On the banks of The River Thames, at Marlow, stands All Saints’ Church. For nearly two centuries, the church is not just the heart of Marlow geographically, but also spiritually.
In 2020, two visitors arrived: a pair of Peregrine Falcons; probably best known for the high speeds achieved when diving at prey. This February, ahead of the breeding season, Wild Marlow, with support from All Saints’ Marlow, set-up a nesting platform on the spire along with a camera to monitor activity.
While it can take several years for a pair to mate successfully, we were in luck and by April the birds were making a scrape in the platform and went on to lay four eggs. Those eggs hatched and while one chick perished in May, three healthy chicks are doing well and are expected to fledge.
We visited the site when the three chicks were twenty-two days old. At this stage the birds have developed enough that their legs are thick enough to take identifying rings. We fitted each with a light but strong metal ring. The rings are etched with unique serial numbers so that, if retrieved, we will know the exact age of the bird and, of course, that it was a Marlow chick.
It is such activities that have revealed many aspects of the Peregrine’s world. For example, from ringing we know the typical lifespan of Peregrine is seven years and that the oldest known, lived for twenty-one years and ten months. Without the use of metal rings and the ringing schemes we would be in the dark about how population dynamics work for birds and how quickly conservation measures are likely to work.
We also fitted each bird with a coloured-ring, marked with a short serial number clear enough to be read by members of the public with binoculars or telephoto lenses. Engaging citizen scientists boosts re-sightings adding quickly to our knowledge base and feeding into conservation efforts.
The resightings of these chicks could well be at another church. We’ll just have to have patience and see how these falcons’ stories unfold.