Just as I was about to set off to Lowerplace this morning to get a few things ready for next week, a post popped up on my Facebook feed. It was about a webcam recently installed by Rochdale Council which is pointed at a nesting site of a pair of Peregrine Falcons just above the clock on the western face of the Town Hall’s clock tower. I was amazed to find out that they have been nesting there for the past 9 years, consistently raising chicks.
If you’ve never heard of them, Peregrines are amazing birds. They are the fastest animal in the world, reaching speeds of over 200mph when they swoop for prey, which is usually smaller birds such as pigeons. Until recently they have been mostly found in the countryside where they nest on high cliff faces. However, recently they have adapted to urban environments, where they can find similar high perches on buildings. They also have a huge source of food in urban populations of pigeons, gulls and lots of other species. As well as the pair in Rochdale, there are also nesting sites locally in Manchester, Bolton and Burnley.
Intrigued, I decided to pop down to the Town Hall on the way home. I only had about 30 minutes to spare, so I was not confident that I would see anything. Initially, I wasn’t sure where to look, however, if you look high up, just above the clock you will see tell tale signs of nesting birds – white droppings on the side of the building. Having found that, I scanned around the area looking for one of the pair, and luckily one was perching slightly higher up on the north face of the tower. Just as I found it, it took off and swooped towards a group of unsuspecting pigeons. It disappeared from view shortly afterwards, so I’m not sure if its hunt was successful. A few minutes later I saw another bird flying past the clock tower, I don’t know of this was the same one or the other of the pair.
Although populations of Peregrines have recovered in recent years (they were almost wiped out altogether in the 1950s) there are still only about 1,500 pairs in the UK. This means we are really lucky to have such incredible predators right on our doorstep. If you’re in the town centre, look up at the clock tower and watch out for big, powerful birds swooping quickly from high perches. If you see one, leave a comment to tell me about it. If you can’t see one, look out for other birds flying off quickly, that often means that one is nearby. This is a Peregrine in flight, though it’s not one of the Rochdale birds.
I will be returning to the Town Hall with my camera in the next few weeks. I have seen Peregrines before, most notably at Martin Mere where I saw on catch a Lapwing in mid-air, but I’ve never managed to get a picture of one, so fingers crossed I can get a photo one of the Rochdale birds.