Saturday, 31 May 2014

Our community work continues.....

One of the tasks we set ourselves when we submitted for a lottery grant was to try to engage the project with the minority communities in Derby especially those for whom English was not their first language.
Ian Layton, our Engagement Officer, paid for by the grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, has been working hard again this year to do just that.
Last year he organised visits to the cathedral by Ukranian, West Indian and other communities and made good contact with the Polish community in Derby but people from the Indian sub-continent proved harder to reach.
While we have had quite a few Pakistani and Indian families come to the Watch Points over the years, we really needed to make more efforts to engage with Punjabi and Urdu speakers in greater numbers.
So Ian organised a session at a library in Derby at which some falconer's birds would hopefully be a lure to get local people to come in and engage with us.
It worked a treat!
For over three hours yesterday, assisted by several of our excellent volunteers, we had a constant stream of people from many parts of the globe come in to see the birds and watch the web cams from the cathedral which were showing on a computer screen nearby.
A patient eagle owl allows a close encounter
We had people originating from Pakistan, India, Slovenia, Eritrea, Sudan, Poland and Slovakia to name but a few - and they all thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The children were delighted to have their mums and dads take photos of them either with a bird on their gloved hand or, as above, gentry stroking the very obliging male eagle owl!
The falconers from Nottinghamshire brought a harris hawk, a buzzard, an escaped but very tame kestrel which was found stunned by a window, an eagle owl and a couple of barn owls.
We told everyone how to access the peregrine web cams and the blog and we invited them to come to one of our Saturday Watch Points.
One young man from Eritrea, who had to flee from his country six months ago, was entranced by the birds and stayed for a long time. He was a charming guy and we hope to see him at a Watch Point soon.
Etritrean lad with a harris hawk
Thanks especially to the falconers Philip and Jacob, to Ian and Steve who gently hauled people into the library from the street outside, to the librarians (fortunately the floor was easily cleaned - the birds were not house trained!), to our volunteers, to the three Rolls Royce graduates who came and helped. Finally, thanks to everyone who came to meet us and the birds.
If anyone wishes to contact us them please email us at

The Project Team
Ps. The Watch Points are held on Cathedral Green on Full Street behind the cathedral itself.
You can't miss us! There's a map on this blog's homepage if you scroll down a bit and look on the right hand side.
Pps. To read about the recent ringing of the chicks, please scroll down this blog!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Ringing Day

I'm not sure who was more scared this evening - me or the three feisty young peregrine chicks that had to go through the ignominious experience of being taken from their nests, popped into a bag, lowered to the ground and having rings put on their legs.

I think it was me!

The responsibility of not hurting, not injuring, not scaring, and definitely not dropping any of our three young birds had been preying on me for much of the afternoon.

Ant Messenger ringing one of our new chicks
inside the Cathedral Tower. photo: Helen Naylor

Back on the nest ledge. Slightly indignant maybe?
We were much later in starting than we had intended. Derby traffic had help up Ant, our licensed ringer. But once inside the cathedral we were still unsure whether we should proceed with the abseil and ringing, or not.. The falcon had been sheltering her chicks from the afternoon's heavy rain and was, herself, quite bedraggled. The rain had only just eased off, although  it seemed quite calm at ground level.

However, we took our small assembled audience up to the top of the tower where we assessed the conditions from the roof. The wind blew firmly from the east - straight at the nest and, worryingly, experience had shown us just how easily our ropes could get blown round the corner of the tower and get snagged on the intricate stonework, making them incredibly hard to retrieve. We decided to tie an empty rucksack to the two ropes and lower it down to see how badly it got blown about. It went down fine - the falcon standing on the side of the nest, wondering what was going on, obviously reluctant to leave her chicks. With the rain looking some way off we decided to give it a go. Everyone piled down the tower stairs, leaving just me and Nicole, one of the Rolls Royce apprentices who had been working with our project recently. Nicole had revealed she was a climber, so I asked her to run through the safety checks with me prior to the abseil. We both agreed it was always the first few steps over the edge that made us both nervous. I had my own survival as well as that of the chicks to make me doubly nervous.

Once down at the nest I found the wind was a lot less noticeable. I locked myself off on the rope, and listened to the calls of the falcon who by now had obviously left the nest and was flying noisily around the tower. The chicks were also hissing at me in alarm, cowered in the corner of the nest platform. Then came the even more terrifying bit - picking up each bird and carefully putting each one inside a padded rucksack. Mindful of concerns from a falconer friend who had expressed concern about developing wing feathers being damaged by careless handling, I did the best I could to pick each one up and pop it inside. Disentangling needle-sharp talons embedded in my gloves was necessary before the next one could captured. The precious cargo was lowered as gently as possible to the nave roof where Ant Messenger was ready to bring them inside for the really skilled bit - the ringing.  Each bird gets two metal rings - one bright orange, bearing a three digit number

Say 'cheese' everyone
While the ringing was going on down below, watched by our invited audience, I had a very literal sense of hanging about doing nothing. So the lenses got a good clean, a few squidgy pellets and other bits were bagged up, and then I remembered that the two microphones were both on, and the camera was pretty wide angle, and also that many of you were probably watching. I know some of you heard me telling you to 'say cheese', so just so you know what you looked like to me, shown above is the now rather pecked at camera that gives us such an amazing view out from the back of the nest platform. Attempts to take a selfie failed dismally, and posed a real danger to Ant down below had he popped his head out onto the roof at the same time as I had let go of the cameraphone.

Is this the worst selfie ever?
As you can see from the top photos, the three chicks were soon returned, unharmed to the nest, bearing their nice bright bling. A few moments of holding them gently in place with a hand over their back and wings seemed to calm them down -  it did me, anyway. The worst over, it was then just a job of unlocking the ropes and lowering myself to the ground. Well - to a very wet, slippery nave roof actually. It was also then that a gust of wind managed to blow both ropes round the side of the tower which took a bit of time and some careful balancing on the apex of the roof before they were retrieved and loaded down with a weight again.

A chick's-eye view from the Derby Cathedral nest ledge.
Not surprisingly, by the time all this was over, a number of our visitors had left, but we hope they enjoyed the experience, despite the long wait at the start. We then had to climb back up to the top in order to retrieve the abseil ropes and clear up our gear. Our sincere thanks to Matt the verger who very patiently waited behind after Evensong had finished and who kindly locked up after us.

Ant, our ringer, has suggested that this year we have two males and a female. More on which is which, and what ring number they each have later on in the week.

Nick Moyes
Technical Advisor

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

WatchPoints and Chick-Ringing 2014

The 2014 Watch Points start this Saturday, 24th May.
This year Ian Layton and his band of keen volunteers are also running quite a number of Watchpoints during the weekday for booked parties.
The following dates have so far been scheduled. Others may be added later. Check the WatchPoint Tab at the top of our homepage for changes to these details.


                           (Incl visit from Bosnian YP) 





All Watchpoints are free and start around 10.30am on Derby's Cathedral Green, and usually run until about 1pm or later if there's lots of activity. They may not run  if the weather is foul.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust volunteers with telescopes will be on hand to talk to anyone wanting to see or learn more about the city's amazing peregrines.

The Green is the pleasant, grassy area at the rear of Derby Cathedral which gives excellent views of the peregrine nest platform. See Map

Watch Points are entirely free, though if you enjoy your time with us (and viewing the birds online), a donation is always welcome! The Lottery grant that we have helps us pay for the project but we are still required to raise over £1000 each year ourselves as match funding.

Ringing the Chicks
The webcams may look a little bit odd for a while tomorrow evening as we are scheduled to ring the three surviving peregrine chicks. This involves an abseil from the top of the tower down to the nest platform. The chicks will then be carefully placed into a bag and gently lowered to Anthony, waiting on the nave roof below. Ant is a licenced ringer who has put coloured rings on the legs of all our chicks (except for one year) since they first nested here back in 2006. As always, we inform the police in advance, lest a keen webcam watcher somewhere thinks they should report suspicious activity at the nest.
If all goes well, the chicks should be back in the nest within twenty minutes or so. It's a real privilege to be able to pick up the young birds and lower them down for ringing, and then return them unharmed to their nest again. As always we're pleased to welcome a few invited guests in to watch the ringing first hand. This year, amongst others, we welcome Mark on behalf of SERCO who generously provide the real technical support of ensuring our webcams are configured correctly to the internet, and Simon who will be off-duty, but is one of Derbyshire Constabulary's Wildlife Liaison Officers with a keen interest in Derby's amazing peregrines.  

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Death of a chick

Sadly one of our chicks died earlier today. This morning the falcon appeared to be sheltering all four birds from the heat of the morning sun, although some webcam watchers had already become concerned at the state of its health before that time. The remaining three chicks are feeding well. The chick that has died has been marked in the photo below (thanks to Kate for sharing this screenshot on Flickr).

This situation has occurred before at Derby, and can be distressing for some viewers to watch. There is little we can do - the dead bird may either be removed from the nest by the parents, although in one year we witnessed a dead chick being fed to the remaining eyasses, and this could happen again, of course. At that time we had long discussions on the legality or otherwise of removing the dead bird for analysis, but were told by the licencing authorities and by the police that they would take a dim view of us trying to do so outside of our scheduled abseil to ring the remaining chicks.

Quite why it died we will probably never know. But for now the remaining chicks look healthy and are feeding well. (UPDATE: At 5:45pm today the dead chick was removed from the nest by one of the parent birds.)
Thanks for everyone for reporting the news on both our Twitter and Facebook pages, as well as via our blog comments.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Chick Flicks

With all four chicks successfully hatched, we enter that special period in the lives of our peregrine falcons. It takes just six weeks from hatching to fledging, and day by day you will see the young birds grow and change. And almost before we know it, they are ready to fly.

Shown below are some recent clips captured from a new video recorder installed inside Derby Cathedral.
The first shows just two tiny chicks on 4th May, whilst the last shows all four chicks being fed on Friday 9th May. The complete feed lasted for about nine minutes, so only a fraction is shown here.

To record video from our analogue cameras we use a Philips DVD3460H recorder with a large hard drive. Unfortunately the DVD trays of this model have a terrible habit of failing to open. Our last recorder failed a few months ago. It's a time consuming but relatively cheap job to replace the 25mm rubber drive belt on the DVD tray to make them work again, but its removal meant we needed to find a replacement.

We are grateful to David Reynolds who sold us a working replacement for virtually just the cost of delivery to Derby. So although he didn't make much profit on the sale, we do hope he appreciates the great use to which his old home recorder is now being put. Meanwhile the previous recorder has now been repaired and our next job is to install it back into the Cathedral Tower, ready to capture the chicks when they move onto the far side of the nest platform.

Our thoughts are now turning to the next task of ringing our chicks, so we'll soon start to make arrangements with our licenced ringers to abseil down in about ten days time, and to place numbered  rings on their legs to trace their future movements.

We have also tweaked the main nest camera to give much better nighttime pictures, and we also have live webcams viewable  24/7 in Derby City Centre. The Cathedral Centre shop window on Irongate now contains a display showing a full-sized replica our our peregrine nest, complete with a TV monitor showing the live nest camera from Stream 4.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Sure as eggs is eggs.......hatching begins and ends.....

UPDATE at 8.17 pm Monday 5th: third egg has just hatched apparently!
UPDATE  8 am Thursday 8th May - the fourth chick hatched out overnight it seems - certainly all four chicks were being fed at 8.30 am!

About 10 pm last night (Saturday 3rd May) our first egg hatched, watched by some eagle-eyed web cammers (to whom many thanks). And this morning a second chick hatched about 08.40 am.
Now we can expect the other two to hatch within the next 24 hours or so.
The adults have been very fidgety on the eggs for a couple of days, always a good sign that the chicks are calling from within the eggs and that they are about to break out.
Looking from Flickr site by Marski

Two chicks just visible

Our parent birds must be very used to this performance by now...their ninth year of hatching eggs!
To see more screengrabs go to the Derby Peregrine Flickr site:

And a warm welcome to anyone who we met at Derby University's Fun Day yesterday and who is viewing the blog and web cams for the first time.
Nick B /Nick M