen sitting on a “scrape” on the ledge as if incubating although no eggs were present.
The pair was seen almost daily throughout the day in June and July. As the year progressed they were seen more frequently at dusk going to roost on the ledge or leaving at first light.
By September most sightings were of the female although on the 18th October the pair was seen performing a characteristic head bowing courtship display on the ledge.
The actual capture of prey was only seen on one occasion but they were regularly seen plucking and eating prey on the ledge. It was possible to see that the main prey species was feral pigeon of which there a large number around the tower.
On one occasion the female was seen carrying a magpie in its talons however she was mobbed and robbed of her prey by Lesser Black Backed Gulls.
Any hope that the presence of Peregrines will deter the breeding gulls would seem unfounded. When perched in the open the peregrines were mobbed by gulls and the roosting site’s advantage would seem that it is inaccessible to the gulls.
I am hopeful that in 2003 I have witnessed the prelude to Peregrines breeding in the city of Gloucester. The literature suggests that the behaviour seen in 2003 is typical of a non breeding pair which contains at least one immature bird which are prospecting for a nest site prior to breeding.
Normally the potential breeding site of such a sensitive schedule 1 species would be kept confidential. However the site is very secure and completely inaccessible with no potential for disturbance.
Since the 26th October to date (28th December) there has been only one sighting. On the 17th December a female landed briefly on the roof. However I understand that it is not unusual for a pair to vacate the “breeding” site in winter.
I can only speculate where the pair is spending the winter. It is possible that the regular sightings at Ashleworth Ham and occasional sightings in the Sudmeadow area are from this pair. I would be interested to hear of any sightings of Peregrines around Gloucester (please also send records to the county recorder). It would be useful if observers could record time, if possible the sex and the date, as this information may help to determine if they are indeed the same birds that are using the tower. Please send information to [email protected]
As 2004 approaches I am hopeful that the Peregrines will return and maybe breed. I will update on this web site as developments occur.