A COUPLE of unique residents have finally moved into the town’s disused historic water tower .

A single peregrine falcon was spotted at the top of the Jumbo in Colchester last month.

It ruffled a few feathers as, being a rare breed, peregrines are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which says any future development at Jumbo must take the birds into account.

But now thrilled birdwatcher Alf Mullins has confirmed the previously lonely bird has mated, producing two babies.

That means any development on the Grade II listed tower would have to include a new residential area for the falcon couple and their children.

Mr Mullins, who has been bird - watching for most of his life, said: “They spent most of the winter down at the Hythe and returned in February, and I have been watching them ever since.

“The pair have been flying around the town chasing the pigeons and at the weekend I saw two young for the first time.

“Now they are standing on the edge looking as if they are about to fly.

“It’s certainly the first time they have bred in Colchester and it’s really exciting as I know they are a protected species.”

At the moment, there are 1,500 breeding pairs of peregrines in the UK.

Their numbers have been jeopardised by illegal killing from gamekeepers and landowners, and also egg collectors.

Mark Iley, biodiversity co-ordinator at the Essex Wildlife Trust, said future work at Jumbo can still go ahead, but only as long as a space for the birds is included in the blueprints.

He said: “The fact the birds are nesting there does not prevent the site from being developed, it just means within the development they would have to include a nesting platform.

“The building work would disturb them, but they are nesting quite happily on high buildings in the area and any work would just have to cater for them.”

The Colchester and North East Essex Building Preservation Trust recently held a public consultation into potential future uses for the site including a restaurant and cultural venue.

Jumbo is the largest remaining Victorian water tower in Britain, and an increasingly rare example of one in an original condition.

It stopped being a part of the water supply system in 1987.

The law makes it illegal to recklessly and intentionally disturb them while breeding or near the breeding season, which if breached, can result in a £5,000 fine or six months in prison.

Have you seen peregrines at Jumbo? Tweet us your photos @ TheGazette.