Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Writing about peregrines - and painting them

With the nights at their longest just now and not a huge amount happening on the web cams, here are a few reading suggestions (and some art) that might entertain you through these dreary January days.
First, the peregrine 'bible'; The Peregrine Falcon, by Derek Ratcliffe (Poyser) is undoubtedly the most comprehensive and authoritative book on peregrines ever written. Sadly Derek is no longer with us. He would have been delighted by the opportunities provided by modern web cams to examine closely the intimacies of the lives of these iconic raptors!
Published by Poyser and now out of print
Derek Ratcliffe's book is a scientific one, full of facts, tables and details about peregrines and their lives. Incidentally the wonderful artwork is by Donald Watson, a Scottish artist who died a few years ago in his eighties.
For a (much) more readable text, try a book regarded as possibly the best piece of nature writing ever to have been written. J A Baker wrote The Peregrine in the 1960s, having 'set out to track the daily comings and goings of a pair of peregrine falcons across the flat fenlands of Eastern England' (Essex mainly). The book was published in 1967 by Penguin in the UK and by Harpur and Row in The States. Baker, a reclusive man, also died a few years ago.
Cover of the new edition, painting by Elizabeth Frink
A further book to delight in is The Peregrine by Charles Tunnicliffe, also now out of print. It is full of Tunnicliffe's writings, paintings and engravings entirely focused on the peregrines he watched at South Stack on Anglesey over forty years ago.

And here are some more peregrines painted by other wildlife artists that you might enjoy:
This painting is by Mike Warren, a Nottinghamshire based artist
This is by Noel Cusa, a disciple of C F Tunnicliffe.
Note the accompanying sea pinks and navelwort.....

This composite sketch by Darren Woodhead shows a peregrine 
chasing a flock of knot and catching one

This is by Darren Rees. The bird appears to be dozing in the sun
All these artists were (when alive) or still are members of The Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA). These are artists who really get to know their subjects by studying them in the field where sketches are made before returning to their studios to make finished work. To see more of their work and that of other members go to . They hold an annual exhibition in London each autumn - well worth going to. It costs only a few pounds to get in.
Incidentally, more of Charles Tunnicliffe's work can be seen on this website -
Nick B (DWT)


Nick B (DWT) said...

Sorry about the web cam problems. It may take a day or two to solve them this time.

Helen said...

Both peregrines were around on the cathedral this morning when I made a quick visit in to Derby. The male was perched on the nest platform and the female was higher up the tower sitting on one of the grotesques. At least I think it was that way round! Both birds were very alert, on the look out for a meal no doubt.

Lorraine said...

Some lovely images and info in Nick's post earlier, highlighting the skills of those lucky enough to have close contact and long term study of Peregrines.

I can't help but pass on another link for those who enjoy portrayal of the beloved Peregrine in art form.

Having known the artist for many years, I'm lucky enough to call him friend. Now fast becoming world renowned, you will see immediately the reason why his tremendous skill is so acclaimed.

His name is David A Scott and though I don't know technically how to place his webpage link directly into this post, all you have to do is type -

- into google to link up to his webpage gallery and I promise you, you won't regret it! You'll be hard pressed to believe your eyes at the exquisite attention to detail shown not only in his peregrine portraits, but also his other close encounters with wildlife!

( check out his " Wild Dog " it's detail is just breathtaking - you will expect it to move at any moment! )

Lorraine said...



This new BP image entitled:

" Head Study "

is just to give a quick example of the above mentioned artist's work, which will give a good indication of what to expect if you decide to visit his gallery. I remember his front room always had a pet owl or two, perched and watching intently from within the shadows somewhere and have no doubt the BP depicts such a bird, which must have enabled such a remarkable head study.

BTW - The equally incredible portrayal of the wild African dog I mentioned earlier (the one I personally admire the most - after his little Wren painting that is!) is listed as:

" Wild Dog " No:6

in the -

" Originals Available "

- header section of the webpage and is well worth a view.

christine said...

when is webcam going 2 be fixed! From christine

Nick B (DWT) said...

Hi Christine: sorry about the cameras. A key player has suffered a bereavement and is out of action for awhile so you may have to wait a little longer....please be patient. We hope to organise an abseil down in February sometime but there are a number of heavy pressures on us at the moment (eg trying to save a local nature reserve) and these are draining our resources of time and energy. We'll do our best to get thinks back and sorted but please do bear with us.
Nick B

Lorraine said...

Will do Nick -
My full support of your endeavours to protect the nature reserve at all cost and also to the necessary private time required by a team member. There are lots of interesting links to follow up from the many previous posts that will keep us occupied meanwhile. All in good time.

Had a run-in with a seagull today when it wouldn't budge from my balcony, despite my very best "gurning" face ! It's learnt to make regular visits now, knowing a tasty morsel or two will be found there at some point during the day. Haven't seen the little Dunnock for some time though just lately.

Lorraine said...

YAY !! ( ish )

Just tried live Cam 3 and found it was working again with right time and date showing etc., but unfortunately none of the birds were present.

Will tune in again later and post if I find it's still operating but it may have been just be a lucky one off

kate said...

Thank you Nicks's for all you do.
Web cam 1 showing almost correct time today, plenty of Feffers!!!! but no Birds.

christine said...

Hi the 2 nicks thank-you for fixing webcam! It is much appreciated Thanx again! X From Christine

Nick B (DWT) said...

No problem Christine - I was up the tower this afternoon and got detailed instructions from ' the expert' Nick M

Lorraine said...

Nice surprise to tune in at midnight and see the falcon on view via Cam 2 Many thanks Nick M&B xx

The new BP shows she looks content and in good health.

Anonymous said...

If you care about wildlife in Derby, look up The Sanctuary Bird Reserve at Pride Park on Facebook or Twitter. They're proposing to build a racing track for bikers on it. To stop them, email an objection to quoting planning reference 12/13/01465.
Do this before 3rd February, and tell 'em it goes against all their Local plan policies for protecting the environment.
It'd take just two minutes, and could protect the habitat for skylark, lapwing, reed bunting, snipe and wheatear.
If Chris Packham goes in the Derby papers and calls it a 'vile act of wanton vandalism' you know it's serious! And he has.

Sue Peregrino said...

Project member Nick B (DWT) asked if the anonymous commenter re The Sanctuary was me but it wasn't. I do try very hard to be a good girl and not go off topic and onto my soapbox but as the precident has been set I want to stand up for The Sanctuary too. The birds were there before bikes and I agree with Chris Packham's view that for Derby City Council to trash it would be A VILE ACT OF WANTON VANDALISM!! Coem on derby, you surely have the wit to find somewhere else for the bikes. Do the right thing, keep everyone happy. It would be lovely if all of you people out there wrote to the Derby planners as described in the blog above. Please help to SAVE THE SANCTUARY. One good thing that is coming out of all this is that the various organisations on the "save" side are coming together for the first time and making a more effective fight - WELL DONE AND MORE POWER TO YOU!

christine said...

Webcam 2 has frozen again From christine

Lorraine said...

I have emailed a polite objection to the relevant quarter and voiced my opinion regarding the disturbance that such redevelopment would create. I hope many more objections are voiced and considered before irreversible devastation is created to such an established sanctuary.

Saw a bit of action on Cam 1 earlier and now see that some remains of a catch are evident in the scrape.

Kate Bunting said...

I went to look at the Sanctuary for the first time one day last summer (I live in Derby but had just retired). I was disappointed to find that access to most of the viewing area was blocked by building works for what I now know to be the Velodrome. I assume this is related.

Kate Bunting said...

I've just looked up the details of the planning application. The poster's use of the word "bikers" suggested motorbikes to me, but the proposed track is in fact for mountain bikes. They have done an ecological impact assessment and made some adjustments as a result. However, the track will cover a large part of the site and they admit that it will have "an adverse ecological impact at County level". I will send them a polite objection.

Kate Bunting said...

I've just looked up the details of the planning application. The poster's use of the word "bikers" suggested motorbikes to me, but the proposed track is in fact for mountain bikes. They have done an ecological impact assessment and made some adjustments as a result. However, the track will cover a large part of the site and they admit that it will have "an adverse ecological impact at County level". I will send them a polite objection.

Nick B (DWT) said...

Thanks Kate. We have had a fantastic number of objections sent in, in fact more than have been sent in support (mainly cyclists)...but we need more - so do please send one in...and yes, keep it polite!

Nick B said...

By tonight we expect an amazing total of over 800 objections to have accrued......the local paper is styling this as 'The Great Debate'.
For anyone who has not visited the site a friendly drone took this great video last weekend. It shows the extent of the reserve especially the threatened skylark grassland (with tiny pools used by snipe in winter). Our peregrines hunt here sometimes.


Hilary B'ham said...

I too have lodged my polite objections to the proposed development on The Sanctuary Bird and Wildlife Reserve. I have downloaded some information about the reserve and realise that access is quite restricted. I quite fancy a trip to see it soon...anyone out there that is interested in joining me, with their binoculars of course?

nick B said...

Hi HIlary - thanks for objecting!
The reserve is very difficult to see properly while the velodrome is being built adjacent so I wouldn't advise a visit. Also in winter the site has rather few birds.....
Do look at the You Tube video I gave a link to in a previous comment ( )which was taken by a drone last weekend flying overhead.
nick B

NB said...

Just to add that the reserve never has had access within it - but good viewing platform around the edge. If people wandered over it, they would disturb ground nesters like lapwings and the rare little ringed plover, which raised three young there last summer.

Lorraine said...

Just wanted to say thanks to Kate Bunting for the link she posted on 26th Jan, featuring Peregrine hunting techniques.

Viewed through the tiny cameras ( with sound ) that were fitted to their heads, the footage was so exciting and brought home to me just how clever these birds really are, with their split second timing and coordinated teamwork putting them very much in a league of their own. I liked the website, ( Quirks ) so much, I've now added it to my " short cuts "

Hilary B'ham said...

I had used the link you provided Nick B. and watched the Drone film of the Pride Park site so did realise that one does not tramp over areas that ground birds nest but there are viewing platforms and having spent quite some time researching the proposals for developing the site and submitting my objections to the plans I thought a "recce" would be in order. I have sent in my R.S.P.B Garden Bird Watch count for last weekend, along with thousands of others and suppose I'm getting a bit fired up for the season ahead. No shortage of birds in my garden I'm pleased to report.

Nick B said...

Hi Hilary: thanks for objecting - there are now almost 900 lodged - a fantastic effort! However the council is doing all it can to push the planning application through so we are up against it. Things come to a head on Thursday 6th Feb. when the planning Committee meets.
The reserve is difficult to view at the moment because of the adjacent velodrome being built and anyway, there are not many birds to seen at this time of the year. It's best in summer.
Nick B