Outdoor enthusiasts have been praised for helping in an amazing operation that led to a pair of rare peregrine falcons breeding for the first time in 100 years at one of England’s most popular climbing sites.
One of the peregrine falcon chicks at The Roaches
Two chicks have taken their first flights from the Roaches, the popular gritstone crags on the south-western edge of the Peak District. The site was watched over from early morning into the night and climbers agreed not to use routes next to the nest.
It is believed the pair of falcons failed to breed in the last two years due to disturbance. When the peregrines returned this year, a major effort was mounted to try to ensure the birds were left in peace.
National park authority staff, partners, volunteers, climbers, walkers, fellrunners, birdwatchers and local residents all helped in the marathon operation, which bore fruit when two chicks hatched. The falcons attracted hundreds of enthusiastic birdwatchers.
The British Mountaineering Council put in place a voluntary access restriction on the crags, which are on Open Access Land owned by the park authority near Leek, Staffordshire.
BMC spokesman Henry Folkard said: “The climbers are very pleased the young have been successfully reared. From the climbing point of view it’s hardly possible to conceive a more inconvenient place for the birds to nest.
“The restrictions covered a significant proportion of some of the most high quality climbing routes, which normally get very busy, so a very special word of thanks is due to all those who forwent their own enjoyment to help bring about this happy outcome.”
National park chief executive Jim Dixon said: “We should all be honoured that peregrine falcons have returned to the Roaches on ‘our watch’.
Enthusiasts flock to see the breeding falcons
“We’ve had tremendous support from regular users. Though it hasn't always been easy, they've observed our requests, warned newcomers about the site and many have kept watch with us. They include the British Mountaineering Council, fellrunners, walkers, birdwatchers, and local schools. We want to thank them all, as well as our partners, Natural England, the RSPB, the farm tenant and neighbours.”
Roaches property manager Gail Bleakley and senior ranger Andy Farmer organised a farewell walk and get-together to thank all those involved.
The Peak authority estimates there are now about 25 pairs of peregrine falcons in the national park, with 1,400 pairs nationally, but the species is still considered comparatively rare. They are considered the fastest animal on Earth, capable of swooping at 200 kph (125 mph) to catch prey on the wing.