Thursday, 28 April 2011

Five years of magic!

Derby Cathedral viewed from Amen Alley
It is just over five years since we installed a nest platform for peregrine falcons on Derby Cathedral. So we thought we'd take celebratory look back at what our Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project has achieved in that time.

First, it's worth reminding ourselves just how scarce peregrines had become due to pesticide poisoning in the 1950s and 60s. In the 1970s, there were several years when not a single peregrine was seen in the whole of Derbyshire. The first returning breeding pair was reported in 1983 in the Peak District. By 1990, there were three pairs including a very visible pair at Willington Power Station, five miles south of Derby.
The first signs that peregrines might be using Derby Cathedral came in 2004 when prey remains were found under the tower. However, the birds themselves remained unnoticed. An article in the local paper even suggested that Satanists were throwing dismembered bird corpses at the cathedral!

Then early in 2005 the cathedral architect took the first ever photo of our male bird when he leaned over the top of the tower and spotted a "strange looking pigeon"! Soon after, a couple of us went to the top, found prey remains and saw the birds too. In spring, we observed display but, with nowhere suitably flat to nest, the female bird disappeared around mid-March, only to return again in the autumn.

In the winter of 2005 a partnership between Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Derby Museum and The Cathedral was formed. Our plan was to take our time and work out how and where we might fix a metal nest platform, should that ever be allowed. But then in March 2006 our birds showed really serious signs of courtship and nest scraping. They had chosen the largest alcove available, but to still clearly far too small to be successful. So we hurriedly agreed to build and fix a wooden nest platform to the tower. We were encouraged with help and advice from urban peregrine expert, Nick Dixon, and the support of Tony Grantham, the Cathedral's Head Verger, and an anonymous donation of £5000.
Having gained the Cathedral's full support and necessary permissions, a nest platform was built by Nick Evans and installed by him and the museum’s Nick Moyes. Amazingly, within a fortnight the female was incubating her first clutch of eggs on the gravel bed set down inside the platform.
Colin Pass's photo shows one web camera plus adult
and juvenile on the edge of the platform.

It caused considerable interest, and thousands of people flocked to Cathedral Green over that summer to see them. A series of Watch Points with telescopes was quickly organised by Nick B to meet the interest. By July three young had fledged, although one youngster had to be rescued from the road below. Spurred on by the huge interest shown (and by our frustrations at not being able to see into the nest from below) Nick M decided to try and set up two web cams in 2007 and started blogging about his attempts.  This went rather well so in 2008 he wired up a further web cam to give a view out along the top ledges above the nest. We were approached by local entrepreneur, Ashley Sims, who wanted to make a DVD about our birds. That went rather well, too.
Since 2007 the total number of visits to our webcam and blog is now a remarkable 1.7 million. Collectively, we know you are watching or reading this from more than 70 countries around the world - though most of you are from the UK.

The project team post regular updates on this blog to keep everyone informed about what’s happening and give links to YouTube video clips of the ‘highlights’. These were extracted by Nick M. from two video recorders installed high up inside the Cathedral. In total these 50 YouTube clips have been viewed over 290,000 times!

Our blog also give us the chance to ask for donations to the project – £2500 came in last year, mostly from you - our amazing band of addicted webcam watchers.

In 2010, the blog alone was viewed over 193,000 times (that's double the number taken by all of Derby Museum's webpages combined!). We wrote 50 blog posts last year, and you made 2,535 comments, all pre-moderated by the team. Wildlife Trust volunteers have run 138 Watch Points on Cathedral Green since 2006, and our specially-made location map has been viewed over half a million times! The remains of over 50 species of prey have been collected and identified, with expert assistance from Ed Drewitt in Bristol.

The project has generated remarkable publicity with many news stories on TV, radio and in the press, as well as many feature articles in local and national magazines.
In 2007 Alan Titchmarsh's Nature of Britain series featured our brand new webcams in its regional broadcasts, as did BBC TV’s Springwatch. Then last year Autumnwatch 2010 showed our ‘world first’ video clip showing the birds bringing back live prey at night. Recently, the project gave advice to BBC Radio 4’s writers for an ongoing but exciting storyline about peregrines in The Archers (we're sworn to secrecy, but listen here at 8 mins 15 seconds). 

We've had our ups and downs, of course. Last year two chicks died in front of the cameras, which upset many people, especially as we were legally barred from intervening. Other fledged birds have had accidents resulting in death or injury. But this is nature - not everything survives. Cathy, the young female injured in 2009 is still being cared for by a local supporter of our project, whilst another that killed itself has just been 'set up' by a taxidermist.
It goes without saying that the project would never have got underway had it not been for the very close partnership between the Wildlife Trust and Derby Museum. The key technical elements of platform fixing, web cam and blog management and the use of YouTube, Flickr and Twitter have all been achieved by the tireless work of Nick Moyes , mostly in his evenings and weekends.
So, a big celebratory thank y
ou to absolutely everyone who has supported this project over these five great years - to webcam watchers, blog commentators, corporate and private donors, Watch Point volunteers, tourists and visitors, superb local photographers and the many supportive people in Derby City Council, at DWT and at the Cathedral. Although we've attracted people from right around the world, ours really has been a local project that has mostly captured the interest and imagination of many local people. . .

Whether you are reading this in Derby or in Darjeeling, thanks for your interest, comments and for your generous donations. Here's to the next five years!

Nick B on behalf of the project team (Nick Moyes, Tony Grantham and Nick Brown)

As a sad postscript to this story, Nick Moyes was recently and very suddenly made redundant after more than 25 years in his natural history post at Derby Museum. You can read more on that story here.
I am hopeful that both Nick M and the museum will wish to continue their close and invaluable association with the project, and that a way can be found for this to happen. If it does not, it is likely that this blog will not continue in as active a way as it has to date. We'll keep you posted.

For the latest news about what's happened this year, please see the previous blog post below.

Easter holiday family/child event organised by Derby Museum education & outreach team:

This Thursday 28th April 2011, 10am to 3pm at
Derby Museum and Art Gallery.
Free of charge but advance booking is essential. For more information and to book, ring 01332 641901.
"Imagine if you could see your dinner from a mile away or dive at 200mph! Discover Derby’s resident peregrines and make your own winged warrior mask".


Joy said...

Thanks for all the information. I do hope something will be set up between Nick and the Museum so the blogs can be continued. I have noticed that there aren't as many this year perhaps this in the main is because items don't get updated as quickly and therefore people don't feel quite so committed, this is a thought. Bring back NICK

Mo Cole Belper said...

Hi Joy.....I couldn't agree more..''Bring back NICK''....Things don't seem the same but could be due to the quiet period, give it another 10 days or so and things will be different....Thanks Nick B for all the info.... x

Anonymous said...

I'm sure one of the chichester eggs must have hatched as I spy a bit of egg shell, all signs of exciting things to come, has anyone noticed how clean & tidy the nottingham pair are ? The derby pair are obviously not so houseproud! Christine

Craig said...

Morning all, long time no bother.

Thanks for the update and I'll drink to another 5 year, preferably more, it will of course be water as I don't drink alcohol.

Anyway, 13.37 saw the Tiercal land on the scrape ledge, the Falcon get up carefully and 13.38 she had gone and he's on the eggs.

Two weeks to go for Derby. Has anyone a guess on Nottingham's?

Mo Cole Belper said...

6.30pm change over....Mr P having a bit of bother gathering the eggs together...bless... x

Anonymous said...

I've just watched the male in Chichester come to the female and feed her whilst she was sat over a fluffy chick and her eggs - I've never seen that before, it's made my day!

Ren13 said...

Oh, I do so miss Nick M. I also hope he will be able to somehow continue, even if it as a volunteer.
Here are some other interesting cams, some with audio, but not with such a wonderful blog as Derby!
Somehow I'm fascinated by the Chough, maybe it's the waves...

Diane said...

I spy 2 chicks at Nottingham!

Erica said...

I am away at the moment and can't get on line all the time but I do hope the blog continues.
I read that two chicks have hatched in Bath.

Anonymous said...

Where are you Nick?? I've just seen FOUR chicks being fed by both parents at Chichester!! WOW

KerrySuffolk said...

Well hopefully only just over a week to go, getting excited!

Even though I look at other sites Derby is the best, and the only one that I check regularly. Can't wait for hatching.

Mo Cole Belper said...

Yes Kerry with a week or so to go things are getting very exciting...better get the washing and ironing and cleaning done this week cos not much gets done when they start to hatch.....I have been watching the Bald Eagles in Decorah,they have had such bad weather snow and high winds poor little things....x

Ann ( Canada ) said...

Yes just checking in after the excitement of The Royal Wedding. Now awaiting the excitement of the first pip. Wonder when it will be. I too have been watching the Bald Eagles in Decorah. Our North American so called Spring has not been good in so many places. It has I'm sure given many members of the wilf life families a difficult time. Well lets hope for all 4 eggs to hatch safely and all 4 fledge this year.
Going on to raise families of their own. Hope to come and see you in October. Saving hard.

KerrySuffolk said...

Hurry up Mrs P and the eggies!

Missing you Nick, hope things are going well for you since you left the museum.

Project Member (Derby Museum) said...

Just to let everyone know that I'm still here and keen to continue supporting the project. And thanks for everyone's best wishes.

The partners held a positive meeting today at the museum to discuss and ensure the future of the project. We also received support for what we've been doing from a new quarter. But more news of that later on.

Meanwhile I'm hopeful that VPN access will be restored shortly so that I can once again control the cameras remotely and monitor the sounds emanating from the nest platform, though it may be next week before this happens - possibly too late to catch the eggs hatching.

With your continued support and interest I'm confident we can do even bigger and better things in the years ahead.

Mo and Pete Cole said...

Fantastic news nick.... x

Joyce S Derby said...

That's very hopeful news, Nick. Looking forward to seeing the first chick next week.

Jane (Belper) said...

Nick. I'm so pleased to hear that positive noises have been coming from the Museum and that you are still around and still very much involved with the project. I saw on your Twitter account that you were in a meeting regarding the Peregrine Project and had everything crossed that it would be good news for all concerned.

Am hoping that the first egg hatches on the 9th as it's other half's birthday - a very good day indeed! Still watching and, patiently, waiting!

Best wishes, Jane

Joy said...

Thanks Project Manager but I just feel that this site has lost a lot of interest due to the demise of Nick, sorry

Joy said...

Just been watching the chicks at Nottingham, they have been left on their own for a short time

Joy said...

Great now watching parent bird feed the Nottingham chicks, its fantastic

jean (Scotland) said...

That's good news Nick! I might not be posting but I am still watching. This is a quiet time until the eggs hatch. Can't wait

Hilary Mallela said...

Please let Nick continue with his support ande expertise with the Peregrine Project. It's the best there is. can't bear to think of it being diminished.

Don in Belper said...

Lovely view of the Nottingham chicks being fed just now, then mum flew off leaving the chicks basking in the sun. ( )


swwo said...

First pip in one of the Brighton eggs!

Green Class said...

The adult peregrin keeps looking under her belly to check if the eggs are or right and to see if the chics are haching.just then she looked agen. We think that they are going going to hach this monday. The feamale peregrin was lising to the chics go cheep inside the eggs.The femal bird keeps on turning the eggs around.
she is incabating them to keep them warm so the chics will grow proply. We are going to keep waching and see if the eggs are going to hach.

Steph (Canada) said...

Good to see that you're still with us Nick...hopefully something very good will come out of your meeting - we all miss you like crazy!! Keep us posted.

jean (Scotland) said...

Good to here from you Green Class. I love your posts. Hope you see them hatch on monday

Terry, Herts UK said...

Falcon just got off the eggs for a short while and they all appeared intact. She seemed to looking around for her mate. Perhaps she's hungry or just needs a break.

Well done to Green Class for all your observations! Keep them coming. I'm not sure that the adults will hear the unhatched chicks cheeping but you are right in that they may certainly feel movement and they do rotate the eggs from time to time.

There's a special name for falcon chicks, by the way. I wonder if you know what it is?

Anonymous said...

i do wish we had a camera like nottingham, we just seem to get jumpy snapshots ( or is it just me?) also we have no sound, doesnt stop me watching though

Terry, Herts UK said...


Please don't lose sight of the fact we are extremely privileged to witness the images we see here. I do get a bit jittery when people criticise this project after all the incredible scenes I've seen here in recent years and the positive input to this blog - often enlightening in itself - and especially from bloggers who won't even identify themselves.

Unfortunately, there has yet to be a rich benefactor who might enable the pictures & sound you would like.

Hundreds of hours work has been given to this website by a small number of people, dedicated not only to the conservation project but to allowing us to watch and learn from some amazing scenes.

Whilst on my soap-box, I feel for Nick with his redundancy and admire his determination to continue with his great work here. Redundancy is a tough thing for anyone to deal with but he's clearly resolute in his dedication to the Derby peregrines and everything that's been achieved so far. More power to his elbow, I say, and long may it continue.

Sadly, people like Nick will continue to bear the brunt of this economic mess for some time to come and wildlife will suffer as a result. Easy targets. A great shame.


Bernadette said...

Having only recently found this website i have become rather hooked! I wish I had found it a long time ago as it is compulsive viewing. Looking forward to the exciting time ahead, I will have to keep checking before and after work. Thanks to all the people that make it possible for us to view such a wonderful sight.

Anonymous said...

Just wondered if anyone has approached Jurys Inn to sponsor an upgrade to the webcam - given the free advertising they get?

Maggie said...

Is that egg shell I can see in the back of the scrape?

Anonymous said...

Definitely egg shell. I looked at 1-45am and Mum stood up to eat and there was a chick.

Maggie said...

Seen the pip myself now.
Well done on your prediction Green class! I hope you have been able to watch today.

a.governatori said...

They are the two born little ones

Anonymous said...

first feed for 2 chicks now @

Maggie said...

2 pips now!