Saturday, 20 February 2010

More Amazing Video from Derby

With a world-first for Derby's peregrines, what other surprising things could we possibly show you?

post on this blog in January revealed news of that world-first: published video evidence that conclusively showed that peregrine falcons hunt late at night in darkness, aided by city lights. But we only told you half the story. The second half is almost more unusual. . .

. . . It was Christmas Eve. Leaving Derby Museum, and setting off for home for the holidays, I was pondering the significance of the video clip of night-time hunting we had retrieved a few days earlier. At the time we couldn't know how fortunate we were in capturing that moment. But maybe our DVD recorders high up in the Cathedral's dusty tower had captured more of the story.  For instance, how did the peregrine bring back another prey item so quickly at the end of the clip? What was going on down on the nest platform where our microphone picked up some loud contact calls between two adult birds?

I didn't have the answers so, instead of going home, I headed once more for Derby Cathedral. If I didn't check now, any recordings would be over-written during the holiday period and be lost forever.

Up in the cold ringing chamber, I turned on our two Philips video recorders and retrieved the footage made by the nest platform camera at the same time - 10.45pm on 20th December. Watch the clip and you'll probably be as surprised as I was. Then read on . . .


What we saw was, in fact, a bird called a snipe, fleeing from the platform when the adult flies in to land. It is immediately chased by both peregrines. We see that poor bird again at the very end of our night-time hunting video being brought back by the male peregrine to the far end of the tower top, whilst the female peregrine (who had previously caught the woodcock) return to the nest platform.

But snipe are shy, secretive birds. How did it get there? Was it brought in alive by a peregrine? Seeking the answers, I scrolled back in time through our recordings to 5pm - the moment the snipe arrived on the platform. I was surprised yet again by what I saw. Watch this clip yourself (with rather loud bells ringing)- then read on . . .

So, with Christmas bells ringing loudly, a live snipe falls vertically downwards to land on the wooden nest ledge! How? Why?

Well, we know that the live woodcock filmed in the night-time hunting sequence was taken back to one of the peregrines' favoured feeding points. This is some 25m directly above the nest ledge. So it became clear that we'd witnessed yet another night-time feeding moment, albeit a bungled one. It would have been shortly after dusk had fallen, and a snipe would have been moving through the skies above Derby City, thinking it was safe from most predators. But we know that city lights are helping peregrines see potential prey like this. So, taken in flight, it was brought back to their cliff-top ledge (i.e. the cathedral) where, unusually, it was dropped by one of the birds. It landed injured, but alive on the nest ledge, where it stayed for some hours to recover. Would it have recovered and flown off at daybreak? We simply don't know. But when a peregrine falcon flies in to land right in front of it, it has no option. It flees. Being injured, it probably stood little chance of escaping from the chase, and indeed we know it was caught almost immediately by the smaller male peregrine.

These rarely captured scenes might seem cruel, or even brutal to some, but we recognise this is simply nature in action, yet it is impossible not to feel sorry for either of these prey. We are lucky to capture moments like this on film. Witnessing them on camera aids our understanding of how these majestic birds live and survive, both in our towns and the wider countryside.

35 comments:

Simon Taylor said...

Incredible - What great footage.

Phoebe said...

Well! I had to rerun and rerun the first video to make out what was happening, second by second I advanced the film and... WOW! That was amazing these peregrines are so tuned in it's incredible... what an amzing peice of footage. It was well worth revisiting for that, Project Team, excellent work and very well done.

Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

It just shows what amazing birds the peregrines are!

Phoebe

Pax Canada said...

another wonderful example of how
dedicated the team is to give us a better understanding of the falcons.I bet you could not wait to share with other team members what you had discovered, well done.

Anonymous said...

What brilliant footage, and incredible but rather poignant story of the unlucky snipe, that seems as thought might have been lost but for the dedication of the project member on Christmas Eve - (were the Christmas presents left unwrapped?!)......

What a lot we have been learning from these cameras.. quite amazing.

Joan Law . Derby

Pax Canada said...

Oh my goodness you have a lot of snow! something were lacking here in Vancouver for the olympics 15c
today, but were partying on anyway:) no claw footprints in the snow there yet

AnnieF. said...

Please help save the peregrine falcons' nestbox at Sussex Heights, Brighton - sign the petition!

http://301.to/feq

AnnieF. said...

One on the edge of the nestbox rhs.

AnnieF. said...

One on the tower cam, another on the nestbox ledge rhs.

Pax Canada said...

One in the nest, wow that snow went away fast

Terry, Herts UK said...

Great footage, thanks.


Come on you lovely people and support the Brighton Petition that AnnieF posted about.

They only need another 40 signatures to reach their target of 1000.

Phoebe said...

Hi Terry

I have already signed this petition brought to my attention by another website I use :D

AnnieF. said...

@ Terry, Herts UK

Thanks for re-posting, Terry - I'm hopeless at getting links right!!
I'm sure they'll get enough signatures now, & hope it will do the trick.

Anonymous said...

Happy to support the Brighton petition. By the way was by the Cathedral today and no birds to be seen there but there were 2 sitting quite happily on the Jury's Inn sign!!

Mary T

Anonymous said...

Back after a mixed-weather weekend to find the fascinating story and videos of the peregines and the snipe at Christmas!

As others have said, what amazing footage.... many thanks!
J.J. Derby

AnnieF. said...

One (male?) on rhs ledge of nestbox.

Gio said...

Oops! I reported the Brighton petition on the previous post telling:
"I assume you all know about the Brighton nest petition. Anyway, if interested in, it's at http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/PeregrineFalcons/"
Thanks for re-posting, Terry - I'm hopeless too at getting links right!!

Anonymous said...

has the webcam gone down because it is showing the 24th but todays date is hte 2nd. what has happened to the camera

AnnieF. said...

@ Gio
Only 12 signatures needed now to get to the 1000 target. Your original post was successful!

Terry, Herts UK said...

I'll have a pint of whatever Anonymous is having, please :)

Gio said...

@ AnnieF
I'm Tracking The Numbers, Annie. Thank you! :))

Nick Brown (wildlife trust) said...

A pair of ravens were on the south side of the tower yesterday morning apparently though they had gone by the time I got down there. The two adult peregrines were quietly sitting on the east side on and above the nest....
Mating has been reported at St. Michael's Church in Exeter so it won't be long perhaps before our pair begin to get 'in the mood'...
Nick B (DWT)

AnnieF. said...

One on the tower cam, with prey I think but it's not close enough to be sure.

Pax Canada said...

lovely shot on the tower cam, and one scratching in the grvel

AnnieF. said...

One on the nestbox ledge lhs, I think it's the female.

AnnieF. said...

@ Gio
The Brighton Peregrine Petition has reached its goal! Well done for publicising this.

Nick Brown (DWT) said...

News just in from the BTO...a ringed, first winter peregrine from Finland has been found shot in Cambridgeshire. It was ringed in the nest last July.
Four pellets have been taken from its wing but it is hoped that the bird will survive. This is only the tenth Finnish peregrine ever recovered in the UK. Not sure if the link will work but here it is anyway:
http://btoringing.blogspot.com/?utm_source=febnewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=demog
Nick B (DWT)

Pax Canada said...

Nick, I cut and pasted the link and it worked fine, so sad, but lets hope it recovers and finds a home as good as Cathy did

AnnieF. said...

One on the tower cam, close up.

Pax Canada said...

one scratching in the gravel again

Sue in Bucks (Scout) said...

Hello all
Another long overdue look at beloved Derby and my word, it's all been happening. I've signed the Brighton petition (as signature 1003). I'm actually thrilled to hear about the ravens (possibly more so than the peregrines are) Spring is certainly in the air now - the daylight is increasing and the robins in my garden are having dreadful territorial disputes - so I'm sure Nick B is spot on with his prediction that the Derby pair will soon start the 2010 breeding cycle. Sorry to go off subject now, but I've been preoccupied by the intentions of the Welsh Assembly to cull badgers. I won't bang on about it, but for anyone who's interested google "Save the badger" and you should find info for yourself.

AnnieF. said...

One on the tower cam and one IN the nestbox looking to be in home-making mode.

Pax Canada said...

one on the tower cam with prey

Gio said...

Nick B,
the link worked fine. Too sad they migrate from Finland to be shot down in another country. :((
Let's hope for this one as Pax said.
So glad goal met (and more)for the Brighton petition! :)

Anonymous said...

Saw the female in the scrape, then what appeared to be the male flying in and delivering a bit of prey – happened so fast I didn’t have time to screen grab it. Happened at 15:39 webcam time. Pre-mating ‘gift’? Post??
RJ

AnnieF. said...

One on the nestbox ledge, rhs.