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By CHRIS HILL, Rural affairs correspondent
Thursday, February 16, 2012
The intimate courtship rituals of urban falcons at their lofty nesting site will be visible from a webcam mounted on the spire of Norwich Cathedral.
The Hawk and Owl Trust installed a nesting platform last year for a pair of peregrine falcons which had taken up residence at the towering Norman building.
A CCTV camera showed the birds’ spectacular views from 75m above the streets of the city, as well as their first unsuccessful breeding attempt.
This year, the technology has been improved and hopes are high that the feathered couple will produce their first brood in the spring – in front of a live internet audience.
Nigel Middleton, conservation manager for the trust, said the female peregrine was still a juvenile last year and although she laid a single egg it did not hatch successfully. This year, she has moulted into adult plumage and it is hoped she could produce between one and four eggs from mid-April onwards.
“They (the peregrines) have been there all winter,” said Mr Middleton. “By the beginning of March we would expect to see some courtship displays. The male will present food to the female and they have this bowing ritual as well – the poor male has to bow to the female to win her over.
“It is the same female but she is in adult plumage now, which will make her much more attractive to the male.
“Last year, I was amazed at how people took these birds to heart, and there was a lot of activity on Facebook and Twitter. If these birds produce youngsters this year there will be a lot more visitors and it will create a lot of interest.”
Currently, the peregrine webcam shows still images from the platform which will update every minute. A live image will become available nearer to egg-laying when activity on camera intensifies
If the birds do lay eggs, the Hawk and Owl Trust’s volunteers will run a viewing point in the cathedral grounds where the public can watch the birds through telescopes and binoculars. Anyone interested in volunteering to help at the watch point can contact the trust on 01328 856788.
The peregrines’ antics can also be seen on screens at the trust’s Sculthorpe Moor Community Nature Reserve, near Fakenham, where breeding tawny owls are also expected to be captured on nest-box cameras.
Tawny owls are among the earliest birds to breed each year and eggs could be laid in the next couple of weeks at the reserve, which is open every day except Monday.
Both webcams can be viewed at www.hawkandowl.org.
The Cathedral Peregrines project has been supported by the EDP’s publishers Archant, ContiTech UK, iCode Systems, Lady Hind Trust, LVS-Imas Ltd, M and A Partners, Opticron, SIMM Conveyor Services Ltd, Syngenta Ltd, WildSounds, WiSpire by FreeClix and in memory of the late Mr Ray Rogers of Norwich.