Monday, 31 March 2008

Egg No. 2

Derby webcam multi-image view. Click to enlargeA second egg was laid sometime early on Monday morning. Our male promptly sat on them until noon, leaving our female peregrine falcon high up on the projecting lead gutter on the top of Derby Cathedral's tower.

So on the right is the first picture we were able to capture but, over in Holland, Froona has been watching far harder! She beat us to it, getting the picture below up on her blog well before we did, and it was Karen Anne in the States who kindly told us that she'd posted it. So I've just stolen this picture from Froona's blog to show every else. What a crazy world it is - it just shows the network of peregrine enthusiasts who are avidly watching every moment of this year's peregrine breeding season in the Northern Hemisphere.
Many thanks also to those who left comments on the blog to report the appearance of this new arrival. Following a remark from one reader about how annoying it can be to have everyone's comments appearing in reverse order, we've now added a box in the left hand side-bar to let you see the five most recently added comments. Look under the "2008 Photo" and simply click on that comment to go direct to that blog entry and its feedback. Please let us know if you find this helpful. To leave a comment you will need to type in a series of code letters which is aimed at stopping spammers. You can aways email direct at

(New visitors to this blog may wish to read an overview of the peregrine project, or have their names added to our mailing list for major news items.)

Friday, 28 March 2008

Newsflash: Our First Egg!

Sometime around 12.30 this lunchtime we saw that we had our first egg. A couple of hours previously the male had been busy nest-scraping and the female was on top of the tower. (My thanks to Doug Stapleton for emailing in the news to
First view of the first egg, laid on 28th March at 12.30 GMT

The clip below is made up of three sequences, filmed over a 10 minute interval this lunchtime. First we see the moment the egg is actually laid (notice the contractions of her body), and within 3 minutes the male flies in to inspect the "new arrival". But she was having none of this, and defended her position until he flew off again. After a few more minutes we get our first view of the egg.

It was a hectic afternoon today, made more challenging by the disappearance of the key to the cathedral's key cabinet. This put the tower out of bounds to us until late this afternoon when a relief verger came in to work, carrying a spare key. Then the process of capturing and editing the film was further halted whilst Radio Derby did a short interview for their news slot, followed by another with the Derby Evening Telegraph (local newspaper). Of course, it's great to know the wide interest in the bird's progress, and we'd just like to warn everyone not too get alarmed when they see the egg apparently abandoned on the nest ledge. Eggs will be laid at roughly two day intervals, after which incubation will begin in earnest. Until then we may see the egg or eggs left unattended for an hour or two. The parents will no doubt be close at hand -watching out for ravens if they have any sense. Note too that the red-brown egg appears completely white under night-time infra red illumination.

We had three people who suggested times closest to when our first egg was laid. But some made their predictions nearer to the start of our competition others – so I reckon they all deserve to win: Lyndsey, Chesterfield (1st April); Andy, Derby; (Friday 6am morning) and Veronia B in Cornwall (Friday morning). It’ll be a bit crowded on that rope when we abseil down in the autumn to clear out the nest! Well done everyone.

We've had a couple of YouTube video clips sent in by Ian Mackinnon, taken just after lunctime on Friday from outside the Cathedral, using a telescope and a mobile phone as a camera. Further video

(New visitors to this blog may wish to read an overview of the peregrine project, or add their names to our mailing list.)

Wednesday, 26 March 2008


It looks like Derby's peregrines are amongst the last to lay, judging by Froona's comparison blog.

Yesterday evening our male peregrine was in the nest scrape alone, flying off just before dark. The nest remained empty until 2am when the female arrived, with the male just visible on the ledge below the platform. They both left soon afterwards, but at 3am she returned again, spending 5 minutes in the scrape before moving to the edge of the nest platform. She moved back in to the scrape at 4.30am when it started raining, but stayed there until 06:30 when she went back to the edge again. She finally flew off at 08:00 this morning. This is a change of behaviour we've not seen this year, suggesting that she's perhaps only a few days away from egg laying.

As at 28th March, our birds are still actively displaying to one another. The clip below was captured just before dusk on Sunday 23rd. The male had already stood absolutely still, head bowed, for nearly five minutes before she decided it was her turn in the scrape. Being so much bigger, she soon got her way! My money did go on eggs to be laid around 1st April, but now I'm not so sure - we'll just have to wait and see.

Here are the dates and times people have suggested so far:
17 March, early morning - Jan, Dayton Ohio
21 March 8:00 am. - Anonymous
01 April @ 00.45 gmt -Lyndsey, Chesterfield
01 April 23:00 Nick M. Derby
02 April around 08.10 - Anonymous
03April, 3:45am. - Jennie, HK.
04 APR 16:20 -Spikennipper in Ashford, Kent.
07 April - Pax, Canada
08 May 10:02 AM. - Lewicki.
leave a comment if you want to add your own suggestions

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Courtship Moments

A power failure just before Easter meant an unscheduled trip up the tower to re-set our recording equipment. The threatened snow squalls didn't last too long this morning, so a trip into Derby meant that I was lucky enough to be able to see and capture one of the many moments of courtship display on the nest platform. Our male bird stood completely still, head bowed, for a couple of minutes before eventually flying off. The female, who was standing just off-camera, waddled slowly over to the nest scrape about 90 seconds later. She then stood in the depression, both scraping and readjusting some of the pebbles around it, and it was pleasing to be able to zoom the camera in to watch her in more detail. There have already been many similar moments like this on the webcams, and perhaps not too many more before our first eggs are laid. (The video recorder has now been reconfigured to capture images from the nest scrape.)

Thanks to Karen Anne in America for sending this Easter Sunday picture of snow high up on the tower top at 06:00 GMT. By the time I had awoken a couple of hours later it had all gone. If you capture pictures that you think we'd be interested to see, you can email them to us at
To see how other Northern Hemisphere peregrines are doing right now, visit this fantastic blog for a full update. But don't forget to come back here for more news of our Derby birds!

(Technical note: I had intended the video clip to be shorter, but time inside the cathedral tower was rather rushed for precise editing. My apologies for this: I don't have adequate software at home to edit VOB or MPG files of a couple of hundred MGb in size.)

(New visitors to this blog may wish to read an overview of the peregrine project, or add their names to our mailing list.)

Friday, 21 March 2008

Too Close for Comfort.

Here's a rather "too-close-for-comfort" video clip of our adult peregrine falcon which we captured earlier in the week. At first we thought it was tearing at our camera cable, but later realised it was retrieving prey that had been stashed right next to the new tower-top camera.

Although this new camera does incorporate anti-perching spikes around it, these unfortunately had to be shortened so they would fit through the 13cm high rainwater exit hole on the roof of the cathedral. Should the camera lens ever get completely blocked, the unit is designed so we can retrieve it without in any way affecting the birds. UK law now restricts us from disturbing peregrines on their nest - something we are only to keen to respect!

Meanwhile, down on the platform, nest-scraping is going on apace. We've not had our recorder set up on our main camera yet, so here's a clip from last year showing the same birds in action.

(New visitors to this blog may wish to read an overview of the peregrine project, or add their names to our mailing list.)

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Intimate Moments - and now a Competition!

Our new webcam proved its worth today, as did peregrine watcher, Kath P. She emailed us to report she had seen the birds mating on top of the tower via the net at 08:47 local time. So a swift trip up the 450 year old spiral staircase this lunchtime managed to capture the magic moment, which was quickly burnt and passed to our local Radio/TV station. This isn't a one-off: we'll see repeated short matings. Indeed they were at it again when returned from lunch at 2pm today. (see second video further below. You may spot the male flying in from the extreme right hand corner)

So, when will we seen eggs?? Why don't you try to guess?
A chance remark in the comments below our last entry led to a surprise offer from a viewer. We jokingly suggested we should run a sweepstake to guess when our first egg is laid – closest date and time wins. The prize? Well, I suggested an abseil down to clean out the platform in winter. Clearly, not really possible. But we’ve already had one offer!!

So, just for fun, here's our Easter competition. We had considered asking for an entry fee to raise funds for the Peregrine Project, but as we're not yet able take payment from outside the UK, we didn't want to exclude non-UK viewers from entering.

Here are the rules:

1) Place your “Guess” in a comment below this blog entry (Just click the red word “Comments”)
2) State your estimate of date and local time that the first egg will be seen. (eg 03 JUN 08:35 Please spell the month rather than give it as a number)
3) State a name or pseudonym and the town/country you're in.
Four eggs were laid in 2007. When will the first be laid in 2008?
We will watch our cameras and any video footage and report back on the first sighting. But perhaps some of you will be able to tell us first! Leave a comment here, or email:

Competetive people can use the "Archive" facility on this blog to look back at last year's entries and make their best, informed guess for 2008.

There will be no winners or losers this time around. We can’t offer you a tower tour or an abseil as this excludes everyone outside Derby. Maybe we might run this again for real - perhaps based on the first fledging in the summer.

Good luck

(Of course, if you did want to make a donation to our project you are always welcome to email the Wildlife Trust on , ring them to make a credit card payment on 01773 881188, or send to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, East Mill, Bridgefoot, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 1XH, England)

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Feathers Fly

Adult male in foreground sits passively whilst his mate plucks the feathers from her next meal. Click image to enlarge. The sun broke through during a lull in our stormy UK weather this morning, revealing both of our peregrine falcons on top of Derby Cathedral through our new camera (dubbed by some as “pudding-cam” on account of its shape).

We’re all still getting used to the scale of images seen through this new camera, but eventually it became clear that it was our male standing patiently in the foreground, whilst the adult female was on the farthest of the three gargoyle, busily plucking feathers from a fresh prey item. The female flies off with her meal, and lands shortly afterwards below the nest ledge. See picture below. Click to enlarge.The wind whipped these up into the air as she rendered her meal. This may well have been an item that he had caught and presented to her as part of their courtship. (Note: a later check of the video recordings showed clearly that the female caught this bird and brought it back all on her own. The male just sat and watched) Shortly afterwards they flew off and reappeared in the other cameras – the female below the nest ledge with her meal, the male standing on the platform itself. He then did a little bit of nest-scraping by lying on his front and pushing backwards with his feet to help maintain the hollow in the gravel tray, but mostly stood quietly on guard at the nest.
A few minutes later both birds are back near the nest ledge. The male spends a few moments maintaining the hollw nest scrape. Click image to enlarge.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Sunday Action

Arriving early at the cathedral this morning, as soon as I opened the car door I realised the ravens must be about because the female peregrine was screaming and flying round the top of the tower.

However, as I dashed round to the south side, there was no sign of the ravens but I guessed they must be on the roof. After a while, one raven appeared and hopped over onto the favoured right hand gargoyle at which moment the peregrine renewed her attacks, diving down on the raven. Before I could get my scope in place, the raven and its mate flew off to the west and the female peregrine, joined by her mate also retreated out of view.

So here's a shot of the tower's south side with the female peregrine visible as a tiny dot in the sky to the left of the tower. The nest platform is visible as a blackish protrusion on the partly visible east face of the tower.

The second photo shows the gargoyle that the raven's are trying to put sticks on. It is the right hand one on the south side of the tower, ie round the corner from the next platform side.

Incidentally, the 'gargoyle' is strictly a 'grotesque' since it doesn't function as a water spout and is purely decorative. Make up your own minds what sort of creature it is! I assume that's a tusk rather than a tongue protruding from its mouth!

Ten minutes later the cathedral was devoid of birds except that a sparrowhawk flew in from the east and briefly perched right on the very top-most pinnacle before continuing on westwards.

It was a lovely sunny morning as you can see. A gale is forecast for this evening....
(New visitors to this blog may wish to read an overview of the peregrine project, or have their names added to our mailing list.) And be sure to se the previous blog entry about the new pud cam!

Nick B

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Third Camera and First Video Pictures

The adult female peregrine steps up close for her first photo with our new camera. Click image to enlarge.It took a lot of late nights and a lot of missed lunch breaks this week - but I think this shot makes all the work of wiring-up Derby Cathedral and preparing a mount for our third camera completely worthwhile. (In fact I have to admit: it's been rather fun). It shows our female peregrine taking a meal on top of one of the three gargoyles on the east side of Derby Cathedral's tower. Directly below her is the peregrine ledge, and at 17:15 this evening we were excited and delighted to watched her feed before flying off to land below the platform, whilst our male bird stood still and quiet in the nest scrape. Click the image below to view the video clip from YouTube.

The camera is still being tested, and from time to time you may see sudden changes and maybe wonder why the links aren't correctly labelled. Please bear with us whilst we consider the best way of supplying three video feeds via two webcamera pages. Of course, we could easily arrange for a third video page, but first we would need to find a sponsor willing to offer us £150 for a three month webhosting contract.

Sitting on the central gargoyle we can clearly see the countryside north of Derby beyonfd the adult peregrine. Click image to enlarge.Of course, acknowledging sponsorship or donors gifts is very important, and right now we would like to thank Acam Technology Ltd of Prime Enterprise Park in Derby for donating this little dome camera to our project. It meant we only had to purchase the special cabling we needed, and this support has helped us spread our limited resources much more effectively. We recently purchased a new video recorder with some of the donations made on Cathedral Green last summer, and I hope we can soon bring you the first video clips.

The night-time shots are not so successful, and appear to be suffering from infra-red flare. The eye of the adult bird reflects the light back to the camera and appears white.

The camera looks northwards across two of the three gargoyles. In daylight we can see towards Rivermead House, thankfully one of only two tall residential buildings in our city. Immediately beyond it we see Darley Park, and in the far distance the undulating countryside around Crich. In the extreme lower right-hand corner we catch a glimpse of St Alkmund's Way, part of the busy inner ring road that skirts the city centre. The night-time view is not so clear, and the picture unfortunately contains a lot of flare from the infra-red illuminator bouncing back into the camera lens. We'll see if we can make this better just as soon as we're able, but there may not be much we can do owing to its close proximity to the stonework. The horizonatal line of bright lights you see is highway lighting along the A38 - the outer ring-road that runs northwards around Derby.

Finally, although this really deserves a diary entry in its own right, we would like to draw your attention to a fantastic new peregrine blog run by a Dutch enthusiast called Froona. Her site seems to be unique in that it compares the progress of a number of peregrine webcams around the world, and her use of captured images from their webcams is brilliant for seeing what other pairs of birds are up to. In Rome for example, they already have eggs, whereas we don't expect ours until the end of March/early April. (I just wish I had the time to watch them all!)

(New visitors to this blog may wish to read an overview of the peregrine project, or have their names added to our mailing list.)

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

East Mill bird in the frame

Getting back from a meeting mid afternoon to East Mill in Belper and there on the south side of the mill, in full sunshine was the bird from yesterday, captured here by a bit of very amateur digiscoping.

Looks a bit maleish to me but comments welcome about its age and sex.......

The second photo (below) shows the North side of the mill where the bird was yesterday. It was up at the top right corner, perched on stonework at the very top righthand window. Hardly as attractive a building as the cathedral, it has to be said!
Nick B

PS. The final photo below was taken yesterday by David Hughes showing the bird on the north side. (Thanks David.)

(New visitors to this blog may wish to read an overview of the peregrine project, or add their names to our mailing list.)

Monday, 3 March 2008

Peregrine above my office!

The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust offices are about 30 minutes drive from Derby city. They are situated in an old cotton mill in Belper. So it is not easy for me to get to Derby quickly - for example to catch the visiting ravens.

However, this morning a local bird watcher phoned up to say there was a peregrine sitting on the Mill itself, just above our offices.

We all dashed out and there it was - an immature bird sitting near the top of the mill, looking down on us!

While we've occasionally seen peregrines over and near the mill, this is the first time we've seen one perching on it.

The bird's head was browny grey suggesting it was an immature bird. It could possibly be a youngster from the 2006 cathedral progeny or maybe a bird from another inland nest (there are several pairs nesting on cliffs and quarries in Derbyshire). We couldn't see any colour rings so that would rule out one of the 2007 cathedral young.

Whether it stays or becomes a regular here remains to be seen.

Nick (Brown)

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (blogging in his lunch hour!)

On the raven front, I see they were present at the cathedral again today (Monday) - see Andy Simpson's comment.

Ravens are great birds in their own right.
Here's an excellent photo of a Welsh raven taken by top photographer Sue Tranter at Gigrin Farm in Wales where they gather with red kites at a feeding station.
Note their powerful beaks.......
More on ravens later!

(New visitors to this blog you may wish to read an overview of the peregrine project, or add their names to our mailing list.)