Winged hunter that’s my talisman of Cantley

Peregrine falcon: The species' nesting at Norwich Cathedral is now an eagerly-awaited annual treat.

Peregrine falcon: The species' nesting at Norwich Cathedral is now an eagerly-awaited annual treat. - Credit: Archant

Mike Toms takes a stroll in the company of a sleek hunter of the skies.

She has been sitting on part of the beet factory's architecture, truly up in the gods and with a view that stretches across these grazing marshes to the horizon beyond. Her gaze will have taken in the geese that flush in time with the train from Norwich, the scatter of walkers and birdwatchers out on the riverside bank and, importantly for her, the flock of lapwing and golden plover that would make a worthwhile meal. I have almost come to expect her here, for more often than not a peregrine accompanies my winter circuit out from Cantley. She has become a talisman for this place.

The plover are nervous, with good reason, for the peregrine is no longer perched where she was. Instead, her silhouette can be seen against the bright blue sky, her wings stretched out as she gains height and begins to drift across her domain. We watch her for some minutes but then, turning to move on we lose her entirely. Is she still up there, watching us, or has she drifted away east to try her luck with a flock of teal and wigeon?

To have peregrines back in the county, and in such numbers, signals a substantial upturn in their fortunes. The results of the latest national peregrine survey, organised by the BTO, are soon to be released and no doubt they will demonstrate the continued recovery in the UK peregrine population. The return of the peregrine does not please everyone, however, most notably the pigeon fanciers whose exercising flocks make an easy target for both peregrine and sparrowhawk. Fortunately, their voices no longer challenge the majority view, that the return of our lost raptor populations is something to be welcomed.

To see a peregrine work the air as it hunts feels like a privilege, for this is a bird supremely adapted to aerial pursuit; the power of the dive and the delivery of the fatal blow to an unsuspecting bird demonstrates a mastery shaped by evolution. We do not see the peregrine make a kill today but the chances are that a few waders, duck and pigeons will meet their end over the coming weeks, with this female peregrine delivering the killing blow.