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Page last updated at 16:36 GMT, Thursday, 27 May 2010 17:36 UK
Manchester peregrine chicks ringed on city skyscraper


The peregrine chicks are the first to hatch on top of the CIS Tower

Ever since 2006, bird watchers and nature lovers in Manchester have followed the fortunes of the city's only nesting pair of peregrine falcons.

The peregrine is the UK's biggest falcon and, clocking speeds of up to 200 mph, is the fastest creature on Earth.

However, this year, the Manchester peregrines moved up in the world, choosing a new nest site - or 'scrape' - high up on the CIS tower.

On Thursday 27 May 2010, an expert from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) abseiled from the top of the building to ring two new chicks.

Clare Reed, Manchester People Engagement Officer for the RSPB watched it all happen and spoke to BBC Manchester:

So how did it go?

Clare Reed
Seeing the chicks was amazing - they were so beautiful! They've got big claws already though and really beautiful big eyes as well.
Clare Reed, RSPB

"First of all, the CIS tower is the second tallest building in Manchester so the views were amazing.

"What happened was that the steeplejack and the ringer abseiled down to get the chicks from the nest by which time the parents were getting very concerned and flying around making lots of noise.

"There were pretty incredible views of the parents, you could see them really close up, flying around the building.

"The two chicks were then brought up to the roof then the ringer gave them a couple of swabs and put a beautiful little red ring on their legs.

"We think they might both be female because their legs are actually thicker than the males when they're younger."

What was it like being up there?

"Seeing the peregrines so close was just breathtaking.

"They're really, really big birds and you realise that when you're so close to them.

"Seeing the chicks was amazing - they were so beautiful, beautiful little white things, but they've got big claws already and really beautiful big eyes as well.

"It was a once in a lifetime experience."

Why are the birds ringed?

"By ringing the birds and taking DNA samples, we stand a better chance of being able to trace them should they be stolen or something happen to them.

"We also have learned a lot about their movement, how long they live and how healthy their populations are.

"Young peregrines, for example, travel huge distances in their early years. In fact, the word 'peregrine' comes from the Latin word which means 'to travel'."

So what can you tell us about the adult birds - are they the same nesting pair we've come to know?

Peregrine falcon
the pair first moved into the city centre in 2006
have moved nest site from a secret location near the Irwell to the CIS tower
successfully raised up to four chicks each breeding season
prey on pigeons and other birds entering the city centre

"It's really difficult to tell, so that's still a bit of a mystery.

"The fact that they've only got two chicks this year where they normally have four may suggest it might be a different female but really it's too difficult to say.

"It could be that they've just had a bad winter which is why they've only had two chicks."

Tell us about the nest site or 'scrape' here on the CIS Tower?

"It's about one metre by one metre and the whole point of a scrape is to mimic the cliff top nest site they might have in the wild.

"It's made of gravel and they don't make a traditional nest like other birds, so they don't use sticks and mud and twigs.

"It just tends to be a gravel pit where you'll find pigeon legs and bits of carcasses and stuff!

"It's been there about four years and was put up there by the BTO.

"The reason we think they haven't used it in the past is because there has been some construction work taking place."

Peregrines don't get vertigo but is it in a perilous location?

"Oh definitely! It's right at the top of the building, it's overlooking the whole of the city,

I don't know even know how many metres drop but it's a very, very, very long way down!"

It's your first time at the ringing of the peregrine chicks. How special was it for you?

"I guess it happens once a year in Manchester and I'm the only person [at the RSPB] who's got to do that this year.

"So it's a memory that will last a very, very long time."

City's peregrines fly the nest
28 Apr 10 |  Nature & Outdoors

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