Peregrine falcons breed in all parts of the Scottish Highlands but have become scarcer in recent decades. These inland breeders generally disperse in the non-breeding season, because much of their prey has also left the inland areas of the Highlands. Ringing has revealed some of their movements but satellite tracking would greatly increase our knowledge of how the young birds disperse and how they live in their juvenile years.
On 28th June 2010, we went to a peregrine eyrie on the RSPB Abernethy Nature Reserve in Strathspey, Highland. We visited the eyrie at 8.30am on a lovely summer day. I was accompanied by RSPB staff, Desmond Dugan, Bob Moncrieff and Gareth Marshall . Desmond had seen young in the nest earlier in the month – a rather late brood of two males and two females. Gareth climbed up to eyrie and lowered the young in a bag to the bottom of the cliff, where we could ring them safely and fit 20 gram satellite transmitters to the larger females. The parent female was very noisy and surprisingly aggressive, making spectacular dives down the cliff face towards Gareth.
These are the first peregrine falcons that we have satellite tracked and it has been fascinating watching them range further and further from the eyrie, once they had flown. The data from the transmitters has shown how they come back to the nest cliff to collect food from their parents and to roost at night. As far as I know these are the first peregrines satellite tracked in the UK so it’s going to be really exciting to follow them and see what they do.
I have no idea where they will travel – will they stay in Scotland, will they go to the coast, will they move down to England, Wales or Ireland. The present knowledge from ringing shows that the adults often stay near the breeding site, especially the male, in winter, with the female making short distance movements to low ground and coastal estuaries. Whereas the young can disperse wide and far in their first year of life.
I have decided to call the two female peregrine chicks – Freya and Vega, after the female peregrines in Ewan Clarkson’s classic “In the Shadow of the Falcon”. It has a history for me as well because I was involved in the making of the BBC TV film of the same name by David Cobham in 1976.
Additional Information on the species
Check out the BTO bird facts page for the peregrine at http://blx1.bto.org/birdfacts/results/bob3200.htm