|Favourite lookout point - high up on Jurys Inn, Derby.|
photo by superbrad
On Saturday I once again climbed the spiral stone staircase inside Derby's cathedral, part-hauling myself up with the thick hawser-laid rope that serves as a useful handrail for weary visitors like me.
Eighty two steps later and I was half way up the tower and inside the bell-ringing chamber where our internet and recording equipment is located.
I wasn't expecting much on the recorders. OK, there had been a couple of blog comments left by readers to the previous post to say they had seen some sort of night-time activity on March 1st. Perhaps a prey item had been brought back alive, they suggested; it was worth checking out whilst I was in town. But I didn't hold out much hope.
First I went through the daytime recordings, skimming forwards at 5 minute intervals, looking for first signs of mating, or further courtship activity. Suddenly, in one frame, a tiny black dot appeared against the white wall of the distant Jury's Inn hotel. But on the next frame it was gone, so what was it? Running through it again at normal speed I realised we'd caught on camera the moment when an adult bird was flying up to alight on top of the huge blue lettering that spells out the Jurys Inn name. This is one of their favourite haunts when they aren't on the cathedral tower itself as it gives them a commanding view over their nest site, ensuring no interlopers try and take it over. OK, it was at the limit of the camera's resolution, but it was nice to see the tiny dot flying up to land where I had so often seen it in the past.
To see the tiny speck of a bird, you'll probably need to double click to open it in YouTube and then view it in full screen mode by clicking the small icon on the lower right side of the frame.
Setting the DVD recorder to burn this brief moment to disk, I began reviewing footage captured by the other video recorder. This time what I found was even was even more spectacular. It was footage from 1st March. Our male peregrine (the tiercel) was sitting on the platform edge with the falcon down on the stone ledge below him. She looked to be in rather a submissive posture, so I ran through on fast-forward to see what took place as I suspected she might be ready for mating. And then, sure enough, it happened. After a brief preen he looked down at her, then set off out into the Derby air, obviously did a fast about-turn, and came back into view to land on her sturdy back and mate briefly with her. This is the earliest date on which we've seen our peregrines mating. Previously the earliest report was on 8th March 2009, but of course we have no real idea when these multiple matings actually begin. We're just lucky if we see them. But it does bode very well for a successful breeding season once again this year.
More evidence of Night-time Hunting
And to cap it all, a further look back through recorded footage to find the activity that blog readers, Sue and Helen both reported around 11.30pm on 1st March revealed yet more amazing night-time hunting activity. This time it was clear that our peregrine was alert and watching the night skies over Derby. It flies out and returns a minute or two later with its prey which is clearly struggling, though is not sufficiently clear to enable us to identify the species (but it does seems to have big feet). Rather gruesomely it start plucking its prey without the neck-bite we've witnessed a number of times before. So there's a bit of a struggle before it is finally subdued, plucked and dispatched. So this footage adds to our 'world-first' video recording we captured back in December 2009 when a woodcock was brought back alive late at night. It simply proves what the scientists were saying from the prey evidence - that peregrines falcons are well capable of taking advantage of urban light pollution to hunt for prey long into the night over our towns and cities. Peregrine experts, Nick Dixon and Ed Drewitt, believe the prey item is a female teal that has been taken by our male. (Compare the size against the female bird shown in the video clip in the previous post and you'll notice how much smaller he is than the falcon shown here.)
But all-in-all an amazing day - and well worth the climb up those ancient stone steps.