Four Nicks (Brown, Dixon, Evans & Moyes) gathered together at Derby Cathedral yesterday to check out the peregrine nest platform and perform essential maintenance tasks. Nick Dixon - one of Britain's leading experts on peregrines on artificial structures and urban areas - was making a visit to look at our setup here at Derby, England, and it was a pleasure to meet him in person and to gain from his experience and scientific knowledge. In fact it was to Nick D. that we turned back in late 2005 for specialist advice when peregrines first arrived and appeared to be trying to set up home here.
On the agenda was an abseil down the tower to check the condition of the platform which we confirmed was still in an almost pristine state. The cameras needed to be cleaned and adjusted, but our main task was to add a "grip strip" to the front ledge of the platform for this year's young birds to get a hold of when exercising their wings prior to fledging.
Three out of four juveniles came down on their maiden flight last year and had to be rescued. A local bird of prey breeder suggested they were probably not getting enough grip on the vertical edge of the platform, especially when it was crowded with youngsters. We had looked at the feet of young peregrine specimens in our Museums' natural history collections and calculated they would best grip onto a rail about 2.5 - 3cm diameter. So Nick E. (who originally constructed the platform back in 2006) kindly abseiled down to make the modifications. The photo of the tower taken from the nave roof gives you a good idea of the position of the platform and our abseil. We felt it best to turn off the internet feed for much of the day as prolonged close-up views of our heads, shoes or elbows is hardly edifying. The short clip below may give a better idea of position we were working in as we glued and nailed the "grip strip" into place. The diagonal rope was needed to hold us close to the platform because the louvred tower window is inset by nearly a metre. This makes working from an abseil rope very precarious without it. Thanks to Nick B. who supported us behind the scenes, moving gravel, buying forgotten items and making a generally excellent gopher.
Less than 24 hours later we had clear evidence that our peregrines were unaffected by all this activity so close to the start of their courtship, as both birds were seen on the platform, including the female who was busy scraping a nest hollow, as we see here.