Peregrines feature quite a lot in my Birdwatching Logbooks and I love the previous gouache and oil paintings I have done. They are my son’s favourite bird, and they live in the chalk cliffs and over the South Downs near Lewes, so they occasionally visit the fields behind my house to prey on the pigeons and corvids that feed on the stubble.
I had an amazing experience a few years ago when I heard a cry and went out to watch a Peregrine hunting, and after the bird flew off, I walked over to find the predated body of a pigeon. A short while later the smaller male returned with his mate and they spent half an hour or so passing the remains of said pigeon to each other which was mesmerising, not least because all the other birds in the vicinity (including my hens) were completely silent, adding an additional eeriness to the calls of the raptors. They returned each afternoon for a few days, spooking the chickens and ducks each time and causing the cockerels to sound out a particular alarm. Did you know that roosters have around 20 different calls, depending on the threat?
I heard the same call yesterday from the beech tree in my boundary hedge, immediately followed by a cacophony of angry shouts from a crowd of Jays and which appeared from nowhere. I occasionally see a pair of Jays in the copse but I have no idea where the 6 or 7 that suddenly arrived came from, crowns raised in perturbation, to mob the falcon. It flew off before I had a proper look, but the call and response from the Jays was unmistakable. I took my binoculars out on my morning dog walk in the hope that the Peregrine might be back, as they’ve yet to cultivate the wheat field and there are lots of gulls, pipits, pigeons, jackdaws and crows feeding on the spilt grain, weed seeds, and worms. Sure enough, that cry again from a dark silhouette, and a hasty retreat from to the trees and lone rooftop by the birds. It did a round of the copse and a short dive before disappearing, but it took a good few minutes for the hungry birds to feel safe enough to begin feeding again.
I wanted to paint another Peregrine, this time in flight. Although I prefer to avoid stripes and spots, the back view of a Peregrine is not terribly diagnostic, so stripy front it had to be. I used a photo by Jack Branscombe (@jackbranscombe on Instagram) as my reference.