Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Some other peregrine sites

Here are six photos of other places where peregrines either nest or have been seen perching over the years .....maybe you can name them?
No. 1 - on the eastern side of the UK

No. 2 peregrines have been recorded here since the 16th century but don't breed
No. 3 Not such a pretty building........and not that far away
 No. 4 The first site with a peregrine web cam in the UK though it didn't last
No. 5 This is very difficult but the town has connections with a certain Iron Lady

No. 6 Peregrines only perch here but they nest nearby

No prizes for guessing the answers but it may amuse you while you are pondering the New Year (and do have a Happy One!). I'll put the answers on here tomorrow evening....if I remember!

Nick B (DWT)

Thursday, 12 December 2013


Here's a photo of a peregrine pellet I found recently:

The pellet is about 6 cms. long and 2.5 cms. wide
Peregrines 'cast' pellets through their beaks from time to time to eject both feathers and bone fragments they have swallowed. They are usually fairly dry and grey in colour.
Has anyone ever seen one of our peregrines casting a pellet? (I suspect they don't cast pellets into the nest box but do this activity elsewhere such as above the nest on a ledge.
The bird makes movements which resemble coughing or choking as the pellet is brought up and dispelled.
Only rarely do peregrine pellets contain anything identifiable of interesting. Sometimes if you were very lucky you might find a bird ring inside - but, despite looking many times - I have never done so yet.
(Incidentally, bird pellets don't smell and are usually dry or dryish. Many species - especially those that eat hard objects or use grit/stones to aid digestion - will cast pellets. The species known to cats pellets include robins, rooks, bee eaters, owls and most birds of prey among many others).
You may have heard how owl pellets contain the (often identifiable) bones of the small mammal and other prey they have eaten making them valuable tools in identifying exactly what the owl has been feeding on (see http://www.kidwings.com/teacher/owlpellets/bonechart.htm.)
This is because owls eat the whole prey including the skull and fur/feathers. When the bones (especially the mammal skulls) are extricated from a pellet they can be identified to species making owl pellets a rich source of information. 
By contrast, peregrine prey is usually too big to be swallowed whole so we don't find any skulls, beaks or legs in them.....maybe a bone fragment or two but usually completely unidentifiable broken up feather remains. 
Nick B (DWT)

Friday, 22 November 2013

Up the tower in the sunshine

A quick visit up the tower this afternoon (22nd) in bright sunlight found both adults sitting on the lettering of Jurys Inn. It must be quite a few degrees warmer there than on the east side of the cathedral tower which goes into shade very early in the day in winter. It was also probably more out of the wind too!
South face of Jurys Inn seen from the tower top
with both peregrines just visible as dots on the 'Y' and 'N'
Prey remains were few and far between on this visit. The only thing visible was a headless duck teal on the south side of the tower on top of one of the 'grotesques'. You may just be able to see the speculum on each wing - a small patch of green feathers with white bars above and below them.
View looking vertically down to the pavement and parked cars 200 feet below the tower
The teal is lying on the 'bottom' of the downwards-facing grotesque with its white bars 

on each speculum clearly visible.
This angled view taken by holding the camera out through the bars shows a winged grotesque (the central one of three) in the foreground and the one with the teal beyond. The stonework on this side of the tower is slightly different from that on the east, across which the 'pud' cam looks. The ledge is not so broad as on the east side.
Teal remains just visible on the further grotesque
On the ground below the tower were a few small feathers and one moulted peregrine feather. Peregrine flight and tail feathers are very distinctive as you can see below:

Nick B (DWT)

Friday, 8 November 2013

Fly by night.....and teal and woodcock updates

A quick trip to the top of the tower today (8th November) hoping to find some prey remains looked like being a bit of a wash out (it was raining too by the time I got up there).
There was very little on the roof (someone had been cleaning up I suspect) and also the tops of the 'grotesques' on which the peregrines often sit and leave prey remains were also almost devoid of anything except for the head of a teal - well out of my reach.
However tucked away in the lead spout at the far end of the east side (as seen from the 'pudding' camera that looks across the ledge), there was the corpse of a recently taken wader.
I managed to pull it out and quickly identified it from its size, grey colouring and wing pattern as a knot, a small wading bird.
Left wing of knot showing its wing bar
Knots breed in the arctic but travel south in autumn. British estuaries and bays such as the Wash, Morecambe Bay and the Severn Estuary host thousands of knot (and other arctic waders) during the autumn and winter.
The knot's leg  (tarsus) and foot
This is a common and widespread species occurring in North America as well as Europe and Asia.
In summer the breeding birds turn red underneath which explains their american name - red knot. It's scientific name is Calidris canutus, named after King Canute who famously tried to defy the incoming tide. These waders run along the tide edge and hence the connection.
The link below shows a knot in winter plumage in flight so the wing pattern can be compared:


(More photos and videos of knots can be found at http://ibc.lynxeds.com/species/red-knot-calidris-canutus and on a BBC site at http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Red_Knot )

The corpse did not smell but wasn't completely fresh so I would guess it was caught the night before last (5th-6th) but obviously I can't be sure. I've not checked to see yet it that ties in with any observations reported to the blog.
Knot are very rarely seen on the ground in Derbyshire and since they migrate at night, I would be confident that this bird flew over Derby after dark perhaps on its way from The Wash to the east to somewhere on the west coast - an easy overnight journey for such a bird. Sadly for the knot, it didn't make it.....
We have recorded knot as prey here at Derby before on eight occasions (this being the ninth) and I recall the species has also been found at Coventry in the West Midlands.
UPDATE 10th November: screenshots taken by Phoebe last night showed a female teal as prey. This small duck is regularly on the menu (except in summer). The photo below shows the green speculum feathers and some of the white bars above and below them:
Pair of wings from a teal found a few years ago at the cathedral
Other prey remains found recently included wood pigeon, woodcock, starling, little grebe, feral pigeon and the knot of course.
Update 12th Nov: a woodcock that had flown into a Derby window and broken its neck was made available to me yesterday. Here are some photos of this beautifully plumaged bird. It is considerably larger than the knot and much heavier too...so more of a meal for a peregrine.
Woodcock - what wonderful plumage!
Unlike knot and other waders, woodcock are entirely nocturnal birds, feeding at night in wet meadows and marshes where they probe for worms with their large straight beaks. Before dawn they fly into woods and settle on the woodland floor, superbly camouflaged among the fallen leaves and the vegetation. Probably something like 100,000 woodcock fly to the UK from Russia, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia to spend the winder with us. Some have been satellite tagged so we know exactly where those birds were breeding.
Many get shot or have accidents while migrating or on arrival here (like this one). A relatively very few are taken by peregrines.
As you can see, woodcock are very dark birds, have no wing bar (unlike the knot) and therefore look quite different when seen on the web cams.
Nick B (DWT)
Ps. The adult male was on the nest ledge when I arrived and the female on Jurys Inn. No sign of a third bird.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Autumn into winter

With a gale forecast to arrive soon and the clocks going back, autumn is beginning to turn into winter.
It's been surprisingly mild though and late butterflies continue to feed before going into hibernation.
Several commas, red admirals and small tortoiseshells have been in my garden near Derby, feeding on michaelmas daisies and now on ivy blossom. In addition I've put out rotting plums, damsons and bananas which the commas and red admirals love, probing their proboscises deep into the gooey mess.
Red admiral on ivy 
On the bird front, there are still rather few immigrant thrushes in the Derby area. Even though there were some big counts of redwings a few weeks ago, most of them and their larger cousins the fieldfares, must still be in Scandinavia.
Fieldfare by Pauline Greenhalgh 
Meanwhile, those (mostly crazy) bird watchers who indulge in watching visual migration ('vis mig') are getting up at dawn and keeping their eyes on the skies for the next hour or two, when passage, if there is any, is at its height. I myself indulge occasionally. Two mornings ago I counted over 3000 wood pigeons flying south in flocks up to 150 strong. But there were only a handful of thrushes. This morning, pigeons were on the move again, keeping low to the contours as they headed into a blustery SSW wind.
Suddenly, a raptor flew up in front of me and went over my head, rather half-heartedly chasing a pigeon. It was a juvenile male peregrine falcon and I wondered if it might be from the cathedral since I was only a few miles from the city.
Serious vis miggers contribute their sightings to a website run by a Dutchman and called Trektellen. Some counts are amazing either for the sheer number of birds recorded or for the variety of species seen. Look at http://www.trektellen.nl/trektelling.asp?telpost=751 to see how many redwings were counted on a single morning flying over a hill in Bedfordshire on 10th October. That must have been amazing!
The best vis mig watch points tend to be among hills or moors where birds are channelled by the contours. But even if you just step outside your house and look up, wherever you are, on a 'good day' you can expect to see redwings, fieldfares or woodies flying over....as long as you get up early! Usually by 9-10 am, passage is much reduced or over, the birds then settling to feed.
Nick B (DWT)
Ps. The best conditions for movement are good visibility, overcast skies and light SW winds but locally birds may move in a wide range of weather types. On clear nights, go outside anytime after 10/11 pm and listen for the 'seep seep' calls of redwings flying overhead....it's magic to hear them passing....and, as Lorraine commented recently, it must be quite exciting for our cathedral peregrines too.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Deeper into autumn

The weather here has turned wet, windy and decidedly colder over the last week. A huge arrival of redwings from Scandinavia has taken place. For example, some 33,000 birds were counted from a visible migration watch point in Bedfordshire a couple of mornings ago. Numbers are still very low in Derbyshire (I saw 12 near the city this morning) but more will arrive soon no doubt.
Redwings (and their larger cousins, the fieldfares) are both on the peregrine prey list.
The next bird that should come winging its way across the North Sea is the woodcock. Mass arrivals of this nocturnal wader should be gin around the middle of October - so any day soon. Our adult peregrines take woodcock as they fly over the cathedral at night, illuminated by the floodlighting which beams upwards.

Woodcock photographed in a Derby garden in mid winter
I've not been to the cathedral much recently but when I have I've only seen the two adults so I suspect that all the juveniles have now departed, as they should have done.
Things will be quiet now until February when the first stirrings of the breeding season re-emerge and courtship starts up all over again.
Nick B (DWT)

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Autumn arrives....

For over a week now, the weather has turned much colder (and often wetter) and it certainly feels like autumn has arrived rather early.
The leaves are beginning to turn colour, migrant birds like swallows, house martins and meadow pipits can be seen moving south each day and butterfly numbers have begun to drop away.

View from Cathedral Green
We can expect that the juveniles that are still around the tower to depart soon and set off on their own. 
One year, one of the juveniles did hang on well into the autumn but mostly they go by the end of September.
Meanwhile, we are already beginning to plan for next year. Ian Layton, our Engagement Officer, who's first contract ended in July, will be back to complete some of his work for a few days in October and to help us get ready for 2014. He'll start again in March 2014, working (part time) with us through until June.
We have been in discussion with Rolls Royce about using some of their apprentices to help us with some of the things we still want (or have) to do. Each year, new apprentices at RR must get involved in some community project or other. It develops their team work, their understanding of how other businesses and organisations work and forces them to think 'outside their engineering box'. Teams of ten or so will spend a few hours each week between January and September 2014 working on their chosen project.
We met the organisers of this scheme a fortnight ago and they were very enthusiastic about the possibilities we offered them so, while it is very early days, we are hopeful that this new partnership will bear fruit.
One thing we hope they can help with is the matter of embedding the peregrines deeper into the DNA of the city. We have a number of ideas for the apprentices to explore.....so watch this space!
Nick B (DWT)

Monday, 26 August 2013

Still around ...and a juvenile is shot in Bath

Thanks to recent observations by several people (especially Lorraine, Phoebe and Helen) our birds, or at least some of them, are still appearing on the web cams from time to time though being sure whether they are adults or juvs can be difficult - especially at night.
Lorraine's self-devised technique of using a screen grab as her blog profile photo (as an alternative to posting on the Flickr group) seems to work though there is some lose of quality when you enlarge the grab. This is the screen grab she described in her last few comments to the previous post:

If anyone wants to send any particularly interesting screen grabs to us, please use the peregrines@derbyshirewt.co.uk email address and we'll pick them up from there and use the best on the blog, ditto with any 'real' photos taken outside the cathedral.

Bath juvenile peregrine shot: thanks to anonymous who posted this link to an item which appeared on 22nd August:

Nick B (DWT)

Thursday, 15 August 2013

What next?

Great as it is that some of our peregrine family continue to appear on the web cams from time to time (and thanks to everyone who has been posting comments to let us all know what they have been seeing) for many of us it is time to turn our bird watching attentions elsewhere.
If you have discovered 'bird watching' via this site, then now is a good time to go and 'buy some bins' and get out and about to see birds 'for real'. It is a great hobby and will give you hours of pleasure. In addition you can also make a contribution to conservation by taking part in local and national surveys once your identification skills increase.
And there's much more to this nature business than just birds. If you are lucky enough to have a garden and to have planted some nectar-rich plants like buddleia, sedums and michaelmas daisies, then you will have noted a huge number of peacock butterflies in the last few weeks
Peacock by Shirley Freeman
along with many other species, all benefiting from the prolonged hot weather in July.
Even if you live deep in a city there's still much wildlife to be seen. Waste patches, allotments and even some parks these days may well hold interesting plants and insects.
If for any reason you really can't get outside, then you can watch birds migrate south as summer turns to autumn. Our peregrines don't migrate but other raptors do. Among them are the ospreys, a species which is now beginning to set off for West Africa. With the advent of satellite tags, it is possible to follow every flap the tagged birds make from your computer. Many start in Scotland, fly south (sometimes right over Derbyshire) and then down across France, Spain and Morocco before crossing the Sahara Desert. Roy Dennis has pioneered this work and his tagged birds can be followed via his website.
Ospreys at Rutland Water by John Wright

Osprey with fish copyright of  Pauline M Greenhalgh
Google 'Highland Foundation for Wildlife' to see what he's been up to and to follow the remarkable flights that some of these ospreys make. One bird flew non-stop from Scotland to Spain a couple of years ago, flying through the star-lit night and landing exhausted on the Spanish coast some two days after setting off.
Update 17th August: I see that Beatrice, one of Roy's female ospreys is already down in SW France, leaving her nest and single youngster on 9th August. She tends to winter in SW Spain so hasn't as far to go as most other birds that go to Gambia/Senegal: http://www.roydennis.org/category/osprey/beatrice/

Another falcon, closely related to the peregrine, is the hobby. This small raptor arrives back in the UK from Africa in late April and early May and its breeding season is much later than the peregrine's. So late in fact that the chicks are just fledging about now. By the end of September, most will have set off for southern Africa where they spend the winter catching termites! A few hobbies have been tagged but none that I'm aware of this year.
Other birds about to depart soon include swallows and martins, with our swifts and cuckoos already gone. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has been tracking cuckoos and you can see the journeys their tagged birds have been making by going to

Then as winter approaches there are other interesting web cams to  watch - with one focussing on eagles in Estonia already mentioned in a recent comment from sue peregrine to the last post. More on these web cams in a future post.
For now though - do get out and see what wildlife you can find for yourself!

Nick B (DWT)
Ps. And if you simply can't bare to be parted from peregrines, remember that this species also nests 'down under' and a few nests there also have web cameras - this one is in Brisbane and eggs should be laid quite soon:

Monday, 29 July 2013

Tantalisingly close....Plus Update on how to watch Urban Jungles on TV

BBC 1 East Midlands TV showed a programme called 'Urban Jungle' at 7 pm last night (1st August) which included sequences taken on the day the Derby Cathedral chicks were ringed (the abseil as well as the ringing itself). Other sequences were taken at Willington Power Station (where peregrines used to nest) and in Nottingham. 
UPDATE: The programme is now viewable on I-player and if you don't live in this region, the BBC has produced other regional Urban Jungle programmes to go out simultaneously. Just do a google search for "BBC 1 Urban Jungle" and you get to choose from all the various regional programmes.
The SW one features Nick Dixon (who's been a great help to us in Derby since 2005) plus footage of peregrines attacking a buzzard and the Lincoln one shows peregrines in Sheffield with Mike Dilger presenting. A feast of peregrines and other urban wildlife it too! But beware the programmes will disappear in six days time....


Tantalisingly close.......

Avid readers of this blog will already know that a few weeks ago, Nick Frazer, a bird watcher living in North Yorkshire, found a pair of peregrines nesting on a natural cliff. Although the site is quite well known locally we will not be mentioning exactly where it is simply because the site is remote and therefore not secure from interference.
If anyone reading this knows that part of the world and guesses where it may be, please do not mention any locations in your comments to this blog.
Mystery female on the cliff face - could it be 002?

Looking at the adult female bird, Nick could see an orange ring on its left leg and a friend went a stage further thinking that he could read the number 002. The ring was reported to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the body in charge of bird ringing in the UK. They keep all the records and were able to work out that this could well be a Derby Cathedral bird....ie a chick that had been ringed here in the past and had successfully reached maturity, paired up with a male and started to breed.
If the number was proved to be 002 then the bird was reared as a chick here in 2007, one of only two female chicks reared that year (two eggs failed to hatch).

The first photo shows the bird on the cliff face and you can just see the colour ring.
A week or two later, I was in Yorkshire for a few days and diverted to the site to try to see the bird myself. Eventually, after a lot of searching, I located the female sitting on the clifftop. She was undisturbed by me and I could see her well through my telescope, sitting on what appeared to be a favourite look out position.
Show us your left leg please!
Unfortunately her left leg was obscured when I took photos through my scope. She looks a fine bird though, and was clearly a big female. Having taken several shots, I saw the bird shuffle and change position. Peering through the scope I could now clearly see an orange ring on her left leg but before I could get the camera in place, she lifted off and flew across to perch in a wood about a half a mile away.
My view of the ring wasn't good enough  to read any number, even with a zoom lens and there was no way I was going to get any nearer to her perch without disturbing her should she return.
Nick Frazer was on holiday then but when he returned he and a friend with a large telephoto lens returned to the site and saw the male with two juveniles, newly fledged. But the female remained elusive and wasn't seen to perch nearby.

                                                           Adult male with one juvenile

Further attempts are being made to get that vital photograph but for now we just have to wait and hope.
As the pair's youngsters begin to move away from the site so it may take a lot longer to get that much wanted close up photo but we are very grateful to our Yorkshire colleagues for their continuing attempts to see that all important number that would clinch it!
Nick B (DWT)

Ps. There is clearly still some action to be seen on the (remaining) web cams - with reports of juveniles and adults too (thanks to those who have sent in comments). My visits during the day have been fruitless so perhaps the birds mainly return to the tower in the evening and to roost.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Thanks all round - and news of a TV programme

Now is the time to thank everyone who has helped to make this another successful year for the peregrines themselves and indeed for the peregrine project which works away behind the scenes all year round.
First, a big THANK YOU to everyone who has donated to the project (and donations are still coming in). The total so far is £2145, £1500 of which will be used to 'match fund' the lottery grant - giving them the evidence that we are not relying on them 100% for income but continuing to raise money ourselves. (Incidentally, this figure compares very favourably with that raised by other peregrine projects).
The three egg stage seems along time ago now.....

Second, a big THANK YOU to everyone who has come to a Watch Point, followed the web cams and the blog and sent in comments.
We are fast approaching 300,000 'hits' since January (and 900 comments), which, considering how many other web cams there are now in the UK and how many years the project has been running, are great achievements.
Grotesque or what? 

Thirdly, a really BIG THANK YOU to all our splendid Watch Point volunteers. They have worked very hard this summer under the organising hand of Ian Layton.
That over 2000 people were counted looking through the telescopes is a tribute to their hard work and determination not to let anyone passing by do so without having a look.
And fourthly, a big THANK YOU to everyone who has helped us behind the scenes.This includes many Cathedral staff and volunteers (especially John A and Jackie but also Kim and Irene and the vergers), staff in the city council IT team and SERCO and staff at Cathedral Quarter.
We have also had tremendous support from some teachers who have been helping us develop education resources for schools, people with contacts to groups and organisations supporting folk with physical and mental disabilities and people in minority communities.
Juvvie by Whycliffe
As several people have been saying, the birds are still appearing on camera quite regulalry  - and giving people pleasure every time they do.
DO stay with us, logging on from time to time to see what we have to say and with luck to see one of our birds.
The chicks just out of  the bag and ready to be ringed 
NOTE: those living in the East Midlands BBC broadcasting area will soon be able to see the 30 minute programme called URBAN JUNGLE which will feature scenes from the day we ringed the chicks.
The programme is now confirmed to be broadcast at 7.00 pm on Thursday 1st August on BBC 1 East Midlands. Folk living beyond the region may be able to watch it on i-player though this is not certain at the time of writing.

The Project Team (Nick M, Ian L, Tony G and Nick B)

Ps. We hope to have news about the peregrine that bears an orange ring and is nesting in Yorkshire. Thanks to local birder Nick Frazer for organising some local long-lensers to go and have a crack at getting a shot of the ring close up! Fingers crossed....

pps. Link to a recent peregrine rescue in Sheffield is:  http://sheffieldperegrines.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/post-script-to-the-2013-breeding-season/

PPps. Please note that we have stopped one of the feeds from the new wide angled camera since the lens is very mucky now - so we might as well save some money!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

End of another good season

The final Watch Point (6th July) was held in hot, sunny weather with plenty of volunteers helping and a steady flow of visitors. Among the many visitors was a young Chinese couple who were in Derby to find somewhere to live (he will be working for Rolls Royce and seemed very interested in getting involved), a South African who was enjoying the 'cool weather' here and we also had a visit from a relatively  new Derbyshire Wildlife Trust trustee - good to meet you Sarah L!
The excellent photo below shows a food pass taken recently by a good friend of the project, 'Whycliffe'.
A food pass - photo copyright  Whycliffe

The birds (apart from the male) showed off well, with plenty of flying about during the morning. The juveniles have adopted a second home on the top of the blocks of flats over the river, where a pair of grey wagtails was discovered nesting in the river bank by Andy M.
A Watch Point earlier in the year 
Under Ian Layton's supervision (and his great ability to drag people over from the far corners of The Green), the Watch Points this year have run very well with some 2000 attendees (that's a ball park figure for now).
A massive 'thank you' both to him and especially to our band of trusty volunteers, too many to name but you know who you are! These three hour sessions are quite demanding and tiring, with often no breaks and no sitting down either.
As readers of this blog will know, Ian has been busy encouraging groups of people who wouldn't otherwise have encountered our birds to come and see them. Scroll down the blog and you'll see the very varied range of groups we've had come along.
The new feather banners, funded by our
lottery grant, worked well
Another big 'thank you' is due both to all our online viewers (many not able to get to Watch Points of course) and those of you who have donated this year. We'll tot up these donations and post a total here in a week or two. If you would like to donate, scroll down to find how to do it.
For anyone living in the BBC East Midlands TV area, the programme 'Urban Jungle' which includes sequences showing the ringing of the chicks, will be shown sometime later this month. As soon as we have a transmission date we will post it here....the BBC has promised to let us know as soon as they know.
We must also thank the cathedral staff for their support and forbearance. John Armitage, the cathedral volunteer responsible for visits, has been particularly helpful and supportive - so he deserves a special mention, as do all the vergers who have helped us in many ways too.

With luck, the juveniles will gain more confidence day by day and gradually learn to hunt for themselves. As you know, the next six months of their young lives are fraught with danger. They must catch enough food to live on, avoid flying into buildings, wires and other obstacles and keep themselves away from humans too (not everyone likes peregrines!). Whether they will all survive we will probably never know.
Watch out for the BBC Urban Jungle programme,
coming to the East Midlands  region soon

Thursday, 27 June 2013

An (often) empty nest but still things to see (and do!) and updates

UPDATE Friday evening: Christine reports that all four young were on the tower this afternoon and had been flying well today - which is good news. Tomorrow's Watch Point will go ahead, weather permitting, and run from 11am to 2pm  - so do come along. We should be able to find at least some of the young and with luck see them flying about begging the parent birds for food! Exciting viewing.....
And a big HELLO to all the teachers we met at the County Eco-Conference today. If you have any further questions you want to ask us - just email peregrines@derbyshirewt.co.uk and we'll reply to each one. (NB)
UPDATE SATURDAY: the Watch Point went well and the sun shone. All four juveniles were active and food was brought in to them. New people came specifically to see the birds while others became 'ensnared' as they walked past! Hello to one family from Ann Arbor, Michigan in the States with whom we had a long chat - they seemed quite impressed with our birds and promised to send in a comment when they get home. Big thanks to all our volunteers today too. (Nick B/Ian L)
UPDATE MONDAY 1st: all four juvs on the east side of the tower this morning after some frantic chasing of adults. UPDATE WEDNESDAY: all four still present and correct, viewed at lunchtime by DWT staff who had a look during a staff day.
This Saturday (6th) is the FINAL WATCH POINT of the year so if you've not been down, it's your last chance!
And a big thank you to everyone who has been donating recently towards the project including several people who left us no contact details preventing us thanking them individually. (NB)

The last chick fledged this morning (Thursday 27th) at 6.45 am. Thanks to several people who notified us on the blog and via  Facebook. She was soon located on a roof near the cathedral and later moved to another roof above a solicitor's offices (we were able to show several solicitors the bird through the scope).
024 on solicitor firm's roof - poor digiscoped shot by NB

I did a radio (Derby) interview as I stood there - and was able to promote this Saturday's watch Point too!
Earlier Ian and I had a group come along from a  local school, one that I and Maria Desborough had visited a couple of months ago with a presentation etc. They were only infants but with the sun shining, they all seemed to enjoy the experience.
Later a passing school from Duckmanton (in N. E. Derbyshire) stopped to have lunch on the grass nearby.
Children file past the Watch Point - most had a quick look during their lunch break

Most of them (and there were 75!) came over in ones and twos to look through the scopes.
The birds themselves played hard to get today much of the day. When the first school arrived there wasn't a single one on the tower but, before they left, two had appeared on the flats over the river and both eventually returned to the tower, with the adult female sitting right at the top of a pinnacle, keeping watch.
While the nest box will now be empty more often than not, there should be some good viewing from the 'pud' cam above the nest so please stay with us!
Donations: thanks to those of you who have donated already. We could really still do with  more income so if you have been enjoying watching the birds and appreciate the work we've been doing to bring these remarkable birds right in to your home, office or school, please consider making a donation. The details of how to do it are on the previous post - so please scroll down to see them.
In effect, it is very simple: just ring the DWT office on 01773 881188 in working hours and use your your debit or credit card (completely safely)! OR put a cheque made out to DWT in the post to DWT, East Mill, Belper, DE56 1XH and please make it clear that the money is for the peregrine project.
If you are willing to Gift Aid your donation please ask for a GA form. Thanks.
Nick B (DWT)
Ps. Other birds seen today included a heron flying over the tower, a pair of grey wagtails nearby, a mistle thrush and blackbirds on The Green and goldfinches in the trees by the cathedral. Inner city wildlife can be very varied!

Friday, 21 June 2013

And then there were two . . .and a request to you all

Update:   A new video, a news update an appeal for your support have been added to this post. PLease scroll down.

Our second juvenile peregrine fledged from its nest ledge on Derby Cathedral this afternoon.

Tony and Dawn Grantham raced into town about 4.15pm when they heard one juvenile was on the ground outside a nearby hairdresser's shop. Fortunately, the bird flew up into a tree and then very strongly upwards and away round the back of the Silk Mill.
Nick Brown went down later on and found one young bird up on a pinnacle above the nest,  and two in the nest itself. Both parents were present too. So he's sure these two fledgers will be fine. Christine and Cliff are spending the next few hours down there so they will keep an eye open and report back. And there's a Watch Point tomorrow from 11am so there will be plenty of eyes and ears watching then....do come down if you've not been (and are within reach). The show won't last much longer.....certainly not form the web cams (and apologies for the mess on the wide angled camera - we will definitely have to put it higher up for next year - those chicks certainly know how to pooh upwards don't they!).

There was no film available of Friday's fledging, but the video below shows the moment our first juvenile took flight on Wednesday.

Just two for tea......

Time for a plea.....

This is the time of year when we make a request for donations. We've done it every year and been astonished at the generosity of those of you who've been enjoying our web cams and blog during the nesting season.
Many of you will know that we have a lottery grant and may wonder why we need to ask for donations. Well, the grant actually requires us to raise some 'match funding' rather than expect them to provide us with everything. So we do have to raise well over £1000 each year until 2015. Some unsolicited donations have come in recently (so thanks to those of you who have been so generous already) but we still need more. So if you have anything to spare please send us something however small!
Details of how to do it are below:

The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (the lead project partner) is a registered charity and a 'not for profit' organisation. It is the only recipient of project funds. Rest assured that any money given to the Wildlife Trust will be used only to support this project provided you clearly state that it is for the Peregrine Project. All donations, however small or large, are acknowledged either by email or letter. Note that UK donors can increase the value of their donation by Gift Aid by 20%. (If you have donated and gift aided before we should still have your form so there's no need to ask for another).

We will publish a list of donors (but not the amount they donated) here on the blog later on. You can choose whether to be anonymous, to have your full name used, or some semi-anonymous abbreviation (eg Mrs S from Matlock or Stan H from Toton). Let us know your preference.

You can donate in one of the following ways:

UK donors:
  • Post a cheque made payable to DWT to the Trust at East Mill, Belper, DE56 1XH including a covering note stating that your donation is only for the peregrine project (include your address so we can acknowledge receipt).
  • Ring the Trust during office hours (01773 881188) to make a payment over the phone by debit/credit card (office hours are 9am to 5pm, weekdays, to 4.30pm on Fridays).
  • You can also use the donation mechanism on the Trust's website at www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk  Go  to 'support us/make a donation'. We use Virgin Moneygiving and find it works very well.

To UK Taxpayers only -  you can greatly increase your donation by filling out a Gift Aid form whereby the tax people give the Trust a further 20% of the value of your donation. The form can be sent by email or through the post…please just ask us for one.

Overseas donors:
  • 1) Please email enquiries@derbyshirewt.co.uk asking for the codes you need so your bank can transfer money to the DWT account. (Unfortunately Gift Aid does not apply unless you are a tax payer in the UK.) Note that banks may charge for this service.
  • 2) Donors from most overseas countries can also ring the Trust (weekdays on 0044 1773 881188) to pay by credit card......as long as you can work out when the office is open of course (check the webcam's local timestamp!)
  • Use our online donation mechanism via our website - see above.
Payments should only be made to 'Derbyshire Wildlife Trust', the lead partner for the project. No other organisation or website is authorised to collect funds on our behalf.

Please clearly mark on your payment that it is for the 'Peregrine Project' for use in the current financial year or, better still 'in this and next financial year' (this allows us to carry your money over from year to year should we need to).

Thank you in advance,
The project team

Update Saturday 22nd June:
A class from Lakeside Community Primary School in Derby had a sleepover in the cathedral last night and were promised a trip up the tower early this morning. However, with the chicks fledging, the tower is temporarily closed to avoid any disturbance at this critical time. So in lieu of the tower climb we offered to run an early morning watch point for them. Antony Pooles kindly offered to help and we were set up by 6am.....just in time for Antony to see a juv fledge from the platform and disappear somewhere below.
After an introductory talk and the showing of video clips inside, we brought the two groups of 15 children out onto the Green to see the birds through the four scopes we had set up. They seemed to think it was just as good (if not better) than climbing up all those steps! What's more, the teachers want to do it again next year with a different group.....what have we started!
Lakeside kids catch the early bird(s)
Although we were absolutely sure there was only one chick left in the platform while the children were there, when I left at 8.30 there were two present plus a third up close to pud cam feeding (plus both parents). With luck the watch pointers today may just locate that fourth missing chick! Ps. We did check the nave roof from a window in the tower but no sign there.....
Later Update Saturday: all four youngsters were seen on the tower this morning. A group of Ukrainians was given a talk by Ian Layton and also came and looked through the scopes. With a couple of very heavy showers there were fewer people about than usual on The Green but it was good to see some old friends of the project - that's 'old friends' not 'friends that are old' you understand!
The NEXT (extra) Watch Point is on Monday Afternoon (2-4 pm) as part of Inspire Derby week.
Monday lunchtime - still 2 in the nest and (presumably) two on the tower. We'll be down there soon to check and run a Watch Point. The sun has even appeared!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

First Fledge! And Updates....and Springwatch shows Derby clips!

The first of Derby Cathedral's peregrine falcons (now confirmed as colour ring number 021) fledged this morning sometime before 08:00 local time. We were alerted by blog comment from Linda, Hilary and Ian and, brilliantly, by the children from Green Class at Brigg Infants School in Derbyshire. Thanks to everyone!

Because we can never be sure by watching the webcameras if their first flight has been a success, we try and get down to Cathedral Green to check things out for ourselves. Though we rely heavily on others to keep us informed of problems.
And then there were three (Screen capture 9am 19th June)

If you as a webcam watcher see either the fourth bird returning to the nest ledge (which is rare in the first day), or if you see others leave the nest, or if you encounter signs of a young peregrine out of its nest on or above the streets of Derby  - do please keep us informed by one or more of the following :

  • Ringing Derbyshire Wildlife Trust during office hours (01773 881188) - emergencies only please!
  • Leave a comment on this blog
  • Emailing the project: peregrines@derbyshirewt.co.uk
  • Contacting us via Twitter or Facebook
The microphone on Stream 4 is a good way for us to monitor peregrine activity, and to listen for the alarm call of the adults. Should anyone in Derby encounter a young peregrine, please do not attempt to pick it up. If it's safe, leave it where it is and contact us. Their talons are immensely sharp.

021 on St Michael's - photo Ian Bradley
This is a dangerous time for peregrines - fledging and the days shortly afterwards are the most challenging, and not all survive. But for us they're also the most exciting.
021 constrained by a pigeon wire on St Michael's - photo  Ian Bradley

Update 2pm Wednesday 19th: the fledged bird was soon located on the top of St Michael's church close to the cathedral. He stayed there all morning, watched by the female. The remaining three youngsters peered down or flapped around on the platform while below we held an impromptu watch point, mainly set up for a small group of people from a local care home.
The female then sat herself just below the nest in the shade, a favourite place for her. A very high-flying peregrine, presumably the male was spotted by Christine who also picked out two very high flying cormorants passing over the city. Lower down, four swifts were good to see - this bird is declining fast! One remaining chick had the colour ring 022 on its leg so that one hasn't gone yet for sure...
The next open Watch Point is this Saturday, 11 to 2pm so hope to see some of you down there, weather permitting. How many chicks will have fledged by then I wonder? Update Weds evening: thanks to Ian and Christine for reporting that 021 flew to Jurys Inn sign and then over to the cathedral - so this one seems a very competent flier already! Great news.....
Nick B (DWT)

Video clips from our project were featured on the BBC's Springwatch programme last Thursday and you can see them (if you live in the UK) at

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b02xccpk/Springwatch_2013_Episode_12/ .

The sequence begins about 37 minutes into the programme, after a piece on rabbits.
The collage of video clips from Derby, Sheffield, Norwich and Nottingham gives a good idea of the various nest platforms and boxes and the awful snowy conditions that the birds had to deal with earlier in the season.
The Derby clips include a close up of the female inspecting the new camera, the snow in the platform, eggs and chicks on the platform and night-time feeding. Well worth a watch.....

UPDATE Thursday evening (20th): all four chicks now in the nest platform (thanks Christine, Sally Whale and Linda)) and it's raining cats and dogs - so it's unlikely there'll be any fledging tonight.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

An exciting day for some visitors to our project

This Tuesday we had another group of children visit the cathedral for both an illustrated talk by Ian (with a member of the staff signing for the children) and to look through the telescopes. They were from Woodlands School's Hearing Impaired Unit. The chicks didn't show very well but the adults did - and the rain held off with even a brief glimpse of the sun! (Thanks again to our trusty band of volunteers who helped us out).
Woodlands School group at the Watch Point
St. Benedict's School visit. Last Wednesday, Ian Layton, our HLF-funded Engagement Officer, had arranged for a small group of children with either sight or mobility issues from St. Benedict's School in the city to come to the Cathedral to experience not only our peregrines but also some imported birds which they could hold and touch, given that most would be unable to see the peregrines.
The visit, funded by our lottery grant, was a great success and the children thoroughly enjoyed the experience. A falconry centre in Nottinghamshire brought a range of their birds of prey for the children to hold and to touch - a brilliant experience for those with little or no sight, in particular.
Both the birds and the children behaved exceptionally well - and thanks also to our great volunteers who helped out (Nikki, Steve, Howie and Pam) and to John Armitage from the cathedral.
Ian Layton wrote:
"The group arrived about two minutes after the falcons had flown off to Jury’s Inn – leaving us with precious little to see or hear. But just after our introductions, the female flew back to the Cathedral tower calling loudly and making plenty of noise! Perfect timing!!

We had set up a couple of scopes through which those youngsters with some sight could see the birds and the female helpfully sat on the lip of the platform for ten minutes whilst everyone had a good look. Whilst this was happening we explained a little about the birds - their life cycle, adaptations, diet etc .

Following this we went across into the Cathedral where the group were introduced to a number of imprinted (raised in captivity) birds of prey. All the young people were carefully encouraged to hold a bird on a gauntlet and – guided by the falconers – were enabled to feel the talons and feathers of an Eagle Owl, a Barn Owl and a Ferruginous Hawk as they held them on their arm. Whilst the group were having the closest experience of wildlife many of them had ever had. The youngsters were also able to touch ‘009’ – the young Derby peregrine killed in 2009 by flying into a building which has since been stuffed.

The session concluded with a bird song recognition quiz – ranging from Cuckoos, through Skylarks to – of course – peregrines.To round off, we made the point that today was really more than just about falcons, hawks and owls – it was to help people learn to care about wildlife and to realise about the pressures many species are experiencing.

As they left, they were talking about placing a barn owl box in their school grounds and about developing more wildlife education in school.

This afternoon I’ve received two emails from school – the first stating that one of the young men had returned saying it was “the best thing he’d ever done” – and the second from the head of the department asking whether the hawks and owls would be available for a wildlife event to be held in August. All in all, a very positive day!"

Watching a peregrine on the Jurys Inn sign with volunteer Howie Hall on hand

Josh just manages to see the peregrine's nest

Shannon touches a (very tame) eagle owl

Josh with a barn owl on his wrist

James about to hold the eagle owl

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Ringed and filmed (and video-ed too) plus Updates

The ringing of the four chicks last night (29th) went very well and we were lucky that the rain held off.
A five-strong BBC TV crew (including presenter Sanjida O'Connell) was present, filming for a regional (East Midlands) programme to be called The Urban Jungle which will go out in July (no date as yet). Parts of the film may be used nationally at a later date I gather. You can read her blog about her visit here.
TV crew film Sanjida on the top of the tower

Martin bags the chicks on the platform

Ant, Nick and a bundle of chicks ready for ringing inside the tower
BBC's Sanjida OConnell comes face to face with a chick.

The chicks behaved very well considering, sitting quite still while awaiting their turn to be ringed and

Do I really have to be ringed?

Well at least I got my dinner inside me first!
having their mouth's swabbed for DNA analysis.
The ringer, Ant, thought that there were three males and one female, the latter by far the noisiest! Martin the abseiler cleaned the camera lenses and lifted the new camera up a few inches so as to be above the 'squirt' line (thanks Martin for waiting up there while the chicks were ringed and filmed!)
Thanks also to Tony G for letting us in and out of the tower and for taking the photos. Nick M was on leave that day, sitting in a pub somewhere, but still keeping a watching eye on us all (and especially Martin) and tweeting away to let everyone know what was happening.
Nick B (DWT)
Ps. The colour ring numbers were 021, 022 and 024 the three males and 023 the female.
Pps. A short (and silent) video of the ringing can be found on You Tube

Report on Watch Point 1st June by Ian Layton: The sun shone on Derby today and once again we had over 250 people view the peregrines. We had people of all ages and backgrounds use the scopes - with folks from as far away as Turkey and Sweden signing the visitor's book.The birds themselves were in fairly good form. The youngsters made a few fleeting appearences - but mostly kept themselves to themselves. The parents were more visable - or at least he was (we think). This bird tookitself off soon after eleven o'clock and didn't reappear for nearly three hours - long enough for us to start wondering if something had happened to it! Meanwhile, the remaining bird sat on the crenellations just beneath the platform and stayed there from about 11.30 to 1.00 before then hopping up on to the platform itself. It certainly made itself very visable for all our visitors!
Soon after 1.00 this bird took off and flew towards the Council House and we wondered if we'd have anything to show people - but we needn't have worried as within 5 mins both falcons reappeared with the falcon settling on the platform and the tiedcel on the water spout by the right hand gargoyle at the top of the tower. They stayed there for about half an hour before the tiercel took off around the tower and within seconds had reappeared with a catch. At first we assumed this was a pigeon but closer viewing through the scopes showed it was more likely to be some kind of finch. The tiercel dropped this off for the falcon to feed to the kids and then flew off towards Jurys Inn.
We finished the Watch Point soon after this at around 2.15pm
A big thanks to Steve and Ann who did a sterling job of explaining about the peregrines and the project whilst Steve rushed around inviting everyone with quarter of mile to come and see the birds.

Please note: the window display in the cathedral cafe window is not working due to IT problems beyond our control...please bear with us while we wait for them to be resolved. (4/6/13). NM