Sunday, 21 December 2014

The shortest day....

It's the winter solstice today and that is worth celebrating because from now on, the days get longer and the nights shorter.
Whether our peregrines are aware of this or not, it won't be long before they begin to show signs of courtship. By February, nest scraping and bowing will be happening on the nest platform, assuming our two birds are healthy and well.
Of course, they are getting older now so we must prepare ourselves for the inevitable. If one of them does die, we are confident that another bird will soon replace we feel sure that we won't have a year when breeding doesn't take place....fingers crossed of course!
Up the top of the tower a couple of weeks ago, Nick Moyes and I were showing Esther Kettel, a PhD student from Nottingham and her tutor the ropes. Well not the actual ropes of course, but certainly the setting for the dramas that take place every year.
We found some prey at the top of the tower of course. A lapwing had been cached on the south side, on the top of one of those wonderful mythical 'grotesques' that were carved almost 500 years ago when the tower was built. On the east side, a song thrush was also lying there uneaten. And in a lead gutter, what looked like a carrion crow was spotted, partially hidden by the side of the gutter and therefore not entirely visible. A snipe head was also discovered - so pretty much usual fare for the time of year.
Esther was delighted to see a nest site for real, having been incarcerated behind her computer for months. We hope that she will choose our project as one of the ten across the country that she selects to study. Her main interests are to log the birds' behaviour and to study their prey.
The floodlit tower on a December evening
It has been quite mild here in Derby so far this winter, with only a few frosts to date. Will we get a late dump of snow as we did in 2013? Or will it stay mild throughout? Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, Merry Solstice, a joyful Christmas and a Happy New year to all our 'virtual community' of peregrine watchers!

The Peregrine Project Team
Ps. We are now confident that we have enough grant money spare to employ Ian Layton, our popular People Engagement Officer, again next summer. Good news indeed! He'll start back with us in late February or March.