Saturday, 23 February 2013

Clean up and a new camera

NOTICE: Monday 4th March. Maintenance work is being done on our cameras today - this may affect some webcam streams. (A second attempt to replace tower-cam)

Last Tuesday (19th), the cathedral tower was thrice 'nicked'.
Nick E hangs on (face mask to protect from dust and spores)
Nicks Moyes, Evans and Brown were busy all day at various places up and down the tower. Nick M and Nick E abseiled down to the nest platform to give it its annual inspection and clean up; to remount and clean the two existing cameras, clean the gravel and also to fit a completely new camera.

It was a long day, so long indeed that the cathedral had been locked up by the time Moyes and Brown came down the tower sometime after 6pm (Nick E having wisely gone home a bit sooner). Trapped in the dark between the heavy wooden West door and the glass doors just inside the cathedral was an interesting experience (it was our own fault for staying up there so late!).  Fortunately we managed to push open the exterior door but couldn't relock it from the outside so we had to stay put until (by good fortune) the bell ringers arrived for their evening practice!

Nick M busy at the platform

View East. The police aerial is just left of the flats
We hope you agree that the pictures from the two nest cameras are much clearer now. The lenses were cleaned inside and out. All the prey remains were removed and the gravel re-spread and treated with an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal spray. Next year we'll have to put in some new gravel as well as thoroughly check the platform - so far it's doing well!

Nick B's role was to climb a ladder into the bell chamber and 'accept' the long cable for the new camera which Nick M fed through a small hole in the louvres above the nest platform. He then had to feed the cable carefully through a series of holes in various floors to get it down to the ringing chamber where the IT gear is kept (video servers, routers, video recorders, TV monitor  - you name it, it's there!).

Then Nick M fixed the new camera to the side wall of the platform. Its wide angled, zoom lens will give a new angle on the nest with a view out over Derby looking North East. As yet Nick M hasn't decided how best to show this new view. Streaming the view out to everyone is quite expensive though grant money should cover at least the key breeding months. However, he still needs to sort out how to show images from four cameras when he only has space for this space!
First ever image of the female using this new Axis camera
When we arrived the male was on the nest but soon flew off eastwards. The female was watching us most of the day from the top of the police aerial mast in Chester Green though she later moved onto Jurys Inn's lettering (I still think the illuminated letters provide them with warm talons!).
View NW towards the university (big block on the horizon)

Finally, after a lot of intercom to and fro ("move the camera a bit left and up, no sorry I meant down") the positions were finally fixed and the abseilers lowered themselves down to the nave roof.
A successful day for sure. Next job will be for Nick M to put the new 'pud cam' back - that's the one that looks horizontally across the ledge above the nest towards Jurys Inn. It too should give a nice crisp image!
Further updates on the cameras will follow....

Since the disturbance we caused the birds have been back performing their normal display behaviour on the platform....see comments to the previous blog post - so they soon got over our presence. If you should see interesting courtship (or mating especially)

Nick E on his way down as seen from a window in the tower
do please note the time and let us know, either with a comment on the blog or by emailing .
The peregrines in Bristol have been mating for over two weeks already...but remember that last year they laid their first egg on 10th March - perhaps the earliest if any UK urban pair.

Nick B (on behalf of Nick M and E)

Saturday, 16 February 2013

"Hi" From Our New Engagement Worker PLUS an Update

NOTICE: Sat 23 Feb - Our cameras may be offline for a few hours from 09:30 this morning whilst we install new equipment. 

(Please see an update at the foot of this post about nest cleaning etc)
Ian Layton
You might well be asking “What exactly does a 'Peregrines and  People Engagement Worker' actually do?” – and that would be a really good question! Nobody has ever tried a project quite like this before - so, although we have lots of ideas – I and the two Nicks are very much learning as we go along!

Let me share with you the general ideas behind the project. We all know that the peregrines are magical – or “amazing” if you prefer Nick M’s turn of phrase! – and that through the work that they and many others have already done, they've brightened a great many people’s lives, either through the Watch Points or via the webcams, or through this very blog. Well, my work aims to ensure that the Peregrine’s magic is shared with an ever wider audience.

Some of this will be done by adding to the educational work of the project, and we have already begun discussions with colleagues in primary, secondary and special education to see how we can best help them use the peregrines within their different styles of teaching. (see previous blog post and also the new 'Schools' Tab

Other efforts have also begun to better include those people within the city who have yet to experience that magic. We’re really keen to include people from different cultures – and to see how we can get people with a range of disabilities to become involved too. Work has already begun with our colleagues at the Cathedral and with the Cathedral Quarter to explore the different things we can offer between us.

This may mean that some of the Watch Points may operate a bit differently this year. Whilst all the Watch Points will be open for anyone who'd like to see Derby's peregrine falcons, some sessions will be tailored to meeting specific interests or the needs of particular groups. For example – we may run a session where “signers” are available to explain the wonder of the peregrines to people who rely upon sign language. We hope in this way to include ever more people, whilst not excluding those who like things the way they are.

One thing that has already become very clear is that the peregrines offer huge potential to not only brighten people’s lives, but also to further the wider cause of conservation. There’s no way that even if the two Nicks and I worked 24/7 we would be able to fully develop that potential – so (as in the past) we are working to recruit volunteers to help us make the most of the brilliant opportunity in front of us. So, if you have an interest in the falcons, and also in working with people with disabilities, or from different cultures or in environmental education – and fancy helping out – don’t hesitate to contact us! 

There’s lots more I could say about why it’s important to the wider conservation cause that we try projects like this – about how the peregrines might strengthen the very identity of Derby and Derby people (as the Crooked Spire does for those of us from near Chesterfield), or about how engaging children via webcams in classrooms can help them care about wild places and the things that live there - - but maybe that’s best left for another time!  

So a big 'thank you' to everyone for your warm welcome, and I'm looking forward to meeting more of you on line, or face-to-face in the months ahead.

Ian Layton (Peregrines and People Engagement Officer
Ps. Nick B tells me that a peregrine has been using the crooked spire in Chesterfield....clearly Derby's magic is spreading - though there's no evidence that this bird is one of 'our' youngsters.....

Contact Us:
You can reach us in many ways:
  • Leave a Blog comment on the most recent post here
  • Contact us via Twitter here
  • Contact us via Facebook here
  • Write to the Peregrine Project c/o Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, East Mill, Belper, Derbyshire DE56 1XL.
  • Telephone DWT on 01773 881188 (during office hours)
  • Or
  • Visit our WatchPoints on Derby's Cathedral Green during the breeding season.

    UPDATE: 19th February: today Nicks Moyes and Evans abseiled down to the nest to clean it up, clean and realign the two existing cameras and fit a new one (just viewable as a black 'blob' on the far wall of the platform). All went very well though it took over six hours in all! Lovely sunny day but a bit cold for the two chaps hanging by ropes, warmer for Nick B inside, feeding new cable down through the tower to the ringing room and commenting back to the abseilers about camera angles etc. Much more about this in a few days time when Ian's post above has had time to register.... NB (Ps you should notice the difference when you log on to the cameras. Pps. The new pud cam that looks across above the nest will be fitted shortly). 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Wanted: Teachers with the peregrine bug

NOTICE: There will be a temporary test of a new camera feed on the morning of Saturday16th February. This may result in a short period of disruption to our webcameras and, if all goes well, some  rather unusual views brought to you from inside the ringing chamber at Derby Cathedral!
A new blog post from Ian Layton will then be published on Saturday afternoon.  Nick M.

One of the tasks the Peregrine Project set itself to achieve with its lottery grant is to reach out to schools and get Derby's amazing peregrines used within the curriculum much more widely.
Drawing from Brigg Infants School

We think the project can be used right across the whole curriculum, from literacy to science and from history to biology... and at all Key Stages.

If you are a teacher, have you seen the live web cams and our video clips of the 'best moments'? Do you follow this blog, and have you seen the excellent work (shown here) achieved by 5 and 6 year olds from Brigg Infants School?

If so, we hope you can see the huge potential of this project to engage your own pupils in stimulating ways. And we want to help you do this.

We already have a few teachers (at Infant, Junior and a Special School) who have used the project with their classes. They have shown just how valuable and stimulating our birds can be, even for infants. These infants  even write their own blog comments and questions (under careful guidance) which we always try to answer in one for or another.
We have some really good curricular links etc at the Infant level but we now need to find innovative teachers working at Junior, GCSE and A level who would like to work with us, or showcase their schoolwork here.

If you think you could help us with this process, perhaps by trialling worksheets with your children, or by devising project material that would work for you and which we can add to our resources pack, then please get in touch. We have a wealth of material we can make available to you, too. See the new 'Schools' tab at the top of our blog for news of these developments (this will be developed further as and when we get time).
Birds and their feathers - some
work from Brigg Infants
Of course, if you don't have time to help, but would still like to be on our schools mailing list, just contact us. You'll  receive updates on resources as they become available and invites to teacher training, for example.
computer graphics by an infant at Brigg School
Email us at  Tell us if you'd be interested in working with us, or just want to be kept informed of developments. Either is great!
While the HLF grant doesn't allow us to do more than provide (free) resources and remote help and advice, we are now in a position to offer (primary) schools a session on peregrines at your school by a trained sessional worker working for DWT. We will have to charge for this service however. If you might like a visit, please get in touch.

Today (9th) we attended an Opal conference run for teachers and other educators at Derby University. We had a stand and were involved in a Science Circus. The conference was a success and we chatted to quite a lot of teachers and other providers of environmental education. If you were among them - it was good to meet you and do please stay in touch. If you left your email address with us, we'll contact you, probably about the time the eggs are laid (end of March with luck!). If you didn't leave us your details then email and let us know how we can help etc.

Ian Layton (Engagement Officer) and Nick Brown (long term volunteer)

Ps Please see the updated/new SCHOOLS TAB at the top of the blog for further information - and to see  Brigg School's brilliant vimeo video made by the children themselves.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

In a bit of a scrape

It's that time of year again. Behind the scenes we're busy sorting out new cameras, getting the new Facebook page up and running, and preparing for a nest ledge maintenance session. Ian Layton, our new Engagement Officer,  is starting to find his feet, and is getting ready to run a stand with Nick Brown at Derby University's Opal conference for teachers in a week's time.

Behind the scenes, too, our pair of peregrine falcons are readying themselves for the forthcoming breeding season. Days are lengthening now, and they are spending more and more time on or around the nest platform. The video below shows a typical bit of calling and nest-scraping activity that we captured a couple of weeks ago but were unable to bring you at the time.

We hope you enjoy the sound of Derby's bells, too, played by the automated carillon inside the tower.

With road works causing delays on Derby's inner ring road, now could be a good chance if you're stuck in traffic to look up towards the tall Jurys Inn building on the north side of Derby. It's not far from the Cathedral tower and gives our peregrines a perfect position to watch over their nest site when they're not actually on it. They love the huge, blue illuminated letters at the top of the building - it's probably slightly warm, too.