I was out and about around Runcorn old town this morning and called in at Mersey Road to check on the Peregrine present on the bridge. After an absence of nearly 4 weeks the female Peregrine is back on her favourite perch. She sits boldly on the headdress of Britannia set into one of the heraldic shields that adorn the railway bridge. In actual fact the shield lays above the Widnes side of the river so now she’s known to me as the Viking Falcon.
A brief history of time.
In the year AD 915 the area south of the River Mersey was under the Kingdom of Mercia and was overseen by a Princess named Ethelfleda. She was the daughter of the Saxon King Alfred the Great. If you’re of a curtain generation then you may remember being taught this at school – Alfred was the king who burnt the cakes. Being the daughter of the king, Ethel was given charge to control the land of Mercia in this area up to, and including, the south shore of the River Mersey (the river derives its name from a Saxon word meaning ‘boundary’). The land to the north was controlled by the Danes (or Vikings if you like).
In more recent times the towns folk of Runcorn and Widnes got together and celebrated the naming of the railway bridge to their favourite daughter Ethelfleda.
There is a point to this…when you travel across Runcorn Bridge from a southerly direction you can see adjacent to the road bridge a sandstone constructed railway bridge (Ethelfleda) – both of these cross the River Mersey at the narrowest part of the Upper Mersey estuary.
A car passengers view of where the Peregrine usually sits up on the railway bridge.
There are four heraldic shields depicting, two of Britannia seated and holding shields, one of a bird (which looks like a Black Stork but is probably a Cormorant) and one heraldic shield. Just below both of the Britannia shields is a metal via ferrata type ladder. Some days (normally during the winter months) you get a really good view of a fine adult Peregrine Falcon just perched up on the ladder. If there are lots of feral pigeons on the bridge then it’s unlikely the falcon will not be present.
Ethelfleda Railway Bridge where the Peregrine rests up (viewed from Mersey Road, Runcorn).
Where to see the Peregrine.
The falcon can be seen from the comfort of your car along Mersey Road at either Runcorn old town or West Bank, Widnes. If it is there then it’s a lot safer viewing than craning your neck whilst attempting to drive over the bridge and looking for her.
Alternatively if you fancy combining raptor watching with some Starling murmurations then get here at 3.00 pm on a winters evening. There is a good chance to see Peregrine, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk or even a Merlin? The gulls move west to their roost site on the Mersey estuary at dusk and the chances of seeing large gulls like Iceland and Glaucous are real possibilities.
Video of the Peregrine here: https://vimeo.com/192287393