The public are being asked to be vigilant in the area around Beeston Castle after local volunteers reported two threats to rare peregrine falcons nesting in the area, just days after their eggs were laid.
A pair of the iconic birds of prey nest in the castle grounds, but as one of the rarest breeding species in the region, they sadly remain under constant threat from illegal egg-collectors.
A group of dedicated volunteers from Beeston Peregrine Watch maintain a 24-hour monitoring operation in partnership with Cheshire Police.
However, two cases of individuals attempting to illegally access the nesting area have already heightened concerns this spring.
The pair of peregrines have nested in the Beeston Castle area since 1988, but have fallen victim to illegal damage or theft of their eggs or fledglings on four occasions.
Despite a round-the-clock observation by local volunteers during the critical incubation period and the threat of prison sentences and large fines, cases of egg collecting and stolen fledglings remains a constant risk.
Bernard Wright from the Beeston Peregrine Watch said: “It’s both sad and frustrating that there are still individuals who would look to risk not only the ongoing future of such a magnificent species in Cheshire, but also in their own lives in this pursuit of collecting birds eggs or fledglings.
“It’s only through the dedication of our volunteer teams that two threats from people attempting to access the nest area have already been averted this year, both within a matter of days.
“These roles are not without their risks, as we often have no idea about the individuals we are dealing with.”
Peregrine falcons suffered huge declines during the 1950s and 1960s through the use of agricultural chemicals, but have since seen a resurgence in some parts of the UK, largely by adapting to urban environments like city skyscrapers and cathedrals.
In the countryside, however, their numbers have been slower to recover and there are still just a handful of pairs nesting in Cheshire, making them a continued target for would-be egg collectors and even for the theft of fledgling falcons.
The team is urging anyone who witnesses people engaging in suspicious activity in the area around the castle, in particular individuals within the castle walls, woodland or cliff areas outside of the daily castle opening times to contact the police, and where possible note any car registration details.
Threats are especially likely to come from people with climbing gear in the vicinity of the cliffs.
The Peregrine Watch group has stressed that the public should not attempt to confront anyone or approach individuals who may be involved in illegal activities.
New volunteers are invited to help with the project observing the nest and will be fully briefed.
Contact Caroline Jones on firstname.lastname@example.org.