Urban Peregrines

Peregrine Falcons are a bird I have always admired but at the same I never thought I would get the chance to photograph them, however, that soon changed after being told about a pair that nest not too far from home! The mill building they nest on is hard to miss and without the mass amounts of photographers stood by the roadside, you wouldn’t even know the Peregrines were there. To my dismay, I really regret not visiting sooner and spending more time there to work on different images and tell a better story, especially images of the chicks being fed and watching them grow from little fluff balls to fledging chicks. My first visit was very late on in the year, several days before the first chicks fledged. It was an eye-opening day, purely because I had not seen Peregrines quite like this before. Watching them dive, hunt and care for their young in such close quarters was unreal to say the least and at times photography took the backseat as I watched. With the two chicks still in the nest I focused on just photographing the adults as they perched around the building in various spots. From time to time the female would take flight and soar about before attempting to catch prey. I remember watching the sequences of Peregrines diving and catching prey in New York on Planet Earth II and I was mesmerised but to actually see it happen, to watch them fold their wings back and reach top speed is simply jaw-dropping… WOW I thought and it certainly put a smile on my face! What was even more ‘wow’ was how close the adults would land and it was even better with the 600mm as I was able to make incredible portraits without cropping a great-deal in post and as gruesome as it may be, getting images with food was easier than I thought. Because the chicks were ready to fledge the adults would bring food to the nest and then fly away almost instantly to entice them to fly. It didn’t work at the time I was there but seeing the female sat at  the top of the building, with the remains of what looks to be a pigeon as its lifeless wing hangs down, was a sight to behold!

After my first visit I knew immediately I had to return, I was hooked! Most importantly, I wanted to photograph the chicks once they had fledged. My second visit was early on a Monday morning, upon arrival I was informed by my friend Andrew and other photographers that one chick had fledged on the Saturday before and the other chick was ‘missing’ - it had left the nest but no one knew where to… It took a bit of searching but the call of another photographer alerted us to its whereabouts - a garage roof over the road, safe and well, right next to a fire station. I couldn’t believe where this chick was, sat between two rows of houses whilst workmen worked around it, cutting gardens and hedges, it was somewhat surreal. The other chick was sat high up on the mill building, out of sight with no chance of being photographed. With excitement running through my body I was in awe, everything was perfect - the light, the distance and the background… I was free to move around the chick, enabling me to pick and choose between varying backgrounds, my options: blue sky, lush green tree, or the mill building. I opted for the mill building, simply because that is where the birds have decided to nest and it shows just how urban they are, plus, the out-of-focus red brick creates a more pleasing image. I guess it’s encounters like these you can only dream of and it definitely felt like I was… To try and not cause any disturbance to the bird the shoot was over very quickly, I got my images and moved away, however whether I was there or not made no difference, the public were walking by with no issues. The bird was content, the only issue it had was the roof tiles it kept slipping on! After I left all together and headed home I received news that the Peregrine had hopped down from the garage roof onto the driveway of the fire station, it was then taken care of and returned to the roof of the mill where the adults could watch over it. Next year I plan to time my visits much better, such as getting there much earlier on in the year so I am able to spend more time with the Peregrines and focus on story telling properly with both adults and hopefully more chicks!