Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Disconnect first - then Connect Derby!

Connect Derby
Connect Derby logo

We would like to give advance notice of some interruptions to our webcam feeds over the coming months, as various changes are made behind the scenes.

Most noticeably, we expect our cameras to go offline later this week. Unfortunately we can't say just how long they will be down for. This break is necessary as we need to reconfigure our equipment and re-route our video signals through an alternative pathway. The reasons for this are rather technical, but it relates to UK government requirements for all equipment on - and people accessing - local council networks to meet certain stringent conditions in order not to compromise network security. We have been helped in this by colleagues at Derby City Council and the team from Connect Derby. I met with their friendly IT Analyst,Tim, yesterday and gave him a tour of the cathedral tower. He will be working to help us reconfigure our existing equipment as smoothly as possible over the next week or two. In fact, we're quite excited because we think that with their enthusiasm and business/innovation skills, we might be able to add extra functionality to the way our project is presented in future,

We often think it's nice to explain what goes on behind the scenes in our project, so we've offered Connect Derby a guest blog spot, should they wish to tell us about the great work they do in connecting local businesses in Derby to the ever-changing world of the internet. So watch this space.

Other possible changes that could affect us relate to forthcoming repair work on the cathedral itself, and whether we try to repair or replace our platform before or after this happens. We've been in discussion with Natural England about the implications of these activities, and are confident the scheduling won't adversely affect the breeding success of Derby's most iconic bird.

Of course, the adult peregrines don't move away in the autumn  or winter, so there should always be a good chance of seeing one or both of them if you're coming into Derby on a shopping trip or en route to work. Check the cathedral tower, but also check out nearby Jury's Inn, where our birds often like to sit and watch the ring-road traffic whizzing - or sometimes crawling - by.

Our apologies for any inconvenience these interruptions may cause.

Nick Moyes
Technical Advisor
Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Another one bites the (Derbyshire) dust

News has just emerged that a young peregrine, reared in Stoke on Trent this summer, was found close to a Derbyshire grouse shooting moorland in the Goyt Valley. It had been shot in its wing and subsequently died of its injuries....the latest in a series of incidents of wildlife crime on grouse moors in Derbyshire and elsewhere.

To read the full story go to:

https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2016/09/13/peregrine-found-shot-next-to-grouse-moor-in-peak-district-national-park/ .
Photo of the bird shortly before it died.
This proves what we already guessed - that some of our young urban peregrines, once fledged, wander off and end up on moorlands where almost certainly they will 'disappear'.....since the game keepers will not tolerate any bird of prey on their shoots.
Such killing of raptors is illegal and constitutes 'wildlife crime'.....and it has been going on up in the moorlands of the Peak District National park and elsewhere in the UK for years.
So it is highly likely that some of the youngsters reared at Derby Cathedral end up being shot on the moors.....a real tragedy.

A national petition to ban driven grouse shooting has now reached 120,000 signatures which means that there will be a debate on this subject in the House of Commons sometime in the autumn.

A local and new petition is now open for people to sign and we urge you to do so if you are appallled by the news above.
Earlier this year, a man with a gun was filmed sitting near a decoy hen harrier on a Derbyshire moor owned by the National Trust and leased by them to a shooting tenant. The incident was too far off for any prosecution to be made but the National Trust is throwing the shooting tenant off - a move we applaud.
The petition now asks the Trust NOT to put another shooting tenant on this huge moor but to manage it for wildlife and restore its biodiversity. To read the background and find a link to the petition please see: www.nomoorshooting.blogspot.com .
And do please sign up if you will. We have 2000 signatures in a month since the petition started but we need many more......

The Project team

Sunday, 14 August 2016

The season draws to a close

Update (23/8/16) We had a break in service from our webcams, but these are now operating once again. Apologies for any disappointment caused.

Update 10 September: It seems that the bird seen and heard on St Luke's is a local falconer's bird and NOT one of ours. NB.

As we head for the middle of August it is to be expected that the four young birds will begin to drift away from the cathedral and start to live their independent lives. Web cam watchers report the occasional view of one youngster on the nest platform plus, of course the adults (mainly the male) who hang about all year.
One interesting report has come from someone who lives near St Luke's church. On more than one occasion he's heard the calls of peregrines coming from the church tower.
St Luke's church
This very tall tower looks ideal for peregrines to perch on. It's not that far from the cathedral and the suspicion is that at least one of the juvenile birds has made a temporary base there.
The only other tall structures we know the peregrines use, apart from the cathedral and Jurys Inn, is the police aerial mast in Chester Green though we have had no reports from there this year.
Police aerial mast
Only very occasionally have we seen an adult peregrine (or indeed a juvenile) perch on St Mary's Church just to the north of the cathedral. This Roman Catholic building is not nearly as tall as the cathedral tower but seems to be frowned on by our birds.
If you live in or visit Derby you might care to check out St Luke's in particular. So far, our own visits haven't produced any sightings.....let us know if you do see one there.
The Project Team

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Peregrines in Peril or in Paradise?

In towns and cities such as Derby, nesting peregrines are more or less safe from persecution...so they live in a sort of 'paradise'.
Not so elsewhere unfortunately.
If these falcons nest on or near a grouse shooting moor, almost all the predatory birds that venture onto the moor somehow mysteriously 'disappear'.
They are indeed 'Peregrines in Peril'! 
Methods used to remove birds of prey include shooting, trapping, poisoning, robbing the eggs or killing the chicks in the nest.
Peregrine with its leg trapped and broken by a
spring trap set at its nest in the West Midlands.
Photo RSPB
All these acts are illegal but because our moorlands are so remote, wildlife crime generally goes unnoticed and the culprits get off scott free. Even if they are caught, they only get cautions or small fines; only extremely rarely are they sent to prison.
Away from our uplands, pigeon fanciers also take the law into their own hands and quietly get rid of peregrines nesting in the vicinity. Low cliffs and old quarry faces where the falcons tend to nest can easily be scaled and traps set or the nest contents removed - especially under the cover of darkness.
They may also be poisoned.

Derbyshire successes and failures
In Derbyshire this year, initial results from the monitoring of rural peregrine nests has come up with these results:

Of a total of 19 nest sites surveyed:
  • 5 succeeded to rear young but usually less than 4 per nest.
  • 14 failed. These are essentially rural sites with no protection by either cameras or wardens.
    Some of these sites failed twice - ie the birds laid again after losing their first clutch of eggs but the second clutch 'disappeared' too. 
(We am indebted to the Derbyshire Raptor Groups  and the DOS (county bird club) for this information).

Quarry (not in Derbyshire) where peregrines nest
but with no protection......
As we know from Derby, where young have been raised every year since 2006, peregrines make great parents, sitting on their eggs through rain and snow and shielding their chicks from excessive sun (not that we've had much of that this year!).
Such a high 'failure' rate away from towns can only mean one thing - illegal persecution is widespread and commonplace.

Raptor persecution on Derbyshire's moorland.

On the grouse moors, detecting wildlife crime is extremely difficult. It either relies on some walker or bird watcher accidentally stumbling across a carcass or a trap.
In Derbyshire earlier this summer it was a pair of bird watchers who spotted something odd through their telescope on the grouse moor where they were walking. They managed to get a video of an armed man sitting in the heather waiting. Nearby was a model of a male hen harrier which has been placed as if it was perching on the heather, clearly aimed at luring any passing harrier close enough so it could be shot.
Man with gun waiting near (grey) model of male hen harrier
on a Derbyshire moor owned by the National Trust
This happened on National Trust land - land that the Trust had let to a grouse-shooting tenant.
The armed man was too far off to be recognisable and, despite making enquiries, the police did not have sufficient evidence to bring anyone to court. Maybe next time.
To its credit, the National Trust has since terminated the tenant's lease and has said it will advertise for a new tenant next year. There are hopes it will not take on another shooting tenant, but will decide instead to manage the moor for both wildlife and people, restoring what is a damaged, burnt habitat to something much better and richer in wildlife. Fingers crossed!

So, how can we privileged web cam watchers help end end wildlife crime on the moors?
Well, on the week end of 6/7th August, 'Hen Harrier Day' events are being held across the UK.
On Saturday 6th at Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve NE of London, Chris Packham and Mark Avery are the speakers.
Our own Derbyshire Hen Harrier Day event takes place at 11am on Sunday 7th in Edale, with hundreds of people expected to turn up in support. Speakers include representatives of the National Trust, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, the new Police and Crime Commissioner and Natalie Bennett of the Green Party.
For details of all the events (and maybe there's one near you?) go here.
Do please consider turning up at one of them if you possibly can. 
As 'veterans' of the first two Hen Harrier Days, we can assure you there's a great atmosphere and sense of common purpose. See this video made at Hen Harrier Day in 2014 in the pouring rain when an astonishing 570 people turned up in North Derbyshire!

Male hen harrier - what a wonderful bird!
In addition, there is currently a petition calling for the banning of driven grouse shooting. It's an e-petition to the government and requires 100,000 signatures in order for there to be a debate in the House of Commons. So far 67,000 people have signed. Please note however that neither the RSPB or the Wildlife Trusts as yet support this petition or this approach....so you will have to make up your own minds about whether to sign or not.
The e-petition is here and for more information about the issues see a video by Chris Packham here and a blog here and another from DWT here explaining its 2015 position.

The Project Team

Moorland Vision website and petition: http://nomoorshooting.blogspot.co.uk/


Moorland Vision
Hen Harrier Day in the Peak