A drone is to be flown above Salford Quays to pinpoint the best place to install a nesting tray for peregrine falcons. It is hoped the move will help a pair who have tried to breed since 2017 have a family.
As reported in the Manchester Evening News their haunt is two tower blocks which bookend the BBC Studios - The Holiday Inn, known as The White Tower, and one opposite, known as The Blue Tower, which houses offices.
Their nest has been on the ledge of the Blue Tower on a far corner. Since 2019, the Manchester Raptor Group has been lobbying land and property giants Peel, who own both buildings for permission to install a device on one of the blocks to give them shelter which they believe would ensure the falcons were able to raise a family.
But, although Peel has acknowledged it would be a 'fantastic project', bosses have far not been able to give the go-ahead. Both blocks are scheduled to have major works carried out on them in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy to replace cladding.
Work has started on the Holiday In, with scaffolding currently erected on one side. No work has commenced on the second tower. The Raptor Group had hoped a nesting tray, which they have had built would be in place by the end of February this year in time for the early spring breeding season. But issues with getting access to the outside of the towers meant the deadline was missed.
Judith Smith of the Manchester Raptor Group, and formerly Bird Recorder for Greater Manchester from 1992 to 2011, and Roy Ridings, regular falcon watcher at Salford Quays have been lobbying Peel to find a suitable location for the tray to be fitted. In August last year Peel indicated they would help.
Judith said: "As I understand it, re-cladding work on Blue Tower is starting soon, rather than in 2026 which is when we first told it would be. I have a meeting (with Peel) on April 20th to see if there is a suitable ledge on White Tower. Roy thinks there is. Also the cladding is nearly finished on White and the workmen could put it up as they have all the access equipment already.
"The birds use both buildings particularly the signage saying Holiday Inn as the fitting will be slightly warm from the fluorescent lights and I suppose it keeps their feet warm! The only thing that might happen now is that the birds will lay directly onto the ledge at Blue which we think they've done before - but without any substrate they chill or roll about. September is a new bit of information for the tray to be fitted, but it doesn't really matter as we've missed this breeding window now."
Helen Anderton, MediaCity Operations Director said: “After seeking external advice and liaising with the Raptor Group we’ve agreed the best place to install a nesting box is on MediaCity’s White Tower. Essential works are currently being carried out on White Tower, however, once they are complete in September the nesting box will be installed ahead of next year’s nesting season .
"Over the coming weeks we’re due to meet with the Raptor group and send a drone up so we can pinpoint exactly where to place the nesting box. It’s been fascinating to see and learn more about the falcons who seem to have taken a shine to MediaCity.”
Roy said: "I started watching them in 2017 and they have attempted to breed every year. They get to a certain stage then nothing. I've watched them mate, and change shifts on the nest Each year it is believed they lay eggs but it doesn't go any further. I don't think we will get anywhere until we get a tray installed."
There are estimated to be 13 pairs of peregrines in Greater Manchester, nesting on urban buildings, mills, and quarries. Pairs have nested at Manchester, Rochdale, and Bolton town halls, and in mills in Stockport, Chadderton, and Wigan. Demolition of Agecroft Power Station was delayed when a pair nested in a tower there.
Agile, on a level flight a peregrine falcon can reach 60mph. But when it climbs high, spots a meal on the wing, and tucks in its wings, and hurtles into a dive, in what is called a 'stoop', it can reach an astonishing 200 mph.