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Operation Peregrine Starts

A 24 hour watch over a peregrine falcon nest started this week with the launch of Scottish Wildlife Trust’s 2010’s ‘Operation Peregrine’.

A nesting site of a pair of peregrine falcons that breed annually at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s (SWT) Falls of Clyde Wildlife Reserve in New Lanark is now to be watched 24-hours every day as a surveillance mission to protect the birds through the breeding season.

As a bid to prevent wildlife crime, ‘Operation Peregrine’ will see the SWT mobilise a team of staff and volunteers to carry out a round-the-clock stake-out of the birds’ nest site, known as an eyrie, for the next three months.  Despite being a legally protected species, peregrines are at risk from egg thieves, who can sell peregrine eggs to collectors, and from those who take young chicks to train for falconry.

This year, the SWT team will be assisted with CCTV technology which will stream live images from the nest site to a big screen at the Falls of Clyde Visitor Centre and online at www.swt.org.uk.

Becky Priestley, the People’s Postcode Lottery Peregrine Protection Officer for the SWT, said:  “This year marks the 13th year that the SWT has pooled its resources to protect these amazing birds of prey.  It’s fantastic that the support from the SWT’s relationship with the People’s Postcode Lottery has enabled another year’s watch to go ahead to ensure that these birds and their chicks make it through the breeding season.

“In the last week on the reserve, we have seen the birds exhibiting pair bonding behaviour, which involves the male bird passing food to the female and increased mating activity.  They have also been busy selecting a nest site, spending time on different ledges and calling to each other.  They settled on a nest site a few days ago and have been scraping out a shallow depression in which to lay the eggs.  They now appear to be sitting on an egg, with both the male and female spending time on the nest.  If all goes well, we will continue to see mating behaviour over the next few days and 3-4 eggs will be laid over a period of about a week.

“The public can play a big part in helping our bid to protect these marvellous birds.  We are still looking for volunteers to help us stake-out the area, but even just coming along to the visitor centre helps to support our activities.  And, of course, thanks to our nest cam, anyone can watch the action from this year’s breeding season by logging on to www.swt.org.uk.

Today, only about 1,400 pairs of peregrine falcons remain in the UK, after their numbers fell rapidly in the 1950s due to the effects of DDT, a pesticide which decreased reproductive success through thinning of eggshells.  This number accounts for 20% of the EU breeding population and approximately two-thirds of these nest in Scotland.

Famed as the fastest living creature on earth, peregrines can dive at speeds of up to approximately 150 mph to catch their prey of small and medium-sized birds.

A popular wildlife attraction, thousands visit the wildlife centre each year where they can enjoy watching the majestic birds’ famous dive for food as well as their chicks’ journey through the process of hatching, rearing, and their eventual flight from the nest.

Willie Buttery, Visitor Centre Manager said: “We are delighted that for another successive season these birds are back where they belong. They are very much part of the fabric and attraction of this reserve to visitors. We now have the challenge of making sure that they remain safe from harm. Thanks to the telescopes and binoculars now available at the viewing area, visitors really can see them hunting and their family growing right before their eyes.”

The Falls of Clyde Visitor Centre is open between 11 am and 5 pm throughout the year, excepting January and February when opening hours are reduced to 12 noon to 4 pm. The peregrine viewing area is manned between 0700 and dusk each day. Admission to the reserve is £1 per adult, 50p per concession, and free for SWT members.

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