Monday, 30 May 2011

Chicks ringed, Two Cathy photos & WP Update

This evening (30th) in a delightfully wind-free and sunny gap in an otherwise very wet day (it's raining again now!), our four chicks were quickly and successfully ringed, thanks to the services of Martin (the abseiler) and Ant (the licenced ringer). Ant thought there were definitely two females and one male with the fourth bird possibly of either sex....since this bird was intermediate in weight and leg width. Time may help is decide.

The orange colour rings applied were 012, 013, 014 and 015.

The Evening Telegraph photographer took his photos back to the newspaper office post haste and it seems likely they will be in tomorrow's paper.
My photos show Martin about to go 'over the edge' and one of the chicks in the middle of the ringing process. Better photos of the chicks will follow soon hopefully....

Nick Brown (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)

Ps. Someone asked to see a photo of Cathy as she is now - so here's one taken on Mon
day by Joyce Sawford.

And a second one shows Cathy with a young admirer - Thomas, taken by his father Tony.

Her plumage has certainly changed - she looks a lot more like an adult now. Note those
lovely feathers on her legs and the clearer and darker marks on her face - especially her moustache!
Report on Friday's Watch Point:
It was a beautiful sunny day today with over 60 people arriving at the Watch Point. They came from far and wide, including Brighton and Worcester. It was also good to see so many children and young people enjoying watching the peregrines. The telescopes were put to good use as there was plenty to see, with the chicks showing well on the platform.

We were also treated to some fantastic aerial displays by the adult birds. The male arrived back around 11.45 am carrying food, which prompted the female to fly from the tower. Both birds were circling and diving for several minutes, before the food was finally taken to the platform and the chicks were fed by the female.

Later in the morning a buzzard was seen flying high up above the tower causing the adult birds to take flight again. There were stunning views of the male flying directly at the buzzard, with the female also calling angrily and circling close by. The buzzard was eventually driven off and didn't return! As we left one of the adult birds was perched at the top of the tower, whilst the chicks appeared settled at the back of the scrape. Many thanks to everyone who made donations and signed the visitors book today.

Helen and Joyce
John Salloway's photo shows a buzzard turned upside down to fend off a peregrine attack. It was taken a few years ago.

Ringing the chicks and an update

Everything went well. The chicks were ringed and we left the tower an hour after
arrival. The local paper should have a big feature on the ringing in tomorrow. Pictures to follow on the blog..... and thanks to Ant and Martin for their professional services!
Chick ringing will take place this evening if we possibly can get it done now the rain has finally stopped, between 6-8pm.
So, if you see a rope and a pair of legs dangle into view on the web cams and the chicks disappear into a rucksack, hopefully between about 6.20 and 6.40pm, fear not!
It's all part of the plan....
The chicks will be just the right age to be ringed.
Any younger and the rings could slip off their legs, any bigger and we risk the chicks flapping out of the nest platform - whereas what they will do at this age is to crouch in the back of the gravel and stay quite still until handled.
They are put into a rucksack which is quickly lowered down to the nave roof below where the ringer is stationed. After ringing, the chicks are returned to the nest. The adult birds usually return to them within half an hour or so (often sooner) and life continues as if nothing had happened.
A full report on the ringing will appear here later in the evening. There will not be any video clips though this year, for the reasons explained in earlier posts.

My photo shows the very first chick to be colour ringed (001) - back in 2007. We did ring the chicks in 2006 but didn't have any colour rings then.
Now that we do, we give each bird a British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) ring on its right leg and an orange colour ring on its left - as you can see in the photo. The BTO ring has a unique number on it so that if the bird is found dead or injured, the finder can report the number back to the BTO.
The colour ring would enable us to identify the bird later if, for example, it were to start nesting at another site somewhere. The big, simple number (in this case 001) can been seen through a telescope - so we can be sure which bird it is without having to try to catch it |(virtually impossible with adult peregrines anyway!).
The colour and numbers (as opposed to letters) are unique to Derbyshire ringed peregrines. The fact that the ring is on the left leg means that the bird has come from the cathedral. Any other juvenile peregrine ringed elsewhere in Derbyshire will have the rings on the other legs - BTO on left, colour on right.
The ringer has ringed all the chicks at the cathedral since 2006. He is very experienced and has ringed many peregrines and other raptors in his time and there is absolutely no risk to the bird.
Ringing has given us so much vital information about birds since the national ringing scheme was started many years ago. For more information go to the BTO's website at .
With luck there will be a picture story in the Derby Evening Telegraph on Tuesday or perhaps Wednesday, depending.
Nick Brown (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)

Ps Monday Event Update: Despite continual rain, we've had a busy day today with over 300 people coming to the cathedral for tower tours and to see Cathy. She behaved very well and everyone was delighted to see her. Big thanks to Colin for bringing her down! We managed about an hour of Watch Point duty around midday before the rain became harder once more....

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Peregrine Special Event this Monday (plus Updates)

Update Monday 8am: despite the rain, the event below will still take place so do come along - when did a bit of rain deter us Brits?
On this Monday, the Bank Holiday (30th), Tony Grantham, Head Verger and great supporter of the project, has organised a special peregrine day at the cathedral. It will include cathedral tower tours (£5 adults, £2,50 children, first come , first served, first one 10.15, last one 3.15pm), games and quizzes for children, a display on bell ringing and on the peregrines and a Watch Point too.

Colin Pass's photo show's Cathy in late 2009

A star appearance from 'Cathy', the injured peregrine from 2009, will be a great attraction in the morning. Colin Pass, who looks after her, has kindly agreed to bring her down between 11 am and 1 pm. - probably as long as we should subject the poor bird to close scrutiny!

Bank Holidays are rather busy in the countryside - but quiet in Derby - so do come down and meet Cathy and our volunteers if you can drag yourselves away from your computers!

Report from the Peregrine Watch Friday 27th May
Four of us were there to set up but we had to abandon the banner as it was way too windy!. We weighed everything down on the information table, and got the telescopes set up.The female was on the nest ledge for quite a while, but not many people came by for the first half hour.Then suddenly, lots of people started to come to look. We were treated to several 'fly-past' displays from both the male and the female and we were able to spot them in the telescopes when they landed on various parts of the cathedral, so our interested public were able to see them at close quarters. More than 35 people came to visit during the sesssion, some local, but some from much further afield too. One young lad came because his teacher had been telling their class about the peregrines. He was very knowledgeable, spotting the male in flight before we did!!Although it was windy and a bit cold, it was well worth being there. Joyce Sawford, Jane Whitaker, Margaret Keep, DWT WP volunteers.

Saturday 28th's Watch Point: very windy again but at least it was dry. Lots of people coming to see the (plastic) duck race on the river. Some diverted to see the peregrines. Took over £30 in donations and sold a DVD! We hope to see many of you on Monday - Cathy's presence should be a big draw!

Note that the regular Watch Points started on May 25th on Cathedral Green and if you scroll down one post you'll find the details of when they are happening (basically every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 11am to 1.30pm).

Nick Brown (DWT)

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Watch Points 2011 and Updates

News Update 25th May: the first Watch Point went well with a constant stream of people coming to see the birds. We caught very brief views of one of the chick's head poking above the platform edge.Both parents were present much of the time though late on, they both flew off, leaving the chicks on their own - they are certainly big enough to cope - how they've grown! The forecast for Friday and Saturday's WPs isn't brilliant but unless it is actually raining we'll be there. The peregrine event on Bank Holiday Monday (25th) promises to be exciting with a star appearance from Cathy, the injured youngster from 2009......she's now nearly two years old. More on this soon.

News Update 24th May: A power failure right across Derby's Cathedral Quarter this morning has knocked out our cameras and recording equipment. Although the cameras should come back on automatically, it is unlikely we will be able to reset the two video recorders for some time.

Watch Points this year will take place every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (weather permitting) starting on Wednesday 25th May and going on until early July, depending on when the chicks fledge and whether they remain visible (last year they left the tower soon after fledging).

The Watch Points will be set up on Cathedral Green on Full Street behind the Cathedral itself. They are free (though donations are always welcome). So if you are able to come to Derby on one of those days, do come along and say hello to our trusty band of DWT volunteers....and see the birds for real!

The DWT volunteers will have telescopes at the ready between about 11 am and 1.30 pm. Staying any later and the light goes off the nest, making viewing difficult.
On Bank Holiday Monday (30th May), Tony Grantham (the head verger) has planned a special event which will include a Watch Point, tours up the cathedral tower, web cam viewing and a display inside the cathedral. More on that nearer the time.

On Saturday 28th May, there's a duck race event on the Green (well on the river actually!) as well as our Watch extra stalls and things will be happening that day!

It would be good to see some of you web cammers there....if you can get along (Jennie made it from Hong Kong so anything is possible!). Do introduce yourselves to our volunteers and leave a comment in the book, saying where you have come from. We need to gather evidence about our ability to bring people to the city!
Nick Brown (DWT)

Ps Children are also very you can see!

Pps. Go to the previous post to find about about how many chicks we have this year...if this is your first visit to the blog.

Monday, 9 May 2011


Feeding the three chicks on Tuesday 10th May. Dad looks on.
Feed me!    9th May 2011- 13.56 Update: we now have four chicks and they are growing fast!

Well, we have three healthy-looking chicks! The first one hatched out sometime around 1am on 9th May, but by daylight it began to seem that there might in fact be two moist balls of feathers being kept warm by the female falcon. It was hard to tell, as she was dong her best to keep her new charges safe and warm.

The third chick hatched on Tuesday 10th May with one egg still intact.

Feeding Time over, Tiercel on the ledge.
Although we had predicted 9th May as hatching day, it was great to be alerted to the event by so many comments left on this blog, and especially by one of our regular schools, Brigg Infants. The 5 to 6yr olds from Green Class regularly delight us all by their wonderful comments that they leave. If you're watching from a school (anywhere in the world) do please let us know who you are and what you think of these new little chicks.

I'm afraid we can't bring you any video clips of the egg-hatching moment as a trip up inside the cathedral tower today revealed that one DVD recorder had stopped recording on late on Friday afternoon. But they've all been turned back on in readiness for future eggsighting moments.
Tuesday also saw the return of the Project's ability to remotely control the video server and to zoom the cameras in and out..

Thanks to our regular viewers for posting these screen-captures to Flickr. Click them to see a larger version.

Margaret, a Cathedral Quarter Ranger,
showing everyone a little chick of her own.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Hatching time is approaching!

Falcon on eggs and chick with broken egg fragment beside her.
STOP PRESS: It appears our first chick hatched around 2am this morning (9th May). Well done Green Class at Brigg Infants School for telling us what you saw.

Inside the Ringing Chamber at Derby Cathedral
Interest in our cameras and blog is mounting now that hatching date is approaching, Despite my sudden  departure from Derby Museum at the end of March (and a number of kind comments from some of you about my "demise"), I have nevertheless still been active within the Project. But incubation is always a quiet time, and there has been little to report upon, which has proved somewhat useful for me at this challenging time.  But visitor interest is only set to increase now, assuming that at least one of our four beautiful eggs do indeed hatch (around May 9th-10th, we think).

I had an opportunity to go up into Derby on Friday, so I called in to the Cathedral and went up to the ringing chamber to check our equipment. It was lucky I did, as one of our DVD recorders had recently frozen up and stopped recording. Having restarted them, I went through the remaining six-hour chunks of recordings that had been made and found a couple of interesting clips which I thought were worth sharing here.

The first was a lovely change over (dare I say, eggs-change?) between the female and the male, around 7.30am on May 3rd. The low, raking sunlight really highlights the shallow depression, or scrape, that the birds make for their nest, and you can really get a feel for the difference in size between the larger female (falcon) and the much smaller male (known as a tiercel)

The second clip shows a lovely sequence with our adult male arriving with food. You can just hear him calling very faintly in the distance as he flies in with prey. He continues calling from the tower top, and the adult female responds to him. She sounds so much louder because she is incubating four eggs on a nest platform on which our microphone is located, and it picks her up so much more clearly . After a few moments she flies up to take the food item from him, flies briefly around the tower and then returns to a favoured point to start the process of plucking and feeding.

For those wondering about my future involvement with the Peregrine Project, I can only say that the project partners met last week to discuss how we take things forward this season. My former colleagues at Derby Museum are also working on getting permission for me to continue accessing the City Council's VPN (virtual private network) which for the last four years has allowed me to zoom the cameras in and out, listen for activity and remotely restart the equipment or to switch camera feeds. Whether I get new passwords to access that network before the eggs hatch our remains to be seen. It'll be touch and go, I fear.

But rest assured that we'll do all we can to maintain the same level of activity and involvement which brings so many of you in to watch and read about Derby's famous peregrines, or to visit Derby for yourselves. In fact, we hope we can find ways to enhance things in the year ahead. We're always keen to listen to viewers suggestions, too. Just leave us a comment on this blog with your ideas.