While the peregrine population in the Dark Peak suffers from illegal persecution related to grouse moor management, these magnificent raptors are comparatively thriving in the White Peak. But here the recovering population and the increasing desire for accessible sport climbing are frequently bringing climbers and peregrines close together. How can climbers avoid disturbing this protected species, particularly during the nesting season, and what can we do to help them thrive? Naturalist Kim Leyland explains.
Excellent article. Kim you might be interested in a picture in my user area of a Peregrine chick beginning hatching. It’s ‘egg tooth’ clearly visible. I should add that that I help with Peregrines and am licensed each year by the BTO for this site so all was legal.
I participated several years ago in a peregrine watch on a local crag. The main threat wasn't climbers but egg/chick thieves. It was quite enlightening sitting overnight in a car below the crag equipped with night-vision scope, radio and hot-line to the local bobby. I got the impression we were disrupting the local doggers as much as anything.
Great pictures, thanks.
In reply to Lankyman:
Good to hear about your nest watch - it's sad that thieves are still operating, and yes it potentially takes a lot of time and effort to catch them in the act!
Great article matey, Nice to read they are doing well in some areas.
When they nest local to me they pick 1 of 2 spots. One you know they have a good chance as it's little climbed on and easy to watch over. The other spot must be a nightmare to watch over and I'm not sure if there has been a successful hatch from it.
As climbers I'm sure we all want to see the best for these stunning birds, pity the supposed custodians of the countryside and self proclaimed conservationists don't feel the same.
Great article, really informative.
I was wondering, can we learn anything from the experience of climbers on the south coast? I've seen (and especially, heard) quite a few peregrines at the Portland crags over the last few years, and they seem to tolerate climbers OK. As you say in the article, it's not an exact science - but just wondered.
As for egg stealing - I remember learning about this in school and thinking it was just absolutely bonkers as a child. What on earth motivates people to steal the eggs of endangered species, in order to keep them in private - illegal! - collections? It's like the most demented and evil form of Pokemon imaginable. Simply cannot get my head around it, to this day.
My favourite Peregrine anecdote though is of walking out of the University Library in Cambridge, and seeing a dismembered pigeon foot land on the pavement in front of me. There was a breeding pair on top of the tower, and they would chuck the pigeon feet out of their nest once they were done eating!
Thanks Mark and Paul. It's good to hear reports of birds doing well here and there.
Thinking of learning from Portland say, or anywhere, what we really need is good data on nest outcomes. E.g. Nest A was on B buttress, there was a restriction/no restriction, it was successful/failed, fledged X chicks. Repeat for a few sites (over a few years ideally!) to give a better picture of how the birds respond to different situations. This info may already be out there for some sites, just a matter of tracking it down.
Is there an element of the birds getting used to climbers? I guess if they breed several generations on that site then they are likely to think that climbers nearby are part of what is normal? I assume the young typically colonise other sites if they survive and attempt to breed?
Slightly ore controversial point - if peregrine numbers rise presumably the situation on any individual sites becomes slightly less critical?
I also can't help thinking that with more pairs they will get to a point where there is not enough food for them because they need prey, in order to have that readily available there needs to be some different land management practices. I don't know that much about peregrines though.
Normal situation for any predator-prey relationship is that the amount of prey controls the number of predators.
So Peregrine numbers in any particular area will be limited by the available prey, however I think there's still a way to go before all the suitable city/town centres (lots of fat pigeons) are fully populated.
I suspect that as well as what they grew up with, peregrine tolerance to climbers will depend largely on the activity at the time that a nest site is occupied. So empty crag, peregrines select nest site, climbing activity then starts is more likely to be low tolerance than climbed on crag, peregrines select nest site, climbing activity continues. Malham is a good example of high tolerance since it's nearly always got human activity there and the peregrines tolerate this.
It seems that peregrine's are thriving most in the urban environment. There was a regular breeding pair on the building opposite where I worked and once I spotted the whole family of 4 sitting side by side on a ledge directly opposite my lab bench.
It was also pretty entertaining watching the magpies trying to steal food off them.
It's amazing to see just how many towns surrounding the Peak District are home to breeding peregrines now. If I recall, last year there were more than twice as many nests on the fringes of the Dark Peak than in it. Manchester, Sheffield, Rochdale, Wakefield, Bolton, Huddersfield amongst others that all successfully fledged. Makes you wonder if the ones trying to colonise the 'traditional' nest sites are the youngsters from the towns. If so, it'd be quite ironic when the Peak District Moorland group and their ilk try and boast about the number of nests they have...!
Bolton - apparently there have been years when peregrines have been nesting on one side of the town hall tower, and ravens nesting on the other side.
Rochdale - before they pulled the civic tower down a few years ago (the awful grey box), the peregrines used to sit on top of the ribs on the side of the lift shafts where they could see over to the nest platform on the town hall a couple of hundred meters away. I worked there some of the time and at lunch time I'd nip out, look up and frequently one or both were sitting there in the sun with most people below totally oblivious.
Manchester - I think there's more than one pair in the city centre now, don't know if it's still a used nest site but for several years the Manchester pair were actually nesting in Salford (just). Again, if you knew where, you just had to look up.
Victorian town halls are just great for these birds.
Last year one pair of urban peregrines were so keen on the company of climbers they nested at Awesome Walls in Stockport!