10 reasons to volunteer helping observe the 2017 Norwich peregrine falcons

Peregrine female feeding the four chicks on May 4

Peregrine female feeding the four chicks on May 4 - Credit: Archant

Dramatic twists and turns in the lives of the city's highest residents are set to play out once more as breeding season approaches for the Norwich Cathedral peregrines. As applications open for volunteers at the annual watchpoint we look at 10 reasons to get involved.

The Hawk and Owl Trust ring and health check the peregrine chicks at Norwich Cathedral.
PHOTO BY SI

The Hawk and Owl Trust ring and health check the peregrine chicks at Norwich Cathedral. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

-The watchpoint, set up at the base of Norwich Cathedral, attracts more than 30,000 people every year to marvel at the flight of the birds from the safety of the Lower Close Green. This year the watchpoint, run by the Hawk and Owl Trust, will open on March 24 and needs around 70 volunteers.

-Peregrines were first seen taking an interest in Norwich Cathedral in 2010, so the Cathedral Estates Department and the Hawk and Owl Trust began working on a suitable nesting place. The nesting platform sits 75 metres above ground level with a live camera feed for round-the-clock observation.

Male peregrine feeding the chicks on May 24

Male peregrine feeding the chicks on May 24 - Credit: Archant


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-The platform, which is a metre long and 60cm wide, was painted in consultation with the cathedral's architect, and a rubber-covered metal frame had to be constructed to support it without damaging the building. 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.

A peregrine falcon on Norwich Cathedral. Picture: RAPTURE PHOTOGRAPHICS

A peregrine falcon on Norwich Cathedral. Picture: RAPTURE PHOTOGRAPHICS - Credit: RAPTURE PHOTOGRAPHICS

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-While chicks born at the spire of the cathedral have around a 50pc chance of survival, since the watchpoint was launched in 2011, a total of 11 chicks have successfully hatched and fledged from the nesting box. The Hawk and Owl Trust have a strict non-intervention policy with the fledgling chicks.

-Last year was a turbulent time for the peregrines, with the entire brood of chicks dying as a result of a usurper from Bath taking the place of their mother. The female peregrine began attacking the chicks as they attempted to fledge, and the rare decision was taken to take the chicks into care. They later died as a result of injuries sustained.

The peregrine is one of four chicks (two are now dead) which were born in a nest on the spire of Nor

The peregrine is one of four chicks (two are now dead) which were born in a nest on the spire of Norwich Cathedral earlier this year. Photo submitted by the Hawk and Owl Trust. - Credit: Archant

-Signs of courtship have been seen between the resident male at the Norwich Cathedral nesting box and the intruding peregrine from Bath, who appears to have taken over the territory on a permanent basis. With the mating season due to begin in early February, the Hawk and Owl Trust will be keeping a watchful eye on their relationship.

-The peregrine falcon is by far the fastest creature on the planet when diving for prey. Claims of top speeds the birds can reach will vary from 150mph to over 200mph. Its speed and agility has made it a firm favourite in the falconry trade, which in turn made them a target for criminals. Earlier in the 20th century they were close to extinction in the UK.

-Habitat for peregrines in the UK tends to be in upland areas and coastal sites, with typical nests on crags, quarries and sea cliffs. They also make use of tall buildings and have colonised a number of urban centres in North America including New York, Chicago and Toronto.

-Peregrine falcons mate for life and breed in the same territory each year. The male courts the female for about one month, using aerial displays. The mating season runs from late March through to May, and produce a clutch of between three and four eggs.

-The chicks start to fly in about 42 days, but are still dependent on their parents to learn how to hunt. They have a lifespan of seven to 15 years, but can live for up to two decades. Peregrine falcons are very territorial during breeding season and will vigorously defend their nests.

To apply to be a volunteer for 2017 call 01328 856788 or email jan.smith@hawkandowl.org.

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