LAST weekend saw the opening of the hugely popular Malham Peregrine Project, where people can get up close to the fastest animals on the planet.

Now in its 15th year, the project jointly run by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and wildlife charity, the RSPB, allows people to observe the nesting birds through telescopes from a viewpoint at the base of the limestone cove.

The cove is one of the most successful nesting sites for the falcons in the national park, with at least 56 young raised since a pair first nested there in 1993.

Over the last 15 years , it is estimated a whacking 230,000 people have visited the project pouring around £330,000 per year into the Dales economy.

And this year, with the Malham falcons appearing on Channel 5’s documentary Yorkshire: A Year in the Wild, numbers are expected to be even higher.

The national park’s wildlife conservation officer Ian Court said everyone was looking forward to what was hoped would be another successful season.

“ It’s our 15th year at Malham Cove, in which time more than 230,000 visitors have come to see these magnificent birds of prey. It is always exciting at the start of the season, as we welcome the first visitors to the viewpoint and watch the peregrines settle down to nest.

“It will also be a good time to work out the whereabouts of the other resident bird species such as the Green Woodpeckers, which can be seen in and around the Cove.”

The project is designed to show not only visitors to the area, but also the people who live in Craven, what spectacular wildlife there is to be seen in and around Malham Cove, but with a special emphasis on peregrines.

The birds normally live for around six years, which means it will not always be the same pair nesting at Malham.

They are a large and powerful bird of prey, with a wing span of between 74cm and 120 cm and capable of reaching speeds of 390km per hour - making them the fastest animal on the planet.

They feed on medium sized birds, which they catch in high speed aerial stoops - although more often than not, they fail to make a kill.

A report published by the national park in January showed that the project helps to contribute a minimum of £330,000 to the Dales economy each year.

Based on a visitor survey, it showed that tourists coming primarily to visit the viewpoint contribute at least £109,000 to the economy of the area per year. It also estimated that people who come to Malham partly to go to the viewpoint help to bring in a further £223,000.

The RSPB’s face to face area manager Jon Carter said it was exciting to be back celebrating the 15th year of the project.

“The viewpoint gives visitors to Malham Cove the chance to see these fantastic birds up close. Staff and volunteers will be on hand with telescopes and we’re hoping for another successful breeding season, so it’s a great opportunity for the public to come along and experience the fastest animals on the planet in action.”

The project forms part of the RSPB’s ‘Date with Nature’ programme of events around the country aimed at making rare and spectacular wildlife accessible for everyone to see.

Most take place away from RSPB reserves and are run thanks to partnerships with other organisations such as the YDNPA.

The Malham Cove viewpoint will be open until Sunday July, 30, from Saturdays to Wednesdays (closed Thursdays and Fridays). People can follow the progress of the peregrines on Twitter and on Facebook.

To find out more about the RSPB projects, visit the website: