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‘Absolutely euphoric’ - Sugar factory workers’ delight as peregrine falcons lay eggs

PUBLISHED: 13:58 31 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:58 31 March 2020

A peregrine pair has been nesting and laying eggs at the British Sugar Factory in Cantley. Picture: British Sugar.

A peregrine pair has been nesting and laying eggs at the British Sugar Factory in Cantley. Picture: British Sugar.

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Two British Sugar factories in Norfolk are celebrating the coming of Spring with the arrival of four peregrine falcon eggs from two breeding pairs.

A peregrine pair has been nesting and laying eggs at the British Sugar Factory in Cantley. Picture: British Sugar. 
A peregrine pair has been nesting and laying eggs at the British Sugar Factory in Cantley. Picture: British Sugar.

The factories at Cantley and Wissington have both had purpose-built nest locations on their sugar silos for several years.

For Cantley, 2020 is the first year that a peregrine pair has been seen nesting and laying eggs.

And thanks to a camera mounted on the silo ahead of the breeding season, the Cantley team can observe developments without disturbing the birds.

Kevin Shales, maintenance planner and IT coordinator for the factory, who has led the project with his colleagues, said: “Our efforts with our purpose-mounted nest have evolved over time. As I investigated other similar purpose-built nests, to understand how we could better our chances, it struck me that it may be as simple as providing more gravel in the nest.

Steam pours from the stack at the Cantley Sugar Beet factory. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYSteam pours from the stack at the Cantley Sugar Beet factory. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“It seems this did the trick. We have observed the female falcon manipulating the stones to create a ‘scrape’, to her liking.”

He said the team was “absolutely euphoric” when they found the first egg had been laid.

“We could not have asked for a better mark of success. It has been onwards and upwards from there. Our fingers are crossed for a successful incubation period and clutch of chicks,” he said.

A 2014 analysis of peregrine falcons by the British Trust for Ornithology found only an estimated 1,505 breeding pairs in the UK and the Isle of Man.

It may seem strange the birds would use an industrial site such as a sugar factory for their nest, known as an “eyrie”, but, in fact, over time such buildings and other high structures are becoming increasingly popular for peregrine nest sites.

The British Sugar team at Cantley has set up a YouTube channel - search for “BS Peregrines” - which offers a live feed from the nest-cam.

There is also a Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/CantleyPeregrines, where followers are hoping to see chicks in around 30 days’ time.

Dan Green, factory manager, said: “It’s really encouraging to see these special birds around our site and we’re all excited to see how many chicks hatch in a few weeks.”


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