Wakefield Cathedral’s young peregrines prepare to fly
The downy falcons have had birdwatchers gripped this week as they have been flapping their wings and venturing out of their nest box.
Shoppers and office workers have also been gazing up at the spire to catch a glimpse of the noisy chicks’ maiden flight.
Francis Hickenbottom, of Wakefield Naturalists’ Society, said: “You see people going to work or to shop in the city centre and they are pulling a pair of binoculars out of their bag. The birds are becoming a reason for some people to come into the centre of Wakefield too.”
The story began in July 2012 when keen birder Mr Hickenbottom got a text about a peregrine being back at the cathedral. Later they approached the church officials, The RSPB and people connected to peregrine nest sites in other cities.
This led to a specially adapted box, made by a team at the University of Sheffield, being placed on the cathedral in January 2014. A male showed some interest but left at the start of the breeding season last year.
But things changed this spring when a male bird was joined by a large female.
Mr Hickenbottom said: “He brought a pigeon back and left it in the box. The female came down and took it.
“His job is to bring the food and to say, ‘Look what I’ve got’ and to impress the female.”
In April the female started spending a long time on the nest, suggesting they had bred.
The peregrine watchers then had to patiently wait for the birds to grow up so they could peer out of the box.
On June 5 a regular watcher from the adjacent tower blocks, who has a better view of the box, confirmed that there was a least one chick.
Then two more chicks were seen.
The dad-of-one from Hemsworth added: “Ten years ago I would never have imagined seeing peregrines fledge at the cathedral. It is one of those things you wish would happen. I’m just so excited about it.”
He thanked Kathryn Bell, project partners Colin Booker and Charles Andrassy, the cathedral and Jim Lonsdale’s team at the University of Sheffield who made the box.
Mr Hickenbottom will be leading a peregrine watch in the precinct this Sunday (July 5) between 11am and 3pm.
You can also follow the birds progress on Twitter via @WfldPeregrines.
Pictures by Francis Hickenbottom, Will Forrest, John and Heather Gardner.