Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 17:03 UK

Rare birds nest in school grounds

Peregrine chicks
The birds of prey have hatched three chicks in the tower

Pupils at a west Lancashire school are getting extra curricular lessons in nature after a pair of rare birds set up residence in the school's grounds.

The peregrine falcons, which have hatched three chicks, are nesting among the gargoyles and statues of Kingswood College at Scarisbrick Hall, Ormskirk.

The birds of prey usually nest high up on cliffs but in recent years they have been making their homes in urban areas.

Numbers are also increasing because of changes in pesticide use, experts say.

Pairs of breeding peregrine falcons in the UK have risen from 360 to about 1,500 since the 1950s.

'Fantastic news'

Graham Clarkson, who works at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' (RSPB) Marshside nature reserve, near Southport, has been keeping an eye on the falcons and is set to teach pupils about the creatures.

He said: "It's fantastic news that peregrine falcons have chosen to nest on Scarisbrick Hall.

"Not that long ago these awesome birds were very rare, but the fact that they are now successfully nesting on buildings is a great sign their numbers are beginning to recover.

"However, in some parts of the UK these amazing birds are still illegally killed or their chicks stolen to supply the trade in illegal falconry birds."

Heidi Sutcliffe, Year 3 teacher at Kingswood College Trust, added: "The birds are a magnificent sight.

"We're very lucky to have some fantastic wildlife in the grounds around the school, but to have three young peregrines perched on the balustrade of the hall's tower is a special treat."

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