Norwich’s peregrine falcons gear up for breeding season

CCTV picture of one of the cathefral peregrine falcons. Photo: Hawk and Owl Trust CCTV picture of one of the cathefral peregrine falcons. Photo: Hawk and Owl Trust

Thursday, February 20, 2014
6:30 AM

The camera lens has been cleaned, and the bones of old prey cleared from the gravel box as bird watchers gear up for another exciting breeding season featuring Norwich’s popular peregrine falcons.

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The stars of the Hawk and Owl Trust’s CCTV stream are already starting to get a bit amorous at their nest box perched high up on Norwich Cathedral’s spire.

Hopes will be high that another brood of chicks will arrive this spring to bolster numbers of the bird of prey in the region.

And to help any fledglings find a new home once the time has come to fly the nest, the Hawk and Owl Trust is planning on erecting another nesting box at Great Yarmouth Minster in the coming weeks.

Lin Murrary, from the Hawk and Owl Trust, said: “Both the male and female are active around the box now and he keeps bring her little presents. They are making little scrapes in the gravel in the box which is the start of their nest building.

“On Valentine’s Day he gave her a dead piece of something, which a colleague of mine joked is like the falcon version of being taken a cup of tea in bed.”

Last month, the charity sent an expedition team up the 85m and 313 steps of Norwich Cathedral’s tower and spire to carry out some annual maintenance on the nest box.

The team first took samples of gravel from the nest box so that the county’s official beetle recorder could carry out a scientific study to find out which beetles, if any, also make the peregrine nest their home.

A peregrine nest can be an attractive environment for many insect species and entomologists are keen to take these rare opportunities to study them. The team then cleaned the gravel and removed old prey. A new front ledge was installed, which has a rougher surface, to make it easier for the pre-fledgling peregrines to grip while wing exercising.

A light shield was also fitted on to the side of the box nearest the CCTV camera, to prevent the light from the lamps that illuminate the spire at night from blinding the top camera. It has grit embedded on the top surface and has already become a favourite perch for the male peregrine.

Finally, the camera lenses were cleaned.

The Norfolk peregrines generally lay their eggs in the second half of March and interest in the birds is at its highest from March to June. The Hawk and Owl Trust is once again looking for volunteers to help at their 2014 Norwich Cathedral Peregrines Watch Point in Cathedral Close.

Volunteers talk to the thousands of visitors who come to see the falcons and help them to spot the birds using the telescopes at the watch point.

Last year the peregrines raised four chicks on the special platform and 31,000 visited to see the peregrines. The two youngsters which survived after leaving the platform have become independent and since then one has been spotted over Strumpshall Fen.

Peregrine project co-ordinator Leanne Thomas said: “People from Norwich have taken these wonderful birds to their hearts. The volunteer support that they have shown in previous years has been incredible, helping us share the birds with visitors from all over the world.”

Volunteers need to be good communicators who are happy to talk to visitors of all ages and abilities. Anyone who is interested in getting involved as a volunteer should contact the Hawk and Owl Trust at their Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve near Fakenham on 01328 856788 or by email at peregrines@hawkandowl.org

Volunteers can also sign up online at www.upp.hawkandowl.org/norwich-peregrines/volunteer-for-norwich-cathedral-project/

The charity is also planning to provide a live stream for Norwich Castle’s new ‘Wonder of Birds’ exhibition to be held during the spring and summer.

Do you have an interesting story about birds? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk

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