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Stories from the peregrines’ realm: Love on a smokestack, a mysterious disappearance and a kestrel for dinner

26-08-2020  

Peregrines choose peaceful locations for their life and often become feared guardians of their territory. Recently, industrial sites have become sought-after, as, apart from peace, they offer sufficient food to these critically endangered birds of prey, for instance, in the form of curious pigeons. Peregrines have been nesting on five Unipetrol smokestacks: two each in Litvínov and Neratovice and one in Kralupy nad Vltavou. Since 2011, 30 young have already hatched there. Ornithologist Václav Beran from the ALKA Wildlife association captures their life escapades using a photo trap. For the first time this year, those interested could follow the Litvínov peregrine family life at starameseosokoly.cz.

 
“For a long time, the Unipetrol Group has been trying to minimise the environmental impacts of its production and to protect the environment. Last year, our costs related to making things environmentally friendlier were the highest ever and totalled CZK 2.26 billion. Apart from that, we are also developing amazing projects, such as supporting the nesting of the peregrines, releasing fish in the Bílina and Elbe Rivers, and bee-keeping,” says Tomasz Wiatrak, CEO of the Unipetrol Group. He adds: “We have been taking care of the rare birds of prey at Unipetrol for nine years. This year was very successful. Apart from three young in Litvínov, we also had two young in Neratovice. So far, we have helped 30 young peregrines to hatch, which is a great contribution to an increase in the threatened peregrine population in the Czech Republic.”
 
Males are taking care more of the household also in the peregrine world
 
Even though love is in the air for the Unipetrol peregrines every year, they do not always succeed at having young. There may be several reasons for that, and Mother Nature cannot be forced. Whereas one pair settled in Litvínov and had three young, the unsuccessful nesting season of the pair in Kralupy nad Vltavou was very much affected by unfavourable weather. After several years without young, Spolana Neratovice’s employees have enjoyed peregrine offspring for the second consecutive year. A female peregrine settled on their smokestack in 2015 but remained without a mate for several years. Only last year did she bring a partner and together they had their first-ever Spolana young. This year as well, the couple nested on the 80-metre high smokestack of the former exhalation cleaning unit. They welcomed two young, named Spolanka and Komínek by the children from the neighbouring primary schools. “Thanks to the available technology (cameras, photo traps), we have seen that even males can be exemplary fathers and tear the food for their offspring which has until recently been considered to be the females’ domain,” explains ornithologist Václav Beran from the ALKA Wildlife association who takes care of the Unipetrol peregrines every year.
 
Looking for Spolanka, she is neither home nor at a cottage
 
Ornithologist fitted Spolanka’s back with a transmitter to monitor her fate. However, after a few weeks, the transmitter stopped transmitting a signal and, therefore, a search was on. “Spolanka’s last location was the second nestbox onsite. When we arrived, the male peregrine was sitting on it. Inside were small feathers as well as one adult peregrine primary feather, so the family had been using the second nestbox for relaxation. In the human world, we would say it was their weekend house. Spolanka could not be traced even after a further search. The only thing we found was a recently caught prey – a female kestrel. No trace of the young, though,” says Václav Beran to describe the search and adds: “Peregrines are highly territorial animals and have high travelling tendencies in their youth. After leaving the nest, the young need to find their nesting grounds. Therefore, they often not only go just across the border but almost all over Central Europe. Females are bigger travellers and many times fly farther, for instance, to France and Spain. We wish Komínek and Spolanka a lot of luck; who knows. We may see them again sometime.”
 
Old love dies hard – the Litvínov family showed itself online to the world
 
The same pair has been nesting on the 100-metre heating-plant chimney in Záluží by Litvínov for many years. This year, curious viewers got a peek into their household. Their courtship, egg incubation and the upbringing of their three young could be seen live at www.starameseosokoly.cz. These young were also named. Their names were chosen by fans from the ranks of regular live-stream viewers. The females were named Uni and Petra, and the male fledgling was called Olík. “As soon as the young started to fly around and perfected their hunting technique, the parents drove them out of their territory to discover the world and to find new nesting grounds. Usually, peregrines start nesting in their third year of life, so the time between is used to wander around. We also wish the Litvínov peregrines a  lot of success in their life,” says Václav Beran in conclusion and adds that when the peregrine pair starts nesting next spring, the life stream will be available again.
 
Kestrels everywhere you look
 
Do you ask who occupied the second nestbox in Litvínov this year? The steam cracker stack was chosen by kestrels as their nesting ground and they had a very busy courtship. This wasn’t appreciated by the male peregrine from the smokestack of the neighbouring boiler house, so he took to checking on them regularly to restore order. “Nothing had been going on with the steam cracker nestbox for a long time, but then a photographic storm erupted. The box was selected by kestrels that had their courtship there, mated and fought their competitors,” says Václav Beran. Unipetrol employees were sending pictures of small kestrels, thinking they were peregrines. Apart from Uni, Petra and Olík, there was also a group of kestrel fledglings in the area; they are smaller relatives of the peregrines and often end up as their food.
 
The Unipetrol Group is the largest refinery and petrochemical company in the Czech Republic. It focuses on crude-oil processing and on the production, distribution and sale of vehicle fuels and petrochemical products – particularly plastics and fertilisers. In all these areas, it belongs among the important players on the Czech and Central European market. The Unipetrol Group encompasses refineries and production plants in Litvínov and Kralupy nad Vltavou, Paramo with its Mogul brand in Pardubice and Kolín, Spolana Neratovice, and two research centres in Litvínov and Brno. Unipetrol also includes a network of Benzina filling stations in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. With 417 filling stations, Benzina is the largest chain in the Czech Republic. Unipetrol is one of the largest companies in terms of turnover in the Czech Republic. It earned CZK 129 billion last year and employs more than 4,800 persons. In addition to its business development, Unipetrol is proud to be a socially responsible corporation. Therefore, it pays an equal amount of attention to initiatives which focus on the cultivation and support of sustainable development, education, local communities, and the environment. In 2005, Unipetrol became a member of the PKN Orlen Group, the largest crude-oil processor in Central Europe.
 
For more information, please visit the “Responsible Company” section at www.unipetrol.cz.
 
Contact information: Pavel Kaidl, spokesman, telephone: +420 225 001 407, +420 736 502 520, e-mail: pavel.kaidl@unipetrol.cz
 
 
 

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