For many decades, visitors to Plymbridge Woods have enjoyed the opportunity
to observe the spectacular activities of nesting peregrines in Cann Quarry. It
is thought that peregrines have nested on and off at this former slate quarry
for fifty years or more. More recently records show them to be present every
year since at least 1995.
In 1999, an unsuccessful attempt was made to poison the nesting peregrines
just prior to fledging; in 2000, a similar attempt resulted in the confirmed
deaths of the adult female and at least two young.
Those responsible were not caught and in 2001 the National Trust and a small
group of local bird watchers set up a protection watch with the support of the
RSPB to try to prevent further poisoning attempts. In addition, the presence of
the volunteers made other people more aware of the plight of the peregrine and
even more importantly more interested in protecting what at the time was a
schedule 1 endangered species. This idea has proved to be very successful and
with the exception of the 2008 season, the peregrines have produced chicks
unharmed ever since.
The introduction of a volunteer watch has proved very popular with visitors
to Plymbridge and as a result the project was able to secure funding from
Natural England via the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund. This made it
possible to employ a National Trust Peregrine Warden to support the volunteer
effort and raise the profile of the project in the community.
We are now in the 8th year of this project, and whilst the Peregrine Falcon
is no longer endangered it is still a protected species. Once again the project
succeeded in meeting its key objectives, which are to protect the peregrines
and to educate and encourage members of the public to view the birds in their
natural surroundings. The project is also collecting some important information
on 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 the
viaduct per annum. At present we have around 50 volunteers who give up their
own time to protect these birds. However, with 24 hour surveillance needed at
the viaduct, we are always looking for new volunteers to spare a little of
their time to help protect these magnificent birds.