NEW figures showing a boom in the numbers of peregrine falcon pairs nesting in the Pennines will fuel a row which has been going on for a decade or more between conservationists and pigeon fanciers.
The majestic peregrines were almost wiped out by farm pesticides in the 1960s and then began to suffer from large scale depredation by nest robbers who took eggs or chicks to sell overseas for falconry - rich Arabs were willing to pay several thousands of pounds for a single bird.
However, a new survey by the British Trust for Ornithology has shown that peregrine numbers in the Pennines have increased by 65% since the first survey carried out in 1991, when the bird was feared to be on the point of extinction in most parts of Britain.
This news will infuriate the owners of racing pigeons, who claim that the peregrines are killing hundreds of their prize birds, some of which can change hands for many hundreds of pounds.
A group of Skipton-based pigeon fanciers is campaigning for a change in the law so that peregrines, a protected species, can be shot. However, their efforts are unlikely to succeed because, despite the big percentage increase, the BTO says there are still only 84 breeding pairs in the whole of the Pennine Chain - leaving them far too thinly spread to have a great effect on pigeon numbers.