Sitting as near to the precipice as I dare, which believe me is not very near at all with every one of my companions closer to it than me, I am surrounded by the new green fronds of bracken and stinging my bum on nettles. The bank of green bracken intermingled with the golden reddish brown of last years growth slopes away and then disappears, if I stand and peer I can see the drop. To the left and right I can see the steel grey sheer walls of the quarry, meeting deep green grass below before the land drops again to the valley floor where road, river and trees meander through a patchwork of verdant green fields dotted with the white specks of sheep. Behind us rise giant buttresses of hard grey rock, merging with the green and reddish browns of mountain moorland and slipping into loose screes of tumbling rock. The calls of wheatear, willow warbler and pied wagtail fill the blue sky across which white clouds scud. Mingled with this is the near constant bleating of sheep; the higher pitch of young lambs mixed with the deeper call of their mothers.
|The beautiful welsh valley|
Around me is climbing gear; hat, rope, harness, stakes and caving ladder, but it will not be me heading over that cliff, climbing down that ladder. That feet belongs to Mike, who at 71 is a braver person than me! The gentle breeze rustles tree, bush and bracken as slowly Mike disappears over the edge as John, another inspirational 70 plus, belaying him. Another rope to which is attached a large bird bag is passed down. From the blue skies above comes the cry of the bird whose nest he is approaching. A scalding ‘rehk rehk rehk’ rings out around the quarry and over head. The bird swoops down, pointed wings, slate grey back, pale barred chest, distinctive black hood and moustache. The unmistakable signs of the fastest animal on this planet. The Peregrine Falcon. In free fall flight these birds can reach over 200 mph.
|Belaying our climber over the edge|
A tug on the rope indicates the bag is ready to be pulled up. Slowly, carefully the load is brought up over the precipice and delivered to the waiting ringer. With great care a single, white fluffy chick, with bright yellow legs and well formed black claws is removed from the bag. It may have a while to go before it will be roaming the skies in search of prey but its legs, talons and sharp bill are already well developed.
|Peregrine Falcon chick|
As part of John’s ongoing monitoring of the peregrine falcons throughout this welsh valley, this chick is ringed, weighed and measured. As with most nests this year while three eggs were laid, just one chick remains, the focus now of the parents undivided attention.
With great care the chick is replaced back in the bag, lowered back over the cliff and returned to the safety of its nest on a ledge. Mike hauls himself back up the ladder and returns to the safety of solid, level ground.