CONSERVATIONISTS are hopeful 2020 will be another successful year for peregrine falcons nesting on Winchester Cathedral.

The birds of prey have returned to nest high up on the roof of the church as they have for several years.

The peregrines colonised the heights of the cathedral after the Hampshire Police headquarters on Romsey Road was knocked down in 2017. Police staff got used to the birds swooping on pigeons in an explosion of feathers. At top speed peregrines can reach 200mph, the fastest creatures in the world.

Keith Betton and Richard Jacobs, from the Hampshire Ornithological Society, are keeping tabs with a webcam at the cathedral roof.

They posted on the cathedral website: "Our first egg in the Peregrine nest. This is a day later than last year. The female (shown here) should lay eggs every 2 days now until she has a clutch of 4, but will not cover them regularly until the third egg. She wants to have most of her chicks hatching on the same day and one a bit later. It can be used as food for the others if prey gets scarce. Mark your calendar on 26 April …. when that first egg should hatch."

In recent years peregrines have been a conservation success story. Extinct in the South by the 1980s because of pesticide use, they have been slowly increasing in numbers.

In 1993 a pair nested on the chimney of Fawley Power Station and at the police HQ in Winchester in 2011. It is reckoned that 25 pairs nested in Hampshire in 2018.