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Watching Woking's peregrines thrive

7 April 2017

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I first started seeing peregrines in Woking when WWF-UK moved offices from Panda House, Catteshall Lane in Godalming to The Living Planet Centre, Brewery Road in October 2013. I knew Peregrines had been seen in the town but it wasn’t until February 2014 that I had my first ‘fix’. I had occasional sightings during the following months but it was in 2015 when they became more obvious. During March 2015 I witnessed Peregrines performing stunning aerobatics near Export House and on numerous occasions a pair could be seen on the building’s northwest stairwell ledge overlooking the entrance to Sainsbury’s in Wolsey Place. It could have been wish full thinking but I suspected possible breeding behaviour. I did some research and it turned out I wasn’t the only one interested in these falcons. I learned that Richard Denyer, a licenced BTO bird ringer, had spent much time in the past trying to get a Peregrine nest box installed on Export House.
In June 2015 I spoke with another contact, John Banister of Guildford Environment Forum, who suggested that we contact the owners of Export House to see if they would consider the installation of a Peregrine nest box. From there, a project began to develop and soon plans were approved for the nest box to be installed at the top of the building in January 2016, along with a CCTV system to record the birds behaviour.

Following a seemingly long and very frustrating wait, we finally witnessed the Peregrines mating at the end of February 2016 and the first of four eggs was laid on 22nd March. With extensive work from Craig Denford of Akiko Design, urban Peregrine Falcon specialist Nick Dixon, Shahid Azeem of Arcom, Jason Fathers of Wildlife Windows, Richard Denyer, Denis Corley and Martin Pooley, went live on the internet on 14th April 2016. It proved a great attraction, and Craig advised the website had approximately 2,500 hits per day leading up to the first hatching. On May 1st 2016, the number of hits was over 5,000. The first hatching (1st May 2016) was noticed by Nick Dixon at 05.20. That’s dedication...
The Woking Peregrine Project has now started its second year and five eggs have now been laid in the nest box. Watching the activities of the Woking Peregrines will be greatly enhanced by the recent installation of two external cameras sited near the nest box at the north west end of Export House. Both cameras will give extended views of the adults and, hopefully, juvenile Peregrines which wasn’t possible by viewing the website last year.
The process of planning, installing and funding of the new cameras has been achieved with the help of Woking Borough Council’s Tracey Haskins – Green Infrastructure Manager. With her help, we decided on the new camera locations and suggested Jason Fathers (Wildlife Windows) carried out the installation work.
I’m lucky in that I have distant views of the west side of Export House from the WWF Living Planet Centre and I’m able to watch the Peregrines most days from the Peacock’s car park (Level 4, Yellow Zone). The Peregrines can also be seen from Jubilee Square and from the east side of Export House particularly when there’s a cold north westerly wind. It would be very helpful to know if anyone notices any interesting Peregrine behaviour (i.e.; display flights - mating during February to March / sightings of juvenile Peregrines from June) with dates / times of observations. This can be reported via the Woking Peregrine Project website: