Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Caring and Sharing

Screenshot of the my PC as I draft this blog post
As I start to write this new post, it's late at night and I'm sitting with  Page 4 of our webcams minimised in the corner of my PC screen.
Unlike our other three webcam pages, this one never times out. These static images change every six seconds or so, and it's a great way to keep permanent watch on our birds whilst doing other important stuff.

Tonight is about sharing.

Over the last ten years of our peregrine project, Nick Brown and I have been very fortunate in being able to be able to share our enthusiasm for Derby's falcons with everyone. And you've cared and you've shared your thoughts and your observations here, too, and we've all learned so much from one another. We've all been fortunate to be able to share previously unseen moments in the lives of these birds with our visitors. Every year they keep surprising us with one thing or another - be it a rat brought back to feed the chicks, an arctic tern that had been around the world half a dozen times before becoming  meal, or the world's first published video of peregrine falcon bringing back live prey in the dead of night.

One moment we think we know precisely what's about to happen, and the next we're confounded. Over the years we've kept records of the key events in their life cycle, and this helps us work out what should happen when. For example, just look at the table of data on our FAQ page and you'll see these records tell us the earliest and latest dates our peregrines have ever laid their first egg.

The latest so far (notwithstanding the year we erected the first platform) was around 5am on 4th April 2013. As I type this, we're quite some hours past that point, but this year is very different.

We now have a new tiercel - a male peregrine with a ring on his leg that shows he's not from around here, and he has replaced our male of the last ten years who had no such ring. We know many of our new and our long-standing webcam watchers are saddened by this, and we have no idea if he was simply ousted at the nest, killed in a fight, or even illegally killed by a human  (which still sadly happens far too often these days). We care too, of course. But we did expect something like this to happen one day. As our last post explained, he had been around in Derby since the start of the project in 2004, and we'd been saying at  meetings for some time that eventually we might soon see one of our adults reaching the end of their life. In a way, it's more of an exciting time than a sad time. The cycle of life rolls on, and a new male means our Project will continue. But is he up to the job?

We have been indebted to Wendy Bartter who has been feverishly capturing our video streams and sharing some lovely videos on YouTube, and is also helping us out on Twitter by posting these clips and her observations on our behalf. Like this video clip from yesterday, 3rd April:

It's clear they're bonding well and (at 7 minutes in) this video shows the classic head-bowing 'eee-chupping' display we've come to expect at the start of each breeding season. But, with a new male, we have no idea how things are going.

We don't know precisely when he replaced our original tiercel, or what the impacts might be on potential egg-laying. If she was fertilised by the original tiercel and then a new male arrives on the scene, might her eggs be reabsorbed, or would it be too late for that? To be frank, we honestly don't know. If egg re-absorption were to happen, how long a delay would there before fertilisation and then renewed egg-laying takes place?  Our bible on all things peregrine-related is Derek Ratcliffe's monograph. But we can find nothing there to inform us. Perhaps others may know?

One thing's for certain: a lot of people care about Derby's peregrine falcons. By sharing what we know, and what we see, we can all learn so much more about them.

And as I finish this post at around half past midnight on 5th April, my little view of the webcams in the corner of my monitor tells me she's back on the lip of the nest platform, just perched there quietly - just like she has been for many a year before this, prior to egg-laying . Maybe it's the uncertainty of these real-life moments in a wild bird's life that we're now able to share so readily that makes webcam-watching so fascinating.

Nick M
Project Team


Wendy Bartter said...

Many thanks Nick for this great blog, so much to see & think about! It is a pleasure to be part of this project, to be able to observe these fantastic birds in their habitat & quite unaware of us doing so! Feverish & frantic it may be at times but is never mundane or dull & is good to be up & running again to be able to share with all you caring people!

kate said...

We Have our first Egg 06 35... Well done everyone.

Anonymous said...

Let the story unfold.
She is currently stood over the egg looking round.
The new male has already proved his ability to bring in food.
Here we go for another year!!
Chris Marshall

Helen said...

Brilliant news. That's so exciting! A quick screen grab on Flickr.

Karen B. said...

Yippy .. am so pleased to see Mrs P with an egg! How wonderful the cycle of life is.

Here's to many hours of watching now!

Anonymous said...

Hi to all you avid Peregrine watchers, another great site to see these birds worldwide is click on the peregrine falcon and away you go around the world.
Also to check dates eggs laid and hatching dates look at: and click on the worldwide nesting Peregrine Falcon 2017 and you will have all the data you want. Good looking and watching.

Oak class said...

Ella H. (Oak Class)

Can you tell me how big are the adult peregrine falcons please?

Have the adult peregrine falcons got different shades of grey on their back, tail and head?

How long can the peregrine falcons fly for before they get tired?

Thank you.

from Ella H. (Oak Class)