[From Birds of the IoM, 1905]
FALCO PEREGRINUS, Tunstall.
ROYAL FALCON, FALCON HAWK. Manx (see under Accipiternisus).
In 1406 the Kingdom of Man with all its rights was granted to Sir John Stanley, on the service of rendering two Falcons on paying homage, and two Falcons to each future king of England on his coronation day;1 this presentation, according to Mr. Kermode, being last made by the Duke of Athol to George iv. in 1821. Mr. C. Roeder (Isle of Man Examiner, 1st November 1902) quotes from the Manchester Guardian of 28th August 1902 concerning this occasion. 'Amongst the feudal services the two Falcons from the Isle of Man were conspicuous. Seated on the wrist of his Grace's hawking gauntlet, the beautiful Peregrine Falcons appeared with their usual ornaments. The birds sat perfectly tame on the arm of his Grace, completely hooded and furnished with bells. The King descended from his chair of state, and the ladies of the Court pressed round to caress and examine the noble birds.'
In 1422 the Deemsters and 'Twenty-four' 'gave the law' to Sir John Stanley, thus (Clause 6): 'Alsoe if any Hawke or Hyron, Hart or Hind be by any manner of Person taken within your land of Man, he forfeiteth for every time III£ to your Lopp.' Among 'Certain old Customes' given for Law, and now (13th July 1577) put in writing by the Deemsters, we find (No. 35 and last): 'Also we give for Law that whosoever goeth to the Hough where the Hawkes do breed or Hyrons likewise, he torfeiteth for every of them, that is to say, if he take any of the old or young Ones, or Eggs, III£ a piece for soe many as he or they may be proved to have in the Court' (Statutes of the Isle of Man, vol. i.).
Chaloner (1656) says: 'Here are some Ayries of mettled Falcons, that breed in the Rocks; and Wilson, early in the following century: 'At least two (airies) of hawks of a mettled kind.'
Train mentions Maughold Head and the Calf of Man as breeding places.'
These sites were doubtless much more numerous than the old writers supposed, and probably the same through immemorial ages, to, in most cases, the present day. There are, in fact, some ten or eleven nesting places which are now used, or have been used within the last fifteen years, most being in the midst of, or close to, considerable colonies of sea-birds. As mentioned above, the locality is year after year adhered to, though the exact spot is changed, and in some cases where two eyries are within about a mile of each other, it is possible that they are alternative. As is now well known, the Peregrine makes, strictly speaking, no nest, though the ruins of a last season's nest of some other bird may be utilised.
Maughold Head, from which Mr. Kermode says the last 'Coronation Falcons' were taken by one of his uncles, was, according to the same authority, deserted about 1886, when the female bird was shot, but in 1899 a pair again appeared there, and the eyrie is now, I am told, again regularly occupied.
At a station in Santon also one of the birds was shot a few years ago, and according to Mr. Bacon, the locality has since been forsaken. Wallberry, near Douglas, was probably abandoned some time earlier.
At - the eyrie has been repeatedly robbed. Thus, about the end of May 1880, three young were reached by means of a rope, and on 27th May 1883 two young, nearly fledged, were obtained, and eventually sold in England. In 1884 the eggs were taken in April, and again on 30th March 1888, and 4th April 1890. In 1891, I was told, no fewer than twelve eggs were taken from time to time.
In 1888 the situation was on a little recess on a steep slope, with still steeper brows above and a precipice beneath, but very near a frequented path. In the recess, the floor of which was of bare earth, were remains of a Herring Gull's nest, on which were laid the eggs (four, seemingly the usual number in Man). On other occasions the site has been a ledge on the highest and sheerest precipice in this neighbourhood. Here the birds are surrounded by Herring Gulls, Shags, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, and Jackdaws.
At a station on the east coast also I have seen the nesting site in a wild situation high up the loftiest cliff in a reach of rocky coast, where the steep, thinly covered with ivy, overlooked a recess hardly to be reached by land; and a somewhat similar position, also amidst ivy, has been used near the southern extremity of the island.
At - the site was in 1895 about thirty feet from the bottom of a steep, but not very high cliff, on a ledge luxuriant with grass and wildflowers, on which lay a few sticks, fragments of a Crow's or Raven's nest.
The eggs are usually laid about the end of March or beginning of April, and the young leave the nest about two months later.
While at some places the Peregrine is, as above indicated, subject to considerable persecution, at others it is probably almost or quite unmolested from year to year. The agitation of the parents unfortunately renders them very conspicuous during the latter part of the breeding season, their loud and sharp yelping cries drawing immediate attention amid the hoarser chorus of the sea-birds. At such a time the fine flight of the Falcon is also well. displayed, as it darts from its ledge and flies out high over the sea with incredibly rapid strokes, or rests hoverine, on its wings after having attained a sufficient distance.
When incubation is well advanced, the sitting bird shows much concern when the nest is approached, and will sometimes dash at the intruder, chattering loudly, checking herself and drawing off only within a few yards of his head. On such an occasion a dog was struck and his ear torn, when near his master. In the nei-hbourhood of the nesting shelf is often a favourite perch where the bird keeps its lookout, and a feeding place which is strewn with feathers of victims.
We are not aware that the Peregrine has ever nested inland in Man.
It seems strange that (in spite of modern 'Falcon Cliffs,' Falcons' Nests,' etc.) the residence at certain spots of this finest of Manx birds does not seem to have left any impression on our place-names.
As remarked by Mr. Kermode, a pair of Ravens is usually (he says always) found nesting in close proximity to the Peregrine, but the number of Ravens' eyries is in the Isle of Man somewhat in excess of those of Falcons. The latter constantly attack the former, but I have not seen, nor heard of, these skirmishes ending seriously.
Mr. Bacon says that he has seen the Peregrine strike ineffectually at a Curlew, and Mr. Kermode * relates that ,Mr. Kelly, of Bride, told him that he had seen it attack a Heron, which, however, after 'a long time, succeeded in .transfixing the Falcon with his beak, and Kelly picked up the dead bird' (Y. L. M., iii. 530). Mr. T. Haddon once saw it strike down and carry off a Hooded Crow. At its nesting haunts, though many species of birds are doubtless preyed upon, Jackdawg seem, frbm the remains found in the neighbourhood, to be its favourite quarry. Mr. Kermode adds Rabbits, and has known newly fledged ravens to he given to the young at Maughold. Mr. Graves has noted remains. of Blackbird, Starling, Rook, Domestic Pigeon, Jackdaw, Partridge, and Rabbit, but never any of sea birds; I have, however, found feathers of an immature Herring Gull.
Mr. Graves picked up on a nesting ledge a pellet with the hind claw of a Jackdaw or Rook projecting from its side in a way that looked highly dangerous. Mr. Crellin says, that having lost a wounded Grouse on Ballaugh Mountain, he was attracted by the hovering of a Falcon near the spot, and going to the place found the shot bird with the feathers all plucked, but the flesh uninjured.
The species is seldom seen away from its breeding haunts., and in winter does not seem to occur in Man. Mr. H. S. Clarke found a beautiful adult female dead on Cronk Sumark in the spring of 1894.
There are several eyries in Antrim and (on inland mountains) in Down, and many on the lofty coasts of Donegal, as well as on the mountain precipices. There are also coast and inland nesting sites in Galloway.. A few pairs breed in the Lake Mountains, if not yet exterminated, and there is (or was) an eyrie at St. Bees Read. On the north-west coast of Encland migrant specimens appear in autumn and winter. Though not extinct in the south and north-east coasts of England, the species has many more eyries in Wales (Mr. Oldham says there are several in Anglesea) and Scotland.
In the Scottish islands it has many breeding places.
1 Manx Soc., vol. vii. p. 241. p. Homagium, Ligeum, et p. Serviciu reddendi nob duos falcones semel tantum videlt immediate post Homagiff hujusmodi scm, ac reddendi Heredibz nris Regibz Angl duos Falcones, Dies Coronacionum eordem Heredum mor p. ombz alijs Servitijo, Consuetudinibz, et Demandis.'
2 Cf. Sir Walter Scott, The Betrothed, chap. xxiii.