Our hit counters have reached the quarter of a million mark; our chicks are developing nicely; our third camera and live a/v stream is proving very popular; and our DVD on The Peregrines of Derby Cathedral is selling well, and receiving great feedback.
With Watchpoints resumed again, it's good to be able to talk and to meet with so many different people - some of them old friends from the last two years. Cameras as well as telescopes have been in evidence, and this fantastic picture sent to us by Graham Whitmore was a multiple exposure taken on May 18th.
One area of our Project that we'd all like to see take off in the years ahead is the use of our webcams and videos clips in schools, especially those local to us in Derbyshire. The educational potential is, as yet, almost completely untapped. But there are both technical challenges and resource constraints.
For example, many of our peregrine video clips are widely available on YouTube. But schools are usually banned from YouTube, so we thought we'd try and post some video clips directly into this blog. It took an age to get it to succeed, and we hope the clip below is viewable by everyone. It shows our four rapidly growing chicks being fed last week.
Schools in Derby should all now be able to access this peregrine diary, as our "blog" was specially unblocked after we made a request last year to the Education IT people. We know that quite a few local schools do now watch our webcams on the classroom "whiteboard". We'd love to hear more from schools about how you use us, or your ideas on what you'd like us to do to help you use our resources in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
Recently, the children in Red Class at Brigg Infant School near Alfreton, Derbyshire, told us they watched Derby's peregrines in class. They emailed in some questions and we thought we'd make our reply more widely available by posting it here:
How often do the chicks need to be fed?
Your class could try answer this question yourself by noting what time it is whenever the chicks are fed! I think they seem to be fed every couple of hours, but I've not actually timed it. As they grow their demand for food increases, and food left in the nest will get picked at whenever the chicks want it. [By checking our recordings today, we think the chicks now get fed every four to five hours]
How big do they grow?
In just six weeks they grow to the size of their parents, though are a browner colour. Adult Peregrine Falcons have a body length of 34–50 cm (13–20 in) and a wingspan of around 80–120 cm (31–47 in). Females are nearly 1/3 larger than the males.
Do the chicks squeak?
Yes, the chicks make a lot of squealing noises - even starting to make sounds just before hatching. You can now hear the chicks and the adults yourself on our live audio/video stream at http://wms01.mediaondemand.net/derbyperegrines or in some of our video clips (which sadly may not be viewable to schools on YouTube)
Where do the chicks go when they have flown the nest?
We don't know exactly. They stay with their parents until the autumn. They need to learn to fly and hunt, and the parent birds teach them these skills. Some of the young birds may move off around October time to find new places to live, though other chicks might stay around until the next breeding season. We put coloured and numbered rings on the legs of our chicks when they are very young precisely so we can track where they go to. We suspect they move off into other parts of the Midlands, and may start to make a nest of their own when around three years of age.
Do they have a favourite food?
Peregrines hunt and eat a very wide range of birds. There are clearly lots of pigeons around the city which we know they do take, but they regularly feed on a vast range of other species, too. We know that in Derby they've taken 40 different bird species, ranging from swifts to ducks, and even a rat! In winter time they seem to like taking some of our rather unusual birds, such as Golden Plover, Woodcock and Snipe which are probably trying to move under cover of darkness, but are able to be seen and caught because of the city's light pollution.
Do the chicks need to have a drink?
No, they get all the water they need from their food. In hot weather the parent bird shelters them from the direct sunlight so that they do not overheat or dry out.
How old do the birds get?
Peregrines can live for 10 years or more - longer if kept in captivity. The really risky time is in the first year when they haven't managed to learn all the skills they need in later life.
Can you tell if the chicks are male or female?
The chicks get ringed when still white and fluffy around 20 days old. The expert ringers can usually tell the sex of the chicks by their size when they ring them. But in 2008 one egg hatched out much later than the others, so that chick inevitably looks smaller, even though it could turn out to be a female. Because the females are so much bigger than male peregrines, it will be possible for all of us to work out what sex they are once we see the birds all together on the nest ledge, getting ready to fly. If one or more is smaller than the others, those are the males. You can see a picture of male and female juvenile birds on our project homepage at www.derby.gov.uk/peregrines
Why can't we watch your video clips?
We're sorry you can't see our videos from school on YouTube. We will start to put some videos straight into this blog for you. Tell us if you can see them OK. We are just about to redo our DVD - The Peregrines of Derby Cathedral - with a much more detailed menu option aimed at schools. This will let your teachers go straight to sections they want to show you on peregrine courtship, mating, egg-laying and fledging.
Are there any online Peregrine Games?
Your class might lie to have a go at this online activity, set in the city of Prague in the Czech Republic http://www2.rozhlas.cz/games/sokoli_en
The Peregrine Project Team hope to build more resources for schools and students in the future. If you are a teacher do let us know what you'd like to see available on our site to help you in the classroom. Leave a comment here for the project team of drop an email via firstname.lastname@example.org
Derbyshire Bird Cam Project
And to show what schools can do themselves, here's a fantastic project recently set up called the Derbyshire Schools Birdcam Project. It now has 18 local schools taking part and with blogs and bird box webcams in various county schools. It's well worth a visit.
New Web Page
We've recently added a new page to our Peregrine Project site. It shows a number of peregrine-related specimens in the collections at Derby Museums. We'd point out that all of them we collected early last century. Follow this link to view the new "Peregrines and Derby Museum" page
Finally, follow these links to:
- read how to watch our new live a/v stream
- read an overview of the peregrine project
- find out about buying the brand new DVD: "The Peregrines of Derby Cathedral")
- add your name to our mailing list
- see many more pictures on Froona's very detailed blog over in Holland (both from our webcams and from many others around the world)