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Thousands invited to see Malham falcons

[Monday 03 April 2006]

TENS of thousands of bird-lovers are being invited to Malham Cove, one of the most famous sites in the Yorkshire Dales, this spring to watch a pair of falcons as they progress through the breeding season.

The invitation was issued to day by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the biggest voluntary conservation group in Europe, and could mean a huge increase in visitor numbers.

Magnificent peregrines for all to see at Malham
Magnificent peregrines for all to see at Malham
Photo: Mike Read / rspb-images.com

TV's 'Planet Earth' programme is travelling to the ends of the earth to bring back film of incredible wildlife, says the RSPB, but a pair of the world's most "mind-bogglingly record-breaking birds can be seen much closer to home."

The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world, the jet fighter of the bird world and is listed in Guinness World Records as the world's fastest animal with a flight speed of up to 217 mph (350 km/h).

From today (Monday 3 April), visitors to the Dales can follow the antics of a pair of the high-speed falcons that have settled at Malham at a special 'Falcon Watch Point' set up by the RSPB and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

A team of RSPB and National Park staff and volunteers will be on hand at Malham Cove every day from now until late July to tell people about the birds. They will be setting up telescopes so that visitors can get fantastic close-up views of the falcons.

To see the peregrines, just come along to the viewpoint at the foot of Malham Cove any day from now until the end of July. The Peregrine Watch team will be present daily from 10.30 am to 4.30 pm and it's all free.

The project is part of the RSPB's Aren't Birds Brilliant! programme of events, which make rare and spectacular birds accessible for everyone to see.

Last year more than 21,000 people flocked to Malham Cove in just three months to watch the birds through the high-powered telescopes provided by the RSPB and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. The scheme was such a success that the project will be running for a month longer this year.

Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority Species Officer Ian Court said: "The response from the public to last year's Peregrine Watch was fantastic and we hope lots of people will turn up over the next few months to see these spectacular birds at home in a stunning landscape. It really is worth a trip out."

PEREGRINE FALCON FACT FILE:

  • The peregrine is the largest of British breeding falcons. It is 38-48 cm long, and its wingspan is 95-110 cm. The female is considerably larger than the male. The upper parts are dark blue-grey, and the under parts are pale with fine, dark bars. The head has a black 'hood' with black moustache-like markings on the face. Juvenile birds are browner and heavily streaked below
  • Peregrines typically pair for several years and may live up to 10 years old - the oldest on record was 15 years and 6 months old
  • Both adult birds tend the young, which take their first flight after 5 or 6 weeks
  • Peregrines feed on medium sized birds, which they catch in high-speed aerial stoops - although more often than not they fail to make a kill
  • Peregrine numbers crashed in the 1960's due to the impact of pesticides. Peregrines have now increased in numbers, to about 1,300 breeding pairs in the UK. Around 20 pairs of peregrines nest in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

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