Sunday, 21 December 2014

The shortest day....

It's the winter solstice today and that is worth celebrating because from now on, the days get longer and the nights shorter.
Whether our peregrines are aware of this or not, it won't be long before they begin to show signs of courtship. By February, nest scraping and bowing will be happening on the nest platform, assuming our two birds are healthy and well.
Of course, they are getting older now so we must prepare ourselves for the inevitable. If one of them does die, we are confident that another bird will soon replace we feel sure that we won't have a year when breeding doesn't take place....fingers crossed of course!
Up the top of the tower a couple of weeks ago, Nick Moyes and I were showing Esther Kettel, a PhD student from Nottingham and her tutor the ropes. Well not the actual ropes of course, but certainly the setting for the dramas that take place every year.
We found some prey at the top of the tower of course. A lapwing had been cached on the south side, on the top of one of those wonderful mythical 'grotesques' that were carved almost 500 years ago when the tower was built. On the east side, a song thrush was also lying there uneaten. And in a lead gutter, what looked like a carrion crow was spotted, partially hidden by the side of the gutter and therefore not entirely visible. A snipe head was also discovered - so pretty much usual fare for the time of year.
Esther was delighted to see a nest site for real, having been incarcerated behind her computer for months. We hope that she will choose our project as one of the ten across the country that she selects to study. Her main interests are to log the birds' behaviour and to study their prey.
The floodlit tower on a December evening
It has been quite mild here in Derby so far this winter, with only a few frosts to date. Will we get a late dump of snow as we did in 2013? Or will it stay mild throughout? Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, Merry Solstice, a joyful Christmas and a Happy New year to all our 'virtual community' of peregrine watchers!

The Peregrine Project Team
Ps. We are now confident that we have enough grant money spare to employ Ian Layton, our popular People Engagement Officer, again next summer. Good news indeed! He'll start back with us in late February or March.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Top Ten award and another 2009 youngster comes a cropper

Our Project's web cams have been placed in the TOP TEN BIRD WEB CAMS IN THE UK by the magazine of BBC TV's Countryfile programme.
Considering how many bird cams there are now this is a great accolade and of course, it is all down to Nick Moyes who set them up and has managed them ever since.
The two cameras looking down on the nest platform went up in 2007, with the so called pudding-cam on the ledge above a year later.
Then, in February 2013, Nick fixed a new wide angled camera to the back of the platform. This is the one that gives a view out over Derby:

Another one comes to ground
In 2009, our Derby peregrines raised four young, two males and two females.
One of the females, colour ring 009, was found dead on the roof of a block of flats nearby soon after she had fledged. She'd flown into a smoked glass screen which ran around the edge of the roof and had broken her neck. She was set up by a taxidermist and we use her for educational purposes - see the previous post.
The other female, 010, injured her shoulder beyong repair and has been in the care of Colin Pass and now Dave and Lesley Robinson. Colin called her Cathy.
Last week, one of the two males of the 2009 brood, with colour ring 011, was taken to Lesley and Dave with a slightly drooping wing.
This male was found in Nottingham city in a school playground, unable to fly. Mark Speck from the Notts Wildlife Trust collected him and took him to Lesley and Dave.
He was taken to the vets who decided that, with a bit of luck, the bird might recover after some recuperation.
So, what happened to this male? He's in full adult plumage as you can see from Lesley's photo:
011, a male from 2009, injured last week in Nottingham
There are two possibilities, foul play having been discounted:
First he was chasing prey and flew into some obstacle - a wall or fence perhaps.
Second, he had an aerial battle with another peregrine. This is a real possibility since not so far from where he was found there is a pair on a church. Perhaps he tried to take over?
If he did, he didn't succeed because it now seems that the male at this site, seen this week, also has an orange ring on his left leg!
So, the plot many of our youngsters are trying to get paired up in Nottingham we wonder?
Nick Brown (DWT)

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Cathy settles in

In 2009 we had two juvenile females that came to grief.
One was killed outright by flying into a smoked glass screen on the top of a nearby block of flats. After some time spent in a freezer, we eventually had her set up by a very skilled local taxidermist. It cost us £400.
The taxidermist Chris Orgill admires his handiwork

We use her regularly at events and talks.

The other female was injured to the point where she either had to be put down or kept for the rest of her life in captivity. The damage was to her shoulder and was irrrepairable. We decided to keep her alive mainly becasue we had an offer from someone to look after her.
The offer came from Colin Pass, a local falconer and photographer, and he has looked after her right up to last summer. So we owe a big dept of gratitude to Colin for taking such good care of 'Cathy' (he named her after the cathedral....).
Cathy with Colin and youthful admirer, 2010
Now Cathy has passed into the care of Dave and Lesley Robinson and apparently she's settled in well. Dave and lesley run a small willdife hospital, so they are used to looking after birds and other animals. They have applied for and got a licence to keep her from Defra.
Now of course she's five years old and in full adult plumage.....
Photo of Cathy taken this year by Colin Pass
Nick B (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Peregrines attacking buzzards

BBC 1 TV's The One Show had a feature from Exeter where the local peregrines that nest on St. Michael's Church in the city have taken more than a dislike to any buzzard passing nearby.
So far, Nick Dixon, local peregrine expert (and also advisor to our Derby project in its formative stages) has found 15 dead buzzards close to the church, all having been attacked by this one pair of falcons.
The birds work cooperatively. The male comes in first and the buzzard flips over to fend it off. As soon as the buzzard rights itself, the female dives in and sometimes hits it with her talons. It is this impact which kills their bigger enemies.
At the time of writing the latest episode (Tuesday 15th) isn't yet available on iPlayer but it will be quite soon I think. The feature is about 10 minutes in: .

The footage the BBC got of the peregrines jointly attacking a buzzard is rather distant but remarkable nevertheless. The ferocity and speed of the peregrines' attacks are extraordinary.
Well worth watching if you are in the UK (overseas folk will be unable to get BBC I think).
In Derby people have witnessed our birds attacking a passing buzzard at least once, but they didn't press home their attacks and the buzzards, although clearly rattled, continued on their way unharmed.
A few years ago, Jon Salloway obtained some great photos of one of the buzzards turned upside down with its talons pointing upwards trying to fend off the attacking falcon.
Derby peregrine attacks a passing buzzard
turned upside down to fend off its attacker.
Photo Jon Salloway
Buzzards have a very wide food spectrum ranging from worms (they eat a lot of them) to rabbits, voles and birds, including chicks taken from nests - so the peregrines' eagerness to keep buzzards at bay is quite understandable.

Nick B (DWT)