Monday, 28 January 2013

Cold off the press...

On a drafty and cold day in Derby, our local BBC radio station ran a live interview with both Ian Layton, our new Engagement Officer and Nick Moyes, now our Project Technical Advisor.
Nick Moyes, Radio reporter and Ian Layton
talk live on air....

While Ian talks, Nick M. puts a message out on Twitter
BBC Radio Derby's Nigel Cash arrived without the normal van that has an 8 metre high aerial to relay signals back to base. So, after a few communication problems, he finally managed to make contact with Radio Derby HQ, and the live interview started.

You can listen to it on Sally Pepper's show at 1hr:48min  in to the programme.

Meanwhile, Nick Moyes, while waiting to be interviewed, was busy tweeting photographs of Ian being interviewed...

We all wanted to get back inside (it really was very cold!) but Nigel insisted on taking photos of Ian from various angles for the radio station's website.

Note that Sally Pepper gets the two of us Nicks confused right at the end of the interview - but that happens to us all the time!

Nick B. (unofficial photographer to the project!)

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Early Days...and a stunning start (and 2nd update)

Ian Layton
On Tuesday (15th), Ian Layton, our new Peregrines and People Engagement Officer, funded by HLF, came down to Derby for his first day of induction about the project.
It was a lovely winter's day, sun shining, snow melted on the streets and the cathedral tower looking at its very best.
With Matt Croney, a senior manager at DWT who is currently responsible for our project, we took Ian up the tower to the top. En route we stopped off in the ringing room to show Ian and Matt where the equipment is that takes the images from the web cams and sends them off via a very complicated route to the outside world. In that room there's a TV monitor so we could watch the live web cams only a few yards away from the nest.
While we were there we looked out of a small window down on to the wooden steps below us that take people out onto the nave roof. There on the bottom platform was the corpse of a bar tailed godwit, almost complete. The peregrines must have accidentally dropped it from the platform above or perhaps from the grotesques directly above the platform. The bird has a long slightly upcurved beak and bars on its tail, features that separate it from the rather similar black tailed godwit.
Bar tails are birds of the coast and estuary, rarely seen inland. This one probably was flying across the Midlands on its way between feeding areas on the East Coast and the Dee estuary or perhaps the Lancashire coast when one of our birds grabbed it out of the night sky - at least, that's our theory!
When we reached the top of the tower, the adult birds that had earlier been sitting on Jurys Inn, enjoying the sunshine no doubt, had both gone though we located one on the top of the police aerial about 600 metres away.

The views from the top were magnificent.
We could see Crich Stand to the north, away up the Derwent Valley and the River Derwent below us, snaking past the newly refurbished City Council House down into the Trent Valley where it joins the River Trent which flows towards Nottingham in the East.
On the tops of the grotesques were the remains of various other winter prey - two golden plovers on one, the head of a teal on another and a woodcock on a third.
We spent the rest of the day in the warm Cathedral Centre, beginning to give Ian the background to the project and the remit for his work. Tony Grantham, ex Head Verger and now a keen volunteer for our project, dropped by to say 'hello' and we began to introduce Ian to the current vergers and other cathedral personnel.
There'll be future posts about what Ian will be doing in more detail but for now, we all wish him well. He's got a lot to achieve in the six months ahead but we're sure he'll get all the support he needs.

Nicks Moyes and Brown

Update1: the project was invited to have a stand at a Heritage Lottery Fund meeting today at The Roundhouse in Derby. It was attended by the people who make the decisions on grant bids in all the various regions of the some important and powerful people were there. We spoke to some of them who'd come from all over the UK and tried to explain just how exciting this project has been and what it hopes to achieve with the new HLF grant. One committee member from Devon had independently found and watched the project's video clips on You Tube (accessed via the blog) and spoke very highly of them - and the fact they were out there for anyone and everyone to see! (All Nick M's work of course).

Most of us have been seeing marks in the snow on our nest ledge, but the birds themselves have not been too evident. This screengrab below was captured by HelenSara and posted to our Flickr pool. It shows both adults on the platform, one preparing a meal. Apologies for the black hole in the top right corner. Our third camera (towercam) is currently sitting in my garage, with its replacement on the kitchen table, neatly mounted on a new wooden support, and almost ready to go back in its place when the weather improves.
Nick M.

A Cold Lunch!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Six years online

Derby Cathedral - now wired for sound . . .and video.
Webcam update: See end.

Six years ago I was blogging about fitting webcameras  onto Derby Cathedral, and sharing my  fears about whether it would be possible or not. Just look at these posts from our first month of running a blog to see where we were starting from.

Boy, that seems such a long time ago now.

Back then I was happily employed at Derby Museums, racing against time to obtain cameras to add to our one year old nest ledge, installed in 2006. Now I'm happily employed elsewhere, albeit part-time, but that means I am still lucky enough to be able to remain  involved with Derby's amazing peregrines. Over those years they have given me such satisfaction, mainly because I've known how much pleasure they are capable of giving to everyone else. And, of course, I've had the massive help and support of Tony Grantham, then head verger who 'opened all the cathedral doors' to enable the project to get the cathedral's approval and support and of Nick Brown, who was the first person to see the potential of the project and who invited me to get involved in the first place. Nick was then working full time for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT). Now he continues to put in hundreds of voluntary hours of work each year helping to run the project in all manner of vital ways.
Fllashback to 2008: Mock-up of a new camera
location on Derby'cathedral tower

Being a bit of a nerd, I spent part of my Christmas break investigating the best new cameras to add to our peregrine nest ledge, and am about to make our first purchase - a replacement for "pudding cam" as it still affectionately known. I shall be using funds donated anonymously to our project to buy the camera next week from a supplier in Derby (always good to be supporting local businesses), and hope to test it out at home to get the day and night focus settings just right, before installing it on top of the Cathedral Tower in place of the old one. And it has been your donations over the years that have helped pay Network Webcams to stream our pictures to your computer or mobile phone.

Our project has grown so much over those years -  thanks to the partnership that runs it and especially to your interest and enthusiasm in watching the fastest creature on this planet care for and raise young on Derby's ancient stone cathedral tower. Most recently we've added a live stream with audio. 

And, excitingly, a new chapter is about to unfold.

Soon, thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund,  we shall be welcoming Ian Layton, our new Peregrines and People Engagement Officer, who starts with us on January 14th. He'll be helping us reach out to local communities and other groups around Derby and Derbyshire, and supporting schools to see the potential for using Derby's amazing peregrines as a learning opportunity. We'll be working to improve our public reach and to share the lives of these incredible raptors with many new audiences.

Whilst we are now starting to reach out via Twitter and Facebook, this blog will undoubtedly remain the core way we share what's happening up there on the gritstone tower of Derby Cathedral. Ian will no doubt want to introduce himself to everyone on this blog, and will be keen to listen to your ideas, suggestions, or offers of support.

A Happy New Year to everyone, and lets hope 2013 will be another successful breeding season for Derby's amazing peregrines.

Update: Tower cam is now offline for a while. The camera has been removed and a new mounting unit  is being prepared for a replacement.