England

In pictures: Peregrine falcons in our towns and cities

Wildlife photographer Sam Hobson, from Bristol, has been photographing peregrine falcons locally since 2011. Several of his shots have been used to illustrate the recently published book, Urban Peregrines, by Bristol peregrine expert Ed Drewitt.

"Before moving to Bristol at the end of 2010 I'd only seen peregrines a handful of times and always at a distance. Soon after moving I realised that I had two pairs pretty much living on my doorstep, which is when I became really interested," he said.

"I met Ed, the local peregrine expert through a joint fascination, and he helped me learn how to identify the peregrines' prey remains.

"Together we have found all kinds of strange birds on the peregrines' menu, including woodcocks, lapwings, jack snipes, golden plovers, cuckoo and other usually rural birds right in the middle of Bristol - caught by the peregrines as they migrated over the city at night."

Image copyright Sam Hobson
Image caption "Peregrines are well established in the Avon Gorge, but this year, the resident male was ousted by a rival," says Mr Hobson. "The newcomer was determined to impress the resident female with fancy flying, which meant we were treated to some magnificent aerial displays. Here, he was passing along the top of the cliff, when he suddenly caught sight of a jackdaw perched on the cliff below and quickly banked before stooping towards it."
Image copyright Sam Hobson
Image caption Mr Hobson says the Avon Gorge is "perfect" for peregrines. "The river Avon is a natural conduit for birds on the move between the Severn and Bristol and peregrines can be regularly seen patrolling the skies on the lookout for their next meal."
Image copyright Sam Hobson
Image caption "Occasionally during the breeding season, clumsy fledgling peregrines will perch on the cliffs, having crash landed after their inaugural flights. This period can be good for getting close up views from the footpath at the top of the gorge, but it isn't long before they master the skies and start to disperse."
Image copyright Sam Hobson
Image caption Nestlings are ringed and measurements are taken at about three weeks old. "At this quarry in North Somerset, Ed Drewitt, instructs a trainee ringer to handle the nestling correctly," says Mr Hobson. A Schedule 1 licence is required to ring peregrine falcons.
Image copyright Sam Hobson
Image caption "This juvenile peregrine in the centre of Bristol is learning the skills it needs to survive as an aerial predator. It spreads its wings and tail feathers as wide as it can to create the extra lift needed to carry a pigeon carcass delivered by its parents."
Image copyright Sam Hobson
Image caption "Urban peregrines will even live in our busiest cities. I got the opportunity to access the roof of a hospital in central London where these penthouse peregrines were patrolling the London skyline," says Mr Hobson.
Image copyright Sam Hobson
Image caption Mr Hobson says he has spent an "unhealthy amount of time" watching and photographing urban peregrines from a particular car park roof in Bristol. "My patience finally paid off when I witnessed this aerial dogfight between sibling juvenile peregrines at close quarters. Their parents had given the larger female the remains of a pigeon, and as she took flight, her smaller brother chased her and attempted to snatch it."

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