Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Ringing the chicks (and a reminder re. Saturday's Watch Point)

UPDATE: all four chicks were ringed successfully tonight. Full details to follow by tomorrow morning.

We had planned to ring the chicks tonight (Wednesday 29th at about 7-7.30 pm) but the weather looks as though it could prevent us doing so. If you planned to travel to watch from The Green you could have a wasted trip. We won't make a final decision until 6.30 pm or even later if there looks like there could be a short interlude from the rain at some point in the evening! It would be best for everyone if we can get the job done today - but torrential rain will definitely stop us.....
If we postpone we will try again either tomorrow or Friday.
Ringing involves an abseiler (Martin) dropping down on a rope from the top of the tower, collecting the chicks and lowering them in a rucksack to the ringer (Ant) standing on the roof below. The ringer brings the chicks indoors where they can be ringed safely and quickly. They are then returned via the rucksack to the nest. The chicks at this age remain docile and make only feeble attempts to defend themselves. Any older than they are now and they become much more feisty! That is why we need to catch them at about 18-20 days old.
We have ringed our chicks every year since 2006 bar one. It is a straight forward procedure and one which the licensed ringer has done hundreds of times with many different species of bird (his main research work is on the hobby, another falcon that occurs in Derbyshire).
Ant fits two rings; firstly a small metal ring on the right leg. This is the standard type of ring that ringers use for all birds. It has a unique number on it and wording which says 'Inform British Museum London SW7'. The museum passes on details of any rings that people find (eg on dead, injured or re-trapped wild birds) to the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the organisation which runs and controls the whole bird ringing scheme in the UK.They report the details back to the ringer and to the finder also.
On the left leg Ant will fit an orange coloured ring with a simple number in a large size (023 for example).
The photos below are from previous years of course.
Fixing a BTO metal ring (2008)

The chicks are returned safely to the nest (2006)

The large feet of an osprey showing both types of (much larger) ring

This coloured ring will enable observers to spot our ringed birds should they turn up elsewhere. The colour orange 'means' the bird was ringed in Derbyshire and the fact that it is on the left leg means it was ringed at the cathedral (all other Derbyshire chicks have the colour ring put on the right leg).
Obviously if someone can read the number through a telescope, then we get to find out exactly which of our chicks they are watching, whether here in Derby or miles away later on. So far we have had no confirmed sightings of any of our chicks at other nest sites elsewhere in the UK...but it could happen one day!
The falcon (the female) obviously isn't happy about an 'intruder' being at the nest (you will see him on the web cams). She flies round overhead making her displeasure known. We should not project our human emotions onto wild animals and birds so to say she is 'angry' or 'upset' isn't particularly helpful in understanding the state of this bird. Clearly peregrines have a built-in behaviour pattern to try to defend their nests and young. What is equally clear is that as soon as we are finished and are out of her sight, she will return to the chicks and show normal behaviour subsequently as if she had completely 'forgotten' the whole episode. (The male by the way tends to stay at a much greater distance, even just disappears!)
In some parts of the world, adult peregrines will dive at anyone near their nests, even clipping them with their talons. This doesn't happen with our birds. The female circles around above the tower top and doesn't get any closer. You can find video clips on You Tube of peregrines attacking (licensed) ringers in the States.
Reminder: the next Watch Point event is this Saturday 1st June (11 am to at least 1 pm) weather permitting (and the forecast is better by then!). If you've not been down yet, we look forward to seeing you soon.
Nick B (DWT)


Caroline said...

Thanks for a reminder about the meaning of the rings, Nick. Guess the weather is going to keep you all guessing whether to go ahead. Good luck to all concerned. Both parents in the nest briefly for the 16.05 feed just now.

Caroline said...

Looks like all the chat is on the Twitter feed but I really enjoyed watching the ringing and got some screen-grabs for Flickr. Falcon was back within 10 mins though she's been looking around ever since. Chicks went back to sleep after one relieved itself in Martin's direction... tis no picnic abseiling down a cathedral with a circling peregrine yelling at you and chicks that can aim poo! Great to hear that the ringing will be on BBC 2 in July - well done Derby!

Anonymous said...

Very well done - so pleased to have seen this. Look forward to seeing the photos.

David said...


I had a great view of a female peregrine perched on the ground after flying over one of the lakes at Rye Meads RSPB reserve, Heddesdon, Herts. I had the bird in my telescope for several minutes and noticed it had an orange ring on its left leg. I did a Google search to find out the significance of this and found your Blog which suggests it is one of your Cathedral birds. Is this likely?
Many thanks,


Nick Brown (DWT) said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nick Brown (DWT) said...

Hi David from Rye Meads: thanks for your comment left today (7/2/16) on this very old post on our blog.
That's very interesting that you may have seen one of our birds at Rye Meads. One of last year's female juveniles (bearing an orange ring) was seen at Rutland Water before Christmas, so it might just be that bird.....
Please email me at this rather unlikely email address ( and we can discuss the bird together.
Nick Brown
Project Team