A YORKSHIRE Dales beauty spot, popular with thousands of day trippers every year, is also an attraction to a very different sort of visitor, and one which has just given birth.
Two peregrine falcons are nesting on the cliff face of Malham Cove and are busy hunting for food after the arrival of their newborn chicks.
Staff and volunteers from the RSPB and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) are running a special, free peregrine viewpoint at the foot of the cove, but while they can confirm that there are youngsters in the nest, only the birds of prey themselves know exactly how many chicks temporarily reside there.
Ian Court, a wildlife conservation officer for the YDNPA, said: “Because the nest is hidden, we don’t yet know how many chicks are in it. Last year the pair raised four – which was great news – so we are hoping for that kind of number this year.
“Once the chicks start growing and moving around, we will know how many there are and we should be seeing them in the air in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we are all waiting expectantly waiting for the first sighting.”
This year is likely to see more people at the cove and in the village because the 268-mile-long Pennine Way trail – which runs up the side of the cove – celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Jon Carter, the RSPB’s face-to-face area manager, said: “It’s fantastic news that the Peregrines have produced young, and we can’t wait to find out how many. There’s a very good chance over the next few weeks that people walking the National Trail or visiting the cove will get a first glimpse of the young ones.”
Weather permitting, the peregrine viewpoint is open from Saturdays to Wednesdays, 10.30am-4.30pm each day, until August 2. It allows visitors to watch the spectacular birds through high-powered telescopes.
People are being asked to stay away from the nest site, and the British Mountaineering Council has agreed to impose temporary, voluntary rock climbing restrictions around it.
An area at the top of the cliff has also been sealed off and visitors are asked to follow any on-site signage.
The cove is a popular site for nesting birds and since the viewpoint was opened in 2003, it has been visited by more than 200,000 people.
As well as the peregrines, green woodpeckers and great spotted woodpeckers are frequent visitors and the first house martins and redstarts are expected any time now, along with swallows and little owls.
The Malham viewpoint project is run in partnership with the YDNPA as part of the RSPB’s ‘Date with Nature’ programme of events, which makes rare and spectacular birds and animals accessible for everyone to see.
Volunteers at the viewpoint will be providing weekly updates on a special YDNPA website at www.malhamperegrines.org.uk and the birds are featured on Twitter using @malhamperegrine and on the RSPB’s Facebook pages.
The new arrivals at Malham follow news on Friday that a pair of peregrines nesting on York Minster are also thought to have laid a clutch of eggs.