Peregrine Falcons are fantastic birds and we are lucky in this county to be able to see them sometimes at close quarters.
Cheltenham and Gloucester both have pairs right in the city and they can be seen easily. Those birds are used to disturbance because life just goes on around them; I have also been lucky enough to see a pair of Peregrines in a recycling centre with thousands of people going within maybe 50 metres of the birds and them not caring at all! But those birds have chosen to nest there, so they know its a busy place.
Some of our Peregrines in Gloucestershire nest in disused quarries which might only have relatively few people visiting, maybe a hundred people over a year and certainly not tens of thousands. They have not been exposed to disturbance and so are more sensitive. We all want people to enjoy these birds and also photograph them if they have the opportunity but there are times when it can really put the young birds at risk or affect the success of a nest.
Early on in the year if the birds are disturbed constantly they just won’t nest there, and once the birds make what is called a scrape (the pair will try to craft a small bowl in the ground to allow for the nest to nestle there) they are protected by law.
The law that protects Peregrines is called the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which actually covers all nesting birds but certain other birds are afforded more protection and this list is called Schedule One. The birds are protected under law until they have fully fledged and not dependent on the nest.
Last year several individuals were given Conditional Discharges after admitting disturbance of Peregrines at a site in Gloucestershire.
This year an appeal is going to go out shortly to identify someone potentially disturbing another Peregrine site. We have also had reports of photographers taking pictures of females sat on their nest, very young chicks and adults flying around the photographer’s head. All these would be classed as disturbance in law, but more importantly, you are risking the success of the parents raising their young.
We certainly don’t want to discourage people from watching these birds especially if they are looking out for new sites and report their sightings to us. Photos of colour rings are very useful, and you can act as and as well our eyes and ears’ looking out for people that may be wanting to harm the birds. But we would like you to think carefully before visiting sites at sensitive times, not getting too close and especially being careful with birds that are not used to the daily hustle and bustle of a city, certainly not to disturb them whilst sitting on eggs or with young that have not yet fledged. Thank you!
If you do see anything suspicious involving wild birds of prey in Gloucestershire, please report it to our telephone hotline 07960 047016 and to the police – see our post of May 5th.