Monday, 11 February 2008

Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones.

What a lot of excitement around Derby Cathedral recently!

First we hear that during landcaping work on the once grassy area outside the Cathedral workmen dug up a human skull last Friday. Work stopped for a time whilst police carried the bones away for investigation. But it resumed again today, though local newspapers suggest it could be halted again if the ancient remains turn out to be Anglo-Saxon in age. We might then end up with a full-scale archaeological investigation. As you can see, the once green Green is now a more muddy brown, but should be ready finished sometime in the summer.

And then we ourselves had our hands full, Nick Evans adjusts camera 2, having just helped scrape up many bird bones and feathers from the peregrine nest ledgequite literally, with the bones and feathery remains of quite a few past peregrine meals, which we collected from the Cathedral roof and scraped from the peregrine's nest ledge during a routine abseil for camera maintenance earlier today. Shown here is Nick Evans, dangling from a rope whilst adjusting the camera, having first donned mask and gloves to help clear up the grizzly remains of lapwing legs, woodcock wings and pigeon parts. These are now being frozen to kill off any blowfly eggs, before being passed for identification to Bristol Museum's bird expert, Ed Drewitt who joins us later in the week to inspect our set-up.

We were surprised by how much young grass was sprouting from the nest ledge until we realised it wasn't grass - it was wheat. And there were peanuts too, though these weren't germinating. Surprised at first, it soon became clear that these must have come from the crops of seed-eating birds which our peregrines had brought back to the tray. Meanwhile up on top of the tower there were a couple of fresh Golden Plover corpses, and a bit of old Lapwing, proving that our birds are still active. We had two film crews today, both watching our progress as we lowered ourselves over the side of the tower, and some of this footage should appear in the new peregrine DVD to appear later in the year.

Thanks to everyone's efforts, our cameras are now back, pointing the right way and with clean lenses, though we're still struggling with night-time focus on camera 2, which seems to prefer the street below than the ledge itself. Because it's a fixed-focus camera we have a choice between a clear daytime picture in natural light, or a clear one at night under infra-red. It's hard to get both, it seems. This unusual view of camera 1 shows the anti-perching spikes we had to place on our cameras to keep the weighty birds from knocking them out of alignment. These were donated to us by our Council's Pest Control Team. Below the camera is a small infra-red illuminator. We hope our adjustments will prevent the cameras switching from day to night mode every few minutes whilst the tower floodlights are in use.

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