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Marlow Peregrines

Marlow's Famous Feathered Residents

How it all began in 2019

In 2019 an eagle-eyed bird enthusiast spotted a peregrine falcon on the spire of All Saints’
Church in Marlow and alerted us at Wild Marlow. This created quite a buzz amongst the wildlife enthusiasts in the area, as peregrines are not a common sight in southern urban landscapes. By 2020 a new young pair were seen regularly, and it became apparent they had claimed the beautiful spire as their perfect prey-spotting vantage point.

We dared to hope that this new pair would stay in the area and breed. With only an estimated 1,750 pairs in the UK, these Schedule 1 protected birds need all the help they can get. We consulted with local volunteer group Bisham Nest Box Group who generously built and
donated a custom-made nesting platform to encourage them to breed. With wonderful help from Andrew Carter, the Steeple Keeper, and Blue Chip Security Ltd who installed and donated a remote camera monitoring facility 82ft up on the spire parapet, we were able to see if our efforts had any impact. 

(Video updates from our monitoring cameras are available to view on our Facebook Page and You Tube Channel).

Peregrine falcons can take three years to breed successfully as a new pair in a new territory, so we were thrilled when they started showing mating behaviour in March and nesting behaviour shortly afterwards. On Good Friday we were delighted to witness an egg being laid, followed by a further three at two- to three-day day intervals. Perfect timing for the Easter weekend and
an incredible result for such a young pair! Despite their inexperience, they were excellent parents doing a fantastic job of protecting and looking after the precious eggs and each other.

We held a fun children’s competition to name the pair, with Brooke Prowse suggesting the
clever names of Marley and Roy, as a nod to our twin town of Marly-le-Roi. 

Miraculously, despite some very challenging weather conditions, all four eggs hatched (39 days from lay) over two days. The female did most of the brooding while the male hunted tirelessly
ensuring she was kept in tip-top condition for her important job. The chicks were growing at an incredible rate with a healthy appetite. The pigeon population of Marlow provided a continuous supply.

Peregrine falcons are super-speedy. Among the fastest animals on the planet, they can reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour when ‘stooping’ — diving down on prey from a great height – quite a spectacle if you manage to witness it!

Sadly one of the chicks perished, which is not unusual, however watching the three remaining chicks thrive was heartwarming and fascinating. The more they ate, the more they grew and we
could see changes in their appearance daily. They also had quite different characters. We were able to ring the chicks when they were old enough, which gave us the opportunity to take measurements and allowed us to sex the chicks. We had two females and a male – the male being the smallest, as is often the case in birds of prey. Ringing the chicks will hopefully allow us to find out what happens to them if they get spotted by birders in the future.

After about 45 days, the chicks started to fledge. It is a slow process that takes a few weeks, but during that time the young learn to fly and hunt from their parents. It is so interesting
to watch and sometimes quite comical as they hone their skills. All three chicks successfully fledged — which was a fantastic and unexpected result. We were delighted but also incredibly sad not to be able to watch them daily, knowing what a challenging journey they have ahead of them as they start their independent lives. 

We were so very lucky to have the wonderful support from All Saints’ Church, especially Andrew Carter, Bisham Nest Box Group and Blue Chip Security Ltd. Without their generous support, time, tolerance and donations we would never have been able to witness this special activity. We hope the pair returns again in 2022 to breed successfully.

In 2022 Marley and Roy returned

A new camera was installed and a small modification to the nesting platform, just in time to see Marly and Roy return for a second breeding season. Having learned some lessons from the previous year, their behaviour was more confident and effective, with a clutch of four eggs being laid. All four chicks hatched, but number four being a little late and therefore a bit smaller than the other three, but they were well cared for and didn’t take too long to catch up. 

This year the birds received more attention and were even a small feature on the BBC NewsWatch here – 

 

All four birds fledged successfully which is a fabulous result for the peregrine falcon population. Their first year will always be the most challenging with so many obstacles to overcome in order to just survive, but we wish them all the luck in the world. 

Sadly three months after fledging we received news to say one of the young had been recovered dead near Braywick. There was no indication of the cause. Very sad news but we hope the other three are doing ok.  

2023 A new nesting site for Marley and Roy

We received reports that Marley and Roy had been spotted on a tall building in Maidenhead. Great to know they are still thriving. Sadly their nesting attempt failed through disturbance, but I’m sure they’ll try again next year, perhaps back at All Saints’.

2024 A new pair seen at All Saint’s Marlow

Late in 2023 we were delighted to receive news that a peregrine was seen on the church spire again. We sent out our brilliant photographers with their zoom cameras to help get decent photos in order to identify the birds. Within a few days we could confirm we had two new birds, an adult male and a juvenile female. The female was ringed, so we were able to find out where she came from. Turns out this plucky little bird is from Bath, she was ringed in May this year. She was one of two that hatched from a clutch of three. She fledged on 16th June and was subsequently recovered wet and grumpy in the River Avon, rescued by Bath Fire & Rescue’s Animal Rescue Team on the 18th. She spent the night receiving some expert TLC at the West of England Falconry’s Bird of Prey Hospital and returned to her nesting platform on the 19th. She stayed for a few more months then fledged proper. She has been nicknamed ‘the Avon Lady’ and we hope she makes Marlow her new home. 

Video updates from our monitoring cameras are available to view on our Facebook Page and You Tube Channel.

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