An uncertain future

During video analysis today we located a piece of footage which appears to show a cracked third and final egg beneath Swift (video clip to go up soon…). We’re still monitoring but if this is indeed a cracked egg and not merely an early hatching then it will be the first observed season in the Project’s time frame where an entire clutch has failed.

If this is the case we will endeavour to enter the eyrie shortly and obtain any remaining samples of discarded egg  to see if we can have the shell analysed for any weaknesses, toxins etc. At this stage we cannot rule out possible calcium or structural deficiencies which may be contributing to this situation. We can at least point to several clumsy moments in entering and leaving the eyrie by Beau (in particular)! In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s peregrine falcon sub-species around the world were threatened with extinction by the use of DDT in agricultural production. Indeed sub-species in eastern USA had lost their battle, but populations in that region have returned by re-introducing cross-bred sub-species. Since those dark days the numbers of peregrines worldwide have improvedwith the ban on the use of DDT, but peregrines are not safe yet.

It is known, and has been recorded, that an early season failed clutch could possibly be followed by a second later mating attempt. All is not lost and we would love to be able to say that today’s deduction has been incorrect! We will be closely monitoring the Concrete Hilton over the next few days.

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18 thoughts

  1. This is so very sad.
    It does look like the shells are weak. DDT used to be the culprit but new threats have emerged.
    Fire retardants, plastic-softeners.
    Age of the female may be part of the problem but my first thought was pollution of some kind.
    I hope you will be able to go up there and retrieve any remains for examination.

  2. The fact that Beau is/was a bit clumsy can’t be the only cause for the damaged eggs I think. We have seen falcons do egg-shuffles where one would expect to see a scrape full of scrambled eggs. 😉
    Normally their eggs are quite strong and can withstand a little clumsiness by either parent.

  3. Sorry, me again 😉

    It is as if there is a hatch in progress. Swift is restless and looking under her frequently.
    If this is the first egg laid and full incubation started (almost) right away – maybe cold weather?- it is possible . . .
    If so, I hope the cracked top of the egg is not going to be a problem for the hatchling.

  4. This is very sad indeed but happy to hear that you will attempt to retrieve the final egg. DDT is no longer in the picture, but there are a lot of other toxins out there that can affect fertility/eggshells, etc.

    I don’t think its a clumsy Beau. Falcon eggs are “built” to handle wear and tear. They are used to having to withstand the harsh environment of rocky cliffs….and like Ingrid said, if they were that fragile we would see a lot of cracks on these eggs…because not all falcon parents are “gentle”.

    My fingers are crossed for a second clutch. That’s not out of the question!! A couple of nests here in the United States reclutched this season!!! I think it took 2-3 weeks for them to gear back up!!

  5. Swift is still on the remaining egg and appears to be looking & listening, so hopefully there will be a hatch, although this may be wishful thinking on my part. I would hazard to guess, as many of you have already stated, that if none of the eggs are viable (possibly due to weak eggshells), it may be related to toxins in the environment, rather than to Beau’s clumsiness.

  6. We (RSPB UK members who are avidly following FalconCam) have been concerned about this egg for a couple of days. Here (I hope the link works) is one of the screenshots causing concern:

    I must add – I was watching when yet another black screen took over… imagine the delight when it recovered to reveal the amazing new ledge cam 😮 Thank you so much, FalconCam organisers and donors 🙂

    Here is a slide-show of a prey handover this morning (UK time). The stream came back up just in time to catch it, Swift has flown out and follows Beau back in to collect her dinner:

    Best wishes to our birds,


  7. I hate to say this but I’m now watching Swift eating the contents of the last egg. I can’t tell you how sad I am about this.

  8. Oh that is so sad. I haven’t been able to get the cam for several hours, so thank you for your report, however unwelcome the news, Clare.

    Sympathy to the FalconCam team, but let’s hope that Swift and Beau will try again.

  9. I’ve just got the nestcam back up after a long outage and it’s showing a bird incubating _something_ with its back to us. We shall just have to wait and see!

  10. Just moments ago, Swift left the nest & the egg is completely missing. Clare posted earlier that Swift was eating it. I have witnessed this before where parents will eat the “dud” eggs for the calcium content. Cruel as it seems, in nature, nothing goes to waste.
    Good luck on a second clutch, Beau & Swift, but the odds are against you.

  11. Am so sorry-no egg left on nest-had strong feeling something wrong with Swift’s actions last few days-always looking and checking under herself! Last egg looked a little crushed. Have become very attached to them over last few weeks after discovering this Falcon Cam! I’m a follower from Colorado USA

  12. So sorry to hear that the last egg was not viable either. Here’s hoping for a possible 2nd clutch for Swift & Beau, with eggs in a few more weeks.

  13. I am saddened by the turn of events with the last egg and am hoping for another try if possible. Wishing Swift and Beau well and will keep checking in for future updates.

  14. I’m not going to write off hopes of a second clutch just yet. If there is one thing I have really learned this year it’s that birds of prey always have the ability to turn around and surprise us all.

    I’m in the East of England and have been following a few of the osprey nests here. One of them (the Dyfi Osprey Project in Wales) failed to have its resident female return from migration and it took a long time for a new female to win the nest, which meant that by the time eggs were laid they were running about five weeks behind all the other UK nests. There was a lot of worry about this but the two eggs hatched into two beautiful girls, the season’s fish count hit record levels and the family migrated in late September without a fuss. Wonderful.

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