Monday, 30 March 2009
In the Spotlight
It was a pleasure to welcome one of our regular webcam viewers to Derby today. Until recently we knew her simply as "Jennie from Hong Kong" after she was one of the first to start leaving frequent comments on our blog back in 2007 . But a business trip to London last weekend gave Jennie Mak the chance to make a 'small' detour and come up to Derby to see our peregrine falcons for herself. With her permission, of course, we had mentioned this to our local paper and they wrote about her imminent visit. And then our local radio station picked up on her visit, as did regional TV, too!
So it was that at 1pm outside Derby's Cathedral today Tony Grantham and I finally met "Jennie from Hong Kong". But she was soon whisked away to pose on Cathedral Green, there to be quizzed, interviewed and photographed by our local press who were intrigued that someone with no ties to the city would make a special trip just to see our birds, and maybe buy a few football souvenirs at Pride Park before heading for home.
We can't promise every visitor from afar such a welcome (sighs of relief from most, I suspect), but it was a delight to share our project with such a keen supporter. Jennie wanted to see inside the ancient cathedral tower, so together with Head Verger, Tony, we climbed the stone staircase up to the bell-ringing chamber where our control equipment is located, and she posed in front of our brand new TV monitor - a generous gift from another supporter of our project - whilst we explained which bits of the equipment do what. (Perhaps we should run this as an online quiz for everyone to work out!)
On the monitor we saw that much-commented upon smudgy mark on the tower-top camera and then climbed up the rest of the spiral staircase to the top to see if we could fix it. Unfortunately not today. But we will sort it out soon, being careful not to disturb the birds in any way. We now think the problem is caused by a severe case of a highly technical condition that low-lying wildlife cameras are sometimes prone to (We'll simply refer to it here as "peregrine poo"). Although we couldn't look over on the nest side, we did spot golden plover and lapwing prey remains on the south side of the tower top, whilst Jennie expressed delight at the view out across our city. "Wonderful view," she said. - "No skyscrapers!" Later on, sitting over lunch in the Cathedral Restaurant, Jennie made a very generous donation to the Peregrine Project's funds, and we'd all like to thank her very much indeed for that. Before leaving us we gave Jennie a copy of our Peregrine DVD and some recently published articles on our urban peregrines, written by Nick B. of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Nick wasn't able to be here today, but had made all the arrangements which, with her agreement, had put Jennie firmly in the media spotlight.
Also in the spotlight tonight is a small spider. It seems to have taken up residence on our second nest ledge camera, as if competing with the smudge on the lens of pudding cam up above. Of course, had Jennie come outside of the breeding season we might have offered her an honorary abseil to gently remove the offending creature herself so that she could return to Hong Kong knowing she had ensured the clearest of pictures to be seen by all. Now we'll just have to let nature take its course.
We wish Jenny well in her travels home, and look forward to Derby's new eco-tourism feature appearing in the next edition of the Lonely Planet Guide to Britain, attracting more visitors from around our ever-shrinking globe.
Listen to Radio Derby's interview with Jennie Mak. (Click "Play" then scroll player forward to 1 hr 19 min and 30 seconds.)
Or watch Chichester's Peregrine Falcons on The One Show earlier tonight. (Scroll forward to 5 minutes and 50 seconds.)