And at the cathedral: what's happening there?

The 2020 nesting failed at the cathedral. The two chicks died when they were 7 and 10 days old, respectively. What was this sad end caused by? The most likely explanation is the couple's inexperience; it was their very first nest.

The parents removed the remains of their chicks themselves, and then quickly removed one of the 2 eggs that did not hatch. But, what happened then at 55 m high, on the famous balcony of the cathedral of Saints Michael and Gudula? We never had been able to observe the behaviour of Peregrine parents that lost their chicks. Here is the thread of the events as observed thanks to the camera system. The most interesting observations are presented in the 7 videos annexed to this blog.

The two adult Peregrines returned regularly to the nest the day after the death of the second chick, then they were not observed for 5 days. So surprise on May 5 when the female reappears facing the camera. She yells, looks at the egg that remained in the nest and then leaves the balcony. Nothing special to report except that she did come back. But in the next minute, it’s the male that comes in. And he is not inactive: he begins to scrape the substrate, as if he was preparing a new bowl-shaped depression so that the female may lay new eggs in there (video 1).

Nothing then for 4 days.

On May 9, the female is back. We recognize her by… her German ring visible in close-up. She’s going round the nest, then fiddling in the gravel, turns around the un-hatched egg which is still there and then suddenly also begins to scrape out a shallow depression! And then she leaves. She has stayed barely 2 minutes (video 2). Ditto on May 10, the female returns for 2 minutes and digs out a bowl again. Ditto May 11, for 4 minutes this time. In the meantime, the last egg has disappeared. It was there on the evening of the 10th, but no longer on the morning of the 11th. A marten, a crow came to steal it? Unlikely. So it was one of the Peregrine parents who came to evacuate it? On May 12, the female comes 3 times to the nest. Each time, she scratches!

Return of the male on May 13. He arrives in the nest at 6 a.m. After a few seconds, the female joins him. Courtship behaviour! Touching each other beaks delicately, again and again; cheeping (video 3). This is unheard of! After a little more than a minute of this delicate behaviour, the male leaves and the female scrapes out again! The male returns, alone, 5 hours later. He's the one who is scraping now. Then the female returns in the evening. Always to scrape.

The male returns to the nest on May 14, at 6 a.m. He leaves, the female replaces him, again she shuffles and scrapes out the substrate (video 4). At 5:00 p.m., they both meet and parade like the day before. The next day, same scenario, the visits follow one another during the afternoon, but this time, separate.

The visits multiply the following days, more and more frequent. The male shows the greatest energy in digging a bowl (video 5 & video 6). But the female also takes part (video 7). However, in the end, we see no bowl-shaped depression in the nest! What are they doing?

Today, May 30, we are still at the same stage, even if the visits have become less frequent the last 3 days. The cathedral Peregrine couple lost their chicks more than a month ago, the chances for them nesting again are virtually zero (never say never!) And yet, for more than 3 weeks, they return to their nest every day. They parade there together. There they call one another. They scrape out a bowl there! Is it the shock to have lost their chicks that explains these behaviours? Mystery. But in any case, these two are very attached to each other. And they are both very attached to their nest. And that bodes well for spring 2021!

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