Tuesday, 31 March 2009

A full clutch!

First view of all four eggs, sent in by a webcam viewer in Austria

The fourth egg was spotted about 7 am on Tuesday morning and was probably laid about 3 am.

Thanks to Roger in Austria who sent me this picture, taken this morning.

Incubation will start (or continue) in earnest now and will last for about 30-33 days. Last year the first egg hatched on 4th May (and on 9th May in 2007) so we can expect it to be about five days earlier this year....around the end of April maybe.
As the female gets older so she lays a bit earlier each year. A clutch of four is the norm, fives being exceptional.....and four chicks on that platform is quite enough thank you!
The female does the lion's share of the incubation, the male spending most of his time off the eggs and hunting to provide the food for the female, who doesn't hunt during incubation or when the chicks are small, relying entirely on the male.
Please scroll down to read about Jennie from Hong Kong........and a big thanks to Jennie from me for being such a good sport and coping with the massed media in a such a calm way! AND for giving the project such a generous donation....you're a star! Female on eggs 1 April
Male on eggs 31 MarchWe may not get some of the national publicity of other peregrine sites, but we more than make up for it locally and regionally...and no site has such splendid donors and commentators! Thanks to one and all.

Nick B (DWT)

Ps By the way - and despite some poo and a spider, our web cam views are second to none (thanks to Nick Moyes' wizardry).....and anyway, who said there were other urban peregrine nests in the UK? It is just a rumour.....don't believe a word of it or be tempted to look elsewhere! Stick with us....we're sure you will.

Monday, 30 March 2009

In the Spotlight

Jennie outside Derby cathedralIt was a pleasure to welcome one of our regular webcam viewers to Derby today. Until recently we knew her simply as "Jennie from Hong Kong" after she was one of the first to start leaving frequent comments on our blog back in 2007 . But a business trip to London last weekend gave Jennie Mak the chance to make a 'small' detour and come up to Derby to see our peregrine falcons for herself. With her permission, of course, we had mentioned this to our local paper and they wrote about her imminent visit. And then our local radio station picked up on her visit, as did regional TV, too!

So it was that at 1pm outside Derby's Cathedral today Tony Grantham and I finally met "Jennie from Hong Kong". But she was soon whisked away to pose on Cathedral Green, there to be quizzed, interviewed and photographed by our local Jennie being besieged by the local presspress who were intrigued that someone with no ties to the city would make a special trip just to see our birds, and maybe buy a few football souvenirs at Pride Park before heading for home.

We can't promise every visitor from afar such a welcome (sighs of relief from most, I suspect), but it was a delight to share our project with such a keen supporter. Jennie wanted to see inside the ancient cathedral tower, so together with Head Verger, Tony, we climbed the stone staircase up to the bell-ringing chamber where our control equipment is located, and she posed in front of our brand new TV monitor - a generous gift from another supporter of our project - whilst we explained which bits of the equipment do what. (Perhaps we should run this as an online quiz for everyone to work out!)

Jennie Mak inside the ringing-chamber of Derby Cathedral with a female peregrine visible in the monitor behind herOn the monitor we saw that much-commented upon smudgy mark on the tower-top camera and then climbed up the rest of the spiral staircase to the top to see if we could fix it. Unfortunately not today. But we will sort it out soon, being careful not to disturb the birds in any way. We now think the problem is caused by a severe case of a highly technical condition that low-lying wildlife cameras are sometimes prone to (We'll simply refer to it here as "peregrine poo"). Although we couldn't look over on the nest side, we did spot golden plover and lapwing prey remains on the south side of the tower top, whilst Jennie expressed delight at the view out across our city. "Wonderful view," she said. - "No skyscrapers!" Later on, sitting over lunch in the Cathedral Restaurant, Jennie made a very generous donation to the Peregrine Project's funds, and we'd all like to thank her very much indeed for that. Before leaving us we gave Jennie a copy of our Peregrine DVD and some recently published articles on our urban peregrines, written by Nick B. of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Nick wasn't able to be here today, but had made all the arrangements which, with her agreement, had put Jennie firmly in the media spotlight.
Also in the spotlight tonight is a small spider. It seems to have taken up residence oimage of a spider lit by the camera's infra-red illuminatorn our second nest ledge camera, as if competing with the smudge on the lens of pudding cam up above. Of course, had Jennie come outside of the breeding season we might have offered her an honorary abseil to gently remove the offending creature herself so that she could return to Hong Kong knowing she had ensured the clearest of pictures to be seen by all. Now we'll just have to let nature take its course.
We wish Jenny well in her travels home, and look forward to Derby's new eco-tourism feature appearing in the next edition of the Lonely Planet Guide to Britain, attracting more visitors from around our ever-shrinking globe.
Listen to Radio Derby's interview with Jennie Mak. (Click "Play" then scroll player forward to 1 hr 19 min and 30 seconds.)
Or watch Chichester's Peregrine Falcons on The One Show earlier tonight. (Scroll forward to 5 minutes and 50 seconds.)

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Egg number three!

(Almost) right on cue - and the third egg is laid. That man Colin knows his peregrine breeding biology for sure!

And his prediction for egg number four is 12.30 am on Tuesday...not the best of times for us UK-watchers!

Thanks to Coconut for the picture.

The female laid three eggs in 2006 - her first breeding season we feel sure, 4 in both 2007 and 08.

Nick B (DWT)

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Number two and an interesting comment!

(Text below added to and modified on Friday evening).

Number two egg laid yesterday morning (Thursday) with a web cam watcher in France being the first to spot it - well done to Ruth Z ....and also to Colin P who predicted the timing to the hour if not to the minute! See his explanation among the comments.......and his prediction for egg No. 3!

The male is the bird at the back of the tray admiring her handiwork. Even though he's a bit further away, he's clearly much smaller than the falcon standing on the edge.

Today (Friday) was a showery day as you can see from this photo captured by Ruth Z which clearly shows a rain shadow around the eggs which had been protected by the falcon - you can see her shape quite clearly on this third photo......

Chris Packham, the new presenter of the BBC's popular Springwatch series in 2009, who featured on the project's best-selling DVD made in 2008, sent this comment to us today:

"Nick - Good to see it is all kicking off in Derby - on the cathedral..... if not on the pitch!"

We never suspected he might be a rams fan.....perhaps he isn't.....

Nick B (DWT)

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

A rosy glow

After the news of our first peregrine egg being laid yesterday evening, there was a flurry of excited comments left from around the world, and quite a bit of local interest here in Derby City, too. Local radio, TV and newspapers have already picked up on the story, and Cathedral Green saw a small posse of bird watchers gathered to see what was going on this morning. It's a pleasure to see old friends from last year, even if it wasn't possible to talk to them whilst in the middle of a live outside broadcast interview with Radio Derby halfway down Amen Alley (yes, this is a genuine Derby street name!) But we are hoping for a few pleasant lunchtime gatherings this summer to "talk peregrines" with everyone on the newly refurbished Green.

Just to allay any fears, don't be surprised if you see the egg(s) lying abandoned in the nest for an hour or more at a time. This is quite normal, and intensive incubation only really gets underway once all the eggs are laid. Then the clock starts ticking, and all the eggs should hatch around the same time.

Thanks to one viewer (Karen Anne in the US) who left a comment and link to a photo of the egg seen early this morning in daylight when their true colour becomes obvious. Having hyperlinks to your uploaded images is the best way that viewers can make webcam snapshots available to us without crashing our email Inboxes. Whenever possible, jpegs are best. Here then is our latest video clip, hot from the DVD recorders that churn away continuously inside Derby Cathedral's ancient tower. It was captured just after first light this morning, hence the rosy glow on the bird and the overall image graininess.

Nick B. of Derbyshire Wildluife Trust added the folliwng comment to this blog entry, but it's really worth repeating here for those visitors who aren't interested in looking at the comments some of us leave:
Just to confirm what Nick M said - the birds need to stop the egg getting too cold (and there is a cold wind in the city today). . . but not start the incubation properly until all four (we hope) eggs are laid.Otherwise there could be up to a 6-8 day gap between the first and the last hatching. That would mean the younger chicks would get a raw deal when it came to feeding time. Now some other birds (eg the barn owl) adopt a different strategy, linked to their much more uncertain food supply. They incubate the first egg immediately so there is a big gap between the first and last hatching. If food is short (and mice and vole numbers do fluctuate widely from year to year) then the younger chicks die - or get eaten by their older siblings (charming stuff!). With peregrines, where food is usually abundant, the strategy is the opposite. Hope that helps to explain their ecology a bit more!

Monday, 23 March 2009

More photos - and Our First Egg!

Our female peregrine has been leading many of us a merry dance today. This morning we were convinced she was about to lay her first egg. But, after standing in the scrape for an hour or so, she moved away to reveal . . .nothing.

At 20:30 here in the UK, she was once again on the nest scrape in darkness, lit only by a faint wash from the tower floodlights, and by our own infra-red illuminators. It did look like she might lay tonight, and sure enough exactly an hour later at 21:27 we caught a glimpse of her first egg. We hope you've all enjoy watching, and we hope we can capture some more great moments in the lives of these majestic birds during 2009. (Our thanks to Karen Anne in Canada who supplied a link to the jpg she'd saved of the first daylight glimpse of the new egg early on Tuesday morning. Under infra-red light the egg looks white, but in daylight we see the richness of its colour.)

Three more excellent photos from Colin Pass have arrived - so here they are for you all to see. Hope you can cope with the first one so early on a Monday morning.......it hardly requires any comment!

The second shows one of the 'gargoyles' very well (the right hand one above the platform).

The third is a close up of the falcon just after mating.

What a gorgeous shot!

Nick B ((DWT)

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Getting egg-citing!

While we wait for the first egg, here are a couple of photos of our pair taken very recently by local photographer Colin Pass. Being a falconer as well as an addict of our cathedral birds, Colin refers to the female as the 'falcon' and the male the 'tiercel', as you can see.
The photo of the tiercel shows one of the three 'gargoyles' situated above the nest platform.
When you look at the so-called 'pudding cam' images, you see the top (or more correctly and rudely, the bottom!) of the mythical beasts which were carved from the sandstone by the mediaeval stone masons in the 1530s.

Strictly speaking I was advised some time ago that 'gargoyles' are carved stonework which have holes running through them allowing water to drain off the roof above them.....usually through an open mouth. So the Derby ones are not gargoyles but 'grotesques' ......though I still find myself calling them gargoyles!

Donations: following a comment to the previous blog entry about reminding people of the need for donations to keep the project up and running, one of the most dedicated followers of our web cams, Jennie in Hong Kong, is shortly coming to the UK on a business trip. While here she's going to visit Derby, see the birds for herself and also make a donation to the project, avoiding the bank charges which are a deterrent to making a donation from overseas.

Jennie has already provided the local paper with a quote saying how much the Derby birds mean to her and the local BBC radio station hopes to catch her for a quick interview when she is here. Jennie found the site very early on and her comments have appeared regularly since then. You can see a big red dot on Hong Kong when you look at the Clustr map on the blog. The map shows where folk are logging on from around the world.

We've even had some dots from the middle of the Pacific ocean and I had wondered if these were from Midway Island or perhaps an interested loggerhead turtle 'loggering' on......who knows what they get up to out there in the oceans!

Nick B (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)

Ps To make a donation, ring the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust office (01773 881188) in office hours and the team there will be happy to take your money from you then and there - or explain how to do this should you live abroad (or email enquiries@derbyshirewt.co.uk). For reasons related to the ending of the financial year in a few days time, we would prefer donations to be made AFTER 1st April so that they don't have to be accounted for (and spent) in this financial year....but if you are desperate to part with your money, don't let that stop you!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Intimate Moments

These intimate moments were captured from our video recorders, thanks to the watchfulness of webcam viewers who left reports (from as far afield as Shanghai in China, to Swadlincote in Derbyshire) that the peregrines had been seen mating on the tower again, mostly on 16th March. It seems almost prurient to intrude in this way, but what a wonderful opportunity to to see these magnificent birds come together on Derby Cathedral's tower at the start of this year's nesting season.

Notice the male set off from the overhanging guttering at the beginning of the first clip. He obviously makes a short approach flight over Cathedral Green before coming back into view again. The second video contains a small error, whereby an additional clip from a few days earlier was accidentally included at the start of the recording, hence the apparent jump.

Monday, 16 March 2009

The grass is greener.....

(Newsflash: Two webcam viewers have reported seeing further mating activity on the tower at 9:50am local time, Monday 16th March, followed by another report the same day around 18:00 local time. A viewer in Shaghai also reported observing the peregrines mating last Sunday 15th March at 06:30am. We'll endeavour to bring you video clips of some of these moments over the next few days. )

Cathedral Green, the open space to the east of the cathedral where we used to stand to watch the peregrines, has finally been opened up again after its long and expensive make-over throughout 2008.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust did object to the original plans for the Green which were to hard-surface it completely and get rid of all the grass. It seems like our protestations must have worked - there is almost as much grass as there was before! (and grass is miles cheaper than stone paving!).

Anyway, the new grass lawns are greener than ever and visitors coming to see the birds will be able to relax on the new grass once it has dried out.

It was a lovely shining spring morning on Thursday when I took these photos...but there was no sign of either of our birds...they must have known I was coming!

Nick B (DWT)

Ps. make sure you scroll down to see the exciting latest video clip showing mating........fingers crossed for eggs before the month is out.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Mating Peregrines!

Wading through the last four days of tower-top camera footage in five minute intervals, I was delighted to come across proof that our birds have been actively mating. The short sequence below was filmed on Sunday 8th March at 6pm, but only retrieved from Derby Cathedral this lunchtime.

Just as last year the male swoops in with an amazing flying approach, and in this low resolutoin clip it's just possible to see him at the very start of the clip on the extreme right side against the sky. After mating, we see him fly off, but she remained on the top of the tower, roosting there with her head seemingly tucked into her wing until just after first light the next morning. (6.30am)

The mating sequence of most birds is so quick that's it's hard to be certain we haven't missed anything, though we've checked up until this lunchtime and seen nothing. There are almost certain to be a few more such intimate moments, so it's worth keeping a watch on the tower camera over the next few days, or on the tower itself if you live in our city. Do please leave a comment if you see any special moments by leaving the date and our local time (from the header in the webcam image) so we can go and retrieve footage of interest.

Judging by the timetable shown in a previous blog entry this month, it does seem likely that we will now have the first egg laid before the end of March.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Courtship present

Standing outside Derby Cathedral after a pleasant lunch in their newly refurbished restaurant, I might have been forgiven for thinking there had been little peregrine activity going on at all today. Before leaving home this morning I had noticed the adult female was tucked onto a ledge below the nest platform, and the male was out of sight. The situation hadn't changed an hour later when I stood below the tower in Derby's city centre at 10.30am, except to note that our male was visible on the guttering, just Male peregrine on Derby Cathedral. Photo: Colin Pass.beside our tower cam. Both seemed content there, and were still in exactly the same position after lunch, some three hours later.

But comments left on this blog from Froona, Karen Anne and many others tell a different story. There has been a lot of nest scraping and courtship activity seen in the webcams recently (see top photo) though in between things always do seem pretty calm. We know that elsewhere in Europe peregrines are already on their eggs, and soon we expect it to be our turn again. (See blog entry for 1st March for a Head-bowing courtship display. Sunday March 8th.)calendar of past breeding activity.)

At 17:30 local time today we caught a short exchange of food with the female perched on the side of the nest platform and with the male suddenly arriving with the gift, but then just as quickly returning to the tower cam. Click the play icon to watch the sequence of images which were taken at 30 second intervals. Blink and you'll miss him. (Even the tower cam catches a bit of the action. )

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Calendar of the Breeding Season

Looking back through the public archives of this blog, we've drawn up a Calendar of the main events of the breeding season of Derby's peregrine falcons over the last two years.

It's going to be hard to guess whether or not they will be a few days earlier this year, as we might expect from an increasingly experienced female bird. We have to balance this against any delay that Britain's much colder winter this year might cause. All guesses, of course, are welcome in our comments.

All was quiet on the nest platform al 11pm when this snapshot was taken.
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