Nesting Peregrine Falcon hits Vodafone mobile coverage in Southampton

Peregrine Falcons are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and the company can not legally access the mast until any chicks had fledged

It was “great news” that a Peregrine Falcon, a protected bird of prey, had chosen a faulty phone transmitter mast in Southampton to nest, according to Vodafone.

But thousands of residents are feeling less well-disposed towards the unexpected arrival after being told that they could be left without any mobile signal until June.

Vodafone switched off the faulty transmitter in the north of Southampton last week, leaving customers without any phone or mobile internet signal, after the female bird was discovered there.

Peregrine Falcons are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and it is an offence to recklessly disturb a nest, or the freshly-hatched young, of a bird. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds estimates there are just 1,402 breeding pairs in the UK.

After taking advice from the RSPB and conservation body, Natural England, the phone company said it may have to wait until any chicks had fledged, possibly in June, before it can take action to restore the mast’s transmitter, which has a radius of one mile.

“While this is inconvenient for our customers, it is great news that the falcons are nesting in the city,” said a Vodafone spokesman. The company received praise for placing conservation ahead of commerce.

However for those in the Highfield area, facing an extended mobile “black-out”, bewilderment over the cause of the disruption is turning to anger.

“It’s causing me personally all sorts of problems as well as costing me money,” complained one Vodafone user on the company’s web forum. “I have had to buy a house phone so people can contact me which means clients and patients have now got my personal phone number so can contact me at all times of the day and night.”

The user added: “My family have been unable to contact me. I have to drive out of the area and sit in my car and wait for the messages to come through.”

Students at the University of Southampton are being forced to survive without one of modern life’s essential crutches. “The nesting falcons are stealing my phone signal and my soul,” tweeted a student named Alexandra. “The fact there is a falcon nesting preventing my phone having signal really sums up the state of my life atm. #ohlife”

One frustrated Vodafone customer tweeted: “Someone shoot this bloody falcon so i can have my phone back” whilst another tried to get “falcon stew” trending.

Ominously for the phone company, customers are threatening to switch suppliers. “We won’t be talking about fledglings leaving the nest, we'll be talking thousands leaving Vodafone,” wrote one on the web forum.

Vodafone is hoping to undertake a mission to repair the mast without disturbing the bird. A spokesman said: “The site had developed a fault and when the engineer went there he realised there was a Peregrine Falcon nesting which meant he couldn’t get access. We contacted the RSPB for advice and have since spoken with Natural England on whether we would be allowed access under licence.

“As a consequence we’re being very careful with how we proceed. It does mean that at this point we cannot restore the signal on this single site until we have the right advice.  We’ll then know what our options are. We’re looking at alternatives and we’ll update our customers as soon as we can.”

Peregrine falcons, which normally favour rocky cliff tops to make their nests, became almost extinct in the 1960s after their existence was threatened by pesticides. They became a protected species in 1981.

Violation of the law preventing disturbance of their nests can attract fines up to £5,000 per offence or a prison sentence of up to six months.

Michelle Hawkins of Natural England said that in “exceptional circumstances” a licence could be applied for to disturb a bird.

Tony Whitehead, from the RSPB, said: “They (falcons) can not be disturbed during the breeding season. The bird will have fledglings until June so until then the mast is protected.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most