Update 21st May 8am: both chicks visible while doing a Radio Derby interview about them this morning - and both adults sunning themselves on the gargoyles above the nest too!
The three peregrine chicks on the nest platform at Derby Cathedral are still alive at the time of writing. Many of you have been watching closely since a second chick became ill on Tuesday morning. Despite all our predictions, it is still alive and has received much careful attention and protection from the Falcon (adult female). Despite its tenacity, it does seems highly unlikely to survive for much longer.
Not surprisingly there have been many comments left on this blog discussing possible causes and the appropriateness or otherwise of any intervention by the Project Team. It has been a pleasure to read all these views and to appreciate the different perspectives on the subject, even if seeing the chick via our webcams has not recently been so pleasant. Just as with the injured bird last year, we have had to think most carefully about what action we would like to take (and indeed what action we are legally permitted to take.)
The bottom line is that we shall not be intervening nor, unfortunately, shall we be ringing the chicks this year. Read on for further explanation . ..
Despite appearances (and some illness amongst the Project Team and families) we have not been idle these last few days. We share many of the concerns expressed on this blog and in deciding what course of action to take we have consulted with many people: local falconry experts, local veterinary experts, a national urban peregrine expert, DEFRA, Natural England and even Derbyshire police.
So, taking the advice of DEFRA and Natural England's Licensing Unit in Bristol, we applied late on Monday night for special permission to remove what we thought would, by now, be a dead chick, and had planned on arranging for post-mortem analysis to be carried out for toxins and parasites. One local veterinary expert suggested that, if parasites were proven, treatment could be offered to the other chicks at the time of ringing later this week, and he even offered to attend. Not unreasonably, our application to Natural England was rejected today on two grounds:
a) that any intervention or treatment to the other chicks is considered to be inappropriate, and
b) that any corpse could be retrieved at the time of ringing, meaning only one short period of disturbance, rather than two.
As with all other aspects of this project, we rely very heavily on volunteer input, and this includes ringing. Yesterday we realised that for the first time since peregrines started breeding here in 2006 our two bird-ringers would be unable to find a mutually convenient evening during the very short window of opportunity available for this task. So we have regrettably had to cancel our plans to ring (or "band") the chicks in 2010.
So late this afternoon we resubmitted our licence request simply to retrieve the chick should it die, without offering any other intervention to the other chicks, and we now await a second response. For a department normally offering a 15-30 day response to licensing applications, Natural England has been brilliantly efficient, and we will fully support whatever decision the national experts make. As a Project Team consisting of three respected organisations we need to show that we uphold the law at all times in relation to UK wild bird protection, even if it differs from that in other countries. Yes, we realise it is unpleasant to see another creature suffer - be they predator or prey, but our hands are tied in what must be regarded as being in the best interests of wildlife conservation. And even if they were not tied, we would still be making roughly similar decisions, possibly going down only to shorten its anguish if we could, as it will clearly not survive to adulthood.
We have always said how Derby's peregrine webcams have made us all fortunate observers of wild creatures, and not wildlife managers. We hope this explanation does clarify the situation in which we find ourselves, and we recognise that some of you will feel very differently. Meanwhile, despite the chick's obvious anguish, many of us have surely been impressed to discover just how much care and attention a falcon can give to a chick when it is poorly in some way and is calling out in distress..
Nick M., Nick B, Tony G.
Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project