Norwich Cathedral peregrine falcon lays her first egg

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Media captionPeregrine falcons have nested at the cathedral since 2011

A peregrine falcon has laid an egg on Norwich Cathedral spire fuelling hopes it will be the start of a third successful brood for the city.

The first egg of 2014 was spotted on a live webcam feed from a specialist platform on the spire 75m (246ft) above the ground at 15:04 GMT.

An expert from the Hawk and Owl Trust said the mother was a "healthy bird" and could lay up to three more eggs.

Hatching is expected at the end of April or early May.

Live nest-cam images can be viewed via the internet on computers and mobiles and last year had more than a million hits, said the trust.

Volunteer Lin Murray said: "Based on the last couple of years we weren't anticipating eggs until the weekend, but we've had some very good weather.

"You can tell they are experienced parents now by the way the male has settled straight on the egg and the female is confident to leave him on the nest while she goes off to feed."

Over the winter months the male peregrine fiercely protected the pair's penthouse perch in the city's desirable cathedral quarter.

"The male has been around most of the year as to stake a claim on his des res territory," said Ms Murray.

"There have been several intruders over the winter but he's seen off all incomers looking for a nesting site."

Fledgling fatalities

Four chicks hatched in 2013, the second brood in the city since 2011 and among the first in 200 years, but one died from a "massive trauma to the brain" after "colliding with something solid while at speed", while another died in a suspected flying accident.

Peregrine falcon numbers declined during the 19th and 20th Centuries due to illegal shooting and use of certain pesticides on farms.

The first permanent recording of a breeding pair in Norfolk for hundreds of years happened in 2010 at a granary site in North Lynn.

There are currently fewer than 1,400 breeding pairs in the UK.

Although they usually favour rocky cliff tops to make their nests, pairs have bred successfully in places as diverse as a disused nuclear reactor, and on top of a building belonging to Nottingham Trent University, as well as cathedrals in both Norwich and Derby.

A viewing area at Norwich Cathedral, set up by the Hawk and Owl Trust, will be open to the public from 1 April.

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