Some of the most popular Cathedral visitors are the peregrine falcons. They were absent from the Tower for a long time (possibly due to persecution and the use of pesticides which decimated the UK peregrine population) but returned after a 60 year absence in 2014.
Since then they have nested every year thanks to the efforts of Phil Sheldrake, RSPB Conservation Officer, and Clerk of the Works, Gary Price.
There are nine fully authenticated records of peregrines breeding at the Cathedral between 1864 and 1953 (the last known breeding attempt prior to their return in 2013). Even on those nine occasions, the birds were sometimes robbed of their eggs or chicks - these were the days before legal protection of birds of prey.
FINDING A PLACE TO NEST
Before 2013 apparently mated pairs had been recorded roosting on the Spire of the cathedral so after an adult pair were observed on the cathedral over the winter, a nest box was erected on the East face of the tower, one level below the tower walkway. For reasons only the birds can know, it was not used.
In mid April of 2013 after a lot of Peregrine activity was spotted on the South face, the RSPB discovered that a mated pair had laid 3 eggs directly onto the stone walkway used by tourists on Tower Tours. Sadly the eggs rolled apart on the hard surface and were deserted.
BUILDING A SPECIAL NEST BOX
Given that the birds somewhat surprisingly favoured the South (hot) side of the Tower, with expert advice Richard Pike, the Ecclesiastical Carpenter built a customised nesting box and in early 2014 the South balcony was closed to visitors (minimising disturbance) and the box was installed.
The rest is history. Since 2014 peregrines have hatched and fledged from the Tower every year. So far this year the breeding pair have produced three eggs, which are expected to hatch in early May. Watch their development on our live webcam below.
TRACKING OUR PEREGRINES
If you are interested in helping us tracking the Cathedral peregrines, look out for a large blue ring with following initials:
2014 Peregrines (Peter, Paul and Pip)
GT, GV and GX
2015 Peregrines (Tony, Kate George and Justice)
KA, KB, KC and KD
2016 (Aveline and Raphael)
ST and SC
We are aware that some people are having difficulties accessing our live stream - please bear with us while we try to identify the cause of this issue.
Streaming provided by iCatcher CCTV