Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust: Webcams offer a privileged opportunity to observe peregrine falcons which face persecution
News last month that a man had been jailed for stealing peregrine eggs from a Bolsover quarry last year highlights the lengths some people will go to persecute or profit from threatened species. It also underlined the need for vigilance to ensure that these amazing creatures can continue their recovery, writes Erin McDaid of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.
The theft was caught on hidden cameras, set up by the RSPB to protect the falcons. The success of this conviction serves as a timely reminder of just why, twenty or so years ago, cameras were installed overlooking the peregrine nest on Nottingham Trent University’s Newton building in Nottingham City Centre.
The latest high-definition cameras trained on the Newton nest have subsequently become hugely popular with the hundreds of thousands of people across the world. They now provide a wonderful opportunity to observe one of nature’s most skilled aviators and hunters rearing chicks. Whilst the cameras now provide the public a welcome window onto the natural world, they were originally purely for security. After confirmation that peregrines had attempted to breed on the building, the university installed cameras to deter anyone seeking to steal eggs or harm the adult birds.
Back when the cameras were installed, there was a very real threat. Sadly, I have read more than enough vile trolling on social media from individuals that would happily see the birds harmed to know that these birds are still at risk. This risk was brought home by the recent prosecution and other local cases of shooting and poisoning.
Whilst it is shocking to reflect that people still target wild animals in this way, it is heartening that so many people take pleasure from watching the live camera feed of our Nottingham birds and similar cameras elsewhere. It is also extremely pleasing to see that the collaboration between the RSPB, police and Crown Prosecution Service delivered a result in this recent case. Wildlife crime hasn’t always had the profile and resources it requires. High profile cases such as the recent one from Bolsover demonstrate that perpetrators who seek to steal or harm wild animals can be brought to justice.
Whilst news of the crime was upsetting, the success of the prosecution gives hope that as more people appreciate the intrinsic value of nature, society will become increasingly less tolerant of such heinous acts. Ever one to look for the positives in a situation, I am pleased to report that all is now ready for another exciting year for our city centre peregrines. University staff have cleared the nest tray ahead of the breeding season and the cameras should once again enable us to watch the pair as they attempt to raise another brood in a nest that has so far seen 45 chicks hatch.
After more than twenty years involvement in protecting and observing this nest I understand that whilst the cameras and prominent location reduce the risk of persecutions — watching the family through the breeding season brings inherent emotional risks.
From concerns precipitated by heavy snow or prolonged deluges to the drama of adults being usurped by incomers or watching a dominant chick muscle in to take a morsel of food you hoped was destined for a weaker sibling. Watching can be worrisome. However, the sight of tiny beaks cutting their way out of their nourishing shells or a downy chick taking its first leap of faith off the ledge high above the city streets inspires wonder in equal measure.
The webcams provide a wonderful window on nature and the continued interest locally, nationally and internationally illustrates that people have a tremendous appetite to learn more about the wildlife on their doorstep. As more people move from being inspired to taking positive action, we will stand a much better chance of securing nature’s recovery.