Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Cathedral Cafe window display

Yesterday I took time out from preparing for the launch of my new book on The Flora of Derbyshire to pop down to the Cathedral to reinstall our peregrine display.
Window display in Derby Cathedral's cafe on Irongate.

The window display in the Cathedral Centre cafe opposite the cathedral was designed and constructed with financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and is based on a life-sized reconstruction of the real peregrine nest ledge, and includes a live link to one of our nest webcams. This monitor can be viewed by passers by on Irongate (though the view is best if  the early morning sun's not shining on the window).

The main focus of the cafe display was to highlight to visitors the fact that there are not only peregrine faces to be seen on the mediaeval tower of Derby's cathedral, but many others too. In fact, there are 26 carved stone faces in one form or another on the tower. For example, there is the intricate  face of the 'green man' with vegetation sprouting from his nostrils which most visitors probably never notice, despite two of them being at eye-level as they walk in the main west entrance. There are also smaller green faces and tiny human figures half way up the tower, except on the east face.
Green man beside the west entrance to Derby Cathedral.
Then towards the top of the tower, of course, we have the large stone grotesques that for over four centuries have stared down at us mere mortals with their beastly, cold faces (the stone figures, not the mortals). Actually, I rather like these eleven grotesques, apart from the times when I have to abseil off the tower and end up treading on some rather unpleasant and slippery avian remains as I climb over the parapet.
Clearly however our peregrines like them, especially as they form a great perch on which to feed or roost. You can see them using these perches in our tower cam view, which is on the recently re-activated Stream 3.
One of the carved 'grotesque' figures on top of the tower

Our best nest views are now either the live audio-video feed of Stream 4, or the equivalent images which change every six seconds or so in Stream 1. It's this latter stream that we normally use to drive the Cathedral Cafe window.  Unfortunately right now there's a bit of a problem with the cathedral's own WiFi connection, so until they get that fixed the window monitor itself will not be turned on - possibly later next week. Let's hope it's in time for when the chicks start to hatch out. And that's really is not all that far off now!
Meanwhile Ian Layton our People and Peregrines Engagement Officer is gearing up for the start of the new season and organising watchpoints, whilst I've been working on producing a new visitor leaflet for Derby Cathedral, looking at the many faces found on its ancient tower. Nick Brown is keeping us all in order and  drives us along, really helping out as a lead volunteer in so many ways that we don't know what we'd do without him. Meanwhile Jane and Kaite back at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's HQ in Belper are doing a great job with the finances and promotion of our project - like our new Donations Page which a number of you have kindly contributed to in recent weeks.

Here's to seeing the new chicks very soon!

Nick Moyes
Peregrine Project Technical Advisor
Ps There may be a short interruption to web cam transmission on the morning of Friday 1st May. If so, it should last no longer than 30 minutes and hopefully much shorter. So don't panic, normal service will be resumed asap.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

21st April - National Peregrine Day?

Seventy years ago today (21st April 1945) Derek Ratcliffe climbed to his first peregrine eyrie in the north of England. he went on to become the world expert on this bird. A book about his life and work for nature in general and peregrines in particular has just been published (see below).
For those of you who have never heard of Derek Ratcliffe, he was a life-long student of peregrines and wrote the monumental monograph entitled simply The Peregrine published by Poyser Press, the bible for anyone seriously interested in this enigmatic bird.
Derek Ratcliffe
It is probably due to Derek that we have peregrines on Derby Cathedral and indeed in so many other towns and cities across the UK. For it was Derek's scientific work in the 1950s and 60s that showed that DDT and other persistent organochlorine pesticides were accumulating up the food chain and affecting the thickness of peregrine egg shells such that they cracked when the parent birds sat to incubate them. The birds failed to rear any young and rapidly declined to the point where they were extinct in much of Britain.
Derek's research led to the banning of these very dangerous pesticides, after which, peregrines and other top predators (from sparrowhawks to otters) began to increase once more.
To read more about Derek and the book that celebrates his life go to Mark Avery's blog where a Guest Blog by Stuart Housden explains all:  www.markavery.info/blog   (you will have to scroll down to the blog entry for 21st April).
The suggestion that we celebrate and remember Derek by calling today National Peregrine Day made by Stuart seems an excellent one to me.
The new book about Derek Ratcliffe

Nick B (DWT)
Ps. The book, Nature's Conscience, published by Langford Press, sells for £29.99 .
Pps. Derek died in 2005, just as web cams on peregrine nests were starting to become available.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Fourth and final egg appears on Easter Sunday!

Update: New video added
Exactly on schedule, the female Peregrine Falcon on Derby's Cathedral has laid her fourth egg of the year today, Easter Sunday (5th April), thereby completing her clutch.
Four eggs clearly visible
The egg was laid at about 13.27, almost exactly 57 hours after number three.
Now the long and (especially for her) arduous business of incubation will keep her tied to the nest platform for the next 30+ days.The male will do all the hunting while she takes the lion's share of incubation duties.
Last year, the final egg was also laid on 5th April and the first chick hatched on the 3rd of May.
So if the incubation period is the same this year, we can expect the patter of tiny talons to begin around the same date.
The egg laying period has been watched by people around the globe - see the Clustrmap lower down on this blog which shows where people are watching from (double click and you even get a list of countries and also the number of hits from both within and beyond the UK!).

As many of you know, the project is funded mainly by donations though we have enjoyed a 3-year lottery grant which finishes this summer. Even that grant has to be matched by donations of over £1000 each year - and so far we are hardly off the ground - so any little will help!
Should you feel like making a donation (handled by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust which manages this project), then click on the Donations tab on this blog or visit the Trust's website where you will also find links to our VirginGiving page. Thank you.

The Project Team (Nick Moyes, Ian Layton and Nick Brown)

Ps. Tomorrow (Monday 6th) there is a bell ringing event at the Cathedral - full details are on the previous blog post reached by scrolling down.......

Friday, 3 April 2015

A True 'Easter Egg' and a Bell Ringing Event

Egg number three was laid early on Easter Friday morning. At 04:21 to be precise, exactly 57 hours after the falcon laid her second egg. We were lucky to capture the moment immediately after laying, as well as a video, too.

The moment before the 3rd egg is laid.04:21am
10 seconds later - an egg for Easter.
First view in daylight, on Good Friday morning. The tiercel looks on.

Quite by chance I was stopped by a roving reporter from BBC Radio Derby in town on Thursday morning at the top of Amen Alley. With a microphone thrust towards me, she asked what Easter meant to me. I replied that this might seem unusual to most people, but to me it meant that the peregrine falcons on Derby Cathedral would be laying an 'Easter Egg'. I'm pleased to say my prediction was correct.

Though of course it's no prediction - it's simple biology. It takes approximately 57 hours for the next egg to develop and be laid since the last one. We will now see incubation beginning in earnest, but the question is, will there be a fourth and final egg? Any guesses as to when that might be?

Nick Moyes
Project Team


On Monday (10 am - 4.30 pm) the cathedral bell ringers will be holding their annual open day and everyone is welcome to attend. Tower tours will run every 30 minutes throughout - though you won't see the nest from the top of course. Notices are already
in place to prevent anyone leaning over the East side of the tower (even then the nest cannot be seen being recessed) and someone will be on top to ensure that people keep their voices down.
As you all know, the bells don't bother the birds at all - even when being rung at full volume!
The bell ringers are a friendly group and have been very accommodating in letting us house our equipment in their bell ringing chamber. We hope they have a good day.