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.


Anonymous said...

i have been foolowing this blog for a few years now, i can't understand why in previous years the young ones have always tried to get back to the cathedral after fledging at some point. yet this year they have just gone, why do you think this is, is it because they know there siblings died there or has something or someone scared them awy, even the adults do not seem to be making an effort to bring them back.thanks

Anonymous said...

Slightly off-topic but for those who care about the persecution of birds of prey:

Malta update

Terry, Herts

Anonymous said...

16.20 Has anyone seen the young ones recently? Are they ok? Anon

Anonymous said...
Might be of interest.

Craig said...

A lot of Anonymous' about aren't there.

@Anon 09.42 I think that they're not coming back is a good start.

Nothing wrong with being a dead bird watcher. The alternative is that you sit in a hide for hours on end waiting for the birds to turn up, or not, and if they do you see 2 seconds of them as they fly past.

This way you just need to find them, much more challenging. And once you find them you can snap them and move on.


Craig said...

Anon 17:55

Thanks for the article. I wish the Peregrine luck, she's going to need it if the residents can't wait two weeks.

Does the US have the same protection in law of Peregrines as we do over here?

Michele said...

Believe it or not, I was actually one of the "birdwatchers" attacked at the University of Buffalo, NY. I posted about that fateful day on this site shortly after it happened.

The two weeks are over, and there have been no more Mama Falcon attacks. I have gone back to the site to watch the young ones flying about, but safely used my binoculars from the car! The Department of Environmental Conservation has posted a warning sing at the bottom of the nest tower.

Anonymous said...

8.25 One adult on stonework/tower but still no sign of juniors as far as I can tell - hope someone will see them soon. Anon

Anonymous said...

8.45 Many thanks to Nick B of DWT for this morning's update with the news that he has seen all four peregrines this morning on the police aerial. Silly me was getting worried about the juniors. Anon

AnnieF. said...

An adult at each end of the nestbox.

Anonymous said...

22.50 Two peregrines are sitting on the stonework/tower presumably the adults. Anon

rhinos time said...

2.50am one off the birds is on the scrap lookin down on the world at his own free will no sing of the orther three will stay on till 3.00am then bed for me.

Craig said...


07.25 Both adults in the nest, oposite sides. Bowing low. Tiercel is on the scrape.

07.29 The Falcon moved over to the scrape too. The Tiercel is really backed into the corner now.

07.30 He's outta here she's too big and scary for him.

07.31 She's wondering around the scrape, having a sit down and he's turned up on the tower. She's now moved to the ledge.

Anonymous said...

8.15am One bird on the ledge of the nest and another one on the tower/stonework. It would be nice if one could see the younsters but it looks like they prefer 'private'! Anon

Nick B (DWT) said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 09:42 25/6

It's not a problem that the family is choosing to loaf away from the nest site. After the breeding season it's going to be minging and full of potentially pathogenic life forms.

"My" pair have two nesting cliffs to choose from in their territory. Past occupants of the territory normally used a different nesting ledge every year which gave old nests a chance to weather and, to a degree, self clean.

The fortunate Derby "tenants" have cleaners to sanitise the nest platform every year, but avoiding the nest tray at the moment is understandable.

AnnieF. said...

One peregrine at each end of the nestbox, bowing low.

Craig said...

18.20 Looks like the Falcon on the tower in the corner.

18.27 Falcon and Tiercel are back in the nest box, oposite sides, bowed. Tiercel on the scrape again. Staring at eachother. Who will blink first.

18.35 Tiercel was the first to take flight in on this standoff, a disgrace to all us blokes! I would have lost the bet, if I had bet.

Falcon has taken advantage of his moving and moved over to the scrape for a look around before moving to the ledge.

AnnieF. said...

@ Anonymous 14.59

I understand that the Derby nestbox wasn't cleaned before the peregrines bred this year.

Nick B DWT said...

The nestbox/platform was indeed cleaned out this spring by Nick M during March.
nick B (DWT)

Craig said...

ohhh we have pictures at long last, but only from the multicam. It shows us the Tiercel on the tower near the camera and the Falcon on the nestbox ledge (RHS).

Good view of his legs and talons.

AnnieF. said...


I felt sure I'd seen a post early on in the season that you didn't intend to clean the box this year!

AnnieF. said...

Falcon, I think, on the nestbox ledgerhs, tiercel on the tower.

Terry, Herts UK said...

I thought so too, AnnieF.


AnnieF. said...

Both still in the same positions.