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From Sussex to Saltend – falcon moves over 200 miles coast to coast

Release date: 27 September 2016

Thanks to the care and interest of a team of BP employees and partners, the mystery of where a female Peregrine breeding at Saltend Chemicals Park originated from has been solved

The female Peregrine, now known as Black 42, was first seen in May 2013. Through careful observation, her colour-ring was read this spring and traced through the British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) Ringing Scheme.

 

Her journey started when she was ringed as a chick from a brood of four on 17th May 2010 at Chichester Cathedral, West Sussex by licensed ringer Graham Roberts. Records show this is the first confirmed sighting of her since fledging in 2010, and since that date she has moved an incredible 201 miles from her birth site near the South coast of England.

 

Peregrines have bred successfully at Saltend Chemical Park, an industrial site on the north bank of the Humber in Yorkshire, since 2013.

 

Early in 2015, a specially designed nest box was positioned near to a favoured roosting site and four chicks fledged successfully that year. This year in 2016, there are currently three healthy chicks in the box.

 

Both the male and female falcon incubate the eggs for about a month. The chicks should start to fly after about 42 days, but they will remain dependent on their parents to learn how to hunt for some time. Peregrine falcons are very territorial during breeding season and will vigorously defend their nests.

 

 

I was amazed to find out that she was ringed as a chick at Chichester Cathedral in 2010. Thanks to the colour-ring she was wearing we’ve been able learn about this exceptional long-distance movement.
Mike Sibley,BP shift supervisor

 

 

During the 1950s and 1960s, Peregrines suffered a disastrous population crash in the UK due to the effects of persecution and organochlorine pesticides. As a combined result of legislative restrictions on the use of organochlorine pesticides, legal protection of the species and determined conservation effort, Peregrine numbers have since shown strong recovery in much of the UK.

 

A survey in 2014 revealed the number of breeding pairs as 1,505, almost doubling the 874 pairs counted in the 1930s. However, despite this increase, the 2014 survey did reveal that there had been declines in falcon populations in Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Falcon numbers continue to rise in both England and Northern Ireland, with the number of breeding pairs in England increasing from 470 in 2002 to 628 in 2014, with many of these new pairs nesting in lowland areas and making use of man-made structures such as those found at the Saltend Chemical Park.

 

This is not Mike's first experience with Hull’s Peregrine falcons. In March 2013 the nesting falcons had five chicks, an impressive number for Peregrines, but damp conditions in their nest began to impede the young birds’ progress. With the permission from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the wildlife division of the police, Mike and colleague, Paul Chambers, a falconer who owns and helps rear birds of prey intervened and managed to capture four of the birds. Paul fed, cleaned and exercised the chicks at his own home aviary and in just a week, they were in near peak condition.

 

Paul Chambers said: “Myself, Mike and Paul Scargill - with help from my dad Vincent, who works as a contractor for Vivergo – returned the birds to site. They were individually boxed and we roped them up to the top of the neighbouring column. Amazingly, when we released them, the birds took flight! Their parents began to feed them again and incredibly, we discovered that the fifth chick was still alive – with the others gone, it had its parents’ full attention and flourished.”

 

 

As well as underlining how important it is for us to care for and protect the environment, this is a fantastic example of the spirit of co-operation here at Saltend. We’re very proud of our work in helping to protect this rare species.
Paul Scargill,BP environmental engineer

 

 

Update May 2017

"We have five (an excellent number, usually in the wild around 2 to 3) Peregrine Falcon chicks in our nest box on site this year" says Mike. "They are around 17 days old and will remain in the box for approximately three more weeks. I arranged for the team from the Spurn Bird Observatory to come to site to ring the five chicks for identification, which all went really well. This is the third year Paul Collins (Head Warden at Spurn) and his team have ringed our chicks.This year Paul Collins, Jack Ashton-Booth and Rael Butcher ringed all five and all checked out as healthy birds. 

 

Update June 2017

The chicks are now fully grown and ready to leave the nest (known as fledging).  However, every time we saw them on the nest box front, there were only four.  Sadly it appeared we had lost one.  This can happen if there is a slightly weaker bird and we have no idea what happened to it.

 

On June 7th Mike witnessed two of the chicks take their first flights from the nest box.  He says "They took off with great confidence and flew really well – though the landing was a little clumsy!"

 

We currently have three healthy young Peregrine Falcons around the site, unfortunately we lost another chick, and they will remain with us for a few more weeks whilst Mum and Dad teach them how to hunt for themselves.  After that they will be encouraged, by their parents, to leave and set up their own territories.  Mike doubts that they will travel quite so far as their Mum did back in 2010 when she flew from her birth site on Chichester Cathedral to our site here in Hull – a distance of 201 miles.  Our pair will remain on site, though we see less of them until the breeding season starts again next year.

 

Did you know?

  • Peregrine falcons can travel in excess of 200mph when diving for prey.
  • Their diet consists almost exclusively of medium-sized birds, they drop down on them from high above in a spectacular stoop or dive.
  • They mate for life and breed in the same territory each year.
  • Falcons living in cities are able to hunt at night because of brightly lit office buildings.
  • As with most raptors or birds of prey the males are smaller than females.

 

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Hull is home to some of BP’s most innovative and cutting edge operations including manufacturing acetic acid for a variety of products such as paints, adhesives and solvents.