Friday, 19 June 2015

We need your donations!

Update Saturday 20th June: Our webcams now have an internet connection, thanks to speedy work on Friday by Derby Council's infrastructure agent, WormPurple. However Stream 3 is temporarily inactive whilst an essential computer upgrade is carried out to replace an old Windows XP machine.
Reports on previous Watch Points are at the bottom of this post.

So, with all three youngsters having left the nest (please scroll down this blog to read the story), there will be less to see via the web cams from now on (even when they are working - and we do apologise once more for the recent problems which are clearly beyond our control!)
It seems a long time since March when the birds really started to display and start scraping a depression in the gravel for their eggs.
Since then, there have been well over 300,000 hits to the blog and web cams - testiment to the continuing popularity of this project - and the birds.
We hope you've derived pleasure from watching these fascinating falcons go about their breeding. Perhaps you feel a part of the 'virtual community' that seems to develop each summer. If you are lucky enough to live within reach of Derby, perhaps you've been to a Watch Point and seen the birds for real - and met some of the staff and volunteers (and 'supporters'), who make this project such an enjoyable one to work on.

As you will know, our lottery grant ends very soon. By August we will be back trying to stand on our own financial feet - so we make this appeal to you to make a donation to keep the project running in the future.
All donations are welcome, however small or large.
Last Wednesday, for example, someone drove up to the Watch Point and handed Steve, one of our volunteers,a crisp £50 note! If it was you - MANY THANKS! 
If you can't afford that much, we will be delighted to receive anything - however small. And every donor will receive a personal 'thank you' from the team.

How to donate - the details are to be found on the side of the blog home page and via the 'Donations' tab but here's a quick summary of the most commonly used methods:

1. Click the My Donation button on our blog homepage, or click below to make a contribution via our   VirginMoneyGiving page (or click above)

2. Phone the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust office in Belper (01773 881188) in office hours (9- 4.30 Fridays and to 5pm other week days) and make a payment using a credit or debit card. It is easy, quick, entirely safe and many donors use this method.

3. You can also donate at a Watch Point. They are on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

4. Send a cheque, payable to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, to DWT, East Mill, Belper, Derbyshire DE56 1XH. Please enclose a letter or note making it clear that your donation is for the Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project.

For further payment methods, please click on the Donations tab on this blog.

GIFT AID - if you are a UK tax payer, you can agree to have your donation gift aided which adds a further 20% to the total we receive with no cost to you at all! Please ask for details. Really all we need is your full address and something saying you are indeed a UK tax payer, willing to have this donation gift aided. 

Many thanks in advance,

The Project Team  (Nick M, Ian L and Nick B)

Report on the Watch Point on 20th June by Ian Layton:
Another wet – but still rewarding day on Cathedral Green today. 
Things started well with the two adults on the tower with two of the young more hidden against the brown stonework.
By the time we had fetched the kit from the Silk Mill and from the Cathedral and sorted out the multi-lingual A Board for Irongate – we were treated to one of the best sights of year so far. The two adults had decamped over to Jury’s Inn and were sitting to the right – one on the spire and one on the lettering on the east side. Then all three young appeared in short order against the skyline sitting on the hotel’s roof. The adult male took a short hinting trip and soon returned with what appeared to be a blackbird – which caused quite a kerfuffle with the youngsters!

At this time town was reasonably busy and we were quite busy on the scopes – but before long it began to drizzle quite persistently and the street soon emptied. The rain got heavier and we moved under the shelter of the trees but set a scope up closer to the Silk Mill pub where we could show the birds whilst having a little shelter. Unfortunately the rain seemed to get stuck over Derby and we lost at least a third of our time with very few people around.
The rain cleared up a little soon after 1.00pm and the streets became a little busier and we were able to return the scopes out to the Green where they belong. By close of play at about 1.45 we had counted almost 100 people at the scopes – a very good showing on such a wet day – and it was especially lovely to see our “new regulars” down on the Green again – so a special thanks to Jane and her Mum (“cos we know you’ll be reading this!) and to Saul, Blythe and their Mum too – who now know more about peregrines AND how a motorbike twist throttle works too! Glad to be of service!!
Throughout all this time the youngsters remained on the roof, hunkered down out of the weather, though one (probably one of the female young judging by her size) could be seen trying her wings out and hopping around the rooftop. On a couple of times the adults took a flit around the Green and around the tower but soon returned to Jurys Inn where they could keep an eye on their charges and seemed to be quite content despite the rain – which we hope means that all is well with all three of them. 
Update Sunday 21st 8 am. All the juvs on top of Jurys Inn.

Two juvs together on the tower -  Photo Roger Lawson
Watch Point 27th June: a sunny day at last and all three juvs on the cathedral - so there was plenty for everyone to see.
They're up there somewhere!
Antony explains the project's history

The next Watch Point is on Saturday 4th July between 10.00 and 1.30pm with the probability of a final one on July 4th. As always – everyone is welcome.
Report on 1st July's Watch Point by Joyce Sawford, one of our trusty volunteer helpers:
"It was very hot at the watchpoint today, 1st July. We arrived at 10:30am and all three fledglings were visible in various places on the tower and were very vocal. On adult was tucked in on the tower in a shady spot. One of the young ones took flight when the other adult arrived and joined it in several circuits of the tower before landing again. The young ones changed places several times, but spent most of the time resting on the grotesques and water spouts. 
We had a steady stream of visitors over lunchtime, particularly as quite a number of folks had brought their lunch to have a picnic on Cathedral Green. It was good to be able to introduce so many folks - some of whom were visiting Derby for the first time - to 'our' peregrines.
I have put some pictures up on Flickr".
Report on July 4th Watch Point: we enjoyed decent weather after a very thundery and wet night. The three juvs were on the tower in view but generally a rather quiet morning. The highlight was  a mallard with her brood of seven ducklings appearing as if from nowhere and walking them down to the river, watched and abetted by several of us from the Watch Point. 
We're on our Joyce Sawford

Phew, we made it....... Photo Joyce Sawford
Thanks to our volunteers Tony and Joyce, Helen, Sue H (coming up from Buckinghamshire!) and Antony plus Liz who was on the recruitment table.  And welcome to Jane Tagg who has offered to help us with running the Watch Points next year 
A banded demoiselle flew past us, as did a rather faded red admiral and one or two swifts flew high overhead. The wood pigeon squab on the nest just below the new platform is growing fast.....
Pigeon squab - keeping a low profile! Photo Joyce Sawford

Had the walks taken place (there were no takers unfortunately, people would have seen the tiny population of White Letter Hairstreak butterflies which live on a single wych elm tree on King Street near the cathedral. Colin Bowler saw about 20 butterflies mostly at the top of the tree but with a few coming down low enough to be photographed.
Can you see the 'white letter'? These scarce insects
are very small but up close like this, very beautiful.
Photo Colin Bowler


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

First fledger comes to ground (plus fledging updates)

For Updates please see the bottom of this post......

About  (or before) 7.00 am this morning (Wednesday 17th), one of the females (colour ring number 031) flew from the platform but failed to make it back to the tower. She was found by Colin Brailsford, one of the workmen from the cathedral, who cleverly managed to get her into a box until I arrived - great job Colin!
031 on the ground - photo Colin Brailsford
On inspection in the hand, she seemed fine - and very feisty too!
Looking none the worse.....
So I took her back to the top of the tower and released her onto one of the lead gutters:
How did I get back up here then?
Subsequently she flew to a chimney on a shop on Irongate close by but then took another flight and was lost to sight. She seems to fly strongly and should be fine now....hopefully the people at the Watch Point today will have a look around for her.
2 pm 17th Update: it seems that two juveniles (031 the grounded female and the male -032) have now fledged - there being just one (with colour ring No. 030, a female) left in the nest platform. A look around the local roofs failed to find either youngster but the parents seem very calm so probably they can see where they are from their elevated vantage point and are happy they are OK.
The Watch Point had a steady flow of visitors (including Linda and MaryT, two of our blog commentators). The weather was overcast and quite blustery...not ideal conditions for making your first flight!
Update 18th June 8 am: 030 still on the platform with the male 032 on a ledge just below (at one point face to face with the incubating wood pigeon nesting there!). No sign of 031. the female that came to ground yesterday but the parent birds seem very calm so she'll be up there somewhere. Four swifts flying about round the tower.
032, the little male, was sitting very close to the nesting wood pigeon below the platform.

Anyone suggest a good picture caption?

UPDATE Friday 19th June: the last chick fledged this morning, sometime after 5.30 am. Certainly by 8 am when I arrived at the cathedral, the platform/scrape was empty. Two males (the adult and the youngster) were sitting on the grotesques above the nest - a favoured sitting place. The adult female peregrine was on the highest point of Jurys Inn looking down, suggesting that one or even both her young female offspring may be up on that flat roof somewhere, out of sight. Certainly there was an air of calm, with neither adult flying about or calling, so with luck all three young birds are safely 'up on high'. Further checks will be made but do come down to the Watch Point tomorrow (Saturday) to meet our volunteers. For sure some of the birds will be visible, if not all.
Ps. Some great captions for the pigeon/peregrine photo above are among recent blog comments but do keep 'em coming!

Nick B (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Webcam Problems (much bigger than we thought)

We learnt today the cause of all the problems you have been experiencing viewing our webcams.
We thought the freezing images and lack of live stream were due to equipment failure or faulty cabling inside the cathedral.

How wrong we were.

The good news is that none of our equipment is faulty; the bad news is that it's a really big problem elsewhere. And it's set to get bigger.

Quite simply, the construction of a new Premier Inn hotel near the Cathedral is going on apace. The rising scaffolding and growing structure have just started to break a fast laser link which connects Derby's Silk Mill Museum to the rest of the City Council network. (We send our internet images first to the Museum, and then on to the wider net).
The new hotel/housing complex that's blocking the airwaves
with the Assembly Rooms on the right
So our problem is also the Museum's problem, and obviously affects other people and services too.  Obviously, this isn't the hotel's fault, and all we can say is that a solution is being looking into for the Silk Mill, but major changes of infrastructure like this simply don't happen overnight. We know that because a fire a year or so ago at another building took out the previous internet connection route!
Artists impression of the proposed Premier Inn Hotel
 next to Cathedral Green, as shown on Derby Telegraph website in 2013.

So it's highly unlikely that our frozen and intermittent cameras will be back working normally for some time, and not until after our birds have fledged.. This YouTube video shows the building site as it was last year

We can only express our apologies to everyone who has come to enjoy watching Derby's Peregrines. Hopefully next year there will be an opportunity for hotel users to book a room and look directly at the fastest living creature in the world from their beds! Maybe Sir Lenny Henry will come and see them for himself at one of our Watch Point events!

For those able to make it into Derby city centre, don't forget that all our free public WatchPoints are still going on. Click the "WatchPoint" Tab on our homepage for details.

We will keep you informed of the situation when we know more.
If you would still like to support us, and perhaps help us purchase better cameras for next season, click the Donate Tab on our blog for details of how to do this.

Some of you are still managing to get screengrabs - such as the one below by Sandee taken on 16th June:
All three looking out....screengrab by Sandee 16/6/15

Nick M
Project Team

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Growing Up Fast

The three chicks are now becoming juveniles and, as many of you have commented, have undergone a rapid transformation.
No longer are they white. Their feathers have developed quickly and there's hardly any white fluff left.
This screenshot was captured yesterday (13th) in the rain.
Screengrab on 13th June by Sandee
And here's another showing a (rather wet) feeding session:
Time for some food - screengrab by SunnyKate

The three youngsters are gaining strength in their musculature, especially exercising their wings by flapping.
Their maiden flights won't happen just yet....they need longer to develop before they take the plunge.
As they move about the nest, they will frequently disappear from sight, even climbing up round the edges and on the central metal rail. If you think you only see two or even one birds...please keep watching before panicking! The third bird will (usually) reappear sooner or later.
This shows where the juveniles can get to out of camera sight
We do apologise for the intermittency of the cameras. This year we have been plagued with a variety of faults, compounded by the fact that the cathedral is completely closed off all through the week as major renovation work (including putting in a new electrical system) takes place.
In addition the city council, its IT team and Serco, who manage the council's IT for them (and who have been extremely helpful to and supportive of this project) have been making various changes to their systems.
The current problems do require assistance from Serco who are only available during the week - exactly when the cathedral is out of bounds! 
So please bear with us - and thank you to those regular followers who have been so tolerant and patient recently.
The Project Team

Next Watch Points:
Wednesday 17th June 11.30 am - 1.30 pm and
Saturday 20th June, 10 am to 1.30 pm, weather permitting.

By Saturday we hope that some White Letter Hairstreak butterflies will have emerged and be visible on the large elm tree by the bridge over the inner ring road nearby. For directions or to learn about a special butterfly-watching event on Sunday 21st June (butterflies and weather permitting) email 

Monday, 1 June 2015

Don't turn your back for one moment

Report on the (wet) Watch Point on Saturday 13th June. Helen Naylor, one of our volunteers reported that:
All three juveniles were looking fit and healthy during this morning's watch point despite the heavy rain! There was some vigorous wing flapping and plenty of preening taking place. One of the youngsters remained perched on the edge of the platform for some time giving us good views through the telescopes below. Both of the adult birds stayed on the hotel lettering for a while, until the male bird tucked himself away in a more sheltered spot on the cathedral tower! 

Some of the children and parents from Leys Junior School in Alfreton braved the weather to come and watch the birds after learning about them in class. Hopefully it was a great experience for them to see the birds for real!
{Meanwhile, inside the tower, Nick M spent two hours trying to find the fault that keeps freezing the cameras. He has an idea what it may be but fixing it will depend on Serco, the city council's IT management agency so that will have to wait until next week. We apologise for these problems}.

Saturday (6th June). 
A good turn out in sunny but windy conditions. The chicks obliged occasionally by poking their heads above the front of the nest platform. About 1pm there was some action from both parents and a considerable amount of calling too.
A wood pigeon is sitting on eggs just below and to the left of the platform as you look up from Cathedral Green. The nest is exactly where the falcon usually likes to perch when the juveniles
are fledging.......what will happen I wonder?
It was good to see plenty of children today, including some really knowledgeable ones! Hope they go home and watch the web cams.....

Thanks to our volunteers, Hilary, Sue and Helen - sterling work!
A week is a long time in politics, they say. But it's also an absolutely huge amount of  time in the life of a rapidly developing peregrine. Having been out of the country for just over a week, Nick M managed to miss both the ringing of the chicks at around  21 days old, as well as last Saturdays first watchpoint (see previous post and below). He returned to sort out a few IT problems and to appreciate just how much our eyasses (young peregrines) have grown.
It takes just six weeks from hatching to leaving the nest - whereas in humans its around 18 years or so!
The video below was captured this morning and shows how well the birds can now move around, and how their first flight feathers are now developing.  Webcam Stream 3 has now been changed to reveal the 'far side' of the nest platform, so this should help when they move out of sight on the main nest camera.

THE FIRST WATCH POINT of the YEAR  - a report, by Ian Layton, our Engagement Officer:

Sometimes things just go your way” was Steve C’s comment as we held our first Watch Point of the year and the weather held good for us all day despite a dodgy forecast!

Cathedral Green was quiet when we started to arrive – but by the time we’d liberated a table from the Cathedral and got our scopes and everything else ready, both the town and the peregrines seemed to have become a little more lively. We were ready for folks to use the scopes by 9.50 am – at which time both adults were sitting on the lip of the platform.
Steve and I performed our usual role of talking to passers-by, while Helen and Hilary (the more knowledgeable half of the day’s team) explained to people what they were seeing and answered a whole range of questions from some about the young to others about the Wildlife Trust. Hilary was as well prepared as ever, having come clutching screen shots of the platform from the webcams. Meanwhile, Helen kept count of just how many people we spoke to.

The birds were quite forthcoming for much of the day – and the tiercel (male peregrine) seemed to be looking straight at me every time I looked through a 'scope! Even the youngsters made a few appearances throughout the morning – I would think we saw them peering over the edge five or six times much to the pleasure of those at the scopes at the time.
The adult peregrines often sit on the lettering on this hotel nearby
from where they can keep watch on the nest
By mid morning however, they seemed to get a little restless (peckish!) and the male headed off over the Derwent and seemed to circle over towards the cricket ground for a good while, whilst the female made a few shorter flights but returned from each after five or ten minutes – which we were most pleased about as without the adults we had little to show people except for the wood pigeon nest just below the platform!

By midday they were both back – though without any prey – and were sitting mostly on the platform though the tiercel kept drifting off to his favoured spot on top of the louvres – and on occasion flitting across to the Jury’s Inn sign to get out of the north wind that was blowing.

So the peregrines were on form – both young and old – as were the good folks of Derby. Even though the day was quiet and it was the first Watch Point of the year we had over 150 visits to the telescopes – including some people who had made the journey from Sinfin and Peartree – and who stayed much of the morning. We also encouraged folks from as far afield as Japan to view the birds. We handed out loads of “Urban Wildlife Spotters Sheets” and have even had a couple back already – not bad going as we were saying that Wednesday is the key day for feedback!

All in all a really good start to the season – and as always a huge thanks to the volunteers who made it possible – Hilary, Helen and Steve C.