Friday, 22 November 2013

Up the tower in the sunshine

A quick visit up the tower this afternoon (22nd) in bright sunlight found both adults sitting on the lettering of Jurys Inn. It must be quite a few degrees warmer there than on the east side of the cathedral tower which goes into shade very early in the day in winter. It was also probably more out of the wind too!
South face of Jurys Inn seen from the tower top
with both peregrines just visible as dots on the 'Y' and 'N'
Prey remains were few and far between on this visit. The only thing visible was a headless duck teal on the south side of the tower on top of one of the 'grotesques'. You may just be able to see the speculum on each wing - a small patch of green feathers with white bars above and below them.
View looking vertically down to the pavement and parked cars 200 feet below the tower
The teal is lying on the 'bottom' of the downwards-facing grotesque with its white bars 

on each speculum clearly visible.
This angled view taken by holding the camera out through the bars shows a winged grotesque (the central one of three) in the foreground and the one with the teal beyond. The stonework on this side of the tower is slightly different from that on the east, across which the 'pud' cam looks. The ledge is not so broad as on the east side.
Teal remains just visible on the further grotesque
On the ground below the tower were a few small feathers and one moulted peregrine feather. Peregrine flight and tail feathers are very distinctive as you can see below:

Nick B (DWT)


Phoebe said...

Nick B, thank you for updating us on your findings and very brave trip up the tower. The photos are very interesting. They seem to like teal for tea! Something I have thought about recently is the pellets the birds produce and cough up. Has any pellets ever been found and if so have they been disected to find out what the birds have been eating?

The four feathers pictured I can clearly see the middle two are tail feathers showing the white tips – not sure if the last one is a tail feather though it does show a little bit of white on the tip. The first one which is longer and slimmer is a wing feather, is it primary feather?

Nick B (DWT) said...

Hi Phoebe: yes a mix of wing and, as you say, white tipped tail feathers. There's a good (Dutch) website called michelklemann feathers and the page showing peregrine tail feathers is: .
A page showing all the wing feathers (primaries and secondaries is here: .
Re. pellets: peregrines do cast pellets and I've found many, mostly on the ground around the cathedral. They are grey and usually contact just feathers mushed up so they don't reveal anything of interest UNLIKE owl pellets. Owls swallow their prey whole and then regurgitate the bones and skulls of their prey such that you can identify what they have been eating, eg by skull shape and dentition.
By contrast, peregrines pull flesh from the carcase and leave the bones and skull and most of the feathers alone.
The only thing you could find in a pellet of interest would be a bird ring. I've not found any in pellets yet - but one day perhaps!
Nick B (DWT)

Anonymous said...

I too managed a quick dash down to the cathedral today. I went before breakfast at the Midland Hotel. It was a lovely sunny morning but jolly cold! We managed to spot one peregrine sitting gazing at Bonnie Prince Charlie. It was on the left hand side of the tower as we were looking - and once you knew where you were looking, the shadow was actually an obvious giveaway. There was no bird on Jury's, so far as we could see, that must be an afternoon jaunt.
Re pellets, I have seen one peregrine pellet at Aylesbury through a scope and it looked like mammal poo, not nice! Completely different to owl pellets. I found a red kite pellet recently and that was quite different - sort of grass and fibre with, when broken into, a huge chunk of broken bone. I assume that this reflects the red kites scavenging ways, it would have fed on a mangled roadkill victim.
Sue Peregrino

Phoebe said...

Hi NickB, thanks for the links to the feather photos, they are excellent and from them I think the small feather at the end is a wing feather.

Yes of course peregrines usually eat only meat but, I didn't think about them not eating bones. I did once see the Brighton falcon eat a few bits of bone once when she was feeding her chicks.

That brings me to my garden today - I had evidence of a sparrowhawk possibly, lots of pigeon/dove feathers great clumps some of them. I don't know how I missed it, I was in the kitchen all morning! But I was rewarded with a visit from a female bullfinch drinking from my birdbath. Such a joy to watch the birds.

Caroline said...

Yes, I loved the peregrine-eyeview in these shots too. Gives a feel for all that 'sitting on the diferent ledges' that they do.

Forgive me, team, if you know about this (copied below) already but I spotted it in a mailing about Derbyshire arts projects and thought that it would be fantastic to have a display about the peregrines at Derby station as local photogrpahers take superb shots? I live in Cheshire, otherwise I'd offer to help... but here's the blurb -

"East Midlands Trains wishes to offer local artists, local heritage and other groups the opportunity to display their works on the wall of the first class lounge at Derby station for a period of one month. There is no charge for this and it is being offered as a way to brighten up the lounge and make it a more interesting place for passengers to wait for their train. There is one main wall and a smaller side wall. For further information please contact Paul Mobbs, Customer Services Manager at Derby Station,"

Be nice if it wasn't just the First Class lounge but maybe the idea wil catch on more generally?

Best wishes to all, Caroline

Caroline said...

PS. Maybe you will find a bird ring one day, Nick B, as I remember seeing one of the peregrines down a whole foot, ring and all! I guess that feet are the closest they come to swallowing bones. They know that a foot goes down the throat more easily if you start from the leg end rather than the end with all those toes too. I also remember how the parents reached a stage where they'd leave whole prey for the young to figure out how to pluck and eat. Dealing with dinner definitely takes a bit of trial and error!

Nick B (DWT) said...

Thanks Caroline - I'll contact the fellow at the station and see what's what.
Nick B

Lorraine said...

Been a bit preoccupied with glass work deadlines but still checking in every day to try and catch a glimpse of one of the birds.

I found Nicks update very interesting because it gave a great sense of perspective from the East and South sides of the tower. As a cam viewer it's easy to assume that the birds only ever visit the tower at that side! but of course they have many other landing and feeding platforms all around it. Also, Jury's Inn seems to offer sheltered conditions at certain times of the day or during specific wind direction. Plus, the heat from the lettering must be an added source of warmth as well as a perfect lookout. So in that regard, Nicks post was great in giving a directional viewpoint around the tower.

The post from Caroline about the Derby East Midlands Trains sounds promising. A perfect location to highlight the Derby Peregrines, so lets hope Nicks enquiry's are fruitful.

Glad Sue managed to spot one of the birds during her visit to Derby, she must have been well pleased!

A little poem about "pellets" and "Poo" came to mind after catching up on the recent posts - but I decided not to pursue - it's for the best, trust me !!


Lorraine said...

Yay...just tuned in for a quick look and found one of the birds on the tower( falcon I think ) at 22.59pm

Must be pretty chilly up there!

Lorraine said...

One last look in at 2.15am )and the falcon is still on the tower!

Must be bitterly cold up there, but she's obviously settled and comfortable enough to remain there, so I guess I shouldn't worry. I should know by now what a tough little lady she is.

Lorraine said...

The falcon is keeping a lookout from her "watchtower" again tonight I see.

Lorraine said...

BP: The falcon is spending the night on the tower again tonight, presently fast asleep !

Lorraine said...

I know it's late ( the bells have just rang 3am Monday morning ) but the bird on the tower is driving me crazy! I've just taken a screen shot because I'm starting to doubt my own eyes. If you look at the BP on this post, you will see that the birds chest feathers certainly seem to be much much darker than that of an adult peregrine. It can't possibly be a juvie.... can it ??

It hasn't moved much and doesn't seem to be looking for night flyers. I've waited all night to see if it moves closer to the cam but it has remained in the same spot for hours. Perhaps it's just the lighting, I don't know.

Anyway, I'll have tune out now, but would appreciate any comments on what others may think of the BP I've just captured.


Phoebe said...

Hi Lorraine, I have looked at your scrrenshot but can't really say. The bird does have it's head turned so the plumage pattern will be distorted somewhat. It would be nice to see a juvie but I really can't tell. I would assume it to be an adult. I will keep watch throughout today and post back anything unusual.

Lorraine said...

Ta Phoebe - It's hard to tell for sure isn't it. There's been a bird over-nighting on the tower most nights just recently and it's been clear that it's the falcon, but last night's bird looked and acted differently, so with part assumption and part wishful thinking it got me in a dither!

I'll look in again tonight and see if it's back. Hopefully it may be closer to the cam and more easy to identify. Mind you, having said that, it's bitterly cold here in Plymouth and if likewise in Derby, the tower won't be much shelter for either of the birds really.

But then you never know with this lot!

Lorraine said...

Wouldn't you know it - no sleepovers tonight so I'm tuning out and catching up on some zzzz's of my own!

Kate Bunting said...

I noticed a peregrine on Jury's Inn while I was waiting at the lights on my way home from the Cathedral on Sunday (lunchtime).

Lorraine said...

BP: Just spent a nice few moments watching the falcon using her legs and chest to clear a hollow in the scrape. She must be feeling broody and looking forward to next seasons egg laying.

Lorraine said...

Phoebe, you were right - I feel sure now that the bird I was watching so intently the other night was in fact the falcon.

I've been watching her tonight, in the exact same position on the tower, with her pale chest showing clearly. Then, when she settled to sleep and tucked her head under her wing, the plumage pattern on her chest feathers did indeed become distorted, as you explained, taking on the darker appearance that fooled me the other night into thinking there had been a return visit from a juvie.

No such luck! Oh well, I guess the incident has taught me not to be so overly sentimental during next years event. This year was my first experience of the peregrine's breeding cycle after all and so I naturally felt very attached to the chicks. They are wild creatures and they ultimately follow the wild call of nature to depart, despite my longing for one last glimpse! At least there will always remain the possibility that one of them may be sighted and recorded one day in the future, by some lucky observer somewhere in England.

I'll probably fall in love all over again with every one of next years chicks even so !

Phoebe said...

Lorraine - I was just the same the first time I watched them. Always hoping to see the juvies late on in the season. I then started to doubt myself and look for more clues. I still feel for the chicks when things just don't look well. The year there was a very sick chick that eventually died was a dreadful ordeal. But survival of the fittest is what nature is all about.

I hope next years season goes well and that I am able to participate more.

Both the adults have been on the tower tonight. I caught a good screenshot of the falcon landing on the top. I saw her leave but missed her coming back then she was eating supper for quite a while on the tower, it looked like it may have been freshly caught. The tiercel spent a few minutes on the corbel below the scrape. One has now settled close up against the pud cam.

Lorraine said...

Was working most of the evening, but just tuned in for a quick look before bed and can see the bird spotted up near the cam is still there.

Glad to hear the tiercel was sighted earlier.

Phoebe said...

Good to see the tiercel standing in the hollow on the scrape.

Lorraine said...

00.49am : The falcon has brought a fresh catch back to the scrape but I cant yet identify the prey.

00.54am : Now plucking and moving the catch, has shown it to be a teal with it's distinctive green and white stripe.