Peregrine Falcons at Norwich Cathedral
Peregrine Falcons are beautiful birds, elegant to watch soaring in the skies and they are skilful hunters. They are also birds that have been persecuted and eradicated to almost extinction, but thankfully due to valiant efforts from many volunteers and organisations up and down the country, but especially The Hawk & Owl Trust here in Norwich, the Peregrine is making a comeback in the Norfolk skies.
Many of us have seen films or documentaries on Peregrine Falcons and a few of us have seen them in the wild. They faded away from Norfolk skies for over a hundred years, but recently they are making a comeback, numbers have been steadily increasing and sitings of them are becoming more frequent.
Contrary to the usual residence of choice, quarries or steep cliffs, Peregrines are choosing to become more citified and are seeking nesting sites on chimneys, tower blocks and churches.
Around 2010 a pair were seen checking out Norwich Cathedral spire causing great excitement and in 2011, the Hawk and Owl Trust (HOT) set about to install a suitable nest box on the cathedral spire in readiness for the coming breeding season.
Volunteers from Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service gave up some of their free time, working with the cathedral’s works foreman, to install the platform, some 75 metres above ground, through a window in the spire.
The platform, a metre long and 60cm wide needed a rubber-covered metal frame constructed to support it and the installation had to be done without damaging the building. The platform and support was also specially painted to match the cathedral’s stone.
About 25kg of gravel had to be carried up 318 spiral stone steps and ladder rungs to provide a suitable layer of material for the birds to nest on.
Low and behold within one week of the platform being completed, a male and female arrived, obviously approved what they found and moved into the nest box. They laid eggs but unfortunately none of them hatched much to everyone's disappointment.
Peregrine Chicks being fed
In 2012 , the female from 2011 left the scene, but before long a new female 'Falcon' arrived and bonded with the resident male 'Tiercil'. They proved to be a very successful couple and remained at Norwich rearing young year on year until 2016.
Chicks taking the views over Norwich
With the breeding season in full swing, the resident couple successfully laid and hatched four eggs. However a new arrival flew onto the scene from the city of Bath.This female identified as GA (from her blue coloured leg ring) clashed with 'Falcon' who subsequently left Norwich Cathedral mid season leaving behind her four chicks and the father to rear them on his own.
GA remained on the scene with the intention of making the territory hers, bided her time and when the chicks fledged in June 2016, she attempted to kill all of them, succeeding in killing two.
Chick 43 testing her wings
The surviving two were taken into rehabilitation care but sadly one of them died. Thankfully the surviving chick will be released at a later date in Norfolk when she is fit and healthy.
GA is still at the Cathedral where she is continuing to bond with 'Tiercil and who knows if they will produce young next year.
The Norwich Cathedral Peregrine Project works in close collaboration with Norwich Cathedral every year with setting up the Watch Point in the Cathedral close which runs from March to June every year. There is a fantastic team of dedicated Peregrine volunteers who help man this watch point every year, since it started in 2012.
Should you like to contribute to this wonderful project then click on the following live link to find out how.