Endangered falcons threatened with eviction as Fulham’s Charing Cross Hospital plans partial site sell-off

A family of endangered peregrine falcons are the unlikely group of Fulham residents whose home is threatened by looming cuts at Charing Cross Hospital.

When Charlie the falcon swooped in, in 2007, she nearly knocked bird enthusiast Nathalie Mahieu off her feet, in more ways than one.

Seven and a half years later, the same falcon, with a matronly disposition, remains proudly perched on the top balcony of the east wing of the hospital.

But Charlie’s future, and that of her brood, is in question as implementation of new NHS plans to sell of part of the hospital could evict the family from their home.

Ms Mahieu said: “On a personal level, I’d rather the hospital didn’t disappear because it’s been pretty good for us.

“I know it’s not the most beautiful building in the world but as far as the Peregrines go it is perfect.”

One of the reasons Ms Mahieu regards the building as a ‘perfect’ falcon habitat is because it offers the birds, and their nests, safety.

The ledge to their nest can only be accessed by abseiling before entering a series of locked doors.

She said: “That doesn’t mean that people haven’t tried to harm them.

“There is a big campaign where pigeon fancies are trying to put peregrines and sparrow hawks into a very bad light.”

However the campaigns haven’t stopped the falcons from receiving their fair share of attention as patients occasionally request rooms with a view of their nest.

The hospital manager – a big nature lover – appreciates the presence of the peregrines and their helping hand in the overcrowding pigeon problem.

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URBAN BIRDS: Snapshots of Charlie and her family (© Nathalie Mahieu)

Tim Webbe, from the RSPB, said: “They are not particularly vicious, obviously they hunt to eat but they don’t attack without reason.

“They are living quite happily side by side with people at the moment.”

Ms Mahieu first became involved when she was approached by Dave Morrison, a prominent figure in the bird enthusiast community, to send all her weekly sightings of the falcons.

When Charlie and her previous mate, the jauntily named Mr C, lost an egg after it rolled off the edge of the fifteenth floor and smashed the RSPB reinforced protection around the nesting site.

The new nest was built to prevent the accident reoccurring and Ms Mahieu and Mr Morrison shared responsibility of monitoring the falcons with daily logs and CCTV.

The CCTV footage has captured numerous entertaining events from the falcons with Ms Mahieu citing Charlie and new partner Tom’s courtship rituals.

“A few winters ago – Tom was in his rain quarter, very well protected from the rain,” she said.

“Charlie arrived and tried to entice him out to go and do some courtship stuff and he said no way, I’m not going”.

The disagreement between the love birds stemmed from Charlie’s love of bathing and the dapper looking Tom’s hatred of rain.

After the disbandment of the Peregrine Working Group, Ms Mahieu dedicated a website for the falcons ‘FAB Peregrines’ – a play on words of the location Fulham and Barnes.

She said: “I wanted to spread the word because I do think the more people talk about them and the more people know about them, the better.”

Mr Webbe said the first pair of peregrine falcons moved into Greater London just more than 10 years ago.

He said: “Up until that point peregrine falcon numbers had been pretty low because they had either been hunted to extinction or poisoned out of existence”.

The first ever peregrine falcon to settle in London can be viewed free of charge, with her partner through the telescopes at the Tate Modern on the South Bank.

Featured picture courtesy of Art G., with thanks

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