PEREGRINES nesting at Salisbury Cathedral for the first time in more than 50 years have welcomed three new arrivals.
The chicks hatched at the weekend after the birds made their nest in the building for the first time in half a century with the encouragement of staff and conservation charities.
Prior to the 1950s fledgling peregrines were fairly regularly seen at the cathedral but the population declined throughout the 1950s and '60s as a result of the effects of the widespread use of organochloride pesticides such as DDT.
“These chemicals worked their way up the food chain, causing egg shell thinning and failed nests,” said cathedral clerk of works Gary Price. “By the mid-60s the population had fallen to only a few dozen pairs across the UK.”
After DDT and its relatives were banned, the peregrine population slowly started to recover and the birds to return to their traditional nesting sites.
But prior to this year, the last time peregrines were welcomed to the cathedral was 1953.
Staff at the cathedral joined forces with the RSPB to try to entice the birds to nest there, providing a nesting box and doing all they could to make the venue attractive to the birds.
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. They nested and laid three eggs, all of which have now hatched.
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 can 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.
To keep up-to-date with the new parents and their chicks go to salisburycathedral.org.uk/news/clerk-works-blog-peregrine-update.