Monday, 29 January 2007

New Menu Item

Another addition was made to our peregrine falcon's prey list today, with the finding of a bar-tailed godwit corpse below Derby Cathedral's tower. This was in addition to the remains of other more frequently taken wild birds. The godwit now takes the Derby menu list to a total of 37 different species. The larger female peregrine takes bigger birds up to the size of ducks, whilst the male takes smaller ones, down to the size of swifts and wagtails. (posted on behalf of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Tower Visit

A visit with the Built Environment team from Derby City Council proved useful in many ways today. Firstly there was a great view of one of the adut peregrines perched on the nest platform. There were fresh prey remains, including yet another new woodcock corpse as well as a lapwing with its white breast visible in this picture. Can’t these guys feed on something more common? Of course, the answer is that we have no control over what they choose to eat, and must accept these losses to our native wildlife. Then there was helpful feedback on how we could minimise the visual impact of the nest platform cameras, though it looks like a plan to put a free-standing microwave link to BBC Radio Derby is out on both planning and stability grounds. (It gets pretty windy up there). But as long as we can put a DVD recorder inside the tower, it means that TV pictures can still be gathered.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Streaming Video and Web-hits

It looks like streaming video may be out of the question in our first year of webcam operation. A very helpful lady at the University of California in Santa Cruz who runs a peregrine webcam with some great stills and video archives there has suggested that their peak data demands are as high as 90Mbps (megabits of data per second). Wow, that’s a lot. We may be able to get 8Mbps in Derby if we’re lucky, so we’ll probably won’t be able to offer this to everyone quite yet. But, then again, Santa Cruz gets millions web-hits every year for their webcams, whereas we’re estimating around 30,000 per annum. When you can watch live streaming images and take control of a camera at the same time, well, the view is incredible. This camera in a hotel in Rome gives great views, ranging from road traffic in the Basilica Maxentius to zoomed in shots of the Colosseum. Just watching the camera pan and tilt in to each selection gives us some idea of effective live streaming video can be.

Monday, 8 January 2007

Gruesome Remains

Lots more gruesome bird remains are being found below the tower, showing that the peregrines are still here and active. Just three peregrines are now being seen around the Derby Cathedral Tower and Cathedral Green, rather than the two parents and three young from last summer. Pretty soon the last chick will probably move off to seek its fortune elsewhere. All the same, it’s not pleasant to see how many rare birds they do seem to like eating. It’s a shame they can’t stick to the feral pigeons which are still present in Derby in large numbers. Over the last few weeks we’ve found the heads and other remains of knot (shown here), dunlin, snipe, water rail, fieldfare and redwing whilst down south we've just heard that a peregrine has just taken a Leach’s Petrel! We have to remember that peregrines are just returning to somewhere like their old numbers, and that it was man who persecuted them to near extinction in England, or who poisoned their food chain with DDT so that their eggs cracked when incubated. The impact on our wild bird populations is really to be welcomed if we are to take delight in seeing peregrines return to central England once again. (posted on behalf of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)

Friday, 5 January 2007

Technical Stuff

Made contact with Capita today to start getting costs sorted out. Can we get a wireless radio link from Derby Cathedral Tower to our own servers? If we can't, then this project could costs us a lot more than we bargained for. Capita do all the technical IT support for Derby City Council, and there was lots of enthusiasm, so we’re hopeful they’ll fully support the project and help our keep costs down to an absolute minimum. Now we need to get on to the camera suppliers and check out their views about mounting the remote focus cameras and how far away they can be whilst still giving us night vision.

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Getting Our Skates On

It’s the New Year already, and our plans for three web cameras and live streaming video of Derby's peregrine falcons seems frighteningly close and rather ambitious. OK, we’ve been planning this for a couple of months, and talking to a wide range of people, but now we need to get our skates on. Calls to the Council’s website team seem very positive. Even our first contact with our Health and Safety Unit didn’t seem too negative. Just before Christmas the BBC said they wanted to install a microwave link on Derby Cathedral Tower so that they can capture and show our pictures on the regional TV news, but we can’t give them the go ahead until we get the OK for power cables to be run safely up the spiral stone staircase. It’s a listed building, built in 1530, so we aren’t allowed to drill or damage the stonework in any way. Everything we do has to be removable and leave no marks.

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

First Post

2007 sees the start of plans to film peregrine falcons that first nested on Derby Cathedral last year.
Here we see three chicks just before they were ringed in June 2006. This year we plan to erect webcameras, and report on our progress via this brand new blog as the scheme develops and as the birds return to nest for their second year.
Click on the image below to view a short film of the nest platform being erected by volunteers in April 2006.