Peregrines at All Saints

Peregrines on All Saints Church Tower.

Most of you already know we have a pair of  Peregrines roosting on our church tower since October 2020. This is lovely news and I hope will bring pleasure to Oakham residents. And when lockdown ends, it will be something exciting to attract visitors to our town and church.

For those of you who aren’t bird watchers, Peregrine Falcons are spectacular birds of prey, a bit bigger than a pigeon. They feed on other birds – often pigeons – which they chase in the air and are perhaps best known for ‘stooping’ down on their victims at speeds up to 200mph. They characteristically nest on cliffs – but in recent years have found that tall buildings in city centres suit them.  For pictures and more information try https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/peregrine

Peregrines suffered a decline due to persecution and biocides in the 1950s and 60s. However they are now recovering. They are often seen hunting on the Rutland Water Nature Reserve especially in winter, and have nested on Leicester Cathedral, so finding them in Oakham is not so unexpected.

‘Our’ female has an orange ring on her leg and from the letters (PJA) , we know she comes from a nest in Derbyshire. The male, who is slightly smaller, is un-ringed. Jane Dell, a local wildlife enthusiast, has taken the photos of them which are on the website.

We are hoping that these peregrines will nest later this spring. Advice has been taken from a local expert Tim Mackrill, who has worked on reintroducing Ospreys to Rutland Water and Poole Harbour, and White-tailed Eagles to the Isle of Wight. A nesting tray has been laid inside the parapet of the tower to encourage the peregrines to nest away from essential tower maintenance. Des Cooke of the Church Fabric Committee and Tower Captain Louis Totaro are liaising to minimise any disturbance to this legally protected species.

You can see the peregrines with the naked eye, but a pair of binoculars gives spectacular views. They spend a lot of their time between hunts perching on tower gargoyles. A good place to look for them is standing against the wall on the edge of the car park opposite the west door of the church. Do take care to remain socially distanced and keep yourself safe from traffic if you decide to stand there!

Tim and Paul setting up the nesting tray

A small working party has been set up to make initial decisions (Des Cook, Alison Long, Louis Totaro, Adam Lowe, Time Mackrill, Jane Dell and Sian Cheverton).   If you have questions about Peregrines in general or the All Saints pair in particular, ask one of us or e-mail office@oakhamteam.org.uk

We are also starting another group, ‘Peregrines at All Saints Oakham’ which will spread news of how the peregrines doing, and fundraise for a nest webcam for 2022. This will be part of Oakham All Saints Church website initially. We also hope to set up a Facebook page for people to share news and photos. 

Please note there is already a wonderful group called ‘Friends of All Saints’ which raises money for repairs and building projects for the church. This is completely separate from  ‘Peregrines at All Saints’ and to avoid confusion we have decided not to call our group ‘Friends of All Saints Peregrines’.

There is a ‘Donate’ button on the All Saints website which allows people to give securely. If you want to contribute to the webcam fund,  you can use this but please accompany it with an email to finance@oakhamteam.org.uk with ‘peregrines’ in the subject,  saying how much you are giving. Of course you can also give by cheque or cash at the church, but again please ensure that this is clearly labelled ‘for the All Saints Peregrines’.

Sian Cheverton