Wildlife photographer Steve Race documents the peregrine falcons that draw many people to Scarborough's Marine Drive

The peregrine falcons nesting on the cliffs above Scarborough are as much a draw for some visitors as the town’s long sandy beaches and historic castle.

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 2:20 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th July 2020, 2:24 pm

Breeding season is a particularly exciting time with people eager to see if any young appear on the cliff face at Marine Drive.

This year the unexpected arrival of lockdown has meant wildlife photographer and Scarborough resident Steve Race has been able to document their progress daily and share it with bird watchers through social media.

Mr Race, a director at Yorkshire Coast Nature, said it has been a wonderful experience.

Steve Race on Marine Drive

“I was born and bred here so I know the wildlife like the back of my hand. I have been photographing the peregrines for many years and this year lockdown has meant I had the time to go down every day over three weeks and show their progress.”

Peregrines lay their eggs around the end of April, beginning of May.

Mr Race said you can tell when there is a nest as the female disappears from sight, eventually reappearing to gather food.

“That is how I knew they were there but they are so small and difficult to see I wasn’t sure how many there were,” he said.

Steve Race on Marine Drive

“I saw two and thought there might be a third. There was, just a few days behind the others. It was great to see them.”

Outside lockdown, Mr Race leads wildlife photography workshops and nature tours. He said birds of prey seem to fascinate everybody and the peregrine falcon, as the fastest animal on earth, is astonishing.

“It hunts on the wing and when it is catching its prey, it flies up high using a thermal then drops like a stone, hitting its target and killing it straight away.”

He said when the falcon is in the plunge – known as a stoupe – it can reach 200mph.

One of Steve's images

The peregrine falcons nest in and amongst a colony of kittiwakes and Mr Race said although they rarely eat the sea birds they have been known to use them as teaching aids.

“They often catch the kittiwakes in mid air and drag them along by the legs then let them go.”

He said one of the most fascinating things about being able to document the youngsters on a daily basis has been how much they change in such as short space of time.

“They change day by day and it is incredible in four weeks they go from being helpless chicks to the ultimate predator.”

The falcon family includes hobby, kestrel, merlin and peregrine. Peregrine falcons have long, broad, pointed wings and a relatively short tail. They have black ‘moustaches’ down the sides of their faces.

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