Sunday, 28 June 2015

Peregrines at the Roaches

Just over the county border into Staffordshire are 'The Roaches', part of a gritstone escarpment in the Peak District very popular locally with hikers and particularly rock climbers. It has also been the location for breeding Peregrine falcons this summer, and it was really fantastic news to hear that within the last few days all three Peregrine chicks have fledged successfully.

I visited at the end of May and it was wonderful to watch the magnificent parents flying above and around the rock face, as well as seeing their classic 'stoop' if a potential pigeon meal caught their attention. Jackdaws were omnipresent while the adult Peregrines were away from the area, but kept a much lower profile when they returned - though less likely to be targets, they sensibly weren't taking their chances. 

The three Peregrine chicks were only a couple of weeks old at this point, and it was a delight to watch them appear when the sun came out, then they would recede closer back towards the vegetation and largely out of sight when the sun went in again or the wind became a little stronger. After a little while of waiting whilst admiring the chicks, we watched as the male returned to the nest with food caught for them.  

Male Peregrine with chicks
Staffordshire Wildlife Trust set up a 'Peregrine watch' at the site with a scope available for the public to use to get a good view of the birds' nest from a respectful distance. It was fantastic to have the wardens and volunteers present sharing their knowledge and love of these birds with the public, whilst at the same time their presence there acting as a deterrent to would-be egg or chick thieves, unfortunately still a potential problem here. Access to this area of the rock face was restricted so that the Peregrines (another Schedule 1 species and therefore afforded special legal protection) would not be disturbed and would have a better chance of successfully raising their young. It's great that the climbers (insofar as I've ever heard at least) seem to take these restrictions with good grace and acceptance. 

The plumage of male and female Peregrines is quite similar, and although there is a size difference (with the females being considerably larger than the males as with many other raptors), this is difficult to judge from a distance and I was informed by the warden that the adult bird in the photos above and below is the male. The images of the Peregrines were as good as I could manage from this distance using a 150-500mm zoom lens, all taken from the same vantage point quite far away (I had to shake off the touch of 'lens envy' I could feel creeping in), so apologies (not least to the Peregrines!) for the poor quality! 

Peregrine falcon in flight (not doing him justice I know, but at least he is recognisable as a Peregrine!)

'The Roaches', Staffordshire (wide-angle view, taken from the same spot as the images above)


  1. Hi Jan. Oh how lovely to see!! Must have been breathtaking to watch. Fabulous captures! x

    1. Thanks very much Kel - they're incredible birds to watch - I haven't seen them many times before at all, wonderful to see the fluffy babies too, so glad they made it to fledging! :)

  2. Hi Jan,
    Another great article with some superb images of these beautiful birds and chicks. I've yet to have the pleasure of seeing one of these in the wild. :-(


    1. Thanks Dougie, it was really wonderful to see them, and I've never seen their chicks before, otherwise my only experience of these birds has been when someone more knowledgeable (and/or with far fancier optics) has pointed them out in the distance!!!