Nature Notes: Keep an eye to the sky for world’s fastest bird

A peregrine falcon - the world's fastest bird

A peregrine falcon - the world's fastest bird - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I’m sure you, just like me, are growing weary of the daily menu of constantly depressing news.

So, for the next few weeks, I am going to try and keep this little spot in the paper, a ‘positive’ zone!

Of course, we are well aware of the threats that face our precious wildlife and the slump in the diversity of our natural history is a growing concern.

However, there are a few species that have bucked the downward trend in numbers, and some have gone on to thrive, and their success stories demonstrate just what can be achieved when concerned people come together.

I have previously documented a particular ‘good news’ local story featuring the come back of the glorious cirl bunting.

And, as I was about to walk under the bridge, at the lower end of Polsham Road, I was reminded of another captivating return from the brink.

I heard a loud ‘thwack’ and looked up to see several grey feathers falling to earth. A cacophony of alarm calls alerted me to a large dark silhouette in the blue sky above.

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It was a peregrine falcon, flying off with a limp pigeon clasped in her talons!

I immediately knew it was a female because of her size; the female peregrine is up to 30 per cent larger than her mate.

It isn’t the first time I have seen peregrines in the area; my first encounter happened last winter on Paignton seafront, when I saw one, possibly the same bold bird, take a young crow in front of astounded onlookers.

This bird’s survival is quite remarkable. Back in the 1960s the peregrine was almost extinct in Britain.

During the war it had been ruthlessly destroyed to prevent it taking messenger pigeons and, then in the 1950s, DDT poisoning - which caused the females to lay eggs that had thin shells - threatened the war time survivors.

Thankfully, this dreadful insecticide was banned in the UK in 1986 and the peregrine has returned to many of its former haunts, including the cliffs around Torbay.

So, next time you’re strolling along the prom, keep an eye to the sky for the world’s fastest bird.