Sunday, 16 June 2019

The long wings of the law......

After a phone call from Mike Goold, who is helping to run the Watch Points this summer, I dashed down to the cathedral at about 5.40pm today (Sunday 16th) to find that the male youngster had fledged but come to ground.
As I arrived at the car park next to the cathedral, I could see a group of four police officers and a traffic warden standing near the far corner - so I knew I was in the right place.

Looking somewhat dishevelled, the young male chick was on the ground in the corner, wedged between the brick walls and a couple of pallets. Gently I moved the pallets aside and the bird adopted the usual defensive posture -  on his back with his talons facing up at me.

Fortunately I had remembered to bring an old cloth and a cardboard box and was quickly able to catch him and show the force the full force of its powerful talons!
After they had taken a few photos and I had explained why the bird had ended up there and what its two rings were for, I put the bird in the box and, with the help of a cathedral steward, made my way to the foot of the tower.
Sunday evensong would begin in 15 minutes and the bells were being rung - so, box in hand, I climbed the tower as quickly as I could and released the young falcon on the top, feeling the tower shaking due to the bells swinging below me as I did so.
Safely in custody
All boxed up

Given that this bird had fledged (or been pushed) a bit too early (he still has some fluffy white down here and there as you can see) I decided to release him not straight onto a parapet but onto the roof of the tower. His parents will certainly find him there and feed him until he feels confident to jump up onto the stonework and launch himself once again.....
Where am I now?
I was soon back on the ground and off home but not before meeting up with Mike who had come to watch, unfortunately just too late to see the action (next time Mike!).

Big thanks to the folk at the cathedral who helped, the traffic warden who found him, the police officers for standing guard, the Rayner family who worked out a way to get in touch with the project  and to Mike for alerting me! Mike told me subsequently about the very roundabout way that some bystanders (the Rayners) managed to contact him. They did so via a relative who knew someone connected with the Wakefield Peregrine Project who managed to trace Mike via Facebook! A somewhat circuitous route but involving a great degree of quick and clever thinking. Thanks to all involved!

The next Watch Point is on Wednesday (19th). Perhaps by then the heavier female will have taken the plunge? Do come down and see....

Meanwhile, scroll down this blog to see live footage of the nest platform set up by Peter who lives in the flats opposite the cathedral....hopefully there should be one female juvenile still there (though sometimes crouched down and not showing above the front!).

Nick B
The Project Team


Saturday, 15 June 2019

Amazing Live Stream from opposite Derby Cathedral!

Whilst we await the complicated radio link  connection to be established between Derby Cathedral and Derby Council House, we have to applaud the initiative of  a local Derby resident, Peter, who has established a live webcam link of their own.



Screenshot of Live link on TwitchTV
He clearly owns a telescope and lives in full view of the Cathedral Tower, and he posted on our Facebook page that he'd established live stream on TwitchTV which we recommend to those who - like us - have deeply missed our own webcam links.

You will have to sit through some 30 seconds of initial adverts from the website, but the service also seems to store past broadcasts which can be viewed, too. The Peregrine Project are not connected in any way with this service, and we don't know how often it will be run. But we welcome it most warmly, just as in the past we have welcomed those who have taken our live footage and created videos which we can then share. 

Sadly, it seems very unlikely that we'll re-establish the internet link in time for fledging in the next few weeks, and we thank everyone for their patience. We hope this brilliant initiative will be of interest to all our frustrated watchers, wherever they are in the world.
Chicks being fed by parent - screenshot of live stream at 3pm 15 June 2019

It's great to see the two young, rapidly developing peregrines actively moving around the nest platform  (though less impressive that everyone can see I've still not tidied up some messy Cat5 camera cabling which I didn't think anyone would notice!)

So, Peter, thank you so much!

Nick M
for The Peregrine Project Team

Monday, 10 June 2019

Ringing the chicks and a washed out watch point


Today's Watch Point was cancelled needless to say due to the interminable rain 
we are having.
Hopefully Saturday's will be OK since the weather looks better by then!



Newly-ringed chick





Before it started to rain this morning (10th), the two chicks were ringed successfully!
It looks as if one was a female (the bigger one weighing circa 900 grams) and the other a male (ca. 700 grams).
Chick plus new shiny ring shows off its developing primary wing feathers.
 Photo Gillian Foxcroft
Calm chick waits to be returned to its nest.
Photo: Gillian Foxcroft




Nick Moyes returns the chick to its nest platform
Photo taken from the monitor in the tower



The Project Team

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Two chicks confirmed and Watch Point Updates

NOTE: Watch Point Saturday 8th June is cancelled due to the rain.

A trip up the tower to look at the monitor screen this morning (4th June) revealed that there are just two chicks this year as you can see:

Photo on the monitor screen shows just two chicks
They look healthy and are just starting to get their pin feathers on the wings.

NEXT WATCH POINT: this Saturday 8th, weather permitting. The weather forecast doesn't look too good this time! It has been CANCELLED!
Do come along if you can and meet our excellent volunteers and see the birds for yourselves.

Report on Watch Point Wednesday 5th June:
A good session this morning with a steady flow of people. Quite a few locals as you would expect but several from further a field. A lady from Osnabruck in Germany (Osnabruck is the city Derby is twinned with), some guys from Birmingham and further away still a father and son from the US state of Vermont. Both our adult birds were in good sight for fairly long periods. They were out hunting successfully and returned to feed the two chicks. We had good sightings of the chicks, not together though but one at a time. For a few moment one of the chicks was stretching and flapping its wings, great to see and hopefully bodes well for the future. Volunteers on duty were Steve, Hilary and David.



The project team

Sunday, 2 June 2019

First view of a chick

This photo was taken by Antony Pooles, a Watch Point volunteer, at the WP event on Saturday 1st June.
It is the first 'real' view of a chick this year so a big thanks to Antony for capturing it.

Parental pride......Antony Pooles
When we looked at the monitor in the tower the other day unfortunately the chicks were all out of view on the right hand side of the nest platform....the very side that the only working camera can't see!
We'll try again this week and hope to confirm how many chicks we have...…

Meanwhile the next Watch Points are on Wednesday 5th and Saturday 8th, weather permitting.

Antony's report of the Watch Point on Saturday (1st) read:

Over 120 people attended today's watch point in what was (eventually) warm sunshine.. The chicks were fed twice in quick succession early on, first by the female and then by the male and both adults were around for much of the watch point frequently flying between the tower and the Jurys Inn to the delight of visitor and volunteer alike. We also got our first decent look at one of the youngsters as it sat next to 'Dad' for an hour or so with its head clearly showing over the edge of the platform.

The project team

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Watch Points start and some Updates

Update on the first Watch Point:
In good weather, the first of this season's Watch Point events took place on Saturday (25th May) with over 50 people attending.
Mike Goold (from DWT) took this photo of the falcon leaving the tower:

Legs trailing, the falcon sets off from the tower. Mike Goold
The next WP event is on Wednesday 5th June so do come down and say hello and see the adults at least 'for real'.
And here's an Update on the second WP written by Joyce to whom thanks (on 29th May):
"Helen, Steve, Tony and Joyce welcomed 90 visitors to the first Wednesday Watchpoint on Cathedral Green today including a ‘Walking For Health’ group and families with children on half-term holiday. One lady was visiting from Sydney Australia!
The Chicks are too small to be seen yet, but here are the adults who treated us to some flights between the tower and Jurys Inn. The male flew off for a while on a hunting trip, but sat on top of one of the cameras on his return.  We guessed that the female was keeping the chicks warm and well fed, as it was rather cool and breezy today for much of the morning.  She did sit on the nest ledge for a while too, so our visitors had some good views".


Update on the third WP from volunteer Antony P:
Over 120 people attended today's watch point in what was (eventually) warm sunshine.. The chicks were fed twice in quick succession early on, first by the female and then by the male and both adults were around for much of the watch point frequently flying between the tower and the Jurys Inn to the delight of visitor and volunteer alike. We also got our first decent look at one of the youngsters as it sat next to 'Dad' for an hour or so with its head clearly showing over the edge of the platform.


Each year Derbyshire Wildlife Trust organises a series of Watch Point events on Cathedral Green, the grassy area behind the cathedral....and this year will be no exception.

Emma Wood has organised the rota of volunteers who will operate the Watch Points, set up the telescopes etc so that everyone can see the birds 'for real'. This will be especially important this year with no access to the web cams so far anyway...
Watch Points start on Saturday 25th May from roughly 10.30 to 1.00pm dependent on the weather of course. If it is wet they won't happen....
Then they run every Wednesday and Saturday until 6th July.
Do please try to come along and say 'hello' both to our wonderful volunteers and to the birds themselves!
The Project Team

Please scroll down to read about the current state of play regarding eggs and chicks...…
(A visit to the cathedral today (31/5)  to try to see on the monitor how many chicks we have proved fruitless because they had all moved out of range of the only camera that can be seen on the monitor half way up the tower...which is pointed at the side where the eggs were laid. So we are no wiser as yet!)

Friday, 17 May 2019

Two peregrine chicks confirmed at Derby

Yesterday morning we were able to confirm that we now have two young peregrine falcon chicks on Derby Cathedral, and two eggs that may well not now hatch. These will no doubt be incubated for some time to come until they either hatch, or she gives up on them completely. Meanwhile, both adults are caring for their new arrivals very attentively, as we see from the two clips below.





We've not been able to bring you all the interesting video sequence we retrieved yesterday, but these moments included prolonged periods of preening and others of the male frequently bringing in food which were not well-received, so he flew off with them until later in the day. Plus this lovely one below showing how our falcon spreads her wings and turns her back so as to protect the chicks from the heat of the morning sun, whilst still attempting to keep warm those remaining two eggs.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

First view of new chicks

After teasing us with late egg-laying and late hatching, we're pleased to be able to report that we now have our first chick - or chicks - of the season.

We'd expected signs of hatching last Thursday (see post) but yesterday a return visit to Derby Cathedral's tower to check our cameras revealed some tantalising glimpses of our new arrivals.
With the sun having only just risen above the horizon, and shining directly into the camera, we can make out one tiny chick being carefully shielded by its mother.



As you can see from the other video clip below, our falcon is still incubating at east two of the clutch of four eggs, though whether these will ever hatch seems unlikely. What we do know is that one tiny white chick had definitely hatched, and possibly a second one too - but there was not enough showing to be confident.




Why can't we be sure? (Ignore this bit if you aren't into the technicalities of our Project)
Basically, it's down to my own stupidity! Our modern IP cameras automatically detect and record any movement in the nest, storing short video clips on a memory card built into the camera itself. When that 32Gb card is full, any new recordings overwrite older ones so we always see the latest activity. With our internet link still not established (see below for update), the only way to know what's been going on is to climb up the tower, and plug a laptop into the circuitry going to the outdoor camera, and scroll through its internal recordings.. Previously, these recording had been very low quality, so I remarked in an earlier blog post how I had tweaked its settings, and had also increased video resolution. Unfortunately, I went too far the other way, without realising the consequences, So on Monday, I discovered the disk was completely full of lots of consecutive uninteresting clips of shuffling on the nest, but each one in vastly higher resolution that was necessary. As a result, the memory card inside the camera was completely full with just one day's incubation. Any real activity of hatching, or that first feed (no doubt on Friday or Saturday) had been completely overwritten. I really am sorry about that and have now increasing image compression, reduced video clip size, and attempted to reduce the sensitivity of the motion detection software itself. Providing I haven't gone too far the other way, this should now give us fewer clips, but each with greater interest in them. So, no more 50 second clips using 200Mb of storage space, I hope. Fingers crossed, everyone!



We do have some progress to report on reestablishing a link from the ancient cathedral tower to the nearby Council House. We understand a new pole has been fitted and cabled up which will have line-of-sight to the tower once the wireless link equipment is installed there. We then aim to meet (later this week, perhaps) to determine what we need to do at the Cathedral end. It would be unfair of me to promise a re-connection immediately, but we are doing our best. I'm hoping the easiest way is to establish a link from the Clock Room (which houses our IT equipment) by rigging up a small aerial outside, just above the nave roof, which won't be visible to anyone else or impact on the structure of this important listed building. If that's too low down, we might then consider something inside one of the window alcoves in the Ringing Room, which is slightly higher up, but more prone to accidental disturbance. We will keep you informed of our investigations, and we apologise to everyone who has been disappointed that Derby's Peregrines aren't currently watchable online. Of course, in a few weeks, we'll be able to consider Watchpoints from outside the Cathedral. Watch this space!

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Still awaiting hatching

With hatching expected around 8th May this year (quite a bit later than other local pairs) a climb up the spiral staircase at Derby Cathedral was expected to reveal to us that at least one new chick had hatched.

As the video below shows, as at this morning (9th May) our falcons are still incubating four eggs. No sign of pipping could be detected, though some background chirps did make us wonder if we were hearing a soon-to-hatch chick inside its egg, or some other source of noise entirely. Reviewing the automated recordings shows how one or other bird has sat tight on those eggs during some pretty horrible weather.



It has certainly been very wet and windy these last few days, but peregrine falcons are mountain birds and have adapted to coping in bad weather. Less can be said of our nest camera which now bears a round tidemark from a large raindrop that formed on the front of the lens cover!

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Four eggs confirmed

Yesterday (after returning from holiday and finally wresting my laptop off my daughter who'd been using it for her GCSE exam revision for the last few days!) I managed to call in at Derby Cathedral to check out our cameras. The good news is, we definitely have a full clutch of four eggs, and expect these to hatch out in the first week of May.

Nowadays, a laptop is needed because modern 'IP cameras' can't be viewed directly from a TV monitor, like our old cameras used to be. But what they can do is deploy 'movement detection', which automatically records a short clip of whatever is happening on the nest platform directly to a built in SD card. Most often it's just a bit of shuffling around on the nest scrape, which isn't very interesting to watch. But, by wading through the recordings, we can unearth gems recorded over the last few days or weeks, like the one below. Here we see the female peregrine falcon being relieved by the smaller male (known as a tiercel) from her main duties of incubation. It confirmed that, just as in every year since 2007, we have had a clutch of four eggs laid at Derby.



The clip above was actually created by uploading two separate, higher quality video clips to YouTube, which had been automatically recorded moments apart. It's no longer possible to merge clips together on YouTube itself, so for a 'quick fix' I used a free online merging tool at www.clideo.com. If you'd like to view the much higher resolution HD versions separately, see here and then here.

Whilst we do still have an old analogue video recorder inside the cathedral's tower, it can only connect to our one remaining analogue camera, which nowadays we use just to show visitors inside the Cathedral's tower what's happening just a few metres away outside. Over the years we have gone through quite a few analogue video recorders, but eventually the wind-blown dust within the ancient stone tower tends to get inside their mechanisms, and they eventually fail us. With our latest (second hand) one  now on the blink, and with the camera not giving us such a good image, we've not been too fussed to strip down the recorder and try to get it working again. Our greater need at the moment is to reinstate our internet connection so everyone can watch our birds live.

Nick M
Peregrine Project Technical Advisor

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Incubation time and an update

28th April: as incubation continues it is now clear that we definitely have four eggs! Video clips showing them will be uploaded shortly....

Despite several visits to the tower to try to see the eggs, so far we have failed....and currently for various technical reasons, we haven't been able to access the video recorder which has been on the blink! We're working on that.
There has been a very chilly east wind blowing for over a week and that has meant that the female, now well into incubation, has been sitting very tightly on her precious eggs.
So, as usual each year, we are now in a very quite, inactive phase of the breeding cycle.

Sight of our first chick back in 2014.
Screengrab by Marski.

Incubation lasts for just over 30 days so it will be a few weeks yet before hatching begins.
We remain hopeful that the web cams will be back on stream by then. Rest assured we are doing everything we can to ensure that will happen.
Meanwhile, there are other peregrine web cams to watch both in the UK and abroad. And, indeed web cams on many other bird (and some mammal) species too if you are feeling the need.
For example, the Wildlife Trusts nationally have several web cams available. See here.
There's a Dutch peregrine web cam here . This is near the top of a big cooling tower, a very lofty perch indeed! Incubation is underway there as well.....

And worldwide try this site here . Take just one species (eg the white tailed eagle) and there are over 30 web cams available though they are all in the USA or Canada.
Happy viewing!

The project team

Friday, 5 April 2019

Second falcon egg and an update

Update on 11 April: by now our pair should have a complete clutch and have started incubation. Certainly when we have been up to look at the monitor in the tower she has been sitting very tight on her eggs and we haven't yet been able to see if there are indeed four or not. We expect there will be.
The cold winds from the NE and E blowing onto the nest will ensure she stays put as much of the time as she can.....it least it has been dry!

Sometime on the night of 4th April a second egg arrived. Because of the low light levels, the video below is low resolution.

Every year since 2007 we  have had four eggs laid, and this year is unlikely to be different. Not all hatch, nor to the chicks all survive to the point of fledging. But we have so far seen over 40 young peregrines take flight since the project began.



We can't be sure (because they're not ringed) but we still believe this is the same female who first arrived in 2006. However, we do know that our male falcon only arrived a few years ago, replacing the previous male, though we do not know what happened to him.

In past years we had to warn our webcam watchers not to be alarmed if they saw two or three eggs lying out in the cold, apparently unattended for hours at a time. This is quite normal for peregrines, who delay the full incubation process until all eggs are laid. This means that they all develop at almost exactly the same time, rather than hatching in a staggered manner like many other species.

Of course, with our current lack of any internet connection from the Tower, we can't bring you these live moments right now, but hope to be able to do so soon. (During this climb up into the cathedral tower to retrieve video clips, we adjusted the focus and resolution settings, so daytime videos should be sharper from now on.)

Oh, and thanks to everyone for their comments in the last post, and especially to Zebra Class who correctly forecasted this second egg. Well done Zebra Class!

While we wait for live footage, you might like to see other webcams managed by Wildlife Trusts elsewhere in the UK - click HERE. They cover barn owls, ospreys, peregrines and more....well worth a look!

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

First egg of 2019

A climb up Derby Cathedral's tower yesterday revealed the news we'd all been waiting for: - the first egg of the 2019 season.

Despite not currently having an internet link from the tower (and thus no live webcams at this time) we were able to directly access our cameras and retrieve a number of motion-activated clips. This suggests that the first egg was laid sometime between 22:30hrs on 31st March, and 03:00 on 1st April.

Whilst we were up in the tower (around 16:45pm) , we were able to witness a wonderful moment when the smaller male flew up onto the platform to join his partner. Together they stood, both with their heads bowed, calling loudly to one another, making "eeechupp-eeechupp" cries. After a few minutes of this courtship display the male flew off, leaving the now silent female alone with her new egg.

At this stage we can't promise when we'll have our webcam connections up and running again, but it's certainly great to be able to share these moments with all our blog readers.








Saturday, 30 March 2019

Nothing yet

Saturday 30th March
A quick visit half way up the cathedral tower to look at the web cam monitor this morning showed that there was nothing in the gravel on the platform.
The female was there, turning round, scraping a depression so all looks good but as yet, no egg.

No egg yet (10 am on 30 March 2019)


The Council's IT team are working on the connectivity problem and we hope to have some news before too long.
The Project team


Saturday, 23 February 2019

Cleaning up our act

Warm, calm weather last Thursday allowed the team to do some pre-breeding season preparations on the nest platform, located half a rope-length down Derby Cathedral's tower.

Nick M goes over the edge
This work involved an abseil down from the top of the tower, which inevitably disturbed our female peregrine falcon for a short while, as she had been calmly perched on the nest platform itself. She flew off, calling vociferously for a few moments, before landing on the huge illuminated 'Y' of nearby Jury's Inn, where she remained passively until we had finished our task.

Nest cam view of the platform on Derby Cathedral, taken 21st February 2019
The abseil involved the removal and disposal of old bones and feathers, and the addition of new slate chippings to the platform. We also cleaned the lenses of the four nest cameras in readiness for their re-connection later this year, as you can see from the screenshot below.

As you may have read in earlier posts, we are investigating new ways of getting an internet connection into the 16th century stone tower - an essential requirement if we are to broadcast  the goings-on this season. The previous radio link via the Silk Mill Museum had to be dismantled when major redevelopment work of a brand-new museum concept started last autumn (read more on that here). We will keep you informed of progress as the investigations into new connectivity continue.
Nick M cleans the platform and cameras


Meanwhile, those of you lucky enough to be passing through along Full Street behind the cathedral might like to keep an eye out for our pair of peregrines on the tower. For it's now that our birds are likely to be seen courting, or even mating - an event that occurs frequently between February and late March.
The Project team



Tuesday, 12 February 2019

2019 - we're back!

First, may we start with an apology?

The Project Team have been very silent for the last few months, and are sorry for the recent inactivity on our blog and webcams.
But things are picking up again as we look to the 2019 peregrine breeding season. So here's an update of what's happening.

Our wireless webcam link to the internet ceased last autumn.  This was due to major redevelopment work at nearby Silk Mill Museum, which was the first link in our network connection. All our ancient radio link equipment was taken out of the museum building. But it's so old that it we've been advised to retire it. Shortly after that happened,  I (Nick M) disappeared completely for five months as I had to throw myself completely into a major house renovation project of my own. (I had no internet either!).

Having quite literally dusted myself off, I and Nick B have returned to pick up this year's Peregrine Project, supported by our partners, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Derby Cathedral and Derby City Council.

In the next couple of weeks we'll be doing some routine platform maintenance and camera-cleaning work, so are watching out for a good weather forecast, sometime before the first week in March.

We are talking with the IT experts at Derby City Council about finding an alternative wireless connection. Essential wireless linking equipment that last year we were advised might cost us some £10,000 to replace, might now be  replaceable for around £800 or so, which is great news. Critically, we will need line-of-sight through the tower's windows to a council-owned wireless base-station somewhere. As this has yet to be installed on an experimental basis, we will have to be patient. At this time, we can't be absolutely certain it will work, and thus it seems sensible for us to investigate alternate means of establishing an internet linking, if needs be. This we are doing with the help of the Cathedral itself.

Adult female peregrine on top of Derby Cathedral Tower
We held a meeting last week with the Cathedral administrators to discuss plans for this season, including the timing of their Tower Tours (thoroughly recommended!) and how best to manage some essential repairs that are needed to the exterior of Derby Cathedral's 14th century tower. We're currently checking the legality of our advice with Natural England, who are the government body charged with licencing or approving any activities affecting Schedule I breeding birds.

Of course, the main thing is that the peregrines are back! Well, actually, they never went away, but we are now seeing them together on nearby Jury's Inn hotel, and on the tower itself. We're also hearing that familiar ''Eee-chupp' courtship call, proving that this season's breeding is starting to kick off again. So, if you're in Derby, keep one eye out - you might even be lucky enough to see them mating.

We do recognise that we have, not unreasonably, received some criticism for our inactivity this last few months, for which I must accept responsibility and apologise. But Nick B and I are as committed as ever to helping Derby's peregrines. It has been a pleasure and a delight to have had the support - both moral and financial - from so many people for this project over the years. We know it has bought immense pleasure to many people, near and far. Long may that continue.

We might not get the cameras up and running in the next few weeks, but rest assured that we're back. Well, we never really went away, either.

The Peregrine Project Team