For many decades, visitors to Plymbridge Woods have enjoyed the opportunityto observe the spectacular activities of nesting peregrines in Cann Quarry. Itis thought that peregrines have nested on and off at this former slate quarryfor fifty years or more. More recently records show them to be present everyyear since at least 1995.
In 1999, an unsuccessful attempt was made to poison the nesting peregrinesjust prior to fledging; in 2000, a similar attempt resulted in the confirmeddeaths of the adult female and at least two young.
Those responsible were not caught and in 2001 the National Trust and a smallgroup of local bird watchers set up a protection watch with the support of theRSPB to try to prevent further poisoning attempts. In addition, the presence ofthe volunteers made other people more aware of the plight of the peregrine andeven more importantly more interested in protecting what at the time was aschedule 1 endangered species. This idea has proved to be very successful andwith the exception of the 2008 season, the peregrines have produced chicksunharmed ever since.
The introduction of a volunteer watch has proved very popular with visitorsto Plymbridge and as a result the project was able to secure funding fromNatural England via the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund. This made itpossible to employ a National Trust Peregrine Warden to support the volunteereffort and raise the profile of the project in the community.
We are now in the 8th year of this project, and whilst the Peregrine Falconis no longer endangered it is still a protected species. Once again the projectsucceeded in meeting its key objectives, which are to protect the peregrinesand to educate and encourage members of the public to view the birds in theirnatural surroundings. The project is also collecting some important informationon the habits and behaviour of the birds during the important breeding season.
The support and interest continues to grow, with over 25,000 visitors to theviaduct per annum. At present we have around 50 volunteers who give up theirown time to protect these birds. However, with 24 hour surveillance needed atthe viaduct, we are always looking for new volunteers to spare a little oftheir time to help protect these magnificent birds.