Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Ee-chupp 2017 and an update

It's wonderful to see and hear our two adult peregrine falcons in their annual courtship routine in advance of this coming nesting season.  They will both fly to the nest site, face one another, with the much larger female calling loudly in an "ee-chupp, ee-chupp" manner. This may go on for a minute or more, and eventually the smaller male will eventually fly off, to human eyes seeming rather intimidated by her over-bearing presence. There she may remain at the nest site, for quite some time afterwards, giving us confidence that the building work below them has not put off this year's attempt to breed.

Once again Wendy Bartter has captured this lovely footage from our live webcam whilst watching from home at 5pm yesterday in fading daylight. You see them both arrive and then, 3mins 30secs into the video the tiercel (i.e. the male peregrine) flies off, leaving her alone and silent on the platform except for the ringing of the 5 o'clock cathedral bells.



This clip gives us a chance not only to compare the sizes of the two birds, but also to show how the very wide angle of our camera lens can itself lead to confusion. Close to the lens, she looks enormous; farther away she seems so much smaller - and this often causes us difficulties in determining whether it's the male or female when we just see the one bird in view.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Recent Activity

Whilst progress is still being made behind the scenes to bring you three new camera  feeds from Derby Cathedral, it's brilliant that webcam watcher, Wendy Barter, has been capturing moments from our one working web camera and posting them on YouTube.

The camera was refitted to our brand new platform, installed just before Christmas, as described here.
Screenshot by Kate showing the new gravel/slate and
the pale woodwork at the top of the scaffolding
which will soon hold the shroud which will cover the roof


We have additional new cameras which we will be putting online very shortly.

The clip below was captured early this morning, and looks like our adult male chilling out on the new nest site. Ignore the speeding traffic below - Wendy has speeded this up from real time.
Note also how the bird coughs up a pellet during the video.....we think this is the first time we've seen this on a video.





Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A lovely donation in memory of John Sims

Notice: The first of our webcams finally came back into operation today! See this link to view.


John Sims
We recently received a lovely donation which has paid for the entire cost of constructing and installing our new peregrine nest platform on the east face of Derby Cathedral's tower.

Ashley Sims has made a substantial donation in memory of his father, John Sims, who passed away in 2014.
We had asked Ashley to wait before donating as he had expressed a wish to support a specific, key element of our project. When the need for a new platform reared its head, he agreed that covering its costs would be a fitting tribute to his father.

Ashley and John have been staunch supporters of our project since the early days of the project.
Indeed, any eagle-eyed reader who owns a copy of the 2008 DVD, "The Peregrines of Derby Cathedral", may just recognise John. He briefly appears  in it,  looking up alongside fellow watchers at the peregrines on the tower above them.
Indeed, it was his son, Ashley Sims, who first approached us with a proposal to make the DVD and who then so generously gave the copyright to our project once his initial outlay had been recouped. We've sold hundreds of copies since 2008 and the profit has really helped us cover our costs alongside all the excellent individual donations we have received over the years.

Ashley said he wanted to ensure that some of the money he inherited from his father would be put to good use and in a way from which others might benefit. He wrote to us saying:  
"As you know both my father and I have been keen advocates of your fantastic Peregrine Project for some years now, visiting it very often in the early years and keeping in touch since via your website.
He got a great deal of enjoyment out of your vision and work so it only seemed fitting to help in any way
."

So a really big thanks to Ashley from the Project Team at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. It was a great relief to finally complete the platform installation just before Christmas, albeit a year later than we had initially intended. We are sure John would have approved of what we've achieved.

View of the peregrine platform from one of our newly
installed cameras. The cost of constructing this replacement
was met from a donation made in memory of John Sims. 

And here's the first recording from our cleaned up and newly replaced platform, made by webcam watcher, Wendy Barter.
















Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Roof matters

Help Sought:  We seek assistance from any specialist RF cable company in the Derby/Matlock area, willing to replace and recrimp a faulty male RP-TNC plug onto a length of low loss aerial cabling  (Cisco AIR-CAB050LL-R) working at 2.5Ghz. 
We believe this requires a crimping tool with a hexagonal die of 0.429" (10.9mm). We already have the replacement RP-TNC plug.

Alternatively we would seek to borrow or - if we have to - buy an additional 50ft (15m) of low loss RP-TNC-terminated cabling to enable us to temporarily relocate the  aerial from our Cisco Aironet 1200 wireless bridge aerial whilst scaffolding is in place from now until August 2017.
If you can help us in either matter, please contact us on 
peregrines@derbyshirewt.co.uk, or ring Derbyshire Wildlife Trust: 01773 881188.

-----

We've known for some time now that the cathedral's nave roof has been leaking. Temporary repairs were tried a year ago but only with partial success. Eventually it became clear to the cathedral authorities that a completely new roof would be the only way to solve the leaking problems for good.
So the Cathedral submitted a funding bid to the WW1 Cathedrals Repair Fund for £750,000 to carry out this work, and was delighted last summer to receive the go-ahead.

This has given us plenty of time to work with the Cathedral staff, and liaise with Natural England officers, to ensure the best outcomes for the building as well as its breeding peregrine falcons. The law says it's illegal to disturb peregrine falcons once they have started nesting, so it was important that Natural England was happy with the timing of the 9-month work that was being planned.

Nick Moyes and Nick Evans fix the new
platform in place, 20 Dec 2016.
Blog readers will know that we recently replaced our wooden nest platform and its cameras on the tower in advance of this work starting (Scroll down tow posts to read all about how it was done). The entire nave is now about to be scaffolded over and will then be covered in opaque sheeting to create a sealed environment  under which the roofing work can progress. This scaffolding work began last week, and should be finished by early March (a few weeks before egg-laying is expected).

Roof lead removal and replacement will then take place entirely under the sheeting from March through to July. As well as keeping the exposed roof dry, the sheeting will prevent the peregrines above seeing anyone working below.


Scaffold in place along the south side of the nave, 9th January 2017.
Natural England is aware of these plans and is happy, given that the work on the roof simply has to be done asap, that the timing is as good as it possibly could be. The sheeting won't be removed until late July at the earliest, so any chicks that might be reared this year will have fledged and probably moved to the roof of Jurys Inn well before the sheeting is taken away.

That's the theory anyway. A long spell of snow might delay the initial scaffold and sheeting works but hopefully by only a week or so.  If the worst came to pass, the birds might simply decide not to breed this year (maybe they could do with a year off?), but the work will have been done with full regard to the law, and scheduled with the best of intentions to reduce any potential impact.

Both male and female peregrines have been at the cathedral since 2005 and probably even before then, So they are getting on in peregrine years now. At some point we would expect one or other parent either to die from natural causes or perhaps become infertile with old age. So having a year with no eggs to lay might just extend the female (the falcon's) life span....and may just happen naturally at some time.

Hopefully their desire to produce even more young (they've reared 37 so far since 2006!) will ensure that they ignore the works below them and nest again. We know that noise doesn't bother them - it's the sight of people that does  -whether it's a gamekeeper with a gun or a builder with a wrench. By keeping the two visually separated, we think they will still be minded to nest here again.  Egg-laying takes place normally at the end of March or the first week of April. Fingers crossed that they do nest successfully again.

We've had meetings with the contractors yesterday who are aware of the birds presence and needs and will be doing everything they can to minimise disturbance throughout.  Already, scaffolding has been erected along the south side of the nave. The north side will follow and then scaffold on the edges of the roof will eventually support the opaque, heavy duty plastic sheeting which will entirely envelope the whole of the nave, allowing the lengthy works below to continue unaffected by the weather.

Brand new Cisco cable, RP-TNC terminated,
but (see right) lacking any screw thread milled
on the interior of the male plug!
Meanwhile Nick Moyes and Connect Derby are progressing well with getting connectivity for the web cams, though another challenge we were not expecting is the need to reposition the aerial we use to get ourselves to the internet. We knew we needed to replace one existing cable, but also have to extend it by a further 15metres. All that metalwork seems likely to interrupt our wireless connection. And, as noted above, we found that the brand new cabling we purchased was incorrectly manufactured by Cisco/Times Microwave Systems. Unbelievable quality control issue for such a  respected company. But, being legacy equipment, bought by our supplier at reduced price, it can't go back to the manufacturer. However, we were most impressed by Ed Sinton from www.netgun.co.uk who immediately sent us a replacement cable the next day once we'd forwarded  him the picture above - but that still leaves us needing an additional  further 15metres to extend our aerial out beyond the scaffolding. So its either repair or replace - and these thick RF cables really don't come cheap!

Watch this space for further updates...

The Project Team
PS: We've invited Alex Rock from the cathedral staff to update us on the work as it progresses, and will post his updates here.

PPS: ON Tuesday 10th, we spent a day in the cathedral tower with Tim from Connect Derby, configuring our cameras equipment on a completely new network equipment. So, we're now one step further forward to getting back live webcam pictures, with a bit more work still to do to allocate IP addresses and allow Network Webcams to pull video from our equipment again. Sadly, we're also one step backwards with a fault developing in the aerial cable from our 2.5GHz Cisco 1200 series wireless access point - hence the appeal for help at the top of this post.


Saturday, 7 January 2017

New peregrine booklet from Exeter

Those of you with (very) long memories may recall that in the very early days of our Derby project (2005/6) there were only one or two web cams operating on urban peregrine nests.
One was at St. Michael's Church in Exeter and Nick Dixon was the guy who provided us with both encouragement and advise in the months before we put up our first nest platform (in April 2006) and then installed the first two cameras (in spring 2007). Nick's support and help was vital in giving us the confidence to go ahead with the Derby project and he's been a great source of information and advice ever since.
The Derby Project owes him 'bigtime' as they say......
Nick monitors all the peregrines nesting on artificial structures across the UK. These include nests on pylons, bridges, various tall urban buildings and of course cathedrals and churches. He's always kept a very close eye on the birds at St Michael's and you may recall seeing him (albeit briefly) on BBC TV's The One Show a year or so ago with footage of the Exeter peregrines attacking and killing local buzzards.
New Booklet
Nick has recently published a very informative booklet (cost - £6) on the history of the peregrines nesting at St. Michael's, how the birds initially took over a raven's stick nest on the church, how that was replaced by a more stable artificial nest and latterly the fascinating story of the buzzard killing exploits of these birds.


Nick writes:

St. Michael and All Angels in Exeter was the first church in the UK to have breeding peregrines, following the species recovery from the population crash in the 1960's. The Exeter peregrines have bred every year since 1997, with 55 young fledging over the past twenty years. 
During this period, they have been closely watched and monitored, resulting in a fascinating study of Devon's only pair of urban nesting peregrines. 
Changes of adult birds, annual breeding, egg laying and hatching, juvenile fledging success and development, prey selection, behaviour and hunting, plus interaction with other species in the vicinity have all been recorded by observers, and via the internet. 
This 24 page A5 booklet (7,500 words and 17 colour photographs) reveals the story of the Exeter peregrines, from first occupation in 1988, and through twenty years of breeding from 1997 to date.

All the proceeds from the sale of this booklet (cost £6) will go directly towards the upgrading of the nest camera from analogue to HD resolution, prior to the 2017 breeding season, and to support the costs of live internet streaming.


To purchase The Exeter Peregrines booklet with Paypal, please click the link below. 
If you would like to purchase using alternative means, please contact me via my website.


Do please consider buying a copy and supporting Nick and his work in Exeter.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Happy New Year - and a question for you

Happy New Year!
2017 will see a refreshed Peregrine Project. We now have a new platform; we have a new IT partner in Connect Derby, and we now have new cameras, too.

The plan below shows where our five camera will be positioned. We aim to have most of these connected up in the next few weeks. And there will probably be at least three live pages for you to watch.

But we have a question for those of you who have watched the still images which refresh every six seconds or so . . .   basically, do you still need them? 

We know most of you watch our live streams with audio, but we want to hear from anyone who has had problems with these, and have found our static pages more useful.
It may be that we should now convert all our streams to fully live audio/video, but don't want to inconvenience those of you who do find this helpful. Just leave a comment on this page, or email us at peregrines@derbyshirewt.co.uk.


And, as a taster of what's to come, here are three views from CAM 4 which we have just fitted. As you can see, we'll soon be be able to turn it to give a skyline view of Derby, or zoom right into the closest part of the nest.





Last year we received over 395,000 visits to our webcams and blog, and have just reset our annual counters.
So,  watch this space . . .