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Last chance for close-up view of Yorkshire Dales Falcons

[Monday 31 July 2006]

A FAMILY of the world's fastest birds have enthralled visitors and locals who took advantage of a special service being offered this summer at the spectacular Malham Cove beauty spot in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

clint and gryke
Clint and Gryke enthrall 22, 000 Malham visitors
Photo: Carl Watts/RSPB

Since April, around 22, 000 people have had a bird's eye view of the family of Peregrine Falcons at a special 'Falcon Watch Point' set up by the RSPB and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

But the free summer service will close on 12 August until next year.

A team of RSPB and National Park Authority staff and volunteers has been on hand at the Cove every day between 10.30 am and 4.30 pm to tell people about the birds. The Falcon Watch team also set up telescopes so people can get up close to the fastest animals on earth.

And this year there have been some new faces for visitors to look at - in the shape of two falcon chicks which hatched in June. Earlier this month visitors were treated to a rare spectacle as 'Clint' and 'Gryke' - named after the Limestone rock formations around the Cove - spread their wings and took their first flight.

Ian Court, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority's Wildlife Conservation Officer, said: "The birth of the chicks has been particularly pleasing and they have been a marvellous spectacle as they hone their flying and hunting skills round the cove.

The birth of the chicks has been particularly pleasing and they have been a marvellous spectacle as they hone their flying and hunting skills round the cove

Ian Court - YDNPA Wildlife Conservation Officer

"For the second year running, the Falcon Watch has proved to be really popular - in fact, with about two weeks to go, we have already passed last year's visitor figure of 21,000. We hope it will be as popular next year."

David Hirst of the Northern England Region, said: "The peregrine family is putting on a fantastic air show at Malham Cove at the moment and so this is a great time to go and see these superb birds.

"Seeing close up views of the falcons through the telescopes at the watch point and having the benefit of the expert local knowledge of the RSPB and Yorkshire Dales National Park team really adds to the experience of a visit to Malham."

The project is run as part of the RSPB's Aren't Birds Brilliant! programme of events that makes rare and spectacular birds accessible for everyone to see.

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

  • The peregrine falcon is 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)

  • 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. They have now increased in numbers, to about 1,300 breeding pairs in the UK - with 20 pairs of peregrines nesting in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

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