Saturday, 13 June 2015

The 2015 'non' breeding season of Charlie and Tom, the Fulham and Barnes Peregrines

Tomorrow morning I'm off to visit Charlie and Tom, the resident Peregrines who have made their home on Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith, London.
Of course Nathalie, the Peregrines Godmother, will also be there.
 I've been following the Peregrines progress for about five years now and with the exception of last year when my Mum was ill, I've been part of the FledgeWatch team who linger in the cemetery usually during the second week of June, watching Charlie and Tom's offspring make their first perilous maiden flights.
This year however, Charlie and Tom have had a disastrous breeding season. Three eggs were laid, but none of them hatched. Incubation is generally between 33 and 35 days and starts after the last egg has been laid. But as you'll see from the timeline below, in this case that was not the norm.....
There are plenty more photos and video clips on the Fulham and Barnes Facebook page, but here is a brief timeline of what happened during the 2015 breeding season......
All photos used with kind permission from Nathalie Mahieu
7th March 2015 - the first egg is laid. Approx 3 days earlier than in 2014.

Tom inspects the first egg - 07/03/15
9th March 2015 - when we would have expected to see egg number two, Charlie spent nearly a whole day away from the nest and instead roosted much higher up on the hospital roof. When she returned we were all a little concerned as it was so out of character for her and she spent a concerning four hours just standing next to egg #1.
 Did she lay her second egg whilst up on the roof ? We will never know....
Charlie and egg #1 - 10/03/15
15th March 2015 - a staggering 185 hours after laying the first egg, Charlie laid a second in the ledge box.....
Charlie, left, and Tom, right, inspect the eggs - 15/03/15
20th March 2015 - again we expected to see another egg laid within the next couple of days, but again Charlie astounded us. Over five days after egg #2 was laid, egg #3 appeared...
Three eggs - 20/03/15
Because of the delay in between the laying of the three eggs, and of Charlies time spent on the roof on the 9th March, we cannot say for sure when incubation started, but after the 20th March both birds were soon taking it in turns to sit on the eggs. The due date for the eggs to start hatching was around 16-18th April, or so we thought.....
A comparison screen shot showing how Charlie and Tom had gradually moved their 'egg cup' and eggs over to one side in the ledge box...
From the 20th March onwards, both birds incubated the eggs. They weren't left uncovered for more than a few minutes at any one time.

Day 32 of incubation - 15/04/15
The expected date for the first hatching came and went....
with no signs of any 'pipping' on the eggs but also no let up from Tom nor Charlie for the urge to keep incubating. It was quite a sad time waking each day hoping to see news of an egg hatching, and it must have been even more frustrating for Tom and Charlie, who kept on incubating.
2nd May 2015 - we knew by now the eggs would never hatch, but still Tom and Charlie took it in turns to incubate, and both birds were still chasing off any passing intruding Peregrines too.
24th May 2015 - it was the 70th day of incubation, that's twice the normal incubating period, yet still Tom and Charlie showed no signs of giving up.
25th May 2015 - the decision was made to have the eggs removed and sent away for analysis.
A date for the removal was to be arranged.
5th June 2015 - Charlie shocked us all yet again, by suddenly and unexpectedly eating one of the eggs. This isn't the first time she has done this, but last time it was because the egg had been accidently cracked. Despite Nathalie painstakingly going through the CCTV frame by frame, it was never known if the egg had cracked or not....
Charlie eats one of the eggs - 05/06/15
7th June 2015 - instead of FledgeWatch starting, we had FledgeWake instead. A few dedicated FaB followers gathered in the cemetery and both Tom and Charlie put on a brief show.
11th June 2015 - day 87 of incubation, the abseilers arrived to retrieve the remaining two eggs and hand them over to the relevant organisation that was going to send them off to be analysed.
I've been up there, I salute anyone that can do what these abseilers did.
 I couldn't even stand on the ladder to look over the parapet.
The ledge box with both eggs before being removed
We know the 'speckled' egg was #3, but the top egg could be #1 or #2
It's possible that even with extensive analysis, we may never know why the three eggs failed to hatch. Charlie is an experienced mother and isn't that old in Peregrine terms really. Tom is a little less experienced in fatherhood but has certainly proved he is a good 'dad' in the past.
 The mystery seems to lie with the unusually long time between the eggs being laid, and possibly Charlies mysterious 'day off' on the 9th March.
Neither Tom nor Charlie were unduly disturbed by the fact the eggs were removed from the ledge box. After they both inspected the empty box, they soon got back in to their general routine.

Since then Tom has tried 'courting' Charlie again, but to no avail. Yesterday Tom was behaving much like he would once the youngsters had fledged, preening and scraping inside the box. Charlie meanwhile has tried incubating the empty 'egg cup' a couple of times, but neither birds are showing any signs of distress at losing the eggs.

 Hopefully now they can move on, spend the remainder of the year bonding together and get their condition up ready for next years breeding season.

As I said, I'll be visiting the Peregrines tomorrow morning.
 Hopefully I'll see both of them and can add the photos to tomorrow nights blog post.

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