Tuesday, 21 April 2015

21st April - National Peregrine Day?

Seventy years ago today (21st April 1945) Derek Ratcliffe climbed to his first peregrine eyrie in the north of England. he went on to become the world expert on this bird. A book about his life and work for nature in general and peregrines in particular has just been published (see below).
For those of you who have never heard of Derek Ratcliffe, he was a life-long student of peregrines and wrote the monumental monograph entitled simply The Peregrine published by Poyser Press, the bible for anyone seriously interested in this enigmatic bird.
Derek Ratcliffe
It is probably due to Derek that we have peregrines on Derby Cathedral and indeed in so many other towns and cities across the UK. For it was Derek's scientific work in the 1950s and 60s that showed that DDT and other persistent organochlorine pesticides were accumulating up the food chain and affecting the thickness of peregrine egg shells such that they cracked when the parent birds sat to incubate them. The birds failed to rear any young and rapidly declined to the point where they were extinct in much of Britain.
Derek's research led to the banning of these very dangerous pesticides, after which, peregrines and other top predators (from sparrowhawks to otters) began to increase once more.
To read more about Derek and the book that celebrates his life go to Mark Avery's blog where a Guest Blog by Stuart Housden explains all:  www.markavery.info/blog   (you will have to scroll down to the blog entry for 21st April).
The suggestion that we celebrate and remember Derek by calling today National Peregrine Day made by Stuart seems an excellent one to me.
The new book about Derek Ratcliffe

Nick B (DWT)
Ps. The book, Nature's Conscience, published by Langford Press, sells for £29.99 .
Pps. Derek died in 2005, just as web cams on peregrine nests were starting to become available.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Fourth and final egg appears on Easter Sunday!

Update: New video added
Exactly on schedule, the female Peregrine Falcon on Derby's Cathedral has laid her fourth egg of the year today, Easter Sunday (5th April), thereby completing her clutch.
Four eggs clearly visible
The egg was laid at about 13.27, almost exactly 57 hours after number three.
Now the long and (especially for her) arduous business of incubation will keep her tied to the nest platform for the next 30+ days.The male will do all the hunting while she takes the lion's share of incubation duties.
Last year, the final egg was also laid on 5th April and the first chick hatched on the 3rd of May.
So if the incubation period is the same this year, we can expect the patter of tiny talons to begin around the same date.
The egg laying period has been watched by people around the globe - see the Clustrmap lower down on this blog which shows where people are watching from (double click and you even get a list of countries and also the number of hits from both within and beyond the UK!).

As many of you know, the project is funded mainly by donations though we have enjoyed a 3-year lottery grant which finishes this summer. Even that grant has to be matched by donations of over £1000 each year - and so far we are hardly off the ground - so any little will help!
Should you feel like making a donation (handled by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust which manages this project), then click on the Donations tab on this blog or visit the Trust's website where you will also find links to our VirginGiving page. Thank you.

The Project Team (Nick Moyes, Ian Layton and Nick Brown)

Ps. Tomorrow (Monday 6th) there is a bell ringing event at the Cathedral - full details are on the previous blog post reached by scrolling down.......

Friday, 3 April 2015

A True 'Easter Egg' and a Bell Ringing Event

Egg number three was laid early on Easter Friday morning. At 04:21 to be precise, exactly 57 hours after the falcon laid her second egg. We were lucky to capture the moment immediately after laying, as well as a video, too.

The moment before the 3rd egg is laid.04:21am
10 seconds later - an egg for Easter.
First view in daylight, on Good Friday morning. The tiercel looks on.

Quite by chance I was stopped by a roving reporter from BBC Radio Derby in town on Thursday morning at the top of Amen Alley. With a microphone thrust towards me, she asked what Easter meant to me. I replied that this might seem unusual to most people, but to me it meant that the peregrine falcons on Derby Cathedral would be laying an 'Easter Egg'. I'm pleased to say my prediction was correct.

Though of course it's no prediction - it's simple biology. It takes approximately 57 hours for the next egg to develop and be laid since the last one. We will now see incubation beginning in earnest, but the question is, will there be a fourth and final egg? Any guesses as to when that might be?

Nick Moyes
Project Team


On Monday (10 am - 4.30 pm) the cathedral bell ringers will be holding their annual open day and everyone is welcome to attend. Tower tours will run every 30 minutes throughout - though you won't see the nest from the top of course. Notices are already
in place to prevent anyone leaning over the East side of the tower (even then the nest cannot be seen being recessed) and someone will be on top to ensure that people keep their voices down.
As you all know, the bells don't bother the birds at all - even when being rung at full volume!
The bell ringers are a friendly group and have been very accommodating in letting us house our equipment in their bell ringing chamber. We hope they have a good day.


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

And then there were two!

We've just seen signs of a second egg, which was laid at 19:30 local time. Once again our wide-angle nest camera captured the moment in sound as it fell to the gravel floor of the nest scrape. So the gap between eggs one and two was about 53 hours, ie just over two days!

Egg no. 2 - laid around 19:30pm on 31st Match 2015

Seen at night-time under infra-red illumination, a peregrine egg looks white