Friday, 23 May 2014

Ringing Day

I'm not sure who was more scared this evening - me or the three feisty young peregrine chicks that had to go through the ignominious experience of being taken from their nests, popped into a bag, lowered to the ground and having rings put on their legs.

I think it was me!

The responsibility of not hurting, not injuring, not scaring, and definitely not dropping any of our three young birds had been preying on me for much of the afternoon.

Ant Messenger ringing one of our new chicks
inside the Cathedral Tower. photo: Helen Naylor

Back on the nest ledge. Slightly indignant maybe?
We were much later in starting than we had intended. Derby traffic had help up Ant, our licensed ringer. But once inside the cathedral we were still unsure whether we should proceed with the abseil and ringing, or not.. The falcon had been sheltering her chicks from the afternoon's heavy rain and was, herself, quite bedraggled. The rain had only just eased off, although  it seemed quite calm at ground level.

However, we took our small assembled audience up to the top of the tower where we assessed the conditions from the roof. The wind blew firmly from the east - straight at the nest and, worryingly, experience had shown us just how easily our ropes could get blown round the corner of the tower and get snagged on the intricate stonework, making them incredibly hard to retrieve. We decided to tie an empty rucksack to the two ropes and lower it down to see how badly it got blown about. It went down fine - the falcon standing on the side of the nest, wondering what was going on, obviously reluctant to leave her chicks. With the rain looking some way off we decided to give it a go. Everyone piled down the tower stairs, leaving just me and Nicole, one of the Rolls Royce apprentices who had been working with our project recently. Nicole had revealed she was a climber, so I asked her to run through the safety checks with me prior to the abseil. We both agreed it was always the first few steps over the edge that made us both nervous. I had my own survival as well as that of the chicks to make me doubly nervous.

Once down at the nest I found the wind was a lot less noticeable. I locked myself off on the rope, and listened to the calls of the falcon who by now had obviously left the nest and was flying noisily around the tower. The chicks were also hissing at me in alarm, cowered in the corner of the nest platform. Then came the even more terrifying bit - picking up each bird and carefully putting each one inside a padded rucksack. Mindful of concerns from a falconer friend who had expressed concern about developing wing feathers being damaged by careless handling, I did the best I could to pick each one up and pop it inside. Disentangling needle-sharp talons embedded in my gloves was necessary before the next one could captured. The precious cargo was lowered as gently as possible to the nave roof where Ant Messenger was ready to bring them inside for the really skilled bit - the ringing.  Each bird gets two metal rings - one bright orange, bearing a three digit number

Say 'cheese' everyone
While the ringing was going on down below, watched by our invited audience, I had a very literal sense of hanging about doing nothing. So the lenses got a good clean, a few squidgy pellets and other bits were bagged up, and then I remembered that the two microphones were both on, and the camera was pretty wide angle, and also that many of you were probably watching. I know some of you heard me telling you to 'say cheese', so just so you know what you looked like to me, shown above is the now rather pecked at camera that gives us such an amazing view out from the back of the nest platform. Attempts to take a selfie failed dismally, and posed a real danger to Ant down below had he popped his head out onto the roof at the same time as I had let go of the cameraphone.

Is this the worst selfie ever?
As you can see from the top photos, the three chicks were soon returned, unharmed to the nest, bearing their nice bright bling. A few moments of holding them gently in place with a hand over their back and wings seemed to calm them down -  it did me, anyway. The worst over, it was then just a job of unlocking the ropes and lowering myself to the ground. Well - to a very wet, slippery nave roof actually. It was also then that a gust of wind managed to blow both ropes round the side of the tower which took a bit of time and some careful balancing on the apex of the roof before they were retrieved and loaded down with a weight again.

A chick's-eye view from the Derby Cathedral nest ledge.
Not surprisingly, by the time all this was over, a number of our visitors had left, but we hope they enjoyed the experience, despite the long wait at the start. We then had to climb back up to the top in order to retrieve the abseil ropes and clear up our gear. Our sincere thanks to Matt the verger who very patiently waited behind after Evensong had finished and who kindly locked up after us.

Ant, our ringer, has suggested that this year we have two males and a female. More on which is which, and what ring number they each have later on in the week.

Nick Moyes
Technical Advisor


Joyce S said...

What a brilliant post, Nick, and very well done on another successful ringing. Thank you to Ant as well!

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic Team,am sure even with the upset the Derby Birds really do appreciate, the care and dedication given to assist their life's journey.
Also the thought you all so kindly offer to us poor armchair viewers, unable to see this live,is truly amazing.
Thank you never meant so much, you are all appreciated.
Let us hope we will be able to follow these chicks in years to come.
Bless you.
This morning sees Mama wrapped around her little darlings...

Yvonne Moore said...

Watched it live and it was awesome

Sue Peregrino said...

I was one of the "small assorted audience" assembled inside the tower and what a privilege, not taken lightly. I can testify to the skill, care and love taken of the birds. Whilst I think the world of the birds, I couldn't, for all the tea in china, even begin to think of abseiling down that tower. Everyone who ever has done so, Nick M on this occasion, deserves a medal. I shall also be on Cathedral Green on Saturday with the watchpoint but I have a funy feeling Derby will be a ghost town, I hear news that they are all off to Wenbley, something to do with some blokes kicking a ball about I think? (Just kidding - GO DERBY!! Win that Championship Playoff)

Sue Peregrino said...

Firstly, sorry about the typos above, I do know how to spell really!
Also, just wanted to remark that the rings go on for for sound scientific reasons, not just to be a bit of bird bling. There's there to try to find out what happens when the chicks go out into the big wide world but it all depends on information coming back about sightings. That's where the orange ring comes in. The lettering on it should be just about visible to the naked eye, maybe plus binoculars. So, whenever you are lucky enough to sight a peregrine out there, keep your eyes peeled for the orange ring and report it to the project care of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

Anne said...

What nerves it must have taken to embark down the tower to ring the chicks more especially so on such a wild evening.

My thanks to all involved in looking after the peregrines. I so enjoy watching all the family.

Caroline said...

Thanks for such an entertaining and informative post on the ringing, Nick! Great to read your first-hand experience, especially as I was at a meeting last night and couldn't watch live as I did last year (when you had a TV crew in tow!). I did wonder how you were doing though given the weather. Bet when you got involved in this project, you never thought you'd be hanging off a rope taking selfies! Funny to think that word didn't even exist then either...

Julie said...

Well done! It was far more entertaining than Eastenders!

Karen Wylde said...

It was great to watch and I enjoyed it so much to see how it was all done.
A big thank you to all that look after the peregines and for making it possible for us to watch the family grow.
Fantastic work.

Lorraine said...

Yes, and the bells ringing at the end, when the falcon returned and looked to camera, were much better than Eastender,s dum...d.d.d.dum..d.d.d.d.d.d ..... !!

Lorraine said...

Just want to say how thrilled I was to hear that Sue attended the procedure in the tower - a well deserved treat for all her voluntary work, both in Derby and elsewhere.

Have a great day tomorrow Sue, give all our regards to the team and a big pat on the back to Nick M if he's there. You ought to stand him on the Green and charge a £1 to shake his hand - could make a fortune !

Green Class said...

The peregrine chicks are wel behved.They are three chicks now.We have looked at the orange rings.The orange rings are to tel
poeple that they come from derby
cathedral.The orange ring gose on
the left leg and the metle one gose on the rite leg.

Kate said...

Well done Green Class, I am sure everyone, will be very grateful to you for emphasizing,the importance of the ringing colours and on which leg.

Do you think you will see them nesting around Derby in a few years.?
If you do think how proud you will be to be able to say 'I saw that when I was in Green class'

Hope you all enjoy your Bank Holiday.

Sue Peregrino said...

Thanks Lorraine, it was a very special privilege to observe the ringing. Nick M and Ant did all the hard work though and whilst I am in awe of the abseil, I don't think we should encourage Nick to
give up his day job for a new golden handshaking business (lol) I hope Derby isn't completely deserted tomorrow, it really is a big deal for the city to be playing QPR in the Championship playoff at Wembley. If it's very quiet, we watchpointers might be driven to pass the time by waving to the webcams except where we stand is just out of shot. We'd have to move further up Cathedral Green.

AnnieF. said...

Dreadful weather for the opening Watchpoint, sadly. The chicks are all huddled in the corner of the scrape under the camera. No sign of either adult.

Lesley Gerrard said...

Are all 3 chicks ok? I can only see 2 on webcam.

Helen said...

Hello Lesley, all three chicks are up and moving around at the moment. I think they were just huddling together to keep warm and dry, which can sometimes make it tricky to see them all. They had a good feed during the afternoon.

Anonymous said...

Feed just took place. The feathers are showing well under the down this morning, 2 have been doing some wing flapping. My word how quickly they grow!!
Chris M

Lesley Gerrard said...

Thank you Helen. Wish the weather would improve for them.

Lorraine said...

Yes Chris M, the oldest chicks have now started the wing flapping stage and are also pecking at left over food in the scrape. Becoming more hardy with each day, it's just amazing to see all this happening before our eyes. Wait till you see the first brave leap from the scrape - you're heart will be in your mouth!

Lorraine said...

So pleased that every tune-in shows the chicks to be progressing well, with growth speed continuing to amaze - and individual characters also beginning to emerge.

PS to anonymous Chris M -
Just realized that I based my previous post on the assumption that you were a new viewer. Of course, this may not be the case, as you could well have seen more "first leap's" than I've had hot dinners!

If so, a friendly sheepish grin to you..... :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Lorraine
No I have been with the project from the start but only blog when there is something I feel other have not commented on.
You are right however seeing the chicks fledge is truly amazing particularly if you are lucky enough to see it from the green. You really hold your breath then!!

nick b (dwt) said...

A wet day in Derby today (Weds) for sure - not ideal weather for the chicks - but they will be fine, rest assured!
Please check all camera views since they are often using the 'other' side of the platform now and are invisible from some cameras......
Nick B (DWT)

AnnieF. said...

Dreadful in Brum too Nick B. and the chicks are still huddled together in the far rhs corner of the platform. This is almost winter again!

Kate said...

I wonder if the chicks can gain some warmth from the Grey ledge on that far side, ( Nick is it lead flashing???) that may hold some of the days heat.

Whatever we are so lucky and thankful to have the varied Cams to follow our little bundles of fluff around the scrape.
Thank you

Joyce S said...

We drove past Jury's Inn about an hour ago, and both adults were each on their favourite letter, even though it was raining. Guess they were having a break from the young ones!

AnnieF. said...

Feeding time & all three are up on their haunches (?if that's what they have!)grabbing at the bits the falcon's offering.

Julia said...

Oh my goodness . One of the chicks just had a saunter to the original side of the scrape and did a bit of wing flapping. Cant believe the size of him/her.

Lorraine said...

Kate - I'm also not sure what the grey area in the r/h side of the scrape is, but like you say, it could be lead flashing or perhaps the metal bottom of the scrape showing through under the pieces of slate. It may well be retaining the suns warmth, as you suggested.

The Plymbridge project has placed some video's on the site now. Last year's juvie is still around and even entering the nest, testing it for comfort and even snatching food from it's mother. Both parent birds seem to be resigned to it's seemingly permanent presence! Though the chicks seem to be okay, I don't think they know for sure how many there are just yet.

Kate said...

Hi Lorraine.
Thanks for Plymbridge update.

All is quiet on the scrape this morning, that is except for a hissing sound like an air vent..

Kate said...

Feeding frenzy at 0726.
Second parent arrives with more prey and little one toddles over to get fed.
Flikr updated.

Sue Peregrino said...

I think I may be able to help a bit with the question concerning material on the floor of the platform. Thankfully, I've never had to abseil and get "up close and personal" to the real thing, but in the window of the cathedral shop (just over the road from the front entrance of the cathedral) is a full size replica of the platform. (Made by Mr M some time ago when he was working out where best to put one of the new cameras - Mrs M had to put up with it "gracing" her front room for some time) on the one side is some regular gravel and on the other some much larger chunks made of a slate-like material. I don't recall why the project decide to give the birds this choice but I have a feeling that if you dig back far enough into the background info, it'll tell you. Failing that, Mr B might put us all out of our agony and tell us! I can confirm it's definitely not lead.
As I was just looking at the cams, I saw that "slatey" side is a thorough filthy disgraceful mess with a massive heap of feathers and a swarm of flies buzzing around! Yuk

Nick B (DWT) said...

Hi Sue et al; the substrate on the 'far' side of the tray is indeed slate pieces. We wanted the birds to nest on the left hand side of the platform because the better, zoom camera faced that knowing the female would prefer a gravelly substrate on which to lay eggs we put that on the left and pieces of slate on the right. It worked a treat and she has always laid on the left (as you face the tower).
The sides of the platform are all wood/marine ply so in fact there is no lead anywhere.
Hope that solved the queries.
Nick B (DWT)

Nick B (DWT) said...

Don't forget there's a watch point tomorrow - Saturday 31st May so, whether you've been before or not, please do come down to Derby and see the peregrines 'for real'....assuming it's not pouring with rain!
Walk to the back (east) of the cathedral and you'll find a grassy area called the Green. Our trusty volunteers plus Ian Layton, our Engagement Oficer will be on there with telescopes for you to look through from roughly 10.30 to 1.30.
Nick B (DWT)

Kate said...

Thank you Sue and NickB
Mystery of the flat piece solved CHOL:):)
Hope the Watch point is successful today, Derby just a tad tooooo far for me!!!!!
All being fed on the slate side at the moment.

Lorraine said...

So, now we know! It's funny how our minds wonder and ponder such things when events in the scrape are calm.

Lovely flckr images from Kate show the chicks new feathers clearly. All too soon now, they will become transformed, from cute gawky chick, to the dazzling work of art that defines the peregrines form and breathtaking beauty.

Another greedy feed taking place with three demanding chicks all looking chubby, charming and very cheeky!

Julia said...

Just wondered what falcon is doing this morning. She in corner all fanned out while chicks are in other corner

Norma said...

Nick, could you please give us any update as I can't find any more on blog since you said on ringing day 23/5 :-
"Ant, our ringer, has suggested that this year we have two males and a female. More on which is which, and what ring number they each have later on in the week." Are you any nearer to being able to enlighten us? Kind Regards Norma (Heanor)