The Peregrine project at Plymbridge Woods
Our woodland is home to an array of wildlife, including rare birds. The Plym Peregrine project began in 2001 to monitor and protect the birds in the woodland around Dartmoor during the nesting season.
There have been breeding Peregrine falcons at Cann Quarry in Plymbridge Woods for at least 50 years. Since the project started, 34 chicks have successfully left the nest and some of the young have been recorded at other locations raising their own chicks.
The team of rangers at Plymbridge Woods is small, consisiting of just 3 staff. They couldn’t look after this special place without the essential help of a dozen amazing volunteer rangers, plus 30 brilliant volunteers dedicated to the Peregrine Project, and of course not forgetting Otley the team dog.
Volunteers are essential to the project and protection of the birds. The team at Plymbridge Woods have a knowledgeable, passionate and dedicated team, but they always welcome new members.
David Houghton, a ranger at Plymbridge, talks about his involvement in the Peregrine Project.
What is the Peregrine Project?
The project was started as a deterrent following the deliberate poisoning of the birds in 2000. 17 years later the Peregrine project still keeps a keen eye on the falcons in their natural habitat. The heart of the scheme however is to use the vantage point of Plymbridge Woods to educate and inspire visitors, school groups and local clubs to discover the wildlife near them.
How did you become involved in the program?
I started as a volunteer on the Peregrine project whilst studying at Plymouth University a few years ago. Once I had graduated I was keen to get more involved with the National Trust at Plymbridge and began volunteering alongside the rangers in their other duties before becoming a member of staff, and now I manage the project.
What is special about Peregrines?
I think that they are a brilliant example of the fascinating wildlife that can be found right here in the UK. They’re the fastest animal on the planet, capable of flying at speeds of over 200mph, and you can come and see them in the wild just a short drive from your home.
They’ll often perform amazing flight displays, whether they’re fending off an intruder or enjoying a warm day, which is amazing to watch.
How much contact do you have with the birds?
Direct contact is solely ringing chicks to follow them once they have left the nest for research and conservation purposes. We then monitor the birds during their nesting period in the spring.
What’s the best bit about being involved in a program like this?
The best bit is being able to see the chicks once they are flying. The parents will teach them hunting tactics and flight skills, which are amazing to watch. It also shows how successful the location is for the Peregrines and is a really nice pay off for the great work done by our volunteer team.
How would you encourage people to interact with local nature, specifically birds?
I knew very little about birds when I started volunteering on the Peregrine project, but being alongside people who had the knowledge really helped me learn quickly.
I would suggest having a look to see what sort of opportunities there are around you; many organizations will have volunteer roles listed online including the National Trust. A handy guidebook or app and a love of challenges will help you teach yourself as you go.
What other conservation projects do you work on at Plymbridge Woods?
There is always lots going on! As well as the peregrine falcons we have a wide range of other birds calling the woods home, so we care for it in a way that supports them. We manage several wildflower meadows for the benefit of bees and other insects.
We are currently working on a new conservation management plan to review other ways we can have a positive impact on the wildlife and diversity at Plymbridge, including a community volunteer led coppice rotation.