Peregrine falcon flies into Northumberland surface mines

April 8, 2015 | Brenkley News

Workers at two Northumberland surface mines have been getting a close-up view of a new visitor to their sites – a peregrine falcon.

The bird has been recently been spotted circling and hunting around North East employer Banks Mining’s Brenkley Lane and Shotton surface mines near Cramlington.

Plant operator Thomas Brotherton used his smartphone during a break to capture the falcon with its freshly-caught prey in the Brenkley Lane mine void itself, just yards from his 100-tonne dump truck.

Peregrine falcons are a protected species under The Wildlife & Countryside Act, meaning that people, businesses and organisations have a legal duty to not intentionally disturb them.

The Banks Group takes a “restoration first” approach to its mining operations, where work is undertaken to return land that is no longer required on operational sites, rather than waiting until the overall end of operations.

It has planted more than a million trees as part of the landscaping work carried out at its operational and restored surface mine sites, and restoration work is already well under way at the Brenkley Lane and nearby Shotton mining sites, even though operations at both will continue for a number of years.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at Banks Group, says: “The falcon has been spotted regularly around the Brenkley Lane and Shotton sites, and not only do we often see it circling the surrounding overburden mounds, where food is in plentiful supply, but it also uses the working voids to its advantage when hunting pigeons.

“The falcon lands in the mines quite often, and seems quite undisturbed by our operations there, as the photos of it staring straight at our driver would clearly suggest.

“Our surface mining sites are, perhaps unexpectedly, home to a wide variety of wildlife, with everything from bats, squirrels and many different breeds of birds through to roe deer, hares and even otters being regularly seen about them.

“The landscaped soil and overburden mounds are particularly important in this respect, as they are designed and proactively managed to provide habitats for a range of different smaller animals which in turn provide a food supply for other predators.

“In addition to this, the progressive site restoration work we carry out has a strong focus on creating new habitats for different types of animals, and our expert landscape management team works with a range of outside bodies to ensure we create the right kinds of conditions for these species to thrive.”

Durham-headquartered Banks Mining currently employs over 200 people across the Brenkley Lane and Shotton mining sites, and has worked in South East Northumberland for more than three decades.

Registered office: Inkerman House, St John's Road, Meadowfield, Durham, DH7 8XL

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