Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Quiet time?

Male peregrine incubating four eggs. The small white fleck on the right side of his face is a good feature to look for (as is the darker head colouration) when the cameras are zoomed in.It may seem a quiet time on the webcams right now, but there's much happening behind the scenes. Most importantly the four peregrine eggs are developing under the warmth of their parents. We're only getting rare glimpses as the adults change shifts after a few hours of incubation each, and we're looking forward to them hatching early in May. The female is a much larger bird than the male, and you get a real sense of size difference during one of these change overs. Here we see our male peregrine. Notice the small white "beauty spot" on the right side of his face; when size is hard to judge, this is a good feature to look for if the camera is zoomed in. (Because of comments left about how hard it is to see it, I've added an arrow to the picture to show where to look. Sorry if I gave the impression it was huge)

The ravens returned briefly this morning after an absence of five or six weeks! 2008 was the first time that ravens have ever been reported in Derby, apart from the odd bird flying over. Full story here. I spotted them whilst outside the Derby Museum shop - just small dots against the skyline. But from that distance a small dot had to be a huge bird. So, dashing back in to get a pair of binoculars, it was a pleasure to see both birds on the top ledge of Derby Cathedral's tower, although a little worrying lest they decide to stay and possibly affect the nest success of our peregrines. But they didn't stay long - perhaps they were just passing through, on the lookout for a free meal from one of the prey items our peregrines like to cache on the tower. I'm sure it's too late for them to still be trying to find a nest site. Either way, they weren't buzzed by the peregrine falcons this time. Perhaps they felt that simply sitting tight on their eggs was the best plan.

Other plans are afoot, too. There are still more new developments to the Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project this year. Thanks to Acam Technology Ltd, we already have our third webcam working away on top of the tower, but behind the scenes we have engineers from Capita purchasng and configuring some more equipment for us. Capita are Derby City Council's IT Support company, and last year they generously offered to sponsor our project with free IT support and £1000 of equipment. Unfortunately the financial offer came a bit too late in the season to be realised, but now with their support again we're pressing ahead with plans to install a new networked computer and a wall-mounted display screen into the Nature Gallery at Derby Museum & Art Gallery. The chance to have live video and audio close to our peregrine on display is just too good to miss! It's important that our visitors and funders understand that we use our museum collections to tell a story of local wildlife, but that it can sometimes be equally valid for our staff to become involved in active conservation and interpretation of living things out in the wild, beyond our four walls.

We're very grateful to Capita for their support, as we are to all those who have given us support of one kind or another. There are some more exciting developments happening in the next few weeks that everyone will see, but we'll bring you news of this when work behind the scenes is complete.

Speaking of which, work on the DVD of The Peregrines of Derby Cathedral is now very nearly complete. Last week saw us throwing handfuls of feathers from the top of the cathedral tower in order to bring a degree of continuity to the video sequences of our peregrines plucking a pigeon on top of the tower. (We were lucky to find a dropped prey item that we could pluck and use.) Once again, more news of this soon.

And we've had strong media interest recently, bringing many new visitors to our webcamera following pieces on ITV Central and BBC. We're also supplying video clips of last year's young chicks for use in a "Heart of the Country" TV programme about falconry. We're gently pushing our peregrine site towards schools in Derby with a note going out tomorrow to all schools in the region. We know that many schools restrict access to blogging sites and YouTube and we've been able to unblock the former from Derby's educational establishments, but not the latter. Perhaps the new DVD will fill that gap. So now the Museum and the Wildlife Trust project team members are starting to find a few spare moments to turn their attention towards preparing some simple educational resource notes for classroom use of our webcams - we feel there are many opportunities for schools to use the presence of a celebrity species on their doorstep as a springboard to a wide range of subjects, ranging all the way from conservation right through to maths, geography and even issues of third world poverty. (More on that later, perhaps).

(Meanwhile new visitors to this blog may wish to read an overview of the peregrine project, or add their names to our mailing list.)


Anna, Ripley said...

Many thanks for all the info. on today's diary - there certainly does seem to be lots going on behind the scenes - more power to your elbow.

I might be a bit dim, but I can't really see the'beauty spot, even when enlarged. Perhaps need to see the two birds together to see the difference.

I may have missed your reply, but I did ask how old Peregrines can live to and how old you think our two are.

Many thanks,

Anna, Ripley

Anonymous said...

Thank you Anna, I'm so glad it's not just me that can't see the white dot (even when enlarged). I wouldn't have admitted unless someone else did. Great to hear of all the exciting plans and developments - I continue to be so envious of all the wonderful stuff you have going on in Derby. Once again I find myself wondering what a move northwards would be like and what would my husband say!
Sue H, Bucks (High Wycombe at the moment)

Anna, Ripley said...

To Sue of High Wycombe. Not sure I'm supposed to do this on the blog, if it's not Peregrine stuff. I moved to Derbyshire three years ago from the South and haven't regretted it. They're a friendly bunch up here and have a great sense of humour even if it is a bit colder.

Anna, Ripley

Jackie, Derby said...

I second Anna's comment, though I'd say windier, rather than colder than the south, I've been here two and a half years,and I really like it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Nick for adding the nice red arrow indicating the 'beauty spot' on the male. It's so encouraging to hear about the support you are receiving for this wonderful project. I hope more people can assist you guys financially and spread the words about the forthcoming DVD.
As for emailing photos from the site, I promise to only foward anything really special. Thanks again for all the updated info. Veronica in Cornwall

Anna, Ripley said...

I'm wondering where Daddy Peregrine is spending most of his time now as haven't seem him on the pudding cam for a few days. I hope he hasn't done a bunk!

Thanks for the arrow, I would never have guessed there was a white spot on his cheek.

I had a pair of starlings nesting in the roof of my house, but they seem to have abandoned it this week -I wonder if it's the cold weather?

Anna, Ripley

Project Member (Derby Museum) said...

Hi Anne - no, our male is still around. He will be doing most of the work in hunting and bringing back food, both now and when the chicks hatch.
We'll try and capture a couple of pictures of the male and the female in the same position on the nest so everyone can see their size and colour difference, as well as his beauty spot.

Earlier yo asked about how long they live for. Adults can live around 10-15 years, I'm told. But mortality is highest in the young.
This is the third season our birds have lain eggs, and the male was first seen regularly around the tower in late 2004, when he was perhaps a year old. So my guess would be he's about 5 years old.
Nick M.

Karen Anne said...

Some closeup - what beautiful feathers.

tm said...

Loving the close-up images this morning. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

BRILLIANT big red arrow - even I can see it now. Anna I digress all over the place and I hope nobody minds - but it's supposed to be a massive compliment to Derby and all who live there, especially the peregrine project (and the peregrines themselves!) It was just good fortune that the birds arrived but the very best was made of that fortune and I salute everyone who has contributed. It makes me think Derby is a smashing place, the kind of place I'd really like to live. Everyone "on the doorstop" of this wonderful project, I'm just so jealous that you can go whenever you like and see it all for real (although the webcam is a brilliant alternative)
Sue H (Wycome at the moment)

Anonymous said...

I am new to the comment page, but have been watching your site with great interest from across the pond in Rochester, New York, USA where we also have a peregrine falcon webcam ( Do you have any video clips in your diary showing how the parents turn the eggs? Thank you!