Monday, 30 November 2015

False alarms

Over the winter, we usually get a few phone calls telling us that a peregrine has been found dead in Derby or perhaps been trapped in a building - and we had the latest of these last week.
Not knowing whom to ring, the person who found a dead bird of prey and thought it might be a peregrine rang the local radio station (BBC Radio Derby) who then contacted the wildlife trust.
When I emailed the guy he said he was a couple of miles from the cathedral when he had found a dead bird. Fortunately he had taken a photo and it was clearly not a peregrine but a male kestrel.
Here it is:
Male kestrel by Ian Lay
 In previous years the bird has always been a sparrowhawk. On one occasion, we received a call from the manager of the biggest shopping centre in Derby, then called the Westfield Centre, to say that some bird of prey, possibly a cathedral peregrine, was trapped inside the building and couldn't get out.
The red circle marks the spot  where the sparrowhawk
was trapped inside the glass frontage some 20 feet up!

When I went down to look I discovered a sparrowhawk that had obviously been chasing some prey or other and had flown in low down through the large glass doors. When raptors do this, they invariably fly up as high as they can get, to get away form the milling crowds below. This bird was on a rail at the top of the very tall glass frontage. A small cherry picker was brought in and I was taken up close to the bird which by now was somewhat exhausted. Moving towards it very slowly I was able to grab it from behind and bring it down to the ground.
The exhausted sparrowhawk finally in hand
Watched by a growing crowd of shoppers, I released the bird up into the sky and it flew off none the worse for its shopping trip!
(Note the bright orange eye - peregrines have dark eyes....).
On another occasion someone found a dead bird of prey thinking it was a peregrine. When I got down to investigate it too proved to be a sparrowhawk:
Dead sparrowhawk

On another occasion a kerfuffle from inside an upstairs chimney in the cathedral centre itself suggested a trapped bird was inside. When we opened up the back of the grate, there was a very sooty pigeon. It too was dusted off and released.....
So, as yet, no dead Derby peregrines...but the next phone call could just be one. Let's hope not!

Nick Brown
Project team

Ps. If you are a first time visitor to the blog, welcome.
Please note that the web cams are currently not in the best of conditions.
They have mostly been up there, exposed to the elements, since 2007 or '08 so it is not surprising that they are now struggling. We have bought some new cameras using our recent lottery grant money. Nick Moyes is configuring them and will get them in place before the season starts (February/March).
Also note that to save money we have also shut down Camera 3 until the spring.
If you want to see some great video clips of the highlights from the project's past (courtship, feeding the chicks etc) then we have over 50 video clips on You Tube that you can watch. Scroll down the right hand side of this blog to find the links.


Mike Price said...

Do you send them to Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme?

Nick B (DWT) said...

Hi Mike: yes whenever possible - though they do take 15 months to do the preliminary post mortem - and analysis for pesticides takes even longer, if they decide to do it that is.