Origins of the Project
Trust Erected Platform in 2011 on Cathedral Spire to Tempt Recent Arrivals in City
Peregrines started prospecting a nest platform that the Hawk and Owl Trust erected on the historic spire of Norwich’s medieval cathedral in 2011. The charity and cathedral authorities had to reconcile the contrasting needs of nature conservation and architectural conservation to provide a new home for the birds.
Volunteers from Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service gave up some of their free time, working with the cathedral’s works foreman, to install the platform through a window in the spire. Great care has been taken of architectural constraints, and the platform had to be specially painted to match the cathedral’s stone.
The magnificent peregrine falcon usually chooses to nest on cliffs or the steep sides of quarries but over the last decade has been increasingly moving into our cities and using man-made structures such as churches, tower blocks and chimneys as nest sites.
Peregrines were 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. Providing a nesting platform was easier said than done, though. The historic fabric of the cathedral had to be protected, not to mention the fact that the site was over 75 metres above the streets of Norwich.
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.
Nigel Middleton, Hawk and Owl Trust Conservation Officer for the Eastern Region said:
“We were delighted to work with Norwich Cathedral to provide a nesting platform for these amazing birds. The peregrine is particularly close to our hearts, indeed it is the Hawk and Owl Trust’s logo. The Trust was founded in 1969 in response to a dramatic decline in the peregrine population. Since then peregrine numbers have recovered and peregrines are demonstrating their ability to adapt by moving into our cities and using tall buildings.”
Phil Thomas, Estates Manager for Norwich Cathedral said: “We are really pleased to be working with the Hawk and Owl Trust on such an exciting project and the Cathedral clergy have been most supportive. After careful consideration with regards to the siting of the nest box and consultation with the Cathedral architect we are delighted that it has been adopted by a pair of peregrines so quickly and hope they become a successful breeding pair for the future and visitors to the Cathedral will be able to enjoy their progress.”
Team members at the cathedral and the Hawk and Owl Trust continue to monitor activity on the platform via pictures from video cameras that have recorded the peregrines’ comings and goings. The breeding paid produced their first egg on Easter Sunday in April 2011. Unfortunately, the egg failed to hatch successfully and everyone crossed their fingers for better luck in 2012.
The new 2012 breeding season saw mounting excitement and anticipation in the watching ranks of Hawk and Owl and Cathedral staff and volunteers with the first egg laid on 22 March 2012. That first egg hatched in the early hours of 2 May 2012 followed by two further eggs (a fourth egg failed) giving a total of three surviving chicks; two males and one female.
By 21 May 2012 the chicks were old enough to be ringed for identification purposes. By June a Radio Norfolk competition to name the chicks had resulted in hundreds of suggestions being submitted by the public. The chosen names were Bobber for the female and Grant for the male. The third chick, which failed to survive, was also named, Valiant, in response to demand from viewers on-line who watched a live webcam of the fledgling’s unsuccessful struggles to develop and survive.