Monday, 30 April 2012

Bad news yesterday - but good news to come (video added)

Looking more like a drowned rat, our peregrine falcon tries to
keep all four eggs warm and dry during Sunday's downpour.
As we waited anxiously to see if our eggs had weathered the wild storm we had in Derby yesterday (Sunday 29th) we learnt that the Nottingham pair have lost three of their four chicks due to the appalling wet and windy weather. We have emailed the organisers in Nottingham to say how sorry we are, and that we hope that the remaining chick will be OK.

Our own peregrines clearly struggled in Sunday's heavy rain and winds, but the lateness of hatching this year might well have saved their young. The video below was captured at 10am on Sunday morning. A drenched male (notice his small size) is relieved by the larger, drier female falcon. We glimpse the four unhatched eggs for a moment and a wonderful light-coloured patch of dry gravel around them. We checked what happened next. The rain and wind continued unabated even if the bells themselves ceased. Half an hour later our female was looking  pretty wet herself. But she remained on those eggs through all that the elements could throw at her. For another nineteen hours solid she kept those eggs warm and dry, until relieved once again by her mate at 5am the following morning. Scenes like these would have been repeated across millions of nests of a wide range of bird species this April, and some will have got through it, and others will not. This is nature, of course, and we are fortunate to witness this fight to reproduce the species, distressing as that sometimes can be, and frustrating when we are powerless to intervene.

Meanwhile, we are on the brink of being able to tell you two items of good news, though that news is now tempered to some extent by what has happened in Nottingham and, perhaps, at other peregrine nests elsewhere in the UK.

Just as the birds are keeping us all waiting to see when the first egg will hatch, so, for reasons beyond our control, we have to keep you waiting too (this is because we await permission to 'go public' with our news).

If you've been following this project for a while, you might well guess what we are talking about (but don't let on yet!). The other bit of good news is very recent and has come out of the blue.  All will be revealed soon - hopefully within the week, perhaps just about the time our eggs are due to hatch, if they survived yesterday's weather - and we are hopeful that they have.

Newcomers to this project blog can read previous posts to see what stage we are at - just scroll down this blog and you'll come to them -  or look at the links to archives on the left side of the page.

Essentially, we have four eggs that are now well incubated. The first was laid on 29th March and the last on 4th/5th April. Incubation starts with the third egg usually and the incubation period is about 30-33 days. So you can work out roughly when hatching might start.....
Some of our web cam watchers, both adults and children have been guessing when the first chick will appear....we have dates from 30th April to 9th May so far.....

For now though, we'll just have to wait and see on all fronts!
Patience, as they say, is a virtue.....
Nick B/ Nick M

Friday, 20 April 2012

Peregrine - a poem

Peregrines inspire in so many ways. The fastest creature on earth can hardly fail to impress.
Children watch and ask their questions; visitors search the skies at the sound of startled falcon in flight. Artist paint and photographers point their cameras, whilst around the world people watch from their homes, each viewer as remote as the peregrines' own nest, but brought together by a common fascination and interest.  So it should be of no surprise that Derby's peregrines have inspired poetic thoughts, too. We previously published work by local poet, Ray Woodland, but today we are proud to publish a very different piece of work, by Cheshire poet, Caroline Hawkridge.

Caroline Hawkridge is a webcam watcher whose grandfather came from Derby. She has written a prize-winning poem inspired by our peregrines and donated her winnings to this project. ‘Peregrine’ was Highly Commended in the national York Open Poetry competition and published in the Scottish-US poetry magazine The Dark Horse,

Caroline says, “for me, Derby’s peregrines have a strange beauty and are beautifully strange, especially through different cameras and against the cityscape. Like urban peregrines, my poem is unconventional, sweeping across verses to echo their flight. The changing line length is also intended to act like a lens, focusing in and out.

The poem begins with a song from the blog one Christmas and then weaves together snippets from 2009 including Cathy’s fall (see archive). However, I wanted readers elsewhere to feel that peregrines could arrive in their city too so, for example, I changed Jury’s Inn into a skyscraper. Also, ‘wet flies and flymphs’ are artificial fish bait created by dressing a hook with tiny pieces of feather to mimic an insect.
Lastly, I’d like to thank Nick B, Nick M, the cathedral and all concerned for their tremendous ongoing commitment to these birds and their global audience.”  


1. Foreign, imported from abroad, outlandish.
2. Kind of falcon much used for hawking.

            Concise Oxford

The blog sings
Four golden plover, three...
then says the cathedral was table
for woodcock
while the country sat down
to turkey.

The bell-tower’s peregrines open
the ribs of migrants
all winter. And a blackbird
on the North side.

Spring spreads its breast feathers, lets the bald
skin of the sun
brood. The cathedral clock nudges the city
with its long bill. Lenses wait, want
to annunciate.
She will

four rufous eggs
by the lion-tailed rump of a gargoyle
and several webcam
eyeballs. The nostril in her beak wears the bony
inlet cone of a jet engine.
Even sleep is ascent as her lower lid rises
to close.

A starling’s coverts chequer her ledge. Its hackles, prized
by fly-dressers for wet flies and flymphs,
were cast. The tiercel keeps surfacing from the bottom
of the city.

He blots
a serif of the new
letter ‘R’, the lustre of his feet illuminating the blue
like the idle yellow crane. Only the ‘Y’ to finish
glass-office minting sky. Here,
again in his gloves: on
a stone finial, police aerial, council roof safety rails, stashing
a corpse in a quatrefoil.
Viewers hatch

their global locations
on the blog, a line of tourists sprockets past the telescope
on the green
below, as he reads
them this city,

the bloodied bill of a snipe, the yellow-green
leg of a moorhen taken
to the radio station. She will
the lead gape
of the nave roof its confetti
of feet and beaks.
A world is

admiring, angry, arguing; the growing clamour
like the oldest ring
of ten bells in England not
deafening the wing-spreading

the tower’s high pavement, opening
and closing their fledging
umbrellas like spoke-dodging
commuters, until the odd gets
caught, spirals off
the cathedral.

The blog uploads
wing bones fossilised in light;
the wind’s angel born
bent. All day,
she will 




Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Incubation yawn time

Now well into the first week of incubation, it's a rather a quiet time on Derby Cathedral tower. Webcam watchers will see one or other of our birds incubating their eggs. And lucky viewers may catch a moment of changeover when all four eggs are visible.
We do try to zoom the cameras in during these times, perhaps capturing moments like those shown below.

Meanwhile, despite the heavy showers and cool winds, summer migrants have been pouring into the country in the last few weeks, mostly unseen of course.
Chiffchaffs flooded in about 2-3 weeks ago and now a trickle of wheatears is appearing. If you are out and about in the county, try looking in any bare hilltop might just see one pausing after its night flight. Ring ouzels have also been moving north, one even appearing on The sanctuary Nature Reserve adjacent to Derby County's football stadium in Derby!
Migrant ospreys have been seen at several locations in Derbyshire including Carsington Reservoir (the biggest open water in the county) where nest platforms have been put up hoping to lure one or two to stay and nest.

Male Wheatear painting, copyright Darren Rees,
The Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA)
Male wheatear: painting copyright of Darren Rees of The Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA).

In the next few weeks hobbies, the peregrine's smaller relatives, will reappear. They've spent the winter in sub-Saharan Africa feeding mainly on insects, par
ticularly flying termites.
Like peregrines and indeed all other falcons, they don't build nests. Instead, hobbies take over unused crow nests high in isolated trees or small groups of trees on farmland.
One of the characteristic sounds of springs gone by was the unmistakeable song of the cuckoo, another bird that winters down in Africa. sadly, with cuckoo numbers well down these days, I don't expect to hear a cuckoo unless I travel up onto the moors where there last stronghold is.
The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) satellite tagged five male cuckoos last summer in an attempt to find out exactly where they spend the winter and whether habitat changes in Africa could explain part of this bird's decline. All five cuckoos safely arrived in their winter
winter quarters but now at least one (Clement) has died and won't be returning to the UK.
Two are in mainland Europe, one in Algeria and the fifth is still in the Ivory Coast. Many people have been following these males and you can do likewise by going to:

To see what birds are about in Derbyshire go to the Derbyshire Ornithological Society's excellent website and find the 'Latest Sightings' page:

The cuckoo shown is a juvenile just out of the nest. It was taken by Richard Pittam at DWT's Willington Nature Reserve, south west of Derby last summer.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Our clutch is complete and a possible sighting update

Update 14th April: a bird watcher in North Derbyshire has seen a peregrine with an orange/red colour ring on its leg but he was unable to see the ring number. Could this be one of our cathedral birds? We await further sightings.......
We now have a full clutch of four eggs (video below). This last egg surprised some of us as we thought this year there would only be three. The reason for that is because we thought that incubation had begun in earnest after the second egg, though it may have been the cooler weather which encouraged them to warm the eggs more than normal. (Full incubation begins just before the last egg is due to be laid)
Our thanks to RJ who reported all four eggs visible at 09.19 on April 5th. On checking our recorded footage, it's clear the egg appeared sometime between 10pm on 4th April and 3am the next day. Surprisingly, we could not see the exact moment; it all happened so quickly and under cover of lots of feathers.

The video below shows a moment on 5th April when the female was relieved from incubating the eggs by the male. We see how much larger she is than the male. Notice, too, the somewhat darker shade of grey around his head than she has. The angle they are at does make it hard even for the Project Team members to tell them apart sometimes.

The female will do most of the incubating, now. Occasionally she will leave the eggs to feed and preen herself. The male will cover the eggs as best he can while she's off but, being smaller, he's really not as good at this as the female and she will return as soon as she can, pushing the male out of the way!
His main task is to feed his mate. She will not hunt again until the chicks are quite big....and that's at least six or seven weeks away.
Meanwhile, we're sure you'll keep an eye on our birds from time to time to ensure everything is going to plan.

One day some years ago, it rained very hard from the East and drenched the incubating female. We were sure the nest would flood. Fortunately the drainage holes worked and the eggs survived but she certainly had a very testing time of it. Let's hope that doesn't happen this year.
Today it is very cold in Derby following yesterday's snow. The wind is from the north and it feels more like January!

We also hope you manage to get out to see some wildlife 'for real' once the weather warms up a bit. Migrant birds are coming back and the first influx of swallows can't be far away (though if they have any sense they will be lingering further south for the time being!).
Already a few migrating ospreys have been seen in Derbyshire. Beatrice, one of Roy Dennis' satellite tagged ospreys roosted one night near Fernilee Reservoir in the north of the county and an osprey of unknown origin flew north over the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's nature reserve at Wyver Lane, just outside Belper a couple of days ago. And a third bird was seen at Carsington Reservoir.
To follow the progress of Roy's tagged birds just put 'roy dennis' or 'highland foundation for wildlife' into a search engine and his fascinating website will come up.
Meanwhile, here in Derby, we have time to 'chill' both senses of the word!

We'll do our best to answer any questions you may have so do please keep on sending in comments.

Nick M and Nick B (DWT)

Ps. The faulty power supply to our Cisco wireless internet connection was changed on Saturday. This devise was overheating and cutting out and, thanks to Gavin from SERCO, we have been supplied with a replacement which we hope will give as equally long service.

Pps. Double click on the Clustrmap world map on the blog to see exactly where in the UK and in the world people have been watching our birds from. Countries (some 47 of them) include Lybia, Mongolia and the Cook Islands!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Video of Egg Number 3.

Update2 : Tuesday April 3 8pm: see end.

A flurry of blog comments alerted me to our third egg being laid on Tuesday afternoon at 3pm Local time (GMT+1hr) Two screen grabs captured by viewers are shown below These were posted to our Flickr group.

And here is the moment of egg laying itself (3pm local time Monday 2nd April). We are aware that most schools cannot access YouTube, so we try to post a micture of videos and still images wherever possible. Scroll down to the bottom and we've posted another video of a beautiful changeover of the female by the male. It shows the three eggs clearly, as well as allowing you to see the size difference between the larger female and the smaller male (known as a tiercel)

From the amount of incubation done since the 2nd and 3rd egg were laid, it seems highly unlikely that we will get a fourth egg this year. Our falcon has laid four eggs every years since 2007, though records show they have just a 50:50 chance of reaching a year old.

DCPP Three eggs visible  (02 04 2012_15 06 pm)


It would be great to hear from any school children or teachers who saw the moment themselves, and to know what they thought of it. If anyone needs help in using Derby's amazing peregrines in the school environment, just post a comment/question here, or email us at

Here is a clip taken on 3rd April showing our large female peregrine being relieved by the smaller male for egg-incubation duties.

Update: We are still experiencing temporary breaks in internet signal. We've traced this to a faulty power unit on our wireless bridge which sends out our internet signal via radio to the Silk Mill museum, and thence to Derby City Council's networks. A new power supply unit is on its way, courtesy of Gavin at SERCO, but in the meantime we may still experience short breaks as the unit cuts out from time to time and the signal is lost. We welcome comments from webcam viewers if they spot a fault in the connection lasting longer than a few minutes. Because all comments come to us by email for pre-moderation, we soon get to learn of any problems this way.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

You have three webcam viewing options: 
Click an image below to open a webcam stream in a new window or tab.


Click to view webcam stream 1.

description here - Webcam Click to view webcam stream2

description here - Webcam 3
Click to view webcam stream3
NEW! Nest view. Refreshes every 6 seconds. No audio.
Multi-view. Refreshes every 6 seconds. No audio.
Full streaming video with audio. 
(10 minute timeout).

Four cameras now watch over our peregrines.
Three are fitted to the nest platform. The fourth is on top of the cathedral tower, directly above the nest platform. It looks horizontally across the tops of three 'grotesques' (stone animal carvings) on which the birds often perch, feed and roost. You can see a white hotel in the background (Jurys Inn). 
Because we swap our camera feeds around from time to time, you may not see the precise views shown above. Our webcams are shown on Derby City Council's website as we rely on their IT network to get our pictures out from the Cathedral tower.