Monday, 14 February 2011

A successful clean up day

Everything went according to plan today. The three Nicks arrived on time and two of them were promptly interviewed for tomorrow morning's BBC Radio Derby programme (between 10 am and 1pm).
A few brave folk (including Mary T) turned up to watch from below. There was a cold wind!
Nicks Moyes and Evans sorted out and checked their ropes and eventually set off abseiling down to the platform before noon..

This year we forgot to disconnect the web cameras, so, judging from your comments to the previous post, many of you had a surprise when two very big intruders appeared on the platform.....
(It's for this reason that we always inform the police beforehand, lest anyone tries to report that someone is raiding a peregrine nest!)
The clean-up operation itself took a couple of hours. Camera lenses were cleaned, a new supporting strap was fitted, soiled gravel removed and new

gravel put in its place, and the loose microphone that had been dangling down into view was glued back into place.
The corpse on the nest was a lapwing, with the remains of a teal beneath it. This was replaced so the birds are not deprived of their meal (although it was hardly fresh!).

Later, a school party arrived and Nick B gave them a short talk about the peregrines and what was happening today.
In small groups the children made their way to the top of the tower where they admired the view, having watched
the web cam monitor in the ringing room on the way up.  Here they met up with Nicks E and M who had just returned from their abseil out, but they declined the invitation from the children to do another one just for show.
The wooden nest platform (made by Nick E in 2006) seems to be in very good 'nick' and should easily last another 5-10 years....what more can you ask?  The tower webcam will need some further maintenance, but this will be done one lunchtime when the weather warms up, and won't disturb the nesting birds at all.
The adult birds have already been displaying and nest the omens are good for the coming that (web cam) space!
Nicks B, M and E

Postscript 1: The final photo shows another lapwing (uneaten and therefore accidentally dropped). This one was found on the nave roof well below the nest.
Postscript 2: If you fancy a job working really closely with a peregrine, we learnt this morning that Derbyshire Cricket Club are looking for someone to dress up as their new mascot, Freddie The Falcon! He's named in honour of our world-famous birds and the club is looking to employ someone during the summer months to attend matches and take the Falcons out into the community.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Valentines Day Treat

Nick M. from Derby Museums taking time off work to ensure
the peregrine platform is in good order for the breeding season.
On Valentine's Day we're giving our peregrine falcons a treat. That is, we're hoping to ready their nest site for this year's breeding season.

Providing the weather holds, we intend to abseil down Derby Cathedral's tower and do some routine nest maintenance next Monday. This will involve confirming that the platform is still in good condition and soundly fixed. The camera lenses need a good clean (and a few arachnids need evicting, too). The microphone that has been dangling down all last season in the top left of  camera 2's picture needs re-fixing, and the worst of the gunk on the ledge may be removed.

As usual, a risk assessment has been done and the police informed. Assuming the weather stays mild and dry, we'll probably be on the nest platform by mid-morning. We normally turn off the webcams during this period so we don't cause alarm to unsuspecting webcam watchers who might think the nest is being raided or otherwise interfered with. Nicks B. M. and E. plan to be there to carry out the tasks, and we'll have the cameras back online just as soon as possible.

We have already seen both adult birds on the nest platform "eee-chupping" to one another - a definite prelude to mating and egg-laying. Once they start to nest, it is a criminal offence in the UK to disturb a pair of peregrine falcons. So this task has to be completed before the first week of March, or we'd be in trouble.

Some of you may remember the heartache we all experienced last season when two young chicks died
in the nest. Despite strenuous efforts by the Project Team to seek best practice advice and to gain official approval, we were refused permission to abseil down to remove the dead or dying chicks. Nature simply had to take its course. This reflects just how strongly the law wishes to protect these birds. It may seem that peregrines in cities are doing well, but even in Derby only around 50% of all eggs laid have ever manage to produce offspring that reached a year old. Elsewhere the situation is more dire - especially in parts of northern Derbyshire, where extreme persecution is still rife.

Nick M.
Derby Museum and Art Gallery

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Peregrine pub and local beers and update

Blog readers who weren't around three years ago may not know that the cathedral peregrines are celebrated in the name of a pub in Chaddesden, a Derby suburb, which is called 'The Peregrine'.
The name came about because the local paper ran a competiton to find a name for this new pub and the name 'Peregrine' came out on top.

The Peregrine Project was asked to supply photos and captions which could be framed and hung on the pub walls. I've not been drinking there for awhile now but I imagine the pictures are still in place.
In addition, The Silk Mill, a pub very local to the cathedral now sells a beer named after the birds and a local microbrewery also named one of their beers after the falcons.
All 'grist to the mill' as they say.....
Addition: as reminded by a comment (thanks Pam) one of the 2008 youngsters came down in Irongate right in front of The Standing Order Pub. Mind you, it was 7am so the pub was shut and the little male (it would be wouldn't it?) didn't get his drink! Instead we took him back to the top of the tower where he looked a bit bemused...eventually he took to the air successfully second time round.
Nick B (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)