PEREGRINES are nesting at Salisbury Cathedral for the first time in more than 50 years.
Prior to the 1950s fledgling peregrines were fairly regularly seen at the cathedral but the population declined in that decade and 1953 was the last time they nested there.
Clerk of works Gary Price said: “The peregrine population went into steep decline throughout the 1950s and '60s as a result of the effects of the widespread use of organochloride pesticides (eg DDT).
“These chemicals worked their way up the food chain, causing egg shell thinning and failed nests.
"By the mid 60s the population had fallen to only a few dozen pairs across the UK.
“However, with the banning of DDT and its relatives, the peregrine population slowly started to recover in the 1980s, with birds returning to traditional sites.
“Their return to Salisbury cathedral has been long anticipated, with birds regularly wintering on the spire, and we're delighted they have now settled.”
Staff at the cathedral have been working with the RSPB to try to entice the birds to nest there.
After taking advice on the type of nesting box to provide they observed an increased activity around the spire and the peregrines were spotted sitting at the top of the tower.
There are now three eggs in their nest. Phil Sheldrake, Conservation Officer with the RSPB, said: “Salisbury Cathedral really is the ancestral home of the 'urban' peregrine, with records dating from the mid 1800s. It is fantastic we now have one of our most spectacular birds back at possibly the country's most spectacular cathedral.”
Visitors taking the cathedral's tower tours will shortly be able to see the latest happenings via a screen set up at the base of the spire.
Tours can be booked online at salisburycathedral.org.uk, by calling 01722 555156 or at the cathedral.