by Peter Butterworth
The Peregrines have been in North Wales for approx 30 years and they nest on the top
parapet of the main bridge linking North Wales with the island of Anglesey.
Despite major works on the bridge they continue to nest there every year - however for the last 5 years they have lost their chicks by falling off the parapet onto the road beneath. Fortunately some have been picked up and hand reared prior to release by a local bird of prey enthusiast.
The peregrines hunt in pairs usually and their preferred diet is pigeon although they often take crows and other birds too. Their hunting method is highly skilled and usually consists of one of the pair flying up underneath a pigeon or flock of of pigeons to distract it or them. Meanwhile the other peregrine has climbed to approx 300 - 400 feet (sometimes up to 100 feet) and he/she "stoops" and takes out the prey at top speed - a magnificent sight which I have witnessed many times.
In the winter the Peregrines cross the water and seek shelter most of the time in extensive woodland nearby, since the bridge parapet is exposed.
There are numerous pairs of Peregrines in the region and although their numbers have
suffered over the years (particularly being shot in during World War II to protect message
pigeons), they now are making a comeback in the UK.
I also have seen Peregrines in my home county of Cheshire and 2 weeks ago a close friend who hunts with a reared Peregrine, had his bird attacked by a wild male Peregrine.
The males Peregrine in the UK is slightly smaller than the female, although not sufficiently so to make it obvious at any distance. I am "nominated-custodian" for my Peregrines by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and take great interest in their protection.
Incidentally the local authority in North Wales are currently debating the usefulness of installing a "catch-net" around the bridge parapet nesting site to catch stray young, so they too take great interest in this unusually sited family of Peregrines. To give you an idea of the Peregrines immunity to the encroaching noise and bustle of this busy bridge, I have seen one of the Peregrines continue to consume prey (crow) within 6 feet of a fast moving passenger train crossing the bridge - truly they have adapted to civilization.
The Peregrine remains the epitome of effective adaptation to its environment and I can think of no more stirring sight than a Peregrine in full stoop over the water with the Snowdonia Mountains as a backdrop.
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