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Thursday, 25 March 2021

Night Hunters


Having been involved with peregrines now for 20 years, for a good few years now it has been known and accepted that they hunt at night, I have always wondered if it differs from pair to pair in levels of activity in the dark hours however. Do other singles/pairs hunt this way (Battersea) consistently, or is it occasional and they take enough prey diurnally to sustain them through the night?

Peregrines, like a lot of birds of prey are very inactive at times and spend hour upon hour just sitting around often, usually after feeding, have they naturally just adjusted to nocturnal hunting in the City, as the odds are far easier and more levelled in their favour than diurnal hunting?

Having kindly been given access to the cameras at Battersea Power Station since 2016, it has given me an incredible insight into their nocturnal world. Recorded and with playback, you miss absolutely nothing, I know I am biased and have said it before but they are an incredible resilient and remarkably adaptable species, which is why they are such a success story in the Cities.

The pair at Battersea have always hunted extensively at night, you only have to look at the prey range in the last 4 weeks – Lapwing, 4 Woodcock, Avocet, Song Thrush, 4 Black Headed Gulls, Coot, Moorhen and Blackbird. Every one of these was taken at night at differing hours, recorded by CCTV, no pattern to it, much is down to the weather, I have noticed that on clear nights (more movement), one or both are straight out.

It’s not reactive hunting as far as I can see, whereas they are roosting and then see or hear a bird going over and then go up after it, the pair at Battersea are flying from roost to hunting and vantage points which lucky enough, are covered by the cameras. I suspect that reactive hunting does happen but for the most part, night time prey usually comes back to the same position.

On another peregrine site, I had noticed diurnally where the resident Tiercel always lands, it’s his go to spot at all times during the day and he also hunts from this position, like us they have their favorite go to chair.

This lofty position is accessible and a good distance from the nest site and is part of a maintained area so I decided to place a Trail Cam up there for a few days, hoping for a few close snaps, I was hoping really to get some good images during the day.

However on picking the Trail Cam up, great captures from it during the day, this little Tiercel was also hunting at night also, not just occasionally but most nights it seemed weather permitting.

It answered previous thoughts on other pairs but I hadn’t considered this pair would do it, simply as I had always seen him/them diurnal hunting and had never arrived at dawn with both sitting there with full crops from night hunting, unlike Battersea.

Obviously no flash from the cam during the daylight hours but it had fired during the darkness but from the images and time stamps from the many captures, it did not seem to bother him as he returned to this position all the time. There were a number of alternate positions available up there, if spooked, but he came back time and time again to this same spot.

Needless to say however, I won’t be setting the Trail Cam up there again as the flash could be intrusive to his eyes nocturnally and not ‘natural’ for him, if he looks directly at it.

                          Various date and time stamps show some regularity as he scans the skies


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