The Aylesbury Peregrine Project
Peregrine falcons have been recorded at County Hall in Aylesbury since 2007.
A nesting platform was built on the 12th floor of County Hall in 2010 to encourage them to breed in a safe space, away from the areas on the roof where maintenance access is required.
The platform was built in collaboration with the council, Bucks Bird Club and local volunteers.
Breeding in Aylesbury
In 2012 the Aylesbury pair of peregrines hatched 2 chicks, both of which fledged the nest.
Since then, a pair of peregrines - not always the same pair - has established themselves on the nest every year. Successful breeding and fledging of chicks has occurred almost every year since.
When to see the peregrines
A pair of adult peregrines remain near the platform all year, but activity levels increase dramatically if the pair successfully lay eggs and these hatch. March through to July is the best time to cast your eyes up around County Hall.
You may even see a hunting peregrine which will spot its prey at distance before stooping at speeds of up to 180kph (113mph) when it will attempt to catch its prey in mid-flight. The peregrine falcon is considered the fastest animal on the planet when it is stooping for its prey.
Egg laying and hatching
Egg-laying occurs by the end of March to early April, and hatching takes place during the first week of May.
After 20 days the chicks are old enough to have a monitoring ring placed on their leg. This is carried out by a licenced operative and helps ornithologists track how far the chick has moved away from its birth site. Since the start of this monitoring, the Aylesbury chicks have been seen in Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire.
Once hatched, the chicks are likely to be taking their first flight within just 6 weeks.
This is often the most perilous stage of the chick’s life, and on many occasions since 2012 young chicks have had to be rescued from the streets below County Hall, rehabilitated and placed back on the platform. This is all carried out by the Aylesbury Peregrine Project Volunteers who are licenced and experienced in managing such a situation.
The importance of peregrines
There are currently fewer than 1500 breeding pairs of peregrines in the UK.
Their numbers went down during the 19th and 20th centuries due to illegal killing by humans and the use of toxic chemicals.
Typically, this species breeds on coastal cliff ledges but it is through the onset of electric pylons across the UK that has enabled the species to move inland and can now be found in many urban settings, as we have experienced in Aylesbury.
A pair of birds have been identified in High Wycombe and Marlow in recent years. In both instances successful breeding and fledging of chicks has occurred with the establishment of a nesting platform supported by members of the Aylesbury Peregrine Project and Bucks Bird Group.
The UK breeding population makes up around 20% of all European peregrine falcons and every pair is important for the survival of the species.
Because of the low numbers of this species, the peregrine falcon is protected under UK legislation.
Licences and permissions are sought from the relevant bodies to carry out the monitoring of this species in Buckinghamshire by the Aylesbury Peregrine Project Team.
This included the extraction of an egg from the Aylesbury platform that had not hatched and was still in the nest in September 2014. This egg was given to the County Museum in Aylesbury and regularly forms part of a display on the species