Peregrines at Cann Quarry and the birth of the project
For 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 over fifty years. More recently records show them to have been present every year since 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.
The project is now entering its 16th year and whilst the Peregrine Falcon is no longer endangered it is still a protected species. The project will continue to protect the peregrines and to educate and encourage members of the public to view the birds in their natural surroundings for as long as these magnificent birds decide to call Cann Quarry home.
Every year the support and interest for the falcons grows, with well over 15,000 visitors to the viaduct per annum.
The damage caused by man
The Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) suffered greatly at the hands of man in the twentieth century. Before 1939, its nests were routinely raided by egg collectors and those who saw it as a pest on shooting estates (1). During World War II its destruction was endorsed by the Government to protect carrier pigeons (2); and from the mid-1950s, new agricultural pesticides such as DDT, caused populations to crash by concentrating poisons in prey species and reducing reproductive success through the thinning of egg shells.
The peregrine continued to decline until 1964 when, with the banning of these pesticides and enhanced legal protection (3), the population slowly began to recover. Numbers now exceed the 1939 level (4) and they are no longer endangered, however the peregrine still remains protected under law.
(1) Wildlife & Countryside Act, 1981 (with amendments.)
(2) Destruction of Peregrine Falcons Order, 1940.
(3) Protection of Birds Act 1954.
(4) The BTO National Peregrine Study, 2002