Three cameras are operational on the South Tower balcony; two set up to catch the action on the nestbox, and one at the other end of the balcony, which has been dubbed the ‘larder’ because that is where the adult peregrines often store spare food.
Webcam viewers may not have to wait long for eggs either. The first egg was laid on 15 March last year, and eggs for Easter have become a regular occurrence since the peregrines returned to the Tower to nest in 2014, after a 60-year absence.
Gary Price, Clerk of Works, who looks after the nestbox and maintains the cameras, said: “There has been a lot of noise and activity around the Tower and Spire over the last few weeks, and there have been numerous reported sightings. The nest is clearly occupied and, personally, I think we might get an early egg this season.”
To date twenty-three chicks have fledged from the Tower, including one chick (Wyle) that was adopted by Sally (the Cathedral’s most famous peregrine) in 2017, after both his parents were poisoned.
Back in 2018 Sally won Springwatch viewers’ hearts when she lost her mate but continued to defend the nest, fighting off all incomers. Not only did webcam watchers have a ringside – or nestside – seat on her dramatic story and talon-to-talon battles, but as the first female peregrine adult in the UK to have a GPS tracker fitted, a lot was learnt from observing her movements. On one occasion she was recorded soaring up to 4 kilometers (nearly 2½ miles above ground) and another time 2 kilometers (just over a mile) up.
The tracker also revealed changes in her behaviour after being ousted from the nest. Having stayed very local to Salisbury for two years, in her third year she was monitored flying out to the west of the county, visiting towns like Bradford on Avon. Her GPS signal was last detected near Coombe Bisset in November 2019.
In 2019 an un-ringed pair took over the nest. Without ID rings to identify them, it is impossible to say whether the same pair of falcons have continued to control nestbox, or whether a series of different falcon pairs have been in occupation over the last few years.
The current pair have been visiting the site regularly over winter, and latterly been seen engaging in courtship behaviour such as bowing (when the male ‘bows’ to the female lifting his tail and keeping his head down), ledge display (when the male stands over the nest and bows to the female whilst calling to her) and scraping (when the birds dig out the nestbox gravel with their feet to create a dip). The male has also been observed making spectacular courtship flights up and around the Spire.