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.