Friday, 31 December 2010

A Happy (and successful) New Year!

2010 was the fifth year our peregrine pair have nested successfully on the cathedral's lofty tower....though it wasn't without it's difficulties as you may well recall.

The Project started back in 2005 when the adult pair displayed over and around the cathedral but were unable to nest, there being not a single flat ledge on the tower on which an egg could be laid.

In spring 2006, a wooden nest platform was installed on the east side of the tower. Nick Moyes from Derby Museum and his mountaineering friend Nick Evans (who constructed the platform for us at cost) abseiled down and fixed the structure in place. Due to bad weather this didn't take place until early April and we felt sure that we were far too late for that season.

However, within a week the male had landed on the tray and found it to his liking. Within three weeks the female was laying eggs on the gravel lining though, from the ground below and in the absence of any cameras, we could only guess at the laying dates and the number of eggs. Six weeks or so later and we began to see tiny white heads appear above the lip of the platform....'we have chicks!'

In July three chicks fledged successfully, though one of them, a female, had to be rescued from the ground below and taken back to the top of the tower.

The story of our birds made headlines in the local media with stories on the front page of the local paper and on the regional television news.

As news spread, people flocked to see the young birds as they developed their flying skills. Spurred on by this success we 'hatched' plans to put up cameras before the 2007 season. A wonderful anonymous donation of £5000 enabled us to get everything in place and by the end of March we watched in anticipation as the first egg was laid. The project blog gave the latest news and video clips allowed people around the world to observe the birds court, lay eggs and eventually to rear their young.
And so the project has continued ever since. We still have the same pair of adults and so far they have fledged 17 young from 19 eggs.
As the days begin to lengthen, we expect to see the first signs of courtship before too long. The birds have bred earlier each year and in 2011, if all goes to plan, we can expect eggs well before the end of March.

What has been gratifying to those of us who run the project has been the amazing way that people have been drawn to the peregrines and the project. To date there have been over 1,800,000 hits to the webcams emanating from well over 60 countries around the world, testifying to the power of the internet as a mechanism to bring wildlife right into people's homes, their offices and, most importantly, into their hearts. Despite this, by far the majority of viewers come from two cities: Derby and London (the latter simply because of the huge population compared to Derby).

Many of these people have generously supported the project over these five years and we are extremely grateful to you all for your donations and your messages of support. Photographers have allowed us to use their superb images for free and the cathedral staff and clergy have given us all the help we could possibly have asked for.

Currently we are trying to work out what new innovations we might be able to bring to the 2011 this space!

Meanwhile, a Happy New Year to everyone who has tuned in to watch Derby's 'world-famous' peregrines during these five eventful years. Stay with us for 2011.....and spread the word even wider if you can.

Best wishes from the project team.

Nick M, Tony G and Nick B.

(Note to self: Don't publish this line until NM advises that his stats are online)
Nick Moyes tells me he intends to publish an article about webstats and on his new blog sometime in the New Year at

Monday, 20 December 2010

Frozen Webcams - Update 20th December

The web cams are running again - thanks to Nick M and folk at the cathedral who sorted it all out today. It is still extremely cold here in Derby (minus 10 or colder!) but at least we have not had the snow which has caused such problems elsewhere in the UK (hope I don't speak too soon!! Nick B)
After a brief warm snap, it's cold once more in Derby. So cold, in fact, that our webcams frozen on Tuesday evening! I finally got up into Derby Cathedral on friday, only to trace the fault to either a blown fuse or a ring main problem inside the magnificent and ancient stone tower. Having informed the vergers, this power was restored on Saturday morning, and both cameras are now working correctly. (although both could do with having their lenses cleaned, and a bit of weeding done to the foreground of one of them)

On a completely different note, we would like some advice. Perhaps you can help us?
Every year since 2006 we have run Watch Points on Cathedral Green, manned by a brilliant bunch of volunteers from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, all organised by Nick B. Although great to be able to see our birds in real life from just below, we do appreciate how frustrating it is not knowing exactly what's going on inside the nest whilst everyone else is online with a crystal-clear picture. So next year we are considering using either mobile phone or a netbook computer with an internet link. This might also eventually allow us to us send short and topical updates via Twitter. We'd be interested to hear from anyone who has used such equipment here in Derby city centre, and how good the signal and image reception is on different equipment.

We do need to keep expenditure to a minimum, so maybe an inexpensive PAYG Android phone like the T-mobile Pulse Mini? Or maybe a bottom end Netbook? Not being very familiar with either technologies, your Project Team would welcome any suggestions or pitfalls to look out for. The key thing is that, because of the short breeding season, we wouldn't want to lock ourselves in to annual contracts or pay for broadband connectivity we wouldn't use, and we don't want to spend your kind donations in a profligate way. We know that Flash player is needed to view our cameras (which rules out the iPhone), and that mobile screens are obviously smaller than netbooks. So, whilst there are advantages in having a phone we can easily take inside the Cathedral when working on our equipment, maybe it would be great to be able to take a netbook to share with more people or take to evening talks and share live images with our audiences by plugging it into a projector.
If you have experience and views of either bits, do please leave a comment on this blog, or email me on

Nick M
Derby Museum & Art Gallery

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Flying Falcons

Photo: Ian Bradley
Photo: Ian Bradley
Peregrine Falcon (juvenile)
Photo: Simon Richardson
Peregrine Falcon Juvenile
Photo: Simon Richardson
Photo: Jon Salloway

Photo: Colin Pass
Photo: Colin Pass

Photo: Jon Salloway

Photo: Graham Whitmore

Photo: Nick Moyes
Photo: Jon Salloway

Monday, 6 December 2010

Arctic Derby

The weather remains bitterly cold in Derby. While the heavy snowfall of last week has been beaten down (and doesn't look much now, eg in my photo), it is increasingly difficult to walk along pavements which have become very icy and compacted. Similarly side and country roads are rather lethal!
Tonight's temperature is set to plummet to minus 10 degrees at best.

This afternoon both adult peregrines were on the Jurys Inn signs, one on the sunny south facing side and the other round the corner on the East facing side. They are well equipped to cope with cold weather. There's plenty of prey about. Today I found feathers of a teal and beak of a snipe below the tower.

Other birds are beginning to struggle.

This woodcock visited a suburban garden in North Derby one day last week. Remarkably it was managing to find earthworms in the soil below the snow. You may recall that woodcock are one of many species of wading bird that the peregrines take and that in December 2009, we managed to capture footage of one of the peregrines bringing back a live woodcock to the tower at 11pm at night, proving that these birds hunt after dark using the floodlighting.

Nick B (DWT)
Ps. A big thanks to Barbara M for providing the excellent photo, taken through her window.....

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Getting 009 set up

Those of you who followed events in summer 2009 will remember that one of the juveniles, colour ring number 009, a female, broke her neck a few days after fledging. She flew into a glass panel on the roof of a block of flats near the cathedral.

Colin Pass' photo shows 009 a few days before her death, perching on the edge of the nest platform. You can just see her orange colour ring on her left leg.

Nick M recovered the corpse and put it in the museum's deep freeze. We hoped to get the bird 'set up' by a taxidermist so that we could use it for talks and other educational purposes. We applied for and got some funding towards the total costs......but not enough - we had more than slightly underestimated the (very reasonable) charges that a taxidermist would make these days for a week's work.
So we are scrabbling round trying to make up the difference between what we have and what we need....
We have a very good taxidermist waiting in the wings.....but we need the money first!

We hope to use as little of the existing peregrine donations as possible since these will all be required to fund next seasons web cams, make more DVDs up, reprint the project leaflet and for similar things so if anyone out there would like to help towards these costs we'd be very grateful.
We're a couple of hundred pounds adrift but any help would be appreciated.

To donate to the project, click on the word 'donate' on the left hand side of the blog under 'Key Links'.
Nick B (DWT)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Getting to know you....and where you are!

Following our recent request for people to check the Clustrmap (see 'how to' below), we have had a few comments from people who have (or in one case, haven't) found their red dot on the map.
Yesterday we received this email from Carol C who lives in San Francisco, USA and she has kindly allowed us to let everyone read it:

Having read your post about getting in touch, I wanted to let you know that I am a fan in San Francisco California, USA. As an expat Brit originally from Southport, Lancs, I regularly view sites in the UK and very much enjoy feeling that I am in touch - at least in a cyber sense - with what I still think of as home.

I am a great fan of the Derby website. It is beautifully administered and so informative. I check in at least once a day in the "off" season and enjoy observing the occasional comings and goings of the beautiful falcons. I particularly look forward to seeing the video clips and reading the informative commentaries by your dedicated band of falcon experts.
The cathedral is truly lovely and it is my sincere intention to visit the next time I am home for a visit. Of course in the breeding and fledging season I keep a close watch on the activities of the pair and their offspring, usually in great glee over their activities, occasional in tears--as with this last season.
I am a veteran falcon watcher and keep in close touch with the Indiana falcon website (which I recommend at - however it is the Derby site that is closest to my heart. There is magic in the location, the un-named wildness of the birds and the camaraderie I feel knowing that there are many eyes and hearts in concert with mine. I even enjoy the visits when I see nothing but the lovely English sky and the odd comings and goings of people in what I believe you call "Amen Alley".
Many thanks to you all for the work you do. The many hours of pleasure, the vast store of knowledge you so generously share, the profound sense of awe that I feel each season as nature works her magic have added immeasurably to my life.
Carol C


Thanks also now to Adrian L who lives in Northern Colorado and who emailed to say that, like Carol C, he too is a expat who used to live in Burton on Trent and also in Derby for awhile. He says how much he enjoys watching the web cams and reading the blog. The web cams also allow him to see what the Derby area weather is like - he still has relatives living here!

How to see the Clustrmap: Do look at the blue Clustrmap image, well down on the left hand side of this blog page. Just click on the map to enlarge it  - like this.  Click again to zoom in to your own continent and, if you are following the blog from overseas where dots are widely spaced, you may be able to see the red dot which represents you! The UK map can be enlarged even further with another click, so you may find yourself here, too. The current month's map also shows how many blog readers come from the UK compared to further afield, whilst archived visitor maps from previous months shows just how popular our blog becomes during the peregrine breeding season. Of course, this map only shows readers of this blog. It doesn't count  webcam viewers, so you'll need to check the counter on our webcam pages for those figures.
Do please email us and let us know exactly where you are - or post a comment on the blog if you wish to remain anonymous.
Please send your email to

Note: If you read this blog from within a corporate network, there's a tiny chance that our visitor map could be greyed out and inaccessible to you. If this occurs, the problem will lie with your own company's web filtering program, as we found out here in Derby, though we managed to resolve this with the help of Derby's IT people, Websense, and the top man from Clustrmaps (thanks Marc).

The photo shows one of this year's juveniles and is by Andy Byron
Nick B (DWT)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Autumn in Derby

I took this photo of the cathedral, seen from Cathedral Green, early today (Sunday). It was a glorious if cold morning (I had to remove the ice from my car windows before I could set off).

The falcon (female) was sitting on a stone ledge just below the nesting platform preening herself in the sunshine.
Later I found a fresh pair of teal wings on the pavement below the tower. The teal is a small duck often taken by the peregrines. It moves into the Derby area in autumn and can be found on local gravel pits, lakes and reservoirs. The irridescent green speculum feathers on the wings are a giveaway......
When I got home and had eaten my breakfast, I went into the garden to take some recycling out. Suddenly I heard the sound of geese so I looked up and there in the bright blue sky above the house was a skein of over 200 pink footed geese flying East. A magic sight! These Icelandic birds had been seen an hour earlier flying over Stoke on Trent and were later seen over Nottinghamshire. They would be heading for the Norfolk coast which they would have reached perhaps by lunchtime. I bet the falcon looked up as they flew over her head!
Winter is certainly approaching......

Nick B (DWT)

Ps. Do look at the Clustrmap well down on the left hand side of the blog page. Double click on the map and it enlarges. Click again on separate parts of the map and, if you are following the blog from overseas especially, you may be able to see the red dot which represents you!
If you can do, please email us and let us know exactly where you are.
For example, I see there is a red dot in NW Spain near the Pyrenees. I was there in September and met a ranger at a wonderful wetland reserve called Laguna de Pitillas. If that red dot is you then do please get in touch - it would be great to hear from you....what have you been seeing at your reserve as the winter begins to bite? Have the cranes arrived yet?

Pps. Lovely email received from a keen web cam watcher in California this morning (Tuesday) - more on this later but meanwhile do please email us and let us know where you assured that we will treat your email with the utmost care and security.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Scottish peregrines satellite tagged

Many of you will know about Roy Dennis' Highland Foundation for Wildlife and the ospreys and other species that he has satellite tagged for a number of years.

Roy recently emailed me with details of another website he has started on which he gives details of the new species he has tagged this summer in The Cairngorms National Park.

They include two juvenile peregrines, a merlin and a hobby and the movements of these birds and other raptors can be followed on his new website which is :

The young peregrines are venturing further from their nest, though within the Highlands area.

The hobby, a true migrant, is now in Senegal though poor signals (due to lack of sunshine) failed to give Roy any track down through the UK or France until the bird reached southern Spain.
It will be fascinating to see where the young peregrines go during the winter. Will they go to the coast? Will they move south and if so how far? Might they come down to the Peak District, even visit Derby?
These are the first peregrines to be sat-tagged in the UK so the information they provide is ground-breaking.
The same is true for the hobby and merlin though hobbies have been tagged in Germany and followed through a whole winter in Africa. Amazing what can be achieved as the size of transmittors is reduced, allowing their use on smaller species such as the hobby and merlin.

Nick B (DWT)

Could Roy's birds come down to Derby? Time will tell......

Reminder: The urls of our two webcam pages have permanently changed. Follow the links on the top left of this page and remember to modify any bookmarks.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

BBC AutumnWatch (and Webcam Link Change)

BBC TV's Autumnwatch gave our peregrine project an honourable mention this evening..
Shown below is our world-first video of a live woodcock being brought back late at night last December to which presenter Chris Packham referred. (Link to BBC iPlayer - for UK viewers only

It's a fascinating story, which also involved a snipe being accidentally dropped alive some hours beforehand, and the woodcock itself remaining uneaten and frozen for 18 day on top of Derby cathedral before finally being consumed. 

For new visitors who might like to read about the whole story, it's a tale told in two halves.
Part One explains the woodcock sequence and also shows it finally being eaten two weeks later

Part Two tells the story of how an incredibly unfortunate snipe was captured on the same evening.

Webcam changes
Please note that our two peregrine falcon webcam addresses have permanently altered this week, so you may need to alter your Bookmarks. The following two links will now get you there:


Single view:

Meanwhile the easy-to-remember link to our project homepage still functions at

Our three webcams run 24 hrs a day, throughout the year. There's lots of action to be seen even at this time of year. Leave a comment on this blog to share what you've noticed. (All comments are subject to moderation, so  won't appear immediately)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Derby Festé - this weekend

If you live around Derby, you're probably already aware that our city's ever-popular annual street event, Derby Festé, hits town this weekend.

There will be three days of spectacular world-class events, all of which are free. The event kicks off on Friday evening with a mix of Bollywood dance, music and animatronic sculptures winding their way through the streets from St Peter's Street to the Market Place. (I'll be there - but probably not dancing!)
Cathedral Green itself is host to a number of amazing events during the Feste weekend, which ends with a Festé Wrap Party at Deda at 9pm. There are free workshops for the kids, lots to see and do, but don't forget to keep an eye out for Derby's peregrines, up there on the Cathedral tower, watching everything that goes on below. And if it all gets too much, don't forget our three city museums are a great place to unwind and relax.

You can download the whole amazing programme of events here or follow this link to visit the Festé website.

Webcam note: On Monday 27th September many of Derby City Council's internet services are being given new addresses. This could potentially affect our webcam availability at that time, and so we'll keep you informed of any changes or problems via this blog.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Bell Ringers Open Day

This Saturday (August 28th) is the cathedral bell ringers' annual Open Day - between 10 am and 4 pm and everyone is welcome.
There will be demonstrations (with plenty of noise no doubt!) and an opportunity to see the ringing chamber. This room is also where the peregrine IT gear is kept and the monitor will be switched on to show the live web cam views.

So do take the chance to find out about the bells, the carillon (left) and what bell ringing should be very interesting!

Nick B (DWT)

Report on the day by Roger, one of the bell-ringing team.
The bell-ringer's open tower open day was a great success. The weather was fantastic with blue skies for most of the day and even the brief downpour at 2pm was over by the time the next batch of visitors had reached the roof where, I'm told, there were clear views over five counties.

People came from a wide range of places including Derby, Nottingham, Windsor and Chester in the UK together with Latvia, the Czech Republic and the USA.

There were told about the history of the tower and its bells, with explanations and demonstrations of how they are rung, before having a go themselves. While they were waiting to ring they were treated to wonderful live views of an impeccably behaved peregrine who sat in full view of the pud-cam on the grotesques for nearly the whole day.

Even the clock hammer on the tenor bell was repaired so the crowd that gathered in the carillon room at 12 noon were able watch and hear the clock chimes and carillon tunes in their full glory.

Many thanks to all who came along. 

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Ben Fogle Points The Way

TV personality and adventurer extraordinaire, Ben Fogle, helpfully shows everyone where Derby's peregrine falcons nest on the city's cathedral.
Ben came to Derby today to help promote a snack bar product on Cathedral Green, but was obliging and professional enough to pose for our camera. I thought about inviting him to abseil down with me the next time we nip down to clean out our peregrines' nest. But for this adventurer, who has trekked across Antarctica and rowed across the Atlantic, I suspect it would be a very minor achievement indeed!

Ben is probably most well known for his BBC TV progamme, "Extreme Dreams" in which he and his crew take a group of relatively inexperienced but nevertheless brave group of people into outdoor challenges that would tax most ordinary people to the limits. It's a fascinating programme to watch and even motivated my own 8yr old to create a winning piece for a school Easter Egg competition, as you can see below.
(Egg- stream dreams. Get it?)

Anyone wanting a Ben Fogle's autograph on a copy of our promotional Peregrine leaflet can have it if they bid over £10 towards the Project. Offers close at the end of this month and his signature will go to the highest bidder. Leave you genuine bid on our comments. (Autograph will only be sent once donation has been received.)

Friday, 30 July 2010

All quiet on the western front...

After the busy breeding season our adults are now in moulting mode and I've already found a couple of moulted feathers below the cathedral.

No recent reports of the two juveniles but having recently made a trip round the area to the east of the city (Chaddesden, Spondon, Locko Park, Elvaston and Alvaston) I have realised just how many pylons there are in that area....perfect for peregrines to perch on! Plenty of trees too of course but whether they use trees or not is a moot point.

There is a theory that peregrines that have been fledged from an artificial structure such as a church, cathedral, commercial building, pylon or even a bridge also look for a nest site on a similar artificial maybe our cathedral peregrines have an aversion to perching in trees?

Incidentally, in case you're wondering, when they breed on pylons they use the old nests of crows - and only certain styles of pylons seem to be used by crows. I did see one crow nest on a pylon in my travels...but no sign of either a crow or raptor there.

Meanwhile, the peregrine's smaller cousin, the hobby, is still feeding its young, two months after the peregrines were busy feeding theirs. Why the time difference?
Well, hobbies are migrants wintering in southern Africa (where they mostly feed on insects such as termites) and returning to the UK in late April and May. They also use old crows nests, nearly always in trees. Their breeding season is timed so that the young are growing up just when there are plenty of young birds on the wing - in particular, the young of swallows, martins and swifts.
(Young hobbies look very much like young peregrines, only smaller!)

August will see the young hobbies fledge and by mid September they will be on their long and solitary journeys south.

Hobbies are increasing in numbers in the UK and there are now about 40 pairs in Derbyshire.

They nest in farmland, using crow nests in lines of hedgerow trees or isolated trees in fields. They are very secretive birds and therefore hard to see. August is a good time to search since the fledged young can be noisy and, if you know of a swallow roost, hobbies will visit it at dusk as the birds circle round before flying down into the roost site (usually tall crops like maize, dense trees such as enery willow or reedbeds).

Nick B (DWT)

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Juvenile 008 and a new update (24th July)

Updates for 24 and 14 July: both adults on tower early morning on 14th and one juvenile on the aerial.
On 24th, none on either the tower or the police aerial and an hour-long drive this morning round Breadsall, Chaddesden, Spondon and Alvaston failed to find any on the numerous (and very suitable) pylons in that area East of Derby city. NB.
Regular followers of this blog will known that the 2010 season saw four eggs hatch succesfully. But shortly afterwards we all watched helplessly as two of the young chicks subsequently died.

Surviving the first year of life is not easy for any bird, and this is very true of the peregrines. Last year only two out of four birds survived through the summer.

Last week we heard more bad news - that one of those two surviving male birds (colour ringed as 008) from 2009 had been found dead somewhere in Spondon - a suburb on the east side of Derby. We believe the bird was found during May, and are hoping we may be able to find out more infomation. If we do we will let you know. Show here is a picture of that male bird, taken by local photographer and falconry expert, Colin Pass, plus a webcam screen capture made by Marski2009.

It is 008 in the tray!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

City wildlife and Webtest

Sunday 11th July: both adults on the tower this morning but no sign there or on the police aerial of the juveniles. They must be further afield somewhere.
Now the peregrines are less in evidence, us naturalists can turn our attention to other wildlife in the city. Here are a few recent observations:

On elm trees just north of the cathedral by the inner ring round there's a small colony of the delightful white letter hairstreak butterfly. They are small and tend to fly round the very tops of the elms so they can be difficult to see. The photo shows one that was sunning itself on a leaf low down early one morning. The white 'w' mark across the wings gives this butterfly its name.

The swifts that fly round the cathedral are now reduced in numbers and, withthe hot summer we've had, may have successfully completed their breeding season and set off back to Africa already. Certainly there have been large southward movements of swifts at the coast involving up to 10,000 birds in a single day!
On one roadside verge I found a profusion of ladies bedstraw, an attractive plant which was indeed used to sweeten the smell of bedding in times gone by. It's a widespread plant but always good to see in an urban setting.

Finally, in case I get grumbled at for going off topic, here's a Colin Pass sequence of photos from 2008 of the falcon stooping.

Nick B (DWT)

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Donations, What Next? and an Update

Update Saturday 3rd July: no birds at the cathedral or on Jurys Inn early morning and just one juv. on the police aerial. The rest must be somewhere around. Under the cathedral I found a few teal feathers plus the wing of a quail.

Our birds took one in July last year and another later in the year..... The top right photo is from a Dutch 'bird feather ID' website. The one below is this morning's find at Derby. NB.


We would like to thank everyone who has donated so generously this year to the peregrine project. We have now exceeded our base target of £1500 which is what we need just to keep the web cams running for a further year.

In addition we have received a further £500 so far which will allow us to replace some existing equipment, reprint the leaflet, carry our some new publicity and perhaps, make some new innovations. The team will meet in the autumn and decide what developments we would like to make for 2011 and whether we have the funds to carry them out.

What next?
Although the adults are showing on the web cams from time to time, we expect many people to drift away from watching our birds and reading this blog now that the juveniles have fledged.

So, if this experience has opened your eyes to the wildlife around you - where can you turn next and what can (or maybe should) you do?

I would encourage everyone, wherever you may be, to support, donate to and where possible also join their local wildlife organisation. In Derbyshire this is the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT) and you can find out more about what the trust does by visiting its website;

You can join DWT via the website or by phoning the Trust office on 01773 881188.
There are county wildlife trusts in every other part of the UK. To find you local one, whether it's Surrey WT or Scotland WT, visit the trusts national website

Then, why not visit your local nature reserves or attend a field or indoor meeting organised by the trust? Details are on their websites. The DWT website also features a weekly wildlife diary which is located in the 'news' section.

Carr Vale Nature Reserve near Bolsover
If you still have some money left over after donating to this project then there are many hundreds of deserving conservation projects both in the UK and abroad. For example, Terry has recently mentioned the great work that Birdlife Malta does trying to halt the slaughter of migrating birds (including many raptors) which pass over that island. The conservationists there are incredibly brave, facing physical attacks from the hunters and regular vandalism of their newly established nature reserves).

Obviously, DWT is the organisation we would hope to direct you to first and foremost since the trust has been a major partner and supporter of this project since its inception more than five years ago.

Nick B (DWT)

Ps. And don't forget the excellent project DVD 'The Peregrines of Derby' is still available at £9.95 (inclusive of p&p) from the museum and cathedral shops and by post from DWT by phoning 01773 881188.

Friday, 25 June 2010

The Urbane Birder and an Update

Update Saturday 26th June: all four peregrines were on the police aerial this morning, the two juvs together on a metal platform about half way up. Earlier I had seen both parents in the nest platform again performing pair bonding all's well!
The juvs flew strongly off the aerial at one point, returning soon afterwards - they also had food on the aerial.

My hastily digiscoped photos show the two juvs and (if you can spot her) the falcon just above them. Nick B (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)

"Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Nick Brown is a dead bird watcher."

The words stood out and shocked me as I browsed through the pages of this month's Bird Watching Magazine in a newsagent in Derby's Westfield shopping centre. It's not often that you pick up a magazine and read that a good friend you've known for many years is dead. Thankfully, this was not one of those moments.

The words were written by David Lindo, writer and broadcaster, who writes under the epithet of "The Urban Birder". A couple of months ago Nick Brown had pursuaded David to come up to Derby and to write a piece on Derby's birdwatching hotspots. Inevitably this meant a visit to Derby Cathedral to see our peregrines, and David had been amused and intrigued by the revelations that Nick B. loved nothing better to do than scour around for the remains of unusual prey items dropped by our peregrines. We'd already found the remains of a Little Grebe on one of the grotesques, and Nick had jokingly described himself as being a "dead bird watcher". For someone dedicated to birdwatching in the urban environment, David Lindo loved the idea. And so began his article on page 47 of the July issue of Bird Watching.

We had taken him right along the River Derwent corridor, starting at Darley Abbey and going through the beautiful Darley Park, arriving at Cathedral Green where I met up with Nick, David and his photographer, Russell Spencer.

We introduced David to Tony Grantham, the Head Verger at Derby Cathedral and partner in the Peregrine Project, before going up the tower to show him where our peregrines were nesting. Afterwards we headed off downstream towards Pride Park where along the way we showed him a colony of Sand Martins which had made their home in the metal pilings used to reinforce the sandy river bank at one point alongs its journey south through the city (see photo). Here we saw a huge pike in the river and the electric flash of a Kingfisher darting rapidly upstream.

Our trip ended at another project I was involved in setting up - The Sanctuary Bird Reserve - next to Derby County football stadium. The site of a former landfill site, it's now home to countless more Sand Martins but also to Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, Little Grebes, Skylarks, Reed Buntingss, Lapwing and many many other birds which have become increasingly rare across Derby as more and more land is put to commercial use.

It was great to see the Little Ringed Plovers mating and to watch numerous Wheatears which had stopped off on their way northwards to their summer breeding grounds. Beside me, our dead bird watcher was very much alive. Nick and David are both far better birders than I am, and it was impressive to hear them debating whether or not the tiny dot Nick had just spotted, floating high above our heads, was a Honey Buzzard high in the skies overhead. Whetever it was, even higher up still, perhaps a thousand feet or more in the air , a peregrine, almost invisible even with binoculars was circling, looking for food. And we also .......

.... Well, I could go on.
But why not read the The Urban Birder's article yourself in the July issue Bird Watching Magazine. It's just £3.95. Or take a walk down the River Derwent and see some of Derby's magic birdlife sites for yourself.

The accompanying photos show some examples of prey found at the cathedral:

A common tern in a lead gutter - photo: Joyce Sawford
Blackcap head - photo NB

Knot head - photo NB
David Lindo, The Urban Birder, beside the River Derwent Sand Martin colony (photo NM)
Artificial Sand Martin bank and lake at The Sanctuary, Pride Park. (photo NM)
You can read a little about the the Urban Birder's visit to Derby on his blog, here.