Sunday, 19 May 2019

Watch Points start and some Updates

Update on the first Watch Point:
In good weather, the first of this season's Watch Point events took place on Saturday (25th May) with over 50 people attending.
Mike Goold (from DWT) took this photo of the falcon leaving the tower:

Legs trailing, the falcon sets off from the tower. Mike Goold
The next WP event is on Wednesday 5th June so do come down and say hello and see the adults at least 'for real'.
And here's an Update on the second WP written by Joyce to whom thanks (on 29th May):
"Helen, Steve, Tony and Joyce welcomed 90 visitors to the first Wednesday Watchpoint on Cathedral Green today including a ‘Walking For Health’ group and families with children on half-term holiday. One lady was visiting from Sydney Australia!
The Chicks are too small to be seen yet, but here are the adults who treated us to some flights between the tower and Jurys Inn. The male flew off for a while on a hunting trip, but sat on top of one of the cameras on his return.  We guessed that the female was keeping the chicks warm and well fed, as it was rather cool and breezy today for much of the morning.  She did sit on the nest ledge for a while too, so our visitors had some good views".

Update on the third WP from volunteer Antony P:
Over 120 people attended today's watch point in what was (eventually) warm sunshine.. The chicks were fed twice in quick succession early on, first by the female and then by the male and both adults were around for much of the watch point frequently flying between the tower and the Jurys Inn to the delight of visitor and volunteer alike. We also got our first decent look at one of the youngsters as it sat next to 'Dad' for an hour or so with its head clearly showing over the edge of the platform.

Each year Derbyshire Wildlife Trust organises a series of Watch Point events on Cathedral Green, the grassy area behind the cathedral....and this year will be no exception.

Emma Wood has organised the rota of volunteers who will operate the Watch Points, set up the telescopes etc so that everyone can see the birds 'for real'. This will be especially important this year with no access to the web cams so far anyway...
Watch Points start on Saturday 25th May from roughly 10.30 to 1.00pm dependent on the weather of course. If it is wet they won't happen....
Then they run every Wednesday and Saturday until 6th July.
Do please try to come along and say 'hello' both to our wonderful volunteers and to the birds themselves!
The Project Team

Please scroll down to read about the current state of play regarding eggs and chicks...…
(A visit to the cathedral today (31/5)  to try to see on the monitor how many chicks we have proved fruitless because they had all moved out of range of the only camera that can be seen on the monitor half way up the tower...which is pointed at the side where the eggs were laid. So we are no wiser as yet!)

Friday, 17 May 2019

Two peregrine chicks confirmed at Derby

Yesterday morning we were able to confirm that we now have two young peregrine falcon chicks on Derby Cathedral, and two eggs that may well not now hatch. These will no doubt be incubated for some time to come until they either hatch, or she gives up on them completely. Meanwhile, both adults are caring for their new arrivals very attentively, as we see from the two clips below.

We've not been able to bring you all the interesting video sequence we retrieved yesterday, but these moments included prolonged periods of preening and others of the male frequently bringing in food which were not well-received, so he flew off with them until later in the day. Plus this lovely one below showing how our falcon spreads her wings and turns her back so as to protect the chicks from the heat of the morning sun, whilst still attempting to keep warm those remaining two eggs.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

First view of new chicks

After teasing us with late egg-laying and late hatching, we're pleased to be able to report that we now have our first chick - or chicks - of the season.

We'd expected signs of hatching last Thursday (see post) but yesterday a return visit to Derby Cathedral's tower to check our cameras revealed some tantalising glimpses of our new arrivals.
With the sun having only just risen above the horizon, and shining directly into the camera, we can make out one tiny chick being carefully shielded by its mother.

As you can see from the other video clip below, our falcon is still incubating at east two of the clutch of four eggs, though whether these will ever hatch seems unlikely. What we do know is that one tiny white chick had definitely hatched, and possibly a second one too - but there was not enough showing to be confident.

Why can't we be sure? (Ignore this bit if you aren't into the technicalities of our Project)
Basically, it's down to my own stupidity! Our modern IP cameras automatically detect and record any movement in the nest, storing short video clips on a memory card built into the camera itself. When that 32Gb card is full, any new recordings overwrite older ones so we always see the latest activity. With our internet link still not established (see below for update), the only way to know what's been going on is to climb up the tower, and plug a laptop into the circuitry going to the outdoor camera, and scroll through its internal recordings.. Previously, these recording had been very low quality, so I remarked in an earlier blog post how I had tweaked its settings, and had also increased video resolution. Unfortunately, I went too far the other way, without realising the consequences, So on Monday, I discovered the disk was completely full of lots of consecutive uninteresting clips of shuffling on the nest, but each one in vastly higher resolution that was necessary. As a result, the memory card inside the camera was completely full with just one day's incubation. Any real activity of hatching, or that first feed (no doubt on Friday or Saturday) had been completely overwritten. I really am sorry about that and have now increasing image compression, reduced video clip size, and attempted to reduce the sensitivity of the motion detection software itself. Providing I haven't gone too far the other way, this should now give us fewer clips, but each with greater interest in them. So, no more 50 second clips using 200Mb of storage space, I hope. Fingers crossed, everyone!

We do have some progress to report on reestablishing a link from the ancient cathedral tower to the nearby Council House. We understand a new pole has been fitted and cabled up which will have line-of-sight to the tower once the wireless link equipment is installed there. We then aim to meet (later this week, perhaps) to determine what we need to do at the Cathedral end. It would be unfair of me to promise a re-connection immediately, but we are doing our best. I'm hoping the easiest way is to establish a link from the Clock Room (which houses our IT equipment) by rigging up a small aerial outside, just above the nave roof, which won't be visible to anyone else or impact on the structure of this important listed building. If that's too low down, we might then consider something inside one of the window alcoves in the Ringing Room, which is slightly higher up, but more prone to accidental disturbance. We will keep you informed of our investigations, and we apologise to everyone who has been disappointed that Derby's Peregrines aren't currently watchable online. Of course, in a few weeks, we'll be able to consider Watchpoints from outside the Cathedral. Watch this space!

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Still awaiting hatching

With hatching expected around 8th May this year (quite a bit later than other local pairs) a climb up the spiral staircase at Derby Cathedral was expected to reveal to us that at least one new chick had hatched.

As the video below shows, as at this morning (9th May) our falcons are still incubating four eggs. No sign of pipping could be detected, though some background chirps did make us wonder if we were hearing a soon-to-hatch chick inside its egg, or some other source of noise entirely. Reviewing the automated recordings shows how one or other bird has sat tight on those eggs during some pretty horrible weather.

It has certainly been very wet and windy these last few days, but peregrine falcons are mountain birds and have adapted to coping in bad weather. Less can be said of our nest camera which now bears a round tidemark from a large raindrop that formed on the front of the lens cover!