Saturday, 23 February 2019

Cleaning up our act

Warm, calm weather last Thursday allowed the team to do some pre-breeding season preparations on the nest platform, located half a rope-length down Derby Cathedral's tower.

Nick M goes over the edge
This work involved an abseil down from the top of the tower, which inevitably disturbed our female peregrine falcon for a short while, as she had been calmly perched on the nest platform itself. She flew off, calling vociferously for a few moments, before landing on the huge illuminated 'Y' of nearby Jury's Inn, where she remained passively until we had finished our task.

Nest cam view of the platform on Derby Cathedral, taken 21st February 2019
The abseil involved the removal and disposal of old bones and feathers, and the addition of new slate chippings to the platform. We also cleaned the lenses of the four nest cameras in readiness for their re-connection later this year, as you can see from the screenshot below.

As you may have read in earlier posts, we are investigating new ways of getting an internet connection into the 16th century stone tower - an essential requirement if we are to broadcast  the goings-on this season. The previous radio link via the Silk Mill Museum had to be dismantled when major redevelopment work of a brand-new museum concept started last autumn (read more on that here). We will keep you informed of progress as the investigations into new connectivity continue.
Nick M cleans the platform and cameras

Meanwhile, those of you lucky enough to be passing through along Full Street behind the cathedral might like to keep an eye out for our pair of peregrines on the tower. For it's now that our birds are likely to be seen courting, or even mating - an event that occurs frequently between February and late March.
The Project team

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

2019 - we're back!

First, may we start with an apology?

The Project Team have been very silent for the last few months, and are sorry for the recent inactivity on our blog and webcams.
But things are picking up again as we look to the 2019 peregrine breeding season. So here's an update of what's happening.

Our wireless webcam link to the internet ceased last autumn.  This was due to major redevelopment work at nearby Silk Mill Museum, which was the first link in our network connection. All our ancient radio link equipment was taken out of the museum building. But it's so old that it we've been advised to retire it. Shortly after that happened,  I (Nick M) disappeared completely for five months as I had to throw myself completely into a major house renovation project of my own. (I had no internet either!).

Having quite literally dusted myself off, I and Nick B have returned to pick up this year's Peregrine Project, supported by our partners, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Derby Cathedral and Derby City Council.

In the next couple of weeks we'll be doing some routine platform maintenance and camera-cleaning work, so are watching out for a good weather forecast, sometime before the first week in March.

We are talking with the IT experts at Derby City Council about finding an alternative wireless connection. Essential wireless linking equipment that last year we were advised might cost us some £10,000 to replace, might now be  replaceable for around £800 or so, which is great news. Critically, we will need line-of-sight through the tower's windows to a council-owned wireless base-station somewhere. As this has yet to be installed on an experimental basis, we will have to be patient. At this time, we can't be absolutely certain it will work, and thus it seems sensible for us to investigate alternate means of establishing an internet linking, if needs be. This we are doing with the help of the Cathedral itself.

Adult female peregrine on top of Derby Cathedral Tower
We held a meeting last week with the Cathedral administrators to discuss plans for this season, including the timing of their Tower Tours (thoroughly recommended!) and how best to manage some essential repairs that are needed to the exterior of Derby Cathedral's 14th century tower. We're currently checking the legality of our advice with Natural England, who are the government body charged with licencing or approving any activities affecting Schedule I breeding birds.

Of course, the main thing is that the peregrines are back! Well, actually, they never went away, but we are now seeing them together on nearby Jury's Inn hotel, and on the tower itself. We're also hearing that familiar ''Eee-chupp' courtship call, proving that this season's breeding is starting to kick off again. So, if you're in Derby, keep one eye out - you might even be lucky enough to see them mating.

We do recognise that we have, not unreasonably, received some criticism for our inactivity this last few months, for which I must accept responsibility and apologise. But Nick B and I are as committed as ever to helping Derby's peregrines. It has been a pleasure and a delight to have had the support - both moral and financial - from so many people for this project over the years. We know it has bought immense pleasure to many people, near and far. Long may that continue.

We might not get the cameras up and running in the next few weeks, but rest assured that we're back. Well, we never really went away, either.

The Peregrine Project Team