Friday, 30 May 2008

For Schools

This year's Peregrine Project has really taken off!
Our hit counters have reached the quarter of a million mark; our chicks are developing nicely; our third camera and live a/v stream is proving very popular; and our DVD on The Peregrines of Derby Cathedral is selling well, and receiving great feedback.

With Watchpoints resumed again, it's good to be able to talk and to meet with so many different people - some of them old friends from the last two years. Cameras as well as telescopes have been in evidence, and this fantastic picture sent to us by Graham Whitmore was a multiple exposure taken on May 18th.

One area of our Project that we'd all like to see take off in the years ahead is the use of our webcams and videos clips in schools, especially those local to us in Derbyshire. The educational potential is, as yet, almost completely untapped. But there are both technical challenges and resource constraints.

For example, many of our peregrine video clips are widely available on YouTube. But schools are usually banned from YouTube, so we thought we'd try and post some video clips directly into this blog. It took an age to get it to succeed, and we hope the clip below is viewable by everyone. It shows our four rapidly growing chicks being fed last week.

Schools in Derby should all now be able to access this peregrine diary, as our "blog" was specially unblocked after we made a request last year to the Education IT people. We know that quite a few local schools do now watch our webcams on the classroom "whiteboard". We'd love to hear more from schools about how you use us, or your ideas on what you'd like us to do to help you use our resources in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Recently, the children in Red Class at Brigg Infant School near Alfreton, Derbyshire, told us they watched Derby's peregrines in class. They emailed in some questions and we thought we'd make our reply more widely available by posting it here:
How often do the chicks need to be fed?
Your class could try answer this question yourself by noting what time it is whenever the chicks are fed! I think they seem to be fed every couple of hours, but I've not actually timed it. As they grow their demand for food increases, and food left in the nest will get picked at whenever the chicks want it. [By checking our recordings today, we think the chicks now get fed every four to five hours]

How big do they grow?
In just six weeks they grow to the size of their parents, though are a browner colour. Adult Peregrine Falcons have a body length of 34–50 cm (13–20 in) and a wingspan of around 80–120 cm (31–47 in). Females are nearly 1/3 larger than the males.

Do the chicks squeak?
Yes, the chicks make a lot of squealing noises - even starting to make sounds just before hatching. You can now hear the chicks and the adults yourself on our live audio/video stream at or in some of our video clips (which sadly may not be viewable to schools on YouTube)

Where do the chicks go when they have flown the nest?
We don't know exactly. They stay with their parents until the autumn. They need to learn to fly and hunt, and the parent birds teach them these skills. Some of the young birds may move off around October time to find new places to live, though other chicks might stay around until the next breeding season. We put coloured and numbered rings on the legs of our chicks when they are very young precisely so we can track where they go to. We suspect they move off into other parts of the Midlands, and may start to make a nest of their own when around three years of age.

Do they have a favourite food?
Peregrines hunt and eat a very wide range of birds. There are clearly lots of pigeons around the city which we know they do take, but they regularly feed on a vast range of other species, too. We know that in Derby they've taken 40 different bird species, ranging from swifts to ducks, and even a rat! In winter time they seem to like taking some of our rather unusual birds, such as Golden Plover, Woodcock and Snipe which are probably trying to move under cover of darkness, but are able to be seen and caught because of the city's light pollution.

Do the chicks need to have a drink?
No, they get all the water they need from their food. In hot weather the parent bird shelters them from the direct sunlight so that they do not overheat or dry out.

How old do the birds get?
Peregrines can live for 10 years or more - longer if kept in captivity. The really risky time is in the first year when they haven't managed to learn all the skills they need in later life.

Can you tell if the chicks are male or female?
The chicks get ringed when still white and fluffy around 20 days old. The expert ringers can usually tell the sex of the chicks by their size when they ring them. But in 2008 one egg hatched out much later than the others, so that chick inevitably looks smaller, even though it could turn out to be a female. Because the females are so much bigger than male peregrines, it will be possible for all of us to work out what sex they are once we see the birds all together on the nest ledge, getting ready to fly. If one or more is smaller than the others, those are the males. You can see a picture of male and female juvenile birds on our project homepage at

Why can't we watch your video clips?
We're sorry you can't see our videos from school on YouTube. We will start to put some videos straight into this blog for you. Tell us if you can see them OK. We are just about to redo our DVD - The Peregrines of Derby Cathedral - with a much more detailed menu option aimed at schools. This will let your teachers go straight to sections they want to show you on peregrine courtship, mating, egg-laying and fledging.

Are there any online Peregrine Games?
Your class might lie to have a go at this online activity, set in the city of Prague in the Czech Republic

The Peregrine Project Team hope to build more resources for schools and students in the future. If you are a teacher do let us know what you'd like to see available on our site to help you in the classroom. Leave a comment here for the project team of drop an email via

Derbyshire Bird Cam Project
And to show what schools can do themselves, here's a fantastic project recently set up called the Derbyshire Schools Birdcam Project. It now has 18 local schools taking part and with blogs and bird box webcams in various county schools. It's well worth a visit.

New Web Page
We've recently added a new page to our Peregrine Project site. It shows a number of peregrine-related specimens in the collections at Derby Museums. We'd point out that all of them we collected early last century. Follow this link to view the new "Peregrines and Derby Museum" page

Finally, follow these links to:


Anonymous said...

Feeding at 11.45 this morning clearly showed the difference in development between the oldest and youngest eyasses. What a difference 4 days makes!

Karen Anne said...

The question about age reminded me that froona had mentioned on her blog that Mariah, the Rochester falcon, who is raising four(?) young this year with her mate Kaver, is at least 12 years old.

Anonymous said...

Have noticed that all day the chicks have been separated, with three on one side of the nesting box and one on its own on the other side...I wonder if it's the three boys v the girl - or have they just had a falling out !!!

Anonymous said...

Spoke too soon, have just checked back and they are all four snuggled together again !

John B (not the sloop) said...

Wow! - When did the video get restored for us audio only visitors. It's like a whole new world opened up......

Michael. said...

It's good to see you getting schools interested in the falcons.
I posted a link to this site, by putting a post on a site for all the uk's school technicians and network managers.
Well I hope you get more interest than I did , because no one answered my post or took any interest in it.
I asked them to pass the link on to the teachers.
This is a great site .
I have put links to it on other forums and it's very popular.

Nick Brown (DWT) said...

Michael: many thanks for your kind words and for spreading the news about the site to teachers.
Educational use of the site will be a major thrust for the project next year, we just didn't have time this year.
Incidentally, we now have volunteers for today's watchpoint and the weather has improved at last, so if you're in or near Derby today (or tomorrow) between 11am and 1.30pm, do go along.
Nick B (DWT)

Karen Anne said...

It just occurred to me, with Mariah, the Rochester falcon, being about 12 and having young this year, do peregrines remain fertile thru their entire adult lives?

Anonymous said...

Is the fourth eyas (in the corner of the laft hand nest) ok? It seems quiet still and motionless...

tm said...

They're all fine, don't worry :)

When they've been fed, they often go straight to sleep. Also, when they're full they indicate to Mum they don't want any more by turning away from her. Even my dog does this in a similar way. When we're out for the day & return to the car, I'll show her the bottle of water. If she wants a drink, she looks at me. If she doesn't, she looks away !

Anonymous said...

Lovely to have the video up and running again, however the birds were on the wrong side so couldn't see very much - inconsiderate of them. I don't have sound now am I doing something wrong? Thanks Mickleover

John B (not the sloop) said...

Well I'm still glad the video's back. Pity about the sound....

Anonymous said...

Yeah it's a shame, they are on the wrong side and no sound. The pictures of the little ones are still great to see though.

Nick Brown (DWT) said...

Unfortunately, Media on Demand don't work at the weekend so we won't be able to fix audio etc until Monday.
The problems are with us, not you incidentally.
Re. do peregrines remain fertile throughout their lives, we think that they do but need to check the literature further to be sure. Our pair have a long way to go!
Nick B (DWT)

tm said...

The things I love about watching these little guys:

1. There's no fighting/squabbling. When feeding time arrives, they take their turn and gradually learn to push their way to the front when hungry.

2. If you watch Mum on the ledge, she really looks like a true raptor but when she's feeding the babies, you can see the love and attentiveness in her eyes. Amazing. Such tenderness at times.

3. The live webcam is a real eye-opener. Stunning. To see these young birds preening themselves, looking out at the new world around them and occasionally flapping their growing, new wings in anticipation. Who knows what they're thinking?

4. I can't help but think that as they grow so fast, they must get very itchy as the feathers replace that fluffy white down. But I guess that's part of the growing process.

5. As adults, they will mostly become solitary birds, but I can't help but wonder if they'll remember their days in the scrape, snuggling up amongst their siblings for warmth and comfort.

6. Incredible to think that in less than 1 month's time, these eyases will be learning to fly and hunt for themselves.

7. I have great admiration for any species that pairs for life. Let's hope the same adults will be back next year and educating/entertaining us for many more years to come.

Thanks to everyone involved in this project.

Anonymous said...

I love the "take off" picture - who did it? Have sent a separate email to Derby Museum. Don't the chicks look scruffy little herberts at the moment with bits and pieces of proper feathers poking through the down!
Sue H, Wendover

Nick Brown said...

Sue: the picture was taken by Graham Whitmore. Graham works in Derby and is primarily a photographer, not a bird watcher..but his photo's are excellent. We used one of his on the DVD cover - the female flying in front of the tower.
And yes, the chicks could hardly be described as anything other than scruffy right now!

Penny said...

What a difference a day makes! 'tm' said they waited in orderly fashion. At 8.55am we watched some Bad table manners as one of the older chicks grabbed breakfast and took it off to eat by himself. Parent followed, and retrieved it. However a second chick repeated the Carry-Out technique, and adult had to retrieve it again. It looked like a male blackbird so not much to stave off hunger pangs. Shows the relative development rates of the chicks. xxx Penny

tm said...

Some very, very sad news:

Some good news:

Penny said...

Does anyone know what was on the Menu at 10.50am - looked extraordinarily like our eyas did a week or so ago! Do Peregrines predate the nests of other predators, eg Sparrowhawk? What could else could be this big, white and fluffy?

Not sure I can cope with any more Bad News, Penny

Anonymous said...

TM this is really sickening news- how can anyone do such a thing? I doubt that any decent person would need a reward to stop this kind of thing from happening. Please anyone if you know anything , please report these people

tm said...

I'm sorry if that upset anyone but these mindless idiots need to be caught and prosecuted harshly. Sadly, I doubt it will happen.

Little do our Derby Peregrines know that they chose the perfect spot for nesting: Watched 24 hours a day by the cameras & a mass of people, not just in the UK but around the world.

Sometimes I feel bad when I think of the birds that are killed to satisfy the falcons' hunger, but this is nature. They don't kill for fun. They kill to survive.

Humans that interfere with this natural process are twisted, imho. Hence the laws thet are supposed to protect them.

Penny said...

'tm' is quite right. I couldn't bear to watch the films as I anticpated the content - we have just had a black swan stoned to death "for fun" by some teenage chavs a few miles from us. Why can't they occupy their tiny minds doing something useful? People who torment and kill animals for fun should be put in the good old-fashioned Stocks, and the rest of us can make our feelings felt with a few rotten tomatoes. What happened to kids reading about "Mrs Be Done By As You Did" in "The Water Babies? xxx Penny

Karen Anne said...

Glad I didn't watch those links...

On a better note -
Some photos of banding the Rochester peregrines, and Mariah, their mom attacking. It takes awhile for this first link, which is the blog, to load. Clink on the tiny photos for larger versions.

Some of my favorite larger photos from this:

Take that, intruder:

evil eye:


You'll be sorry you messed with my chicks:

tm said...

Some fantastic photos in karen anne's links, especially this one:

Penny said...

Why did evolution make newly-hatched eyas so eye-catchingly white? Now the two oldest are so speckled, they blend in much better with their background. Yes, thanks for Rochester links - 'our' banders got off lightly - Mariah is one feisty Mum. Those schoolchildren will never forget that! xxx Penny

Anonymous said...

Caught a couple of pics of the falcon at Derby hope this works¤t=Dinner1acopy.jpg¤t=Colin1.jpg