The return of a pair of peregrine falcons to the ExxonMobil Fawley refinery and chemicals site for the fourth consecutive year has fuelled hopes that they may be breeding once again.
The birds of prey are no strangers to Fawley and in previous years they have raised young on nesting sites high up on some of the refinery stacks.
Their regular appearances provided the inspiration for Martin Bradley, a Process Technician at Fawley, to write a series of children’s books about the winged predators and he now keeps a keen eye on their comings and goings.
In 2013, Martin was instrumental in having a special nesting box installed 300ft above ground on one of the site’s stacks.
The aim was to give the peregrine fledglings a better chance of gaining the necessary strength to take their maiden flight, and proved a resounding success the following year when three youngsters successfully spread their wings for the first time.
Martin said: “The good news is that it looks like our peregrines have chosen to return to the nest box site again this year.
I’ve recently observed them displaying courtship behaviour, so fingers crossed we will have some good news to share in late spring.
The birds have returned very early this year but that is probably due to the mild weather we have had.”
Peregrine falcons are increasing in numbers across the UK, thanks to conservation projects like the one at Fawley, but they are still a rare sight.
Martin said: “Hampshire suffered a number of disappointing failures in 2015 so our contribution is extremely valuable and of interest to both conservationists and ornithological groups.
“The fact our falcons are returning year after year is a good indication that we are doing the right things across the site to continue to attract them.”