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.....