Monday, 10 December 2007

Maintenance Work

The webcameras have recently been out of action, and may be again. Electrical safety checks inside Derby Cathedral over the last week or so have been severing our connection to the internet at frequent but irregular intervals. This work is essential to ensure the safety and integrity of Derby's most important (and oldest) building. Resuming the video stream each time involves a climb to the bell-ringing chamber to manually re-boot a PC and, in the run-up to the Christmas season, this is hardly something we can ask anyone to do for us at the "drop of a hat". We hope that we may be able to configure this item out of the circuit entirely for next season, making the video stream less susceptible to power failure. You will also see that our main camera has now "drooped" somewhat. This will be fixed on our next abseil.

How close can we zoom? Closer than this picture taken last June of one of the legs of a ringed peregrine check. But who would want to?Meanwhile we will remove and rebuild the control unit which allows us to remotely focus and zoom one of our cameras. This was lashed-up for us last summer by John Salloway, who has kindly agreed to box it up to make it more rugged, too. To give you an idea of how close we can go, here's a picture captured during the summer of one of our ringed chicks. Click the image to enlarge.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Derby "De-Lights" Tonight

Nov 24th. Adult male on nest platform with female on ledge immediately below.The lights in Derby go out for an hour tonight between 9pm-10pm local time (Monday 26th), as part of a city-wide campaign to raise awareness of the impact we all make on global energy consumption and climate change emissions. Businesses and home users are all being urged to demonstrate the impact we can all make on the environment by switching off lights and other equipment. You can read more here.

You may therefore notice of one of three things with our webcams:
a) no change at all - everything works fine
b) the picture freezes as the power to the tower is cut for an hour
c) background street illumination is dimmed as all Christmas lights, cathedral floodlights and other lights are turned off (except street lighting, of course)
I hope readers will forgive us if we don't specially go in to turn off the webcamera power for this period; it would use more energy in petrol for us to drive in than it would save. But rest assured that this blog-writer's home will have all un-needed power consumption turned off. Nothing new there, then.

Meanwhile, do enjoy the image below of our male peregrine keeping up appearances on the nest scrape at the weekend. He was actively pushing back the gravel layer with his feet for quite some time. It's looking good for next season!

Nov 24th. The adult male keeps the nest scrape well-maintained Nov 24th. Male nest-scraping even though spring is still a long way off.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Questions and Answers

One of our regular viewers, Jennie in Hong Kong, recently posted some very pertinent questions in this blog's comments. We've put these and a few others we've received in bold, and have tried to answer them as best as we can.

Where would the birds be if the box were removed? - well, they would still be on the Cathedral, it's as simple as that. They chose the Cathedral as their favourite site in Derby, England, from which to hunt and on which to roost - just as other peregrines have probably done on and off here for hundreds of years.

Why do they return to the nest platform each day? Probably to assure themselves that it's still OK, and to reinforce their possession of it against any competition that might Adult peregrines in a rare out-of-season display of static head-bowing, November 13th 2007. Female is on the left. (Note the leafless trees down below. It's autumn here now, with the birds expected to start breeding again next March/April)come through. We know that they have been undertaking occasional nest-scraping actions at least since mid-October, and in certain light the depression in the gravel on the left side of the platform is very clear to see. The picture on the left was taken on November 13th at 8.30GMT, just about 1.5hrs after dawn broke. The male on the right remained static, with head bowed, for about five minutes, and the female on the left didn't move much either. The picture below was taken on 18th November after the first snowfall of winter in Derby - the nest scrape is highlighted well under the infra-red light.
With snow on the ledge, the nest scrape stands out clearly under infra-red light. Picture taken Nov 18th 22:30 GMT. Click to enlarge image.
I didn't see them nest-scraping whenever I watched. Do the birds do this at a particular time, say in the morning or at night? Is this the job for the male or female?
I'm not sure there's a particular time that they do this. It's quite a rare event to see this time of year, and with the 15 second change of images it could easily be missed. You can see a video clip here As stated above, the most reliable time to see the birds is shortly after dawn, so try watching around 7am-8am local time. From our experience in 2007, we'd say that it's the adult male who does most of the nest-scraping.

Would the parents recognise the juveniles from this season if they returned? Well, based on the evidence we saw earlier in the year, we think they would. Visit our blog entries for March 21st and 6th April and you'll see two of our YouTube videos showing one of the previous year's chicks on the nest platform. Not only were the parents not bothered by their offspring's presence, at one point the adult male seemed quite intimidated by the young bird. I'm sure the juveniles were only tolerated because they were recognised as being the young of these particular birds. Elsewhere the young of other peregrines have been known to stay around and help feed the new season's chicks.

Now that the babes are ringed and fledged..have there been any sightings? And if so is there a place where they are logged and can be viewed?
The last known sighting of one of the peregrine chicks from 2007 was about 10 miles away, where a colour-ringed peregrine was seen in early October. It wasn't possible to tell if it was oo1 or 002. We will, of course bring you news of the juveniles as soon as we hear it. As far as I'm aware though, it's not currently possible to look up bird ringing results online - but I'll amend this if I'm proved wrong.

Nadine in Australia emailed us to say that the night-light on the left hand side is not working and hoped that we would get it fixed as our night time is her daytime, and is the only period when she can watch for the peregrines. The problem is partly due to the fact that this camera has sagged slightly over the last few months. It now points down and "sees" more of the floodlighting on the cathedral tower, and is fooled into thinking that it's still daytime, so it turns off the infra-red illumination. When we next abseil down we'll try and make all the necessary adjustments, but in the meantime we've remotely fiddled with the camera iris, and it seems to have done the trick. The night-time IR illuminator now works more often than not.

Why does the camera picture freeze up ocassionally? This is usually a problem with the video server inside Derby Cathedral, or our link to Streamdays. Once we're aware of a problem we can normally re-boot our equipment remotely, but sometimes we have to climb the spiral staircase and start the equipment manually. A break in signal in mid-November was caused by the accidental disconection of the pwoer supply to some receiving equipment inside The Silk Mill Museum, through which our signals pass. Thanks to the guys from Capita IT Services for remedying that one.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Admin message: Comment Spamming

From today we've added word verification for all comments left on this blog. This means you'll now be prompted to read some words and type them in to a box before your comments get posted.

I'm afraid we've been hit recently with a huge number of automated comments left on archived posts. These posting themselves look innocuous, but there is a risk that anyone clicking on the hyperlink of the persons name will be taken to inappropriate or virus-laden websites. We do our best to remove these postings when they appear. Please don't click on any links you may find.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Windy Morning

This morning, a blustery SW wind was certainly almost blowing the flag on the tower top off its pole! Both peregrines were on the east side, sheltering. the male was tucked in by the lead gutter, the female, initially on the platform, had moved up to sit on the same ledge as the male but half way along when I returned to look at them with the telescope.

The photo shows a fieldfare in this lead gutter which the birds use as a 'fridge'. Fieldfares don't breed in the UK but come here from Scandinavia and East Europe in the winter. The lower photo shows a close up of the bird. The photos were taken last February on the day the cameras were fixed...there's been a lot of water under the bridge (or should that be fieldfares in the gutter?) since then of course!


Thursday, 25 October 2007

Peregrines on UK TV - NEW POSTING

If you are UK based you may have seen BBC1 TV's The Nature of Britain programme last night on urban wildlife with great shots of peregrines in Bath. If you live in the East Midlands you will have seen the short sequence about 'our' Derby birds at the end, beamed just to the region. The programme is repeated next weekend (check schedules for the day/time).

If you live beyond the E. Midlands you should be able to see the Derby clip (with Nick Moyes) at this revised url:

Ps Recent prey identified by Ed Drewitt includes teal, woodcock, golden plover, redshank and, most interestingly, the second QUAIL we have had (first one in autumn 2005). Quail are very scarce summer visitors to the UK (and virtually absent from Derbyshire), migrating down to Africa for the winter. There are more in East Europe which is probably where this one came from (we've had easterly winds recently, blowing migrants across from the continent). Quail are night migrants so this one was probably taken close to the cathedral - certainly under the city's floodlighting. Peregrines in Warsaw (Poland) apparently take a lot of quail. How facinating this whole story is!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

October Update

Adult female on ledge. Photo: Jon SallowayHere are a few recent developments and observations to report to you:

Media Coverage
Although we know our Peregrines will feature on BBC TV next Wednesday evening in "The Nature of Britain", viewers will only see this if they receive their regional broadcast from the East Midlands transmitter. However, we have since learnt that the associated programme that follows on immediately afterward on BBC Four at 10pm on 24th October will include stories of urban wildlife from around the UK, including Derby's peregrine falcons. Its called "The Nature of Britain - a User's Guide", and is presented by Chris Packham. You can find out more about some of the places in Derbyshire that are featured in this new TV series by following this link on the BBC Derby website.

The BBC came to collect back their video recorder last week, and what service it has given us during our first season online! Whilst the live cameras gave us an up-to-date idea of what is happening at the nest at any moment, our recorder with built-in hard drive was recording all the action for us to review and burn to disk. By the end of the season we had over 130 precious moments captured forever, some of which you can see by following these links to video clips.

A review of the last four days of recording in October clearly shows our adult female returning to the nest platform every morning, just as dawn breaks. I would guess that this is reinforcing her and her partner's claim to this particular ledge. On October 9th we captured out last video clip. It showed the female picking up small stones and actively nest-scraping for a few moments, not so much in preparation for next season, but perhaps a simple expression of her innate nest-building programming. But it's a good sign for next season. We plan to purchase our own video recorder for next season.

Behind the scenes we are working on developing an hourly image archive for the webcams. Once operational, this should let users to look back on on past moments, and should be a great tool for school groups who might want to select images for study. More on this later.

Into The Light
Many of us will have seen the excellent photos, like the one above, taken by Jon Salloway. Now, one of Jon's best pictures of a peregrine graces the front cover of a new book of poetry which has just been published in Derby. Called "Into The Light" this is a compilation of recent work by a Derby group of poetry-writers. Open the booklet, and inside is the superb poem by Ray Woodland about our peregrines which we've featured here before. One of the group members, Fay Saxton, has asked me to tell you that the group, known as "pm Poets", meets regularly at Derby Central Library and always welcomes new members. The compilation is now available for £2.00 plus 50p. p & p. Email to reserve your copy."

The video stream froze at 13:51 on Oct 20th - we'll get this fixed as soon as we're able.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Video Clips from 2007

Here are all the YouTube videos from the 2007 season that we've posted on our blog during the year:

To play the video, find the image in each diary entry containing the triangular "play" icon. Click this to play video.

Follow this link for technical information on the webcameras and platform at Derby Cathedral.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Cooling off

The city may have been bathed in sunshine early this morning but there was a distinct chill in the air as I stood looking up at the tower. The female was sitting motionless on the right hand gargoyle, mostly with her eyes closed (or rather with the nictitating membrane pulled across them, as my amateur digiscoped photo shows).

The male was a bit more active, flying in to land on the central gargoyle, then hopping along to see if there was anything left in the larder (the lead outflow pipe to the left) and soon after flying off when he found there wasn't!
During the two days of strong easterly winds, the birds had moved to the west face of the tower to get some shelter. I could tell this because there was obvious prey remains both on the gargoyle above the main (west) entrance to the cathedral and on the stone flags below. Lots of feathers, even some way from the base of the tower, indicated the prey to have been a golden plover.

Overhead a skylark flew south and gulls drifted past. In the bushes at the back of the cathedral, a party of long tailed tits foraged in a cherry tree while a robin sang its melancholy autumn song.

Winter approacheth methinks!

Nick B
Ps. New visitors to the blog please see the previous post which explains the current situation re. the web cams etc.

Saturday, 15 September 2007


Photo by Jon Salloway, modified with Photoshop. Copyright J Salloway

Over the last week, some visitors to our webcams have reported having great views of our adult birds feeding. But many others of you will arrive only to find the platform empty. Our young birds left the nest a few months ago, and we've had few recent reports of their whereabouts. But the parents are still using Derby Cathedral's tower as an ideal roosting and look-out point. They sometimes stay for hours on end, or can be spotted on a ledge beneath the next platform. So if you fail to see them, we hope you'll try again later.

Many of you have seen the superb photographs on this blog by local photographer, Jon Salloway. We thought you might be interested to see this image, taken by Jon, but modified in Photoshop to give it a more poster-like feel. I suspect some of you may love it, whilst others may feel I've ruined it. Let us know what you think. It was produced for possible use as a front-cover image by a group of local poets who are publishing some of their work. The booklet will feature the Peregrine Poem by Ray Woodland, first published here last month.
You can see Jon's original photo on this archived blog entry for June 07.

Of course, you can look back or search any past archived messages, either by clicking on the relevant month on the "Diary Archive" on the left side of this blog, or you can search for specific keywords with the search facility at the top left corner of this page.

Saturday, 8 September 2007


Yesterday afternoon, after the Mountain Rescue Team had left the top of the tower, our two adult birds returned to the nest ledge on the east side of the tower, remaining there for some hours, one on either side of the platform. It seemed as though they were reassuring themselves that their ledge was still safe.

I was monitoring the live video feed in my office, and was surprised to suddenly hear "ee-chupp, ee-chupp" noises over the loudspeaker. Looking round to check my laptop, I saw both the male and female on the same part of the platform (where they laid their eggs earlier this summer), and there was our adult male, standing absolutely still, head bowed, with the female ee-chupping away at him. This was a familiar sight and sound during their courtship phase in March (which you can watch again here), but it was a surprise to hear it again. I presume, therefore, that this ee-chupp sound together with head-bowing activity is more of a greeting and show of "respect" by the male to the female than purely a courtship display, which I had not unreasonably assumed. Typically, the DVD recorder was connected to the other camera at the time, so we can't bring you any footage of this interesting moment - and I was not able to catch any still frames from the computer in time, as they soon ceased. But interesting for all that.

On a different not, let's hope today's abseil event at Derby Cathedral is going well. Hopefully, there should be some good pictures to bring you later this weekend.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Pigeon Takes a Risk

(Note: Follow this link for information on this week-end's sponsored abseil down the cathedral tower)

Although the adult peregrines are still using the nest ledge as a roost spot, there has been little sign of our two young birds recently. They were last reported a couple of weeks ago, but we have no cause to be concerned for their welfare; they may simply have moved off to find new hunting grounds of their own.

Our cameras and recording equipment inside the cathedral tower are still functioning, despite a recent break in the webcam service. This was caused by engineers cutting the electricity supply for routine maintenance in Derby Cathedral, but this was easily fixed after a climb up the spiral stone staircase inside the tower.

On checking the video recordings, we found this clip which shows a pigeon taking what may seem like a risky walk around our peregrine's nest ledge. Ironically, the bird was probably at less risk here than high in the skies above Derby. Peregrines would be unlikely to attempt to catch a bird so close to a cliff or building - they could easily injure themselves.

Problems and options

Sorry folks but there is a problem with the internet server connection to the cameras and it will take at least 24 hours to fix according to Nick M. Please bear with us.
Meanwhile, if you want a distraction you could look at the southwards migration of an osprey which was satellite tagged in N Scotland in July and is now on its long journey to West Africa, although currently stopping off in South West Scotland. The link is
Nick B

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Quick Way Down!

Well, this weekend brings the great sponsored abseil in aid of the Cathedral and the Derby Mountain Rescue Team. There are 116 people signed up to abseil down the 212ft Cathedral Tower plus 9 Teddies for a separate Teddy Abseil. These are offered the chance of a hard hat and gloves!! Sadly the BBC Bus will not be in attendance as planned by Radio Derby. Today we learned that the Local Council will not allow them to park the bus on the very wide pavement outside the Cathedral and they, reluctantly, have had to cancel their visit. Both the Cathedral and the BBC Bus Staff are upset by this decision. However, if you are in Derby over the weekend you will be most welcome to come and support those crazy people prepared to throw themselves off the tower. The abseils begin on Saturday at 9.30am and finish about 5.00pm and on Sunday begin at 12.00 noon(ish) and finish about 5.00pm. Refreshments are available on both days and we are hoping for good weather. So come along if you can and support these worthy causes. If you can arrive with £115 you can abseil on the day - £15 registration fee and £100 minimum sponsorship. I am there all weekend (on the ground!!) so please come along if you can and say hello.

See you there!!!

Feather findings

On visiting the cathedral at the weekend to search for dropped prey remains I found two peregrine feathers, a sure sign that the adults are in the middle of their moult.

This photo is taken from a Dutch website which is very useful for identifying feathers of all sorts of birds, as is the book called Tracks and Signs of the Birds of Britain and Europe by Brown, Ferguson, Lawrence and Lees (a Helm Identification Guide).
While some feathers are relatively easy to identify, others (eg some wading bird primaries) can be really very difficult. That's when I send them down to Bristol Museum for Ed Drewitt to help. He is an expert at this job and has a large reference set of feathers to help him as well. Thanks Ed.
Nick B
P. s. A short piece about the ringed Swedish tern appears in Birdwatch magazine this month.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

No news is probably good news

Further to the comment about the lack of new postings recently and as Tony indicated, all three key partners have been taking a bit of (.......we hope you'll agree) well earned holiday last week.
I was in County Clare on the west coast of Eire where I came across peregrines on three occasions during the week, flying and in one case hunting over estuaries and coastal shores. It's always great to see them in such remote settings!
When I was a very novice bird watcher back in the 1960s, when DDT and dieldrin were doing their best to wipe them out completely, there were no peregrines in England at all. To locate one, you had to travel to somewhere like the west coast of Ireland or NW Scotland. I saw my first peregrine on Cape Clear, a remote island off the SW tip of Eire, way back in 1962. (That tells you just how long in the tooth I am!)

On getting back home this time, I made a quick trip down to the cathedral last Monday morning to check for prey remains and to see if there were any birds around. The female was on the gargoyle above the nest and I found old remains of lapwing and snipe, two commonly caught species, under the cathedral walls.

I have also caught up with my local hobbies which have now just fledged three youngsters, two months after the young peregrines fledged! I gather from the local hobby enthusiasts that, out of 23 nests visited this summer, seven (ie almost a third) have failed, the highest failure rate ever recorded by them in some 20 years of study...and all down to the awful summer weather.
The wonderful photo of a hobby is by John Miller, to whom many thanks for permission to publish it (and it IS the right way up incidentally!) To see the original post about hobbies (and another brilliant John Miller photo) go back to the blog on 31st July.
Blog fatigue....
We do hope to keep the blog going over the autumn but please be aware that there is less (or maybe nothing) to report now the breeding season is well and truly over, so finding things to write about gets harder without straying too far off topic! A little patience on your parts may therefore be required.
Of course, you could probably encourage us to post more often if you chose to send in some more donations to support the project's future? While we have had 3 - 4 generous donations totalling over £100 from keen (one might even say 'some of our more fanatical') blog and web cam followers , some others who indicated a willingness to donate have yet to do so.....forgive me mentioning it again. Contact the Trust via for details of how to donate should you wish to send us some further encouragement!
Nick B

Sunday, 19 August 2007

On Look-out

Our adult female has been much in residence on the platform in recent days. At one time all four birds - adults and parents - were seen together on the tower. Here's a recent picture taken by John Salloway, our resident expert photographer. Adult female peregrine falcon. Photo J Salloway. And here is the adult male on top of Derby Cathedral's tower, taken a week ago. The distinctive bright yellow area around his eye is very clear to see here, and is much more pronounced than in the female, and his legs and cere (the yellow bit around his bill) also seem more strongly coloured. The horizontal adult barring is also clear to see, and John's next assignment (please) is to capture both birds in the same frame. It's likely that the adults are keen to continue establishing their presence on the tower, lest an intruder decides it would also make an ideal roosting point.

Adult male peregrine falcon. Photo J Salloway May we repeat an alert made in the last entry to the effect that this blog has suddenly started suffering attacks of automated spamming. Fairly inoccuous looking comments are starting to be left to numerous archived entries. These contain hyperlinks to inappropriate websites. We will review the situation and hope that Blogger itself may be able to prevent this. It may not last but, should it get too bad, we may be forced to reinstate comment moderation, which would be a shame. We hope you will understand.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Trust the wildlife trust!

As promised, here's a brief outline about Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT): the trust is a charity set up in 1962 to conserve the county's wildlife and change attitudes towards it. It is one of 47 such county trusts in the UK, known nationally as The Wildlife Trusts.
DWT now has 46 nature reserves, 30+ paid staff, 12,000 members and one education centre.

With an annual turnover of about £1.5 million, the trust has to be run as a small (not for profit) company. We are independent of government and get most of our external funding from the lottery, landfill tax, charitable trusts, donations and the occasional legacy......but it is an uphill struggle each year to make ends meet, as you might imagine.

Three front-line teams (conservation, education and reserves) are backed up by admin. and marketing teams. The peregrine work falls within the education ('people and wildlife') team's work though most of our time is devoted to working with children, mainly in schools and at our centre but also informally in holiday time.
To read more about the Trust (including how to join - and before the subs go up!) go to


Ps. For those of you who live abroad, Derbyshire is situated right in the middle of the UK, about as far away from the sea as you can get! The north of the county falls within the Peak District National Park and includes high moorland and limestone dales which are rich in wildflowers. Further south, the county is a mixture of attractive, undulating farmland, somewhat less attractive open-cast (and previously) deep coal mining areas and towns and one major city (Derby). Just south of Derby, the valley of the River Trent runs across the county, with associated gravel workings and reservoirs, were the peregrines hunt for waders and duck.

Further post-script: Today saw our first concerted attack by spammers on this blog, with inappropriate advertising left in the comment on some of our archived posts. We'll leave it a while to see how it goes, or if Blogger can resolve it, but it may be necessary to reinstate comment moderation should it get bad. Sorry. (May we warn you NOT TO CLICK on the names of any suspicious-looking names, as this could take you to inappropriate or malicious websites.)

Monday, 13 August 2007

Another godwit on God's roof . . .

Black-tailed Godwit. Photo by Nick Franklin
I've just had confirmation of yet another species on the prey list - a black tailed godwit. This is a rare wading bird that breeds only in very small numbers in the UK. Larger numbers breed in Iceland, Holland and Eastern Europe so maybe this bird came from there, migrating across Derbyshire either going north in spring or just recently moving back on 'autumn passage'.....
If it was the latter, then there were reports of this species at Carsington Water (a reservoir some 10 miles NW of Derby) on three July dates and further north in the county also.....the biggest group was nine but it shows that this species was about at water bodies locally in the last couple of months. Equally possible is that the godwit was taken as it over-flew the city at night during this period .....reports of the peregrines' nocturnal activity suggest they are already into night hunting!
A primary wing feather was among the debris Tony and I collected on the roof on 31st July....along with the arctic tern and whimbrel remains. And Ed Drewitt has just ID'ed another feather I had sent him as that of a knot, another species of wading bird!
BTW, the Swedish arctic tern story gets an article on Birdguide's Webzine and will be a news item in next month's Birdwatch magazine.
Nick B
Ps In the winter I found a bar tailed godwit corpse at the now we have both of the European godwits on the prey list. What next?
Pps The excellent photo of a black tailed godwit is by Nick Franklin to whom many thanks.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Derby's Museums & Art Gallery

We wanted to give each partner organisations a chance to say a few words about what they do. To start us off, here are a few words from Anneke Bambery, the Head of Museums in Derby:

View of the Derbyshire Nature Gallery at Derby Museum & Art Gallery"Derby Museums and Art Gallery is a service consisting of three separate museums, all situated very close to the city centre. And all are free.

Museum and Art Gallery contains fine collections and fascinating displays covering archaeology, porcelain, geology, wildlife and military history (the latter is currently being redisplayed). It is also home to the world-renowned Joseph Wright of Derby collection of paintings, including The Orrery. As with all of our museums, there is a lively programme of special exhibitions and activities.

The Silk Mill beside the River Derwent at Cathedral GreenThe Silk Mill, Derby’s Museum of Industry and History, stands on the site of the world’s first factory – the silk mill of John and Thomas Lombe, now part of the Derwent Valley
Mills World Heritage Site. We have displays on Derbyshire’s industries and working life, including railway engineering, power for industry and, of course, our famous Rolls-Royce aero-engines. Right now we are working on plans and seeking ideas on how we should develop this museum over the next few years.

Pickfords House Museum, on FriargatePickford’s House is a museum of Georgian Life and Historic Costume. It is an elegant Georgian townhouse built in 1770, and designed by the prominent local architect Joseph Pickford as both a family home and business premises. You can see historic furnished rooms, changing displays of costume, and a permanent display of toy theatres.

We've all been thrilled to be a partner in the Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project. Our service is all about making links between people and their heritage, culture and environment. So what could be more suited to this ambition than a webcam, allowing people all over the world to see how Derby encourages wildlife and supports public understanding? Interest has been huge, and our staff have worked very hard to help set up the webcam and support this blog. We've enjoyed meeting all the visitors who came to our museums as a result of their interest in the falcons, and the discussions on the blog have been fascinating. It’s been a pleasure to have launched the project with our partners the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Derby Cathedral, but I must also record our thanks to our colleagues in Derby City Council’s Corporate IT department and to Capita for ensuring the cameras were configured and presented so effectively on our website. It’s been a tremendously exciting experience for us all.

We hope the peregrine project will entice some of you to visit us. You can find our addresses and directions on the left hand menu of our Museums' web-pages.

Anneke Bambery, Head of Museums"

Contributions from our other partners will follow shortly.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Hanging Around

Just hanging about. Nick Evans - the man who built our peregrine platform - demonstrates the overhanging nature of Derby Cathedral Tower. Photographed in 2006.Strange goings-on were reported on the tower of Derby Cathedral today. Who was that suddenly appearing in the web-cameras on a rope?
Well, the answer was that a specialist company had been called in to inspect and remove any loose stonework from the four faces of the mediaeval tower. And it must have been one of their operatives. Sorry we didn't warn you.

The Cathedral authorities had agreed to delay the operation whilst the peregrine falcons were nesting, but needed to get the work done well in advance of the sponsored public abseil from the top of the tower next month. Is anyone here going to take part, I wonder? Had we remembered that they were scheduled to drop in, we might have got the men to clean off the spiders' webs from the lens of our main camera, and do a bit of tidying up, too. They will be back again tomorrow, but are probably unlikely to re-appear in view.

Post-script: Our webcams may go offline during Tuesday 14th August whilst work is carried out on the laser-link that carries our webcam data from The Silk Mill to The Assembly Rooms, and thence the big wide world. Apologies for any disruption.

By the way, a nice article appeared in the Derby Evening Telegraph today about the peregrine webcams.

Peregrines Down-Under

Click this screen-grab to enlarge picture of an adult bird late at night on the old nest ledgeDerby's peregrine falcons fledged in late June - and you can watch many past video clips by following the "Key Links" on the left side of this page. This screen-grab was taken just after midnight today, following a period of when the adult bird on the platform had been very active, both calling and flying about.

But should you want to become addicted to nesting peregrines all over again, you need to go down to Australia right now, where Frodo and Freda are about to lay an egg on one of the Brisbane's tall city buildings. Here are a couple of recent pictures sent in to them by viewers. The site, known as Frodocam, has cameras that can be panned and tilted - something we'd love to be able to do here one day.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

More on the arctic tern

Mark Grantham, of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the organisation that runs the UK bird ringing scheme, emailed to say:

"This is only the ninth record of a ringed Arctic Tern from Sweden to the UK, and this is since 1909! There was one sighting in 2001, but before this the last one was in 1992.

Please mention that if anyone does find a ring to report it to and they'll then receive details back about 'their' bird.
The BTO's leaflet about ringing can be seen at:

The oldest arctic tern we have is a bird of 29 years and 10 months, though there are Danish and German birds both of 30 years 10 months old and yes, that American bird has reached 34 years of age!"
Nick B

Ps. The map doesn't yet show our Derby bird because we don't know exactly where it was ringed yet......apparently, some dots indicate more than one bird and there are indeed eight records showing!

Friday, 3 August 2007

Some mileage!

Details of the arctic tern have just been received from the Swedish ringing office (see previous post).
It was ringed as a chick on 10th June 2002 on an island off the SW of Sweden (Skane province). So by my calculation, it will have made ten migration trips between Sweden and its Antarctic wintering grounds during the intervening five years, just failing to reach its nesting grounds on its fifth northwards migration of course. That's one heck of a lot of miles! (Arctics have probably the longest migration of any bird travelling right down to the Antarctic Ocean.....anyone like to work out about how many miles that might be?)
Hopefully it had raised enough young of its own during that time such that at least one is surviving and replacing the lost bird, thus keeping the population stable.
Nick B
Ps. Without checking, I seem to recall that the oldest arctic tern aged by its ring was about 30 years old, so that is an even more astonishing mileage. Remarkable birds indeed!
Pps. I should perhaps have pointed out that the red colouration showing on the photo of the tern's leg and foot is not blood. The legs and beak of arctic terns are blood red in colour and this is the remains of that pigmentation.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Exciting tern up for the books!

Yesterday, under Tony's supervision, we cleared the cathedral's nave roof of prey remains and anything else which might block the drainage systems, coming away with a heavy but fortunately only slightly smelly plastic bag full of feathers, heads, wings and feet from a wide range of birds, plus tree leaves and some rather less pleasant gunge!

Some prey remains were easy to identify: a woodcock's wings and head, skulls of golden plover, lapwing and starling, wings of several moorhens, pigeons etc, all interesting but all species we've found before.

However two items stood out immediately: the dried up remains of a tern with head and wings intact and the head and feet of a whimbrel. Closer investigation of the tern showed that one of its tiny legs was still present and it bore a ring - a most exciting discovery!

Even more exciting was the inscription on the ring: which read; 4392757 Riksmuseum this bird was ringed in Sweden and had been caught by a peregrine on its spring migration through Derbyshire. We have sent the details off to Stockholm and hope to discover soon exactly when and where it was ringed....

The tarsus of the leg, as you can see from the photo, was very short (14 or 15mm) which identifies the bird as an arctic tern. Its very closely related cousin, the common tern, has a longer tarsus (19-21mm) and there is no overlap, which makes identification easier.

Checking the records, we noted that there was a large passage of arctic terns through the south of the county (within 10-15 kms. of Derby) at the end of April and beginning of May with the largest flock being of 80 birds. So it is likely, although not definite of course, that this bird was caught at that time.

The whimbrel whose skull we found probably passed over Derbyshire about the same time. This wader breeds far to the north, with very small numbers moving up through the Midlands.
The photo shows the woodcock and whimbrel heads, accompanied by drawings of each. The drawings show just the bones which underlie the horny sheaths which are still present in the specimens which therefore look a bit larger.

Both the arctic tern and the whimbrel are new species for the list of prey identified at Derby since we began recording in 2005.

The jack snipe was only the third one we have found. This rare bird may well have been caught flying over Derby sometime during the winter or possibly, like the tern and whimbrel, on its migration north in spring. None of these species breeds locally.

There are still some feathers and feet requiring close scrutiny and we may end up sending them down to Ed Drewitt at Bristol watch this space.
Incidentally, Ed has been studying the prey of urban peregrines in the UK for a number of years and can identify even the smallest feather from the drabbest of birds. So this is a good moment to thank him for all his expert help and support over the last two years. His alltime UK prey list now numbers over 100 species whereas our Derby list is just over 40, so we've a way to go yet!
Ed tells me there have been a few other foreign-ringed birds found at other peregrine sites, eg black headed gulls from Lithuania and Poland, but no arctic terns!

Monday, 30 July 2007

this morning (Tuesday)

This morning, en route to work, I diverted to check on my local pair of hobbies. These engaging little falcons are a good deal smaller than our peregrines......and much harder to find!

So I was pleased to see what I assume was the male sitting on his favourite dead oak branch. With his back turned to the warmth of the sun, he was quietly preening, behaviour exactly mimicking that of the male peregrine I had watched on Sunday morning on the cathedral. High up near the top of this old oak, where the crow's nest that was commandeered back in May is situated, I could hear its mate calling which gives hope that this pair have managed to keep their brood alive despite the endless days of rain.

Hobbies are acrobatic fliers and fast enough to catch swifts, swallows and martins on the wing, as this fine watercolour by Peter Partington demonstrates.

With their rust-coloured thighs and deeply streaked breasts, their white cheeks and dark moustaches, hobbies are handsome birds for sure. No wonder that they attract the attentions of bird artists like Peter and, in more modern style, Greg Poole.

Greg's painting captures not just the bird but also its liking for dragonflies and damselflies and the wetland habitat they occupy. In this case it is the low-lying Somerset Levels, no doubt severely flooded still.

While my very amateur digi-scoped photo below leaves a lot to be desired for sharpness, it does at least hint at the sense of mystery which surrounds this magic falcon, here keeping watch from its oak tree.

Before long, these birds and their offspring will begin their southward migration which will take them down through France, Spain and over the Sahara to wintering grounds in southern Africa. Here they will wander across vast plains, savannah and miombo woodland, searching for thunderstorms which trigger termites to swarm in their thousands, providing a ready supply of protein-rich food.

So, a very different sort of winter lies in wait for these hobbies than the one the cathedral peregrines will experience. In complete contrast, the fledglings will stay within 50-100 miles of Derby, perching on pylons, aerial masts, tall buildings and trees too no doubt, coping with whatever our winter has to throw at them.
Nick B

Ps. And just so you know what this bird really looks like, here's a great photograph by John Miller, taken with his permission from - a website which displays excellent photos of birds such as this for all to see and admire. Please note that this photo should not be used commercially or for profit without the express permission of the photographer.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

this morning

Quick trip to check for prey remains this morning at 7am found the male on the platform in the sun, preening himself. My rubbishy photo does at least show where he was in relation to the camera which is the one which has brought you the web cam pictures of the gravel/nesting side of the platform.

Nick B

Ps. One swift primary wing feather and one almost certainly from a golden plover (I've yet to check) were my prey finds. Swifts will depart for Africa any day now, one of the first summer migrants to leave. Incidentally, for you folk on t'other side of the pond, an American chimney swift has been in the UK recently......blown over the Atlantic and now way off course.
Postscript: Thanks for the notification about the frozen webcam picture yesterday evening. Unfortunately we don't seem able to restart the webcam video server remotely, as we normally can. So it may be early next week before we can get up the tower to restore live pictures again.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Top down

As promised in yesterday's entry about views of Derby Cathedral , hare are a few pictures from the top of the tower taken in 2006 on platform-erection day. They show the view the peregrines get as they sit looking East (ie from above the platform). The River Derwent is visible and also a red crane which has since been taken down. Last summer the birds perched regularly on this crane....until the driver started to turn it round! This year the fledglings perched briefly on the much lower tower on the Silk Mill Museum just left of centre. Left click the photo to enable you to enlarge it. The two ropes were supporting the two abseiling Nicks (Moyes and Evans) who were busy attaching the platform down below!

My second photo shows the view to the North, with the (much lower) catholic church tower visible in the middle distance. For some reason we have never seen peregrines on that tower even though it is certainly taller than the Silk Mill tower, or the nearby flats which they have perched on recently.

Next, a photo looking vertically down on the South side, with the male peregrine standing on the top of one of the stone beast's behinds! This picture was taken by the cathedral architect early in 2005. He was inspecting the roof when he looked over and saw this bird which he felt sure wasn't a pigeon! It is the first photo ever taken of our cathedral peregrines. You can see a passerby on the pavement (sidewalk) 200 feet (70 metres) below!

Incidentally, these head-down beasts, which we have been calling gargoyles are, I am recently informed, actually 'grotesques'.

Gargoyles, usually just the heads of some
mythical human or beast, always have
drainage pipes running through them
with the water flowing out through their mouths.

The Derby mythical beasts, carved by the
mediaeval stone masons back in the 16th century, are purely decorative, the lead roof drainage channels being sited to either side of them.
This photo is by John Salloway and shows the male dozing in the sun. Your guess what the animal is!

Nick B

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Unusual Views of Derby Cathedral.

Here are some unusual views of Derby Cathedral we thought you might like to look at whilst some of us ponder the fact that today our 200,000th web hit will almost undoubtedly be reached. All of us - the Cathedral, The Wildlife Trust, the City Council and of course its Museum Service - have been awestruck by the incredible interest so many people around the world have shown in our city's peregrine falcons. It was a pleasure in June to be able to turn off moderation of comments and to read all the topical observations and remarks that so many different people were making as they watched these magnificent birds in action and reported on their actions.

So that you can see the Cathedral's interior, local photographer Andy Savage has provided us with a link to one of his 360 degree images taken inside Derby Cathedral. You can click and drag your mouse across the image to make it scroll around inside, or hit Shift or Control to zoom in and out. There's an alternate version available here for anyone have difficulties viewing it. For an exterior shots, see this blog entry for July 5th

Of course, there are plenty of other people's shots of Derby Cathedral online, such as those on flickr like this one, or this one, or this one or this one.

And finally, here's a time-lapse video from the top of the tower, also taken by Andy Savage. I understand that Nick Brown plans to post some general views from the top of the tower in the near future to give visitors an idea of what Derby's skyline actually looks like. Follow this link if you'd like to learn more about a sponsored abseil in September to raise funds for Derby Cathedral. (Please note: all Streamdays cameras will be off line for c 1hr on Thursday at 5pm local time. More info here)

Sunday, 22 July 2007

A better morning

Today, Sunday, the skies are clearing and there's a suggestion of sun by 8am. Quick trip to town. No birds on the cathedral or flats but two on the tall police HQ aerial. Amateur digiscoping produced these shots of the male caught mewting (the falconers' term for pooing - you can see the stream dropping!) and later facing me. The second bird flew off as I arrived. To view the aerial go to Fox Street in Chester Green. The big noisy flock of starlings on the wide grass verge nearby had no idea what was sitting high above them .......

Ps Our spot flies should have a better day I hope.

Post script: Here’s a picture below of our adult male back on the Cathedral nest platform, late on Sunday evening. Notice the small white spot on his right “cheek”. This distinguishes him from our female. The grey back and horizontally striped feathers distinguish both parents from their browner offspring.
I’ve taken the liberty of adding this picture to the end of the Nick B’s latest entry, rather than pushing it out of the way with a completely new entry. Nick M.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Fears for other birds

While our peregrines successfully reared their young despite the awful weather we have been having recently here in the UK, there are fears for many other birds this summer. The frequent floods have wiped out nests of water birds such as grebes, kingfishers and ground nesting waders and duck.

And the lack of insects due to prolonged periods of rain, threatens the survival of the young of small, insectivorous birds such as warblers and flycatchers.

Spotted Flycatcher
In our own garden and to our great delight, a pair of spotted flycatchers recently adopted a purpose-built nest box on the house right outside the kitchen window. Judging by the late laying date, this pair must have nested elsewhere in May/June and now be trying again, perhaps having failed first time round.
My photos show the nest box tucked under the gutter....a tad smaller and easier to construct than the peregrine platform - and somewhat easier to put up as one of an adult spotted flycatcher (photographer unknown). The lowest photo, taken through the window, shows an adult peering out of the box while brooding its chick.

The two eggs hatched some ten days ago but the availability of flying insects since has been severely restricted by days of rain and cool temperatures and we fear for the one surviving chick which is still quite un-feathered even now.

Spotted flycatchers spend the winter in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their numbers in the UK have fallen drastically in the last decade, possibly due to less favourable conditions in their wintering quarters.

So, for that reason alone, we are particularly keen that this pair rear their single chick. However, today's poor wet weather following on from yesterday's doesn't bode well I'm afraid. Our fingers are firmly crossed.......

Incidentally, spotted flycatchers have a charisma all their own, obviously quite different from that of falcons. Dull brown in plumage and with a monosyllabic 'song', what they lack in these respects they more than make up for by their graceful flycatching behaviour and their very confiding habits. Succeed or fail, they'll soon be gone and I for one will sorely miss them, just as we all miss seeing our young peregrines.....

Nick B