Ely Cathedral at risk of 'losing' peregrine falcons says avid birdwatcher

Peregrine falcon Ely Cathedral

Peregrine falcons nested at Ely Cathedral for the first time last year, but according to conservationist Jonathan Hall, they could be at risk of "being displaced". - Credit: Ely Cathedral

A conservationist who worked with Ely Cathedral in the hope of attracting peregrine falcons five years ago said the rare bird is at risk of “being displaced”. 

Jonathan Hall first installed a nest box with his brother on the cathedral’s roof in 2016 to try and attract the peregrines after they were given the go-ahead. 

“Once the nest box was installed, there was no need for communication with the cathedral as we awaited the bird’s arrival,” he said. 

Four years later, the peregrines, first spotted at the cathedral in 2019, successfully hatched two chicks before Jonathan was told he was no longer needed. 

“The birds nested last year and shortly after, I was contacted by Ely Cathedral to say they invited the Hawk & Owl Trust to take over the project,” he said. 


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“I was told by the cathedral they inspected the box and said it was rotting, but this wasn’t true and they would replace it and face it in a different direction to where I faced it.” 

Jonathan, who said he helped the first peregrine falcon to nest in his home county of Norfolk for 150 years, then asked Ely Cathedral not to replace his nest box as this could “spook” the birds. 

Peregrine falcon nest box Ely Cathedral

Jonathan Hall inside the nest box that he installed at Ely Cathedral in 2016. - Credit: Jonathan Hall

The keen birdwatcher also said the Hawk & Owl Trust had since installed a webcam near the doorway of the cathedral’s West Tower, where they have made home. 

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“What upsets me is I have been elbowed out, but potentially, the birds have been displaced from what they have come to know,” Jonathan said. 

Several peregrine falcons have made Ely Cathedral their home and Fen photographer Martyn Jolley post

Several peregrine falcons have made Ely Cathedral their home and Fen photographer Martyn Jolley posted these stunning photos on the Nature of the Fens Facebook page. Picture: MARTYN JOLLEY - Credit: Archant


Several peregrine falcons have made Ely Cathedral their home and Fen photographer Martyn Jolley post

Several peregrine falcons have made Ely Cathedral their home and Fen photographer Martyn Jolley posted these stunning photos on the Nature of the Fens Facebook page. Picture: MARTYN JOLLEY - Credit: Archant

“I’m disappointed with Ely Cathedral and the way I have been treated. We could have worked together but they have airbrushed me out of the project,” Jonathan said. 

The Hawk & Owl Trust declined to comment on the matter. 

A spokesperson for Ely Cathedral said they asked the Trust to look after the nest boxes as it is “an official body” to take care of the birds, but added they will look further into the matter. 

West and Octagon Towers Ely Cathedral

The West Tower and Octagon Tower at Ely Cathedral. The doorway of the West Tower is where Jonathan said the peregrine falcons are currently nesting. - Credit: Ely Cathedral

But Jonathan has not ruled out a future partnership with Ely Cathedral and hopes the peregrines’ current home does come to fruition. 

“It’s not worth taking a chance in disturbing and losing them,” he said. 

The peregrine has an incredible wing span and can reach speeds of up to 250 mph. Image: prc-photogra

The peregrine has an incredible wing span and can reach speeds of up to 250 mph. Image: prc-photography - Credit: prc-photography

“I hope it does work, but if they put a box back in the correct size and direction, hopefully the birds will come back where they will be safer.” 

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