| Peregrine falcon chicks take to the skies over the Avon Gorge
The Avon Gorge’s newest residents are taking to the skies to explore their new surroundings.
Five peregrine falcon chicks have recently fledged from their cliff side nest in the Avon Gorge and can be seen swooping through the air above the Gorge and the Downs, as they perfect their aerial skills.
This year is the 20th anniversary of peregrine falcons breeding in the Gorge and now is the best time to view the birds as they can be seen screeching and wheeling through the air.
Ben Garrod, Education Officer for the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project said: “Having peregrine falcons right here on the edge of the Downs is great. You can turn up right now, wait a while and, with a bit of luck, you’ll be rewarded with several of the chicks flying right over your head.
“They’re noisy, boisterous and inquisitive but they’re also majestic, agile and above all beautiful – we’re so lucky to have our own peregrines in Bristol and if you’ve not been up to see them yet, then now’s the best time to come along.”
Kate Atwell, Overseer of Birds at Bristol Zoo Gardens, helped ring the five chicks, under licence from Natural England, before they fledged.
She said: “Ringing the birds is important because it allows us to identify them so that we can track their movements and record their survival rates, breeding and life expectancy. Peregrine falcons are amazing birds; they are the fastest animal in the world, with the ability to fly at speeds of up to 200mph. Having the chance to view these birds on our doorstep is an opportunity not to be missed.”
The young birds are keeping their parents busy and are constantly on the lookout for food.
As part of their ‘training’, the parents give the food to their offspring in mid air, a manoeuvre known as a ‘food pass’.
The best place the view the birds is from the Peregrine Watch Point on the Downs; take binoculars, listen out for the telltale screeching of the young and look for the distinct shape of the peregrines’ scythe-like wings.
The Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project produces various leaflets which can be picked up at the Downs Tea Room. Some, such as ‘Peregrines in the Avon Gorge’, (produced in conjunction with the Bristol Ornithological Club) and the ‘Downs’ Bird Trail’, give details of the best spots to view the birds.
To order a copy of either leaflet, or for the Avon Gorge & Downs Wildlife Project events programme, call Mandy Leivers or Ben Garrod on 0117 903 0609 . Alternatively visit the website www.avongorge.org.uk