Thursday, 31 May 2007

Springwatch prospects

Many people are asking if 'our' Derby peregrines will feature on the BBC's current Springwatch programme. Well, we've sent them a DVD of the best video clips and apparently they like what they've seen. However if they do use them it will be next week or the week after. They promise to give us prior notice....... so we will try to alert you.
Ps. They also liked the night-time sequences and might use these on the 'nightshift' part of the programme. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Anyone smell a rat?

Someone walking along Queen Street near the cathedral this morning about 07.30am heard a commotion and saw what he took to be a peregrine carrying a largish mammal with a long tail. The only likely mammal in the area fitting that description is the brown rat...did anyone see any prey brought to the chicks on the webcams this morning looking like a mammal? Please leave a comment or email

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Moving About

No doubt everyone has realised that the two chicks are moving about now and that they may only be visible from the 'other' don't panic....they're still on the platform - and visible!
The day brightened up after a wet start and both adults took advantage of the sun and wind to soar high above the cathedral this afternoon, accompanied at one point by a passing sparrowhawk.
The family events went well and the children had great views of both adults through the telescopes. They also made model peregrines, watched a short powerpoint presentation and played food chain games on Cathedral Green. Catch 'em young!
We have had more feedback including kind words from someone watching in Hawaii. Thanks and welcome!
More good news on the sponsorship front today too, with Capita UK now offering us more staff time and £1000 towards our financial needs. More on this to follow. Incidentally, visitors to the watchpoint have donated over £200 already - many thanks if you have put a pound in the donations box!
Finally, BBC TV's Springwatch website has links to our web cams on its home page. Let's hope they decide to show some of the video footage we have sent them sometime during the next three weeks.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Bank Holiday Monday

Another cold, windy day with showers too. Arriving at the cathedral I was greeted by an enormous queue of people which encircled the cathedral - could they have come to see our birds? Sadly not. They were waiting to board some 90 coaches for the big football match at Wembley this afternoon!
Meanwhile, we watched the female pluck some prey and feed it to the chicks. The male joined her on the platform briefly, as viewers of the webcam between 10-11am may have seen. Later, he flew off, making a very distinct alarm call at another male peregrine which was circling the tower high up. Was this an intruder or perhaps the young male from last year's brood?
While on the Green, we met a man who was filming his grandchildren fishing on the river nearby two weeks ago. He spotted a great spotted woodpecker flying upstream which he started to film. To his amazement, it was chased and eventually caught by the male peregrine right in front of his eyes! He managed to capture the whole event on film and we hope he'll lend us a copy so we can share this observation with you....

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Wet and windy Sunday

A very wet day in Derby today, with the female again doing her best to keep the chicks dry. Meanwhile, a visit to the cathedral this morning revealed that the male has tucked himself into a snug, dry crevice in the top of the window above the nest. Alright for some eh?
Naturally we were forced to cancel the watchpoint. The forecast for tomorrow isn't much better either......

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Gone Walkabout

A visit to the webcams this morning might have alarmed some viewers. Where is the second chick? Thanks to our other camera, it was easy to see that our chicks are now starting to wander about more freely than ever. Click image to enlarge One walked over on its own to the other half of the nest ledge on derby cathedral's tower before Mum came to collect it. Of course, the other chick then felt abandoned and began calling loudly!

We received some interesting comments on Friday from a viewer, saying that around 7pm local time they had witness one of the parents consuming one of the old eggs. Certainly, one does seem to have disappeared, and we may be able to check our film footage and capture exactly how this happened.
A couple of dozen video clips have just been posted off to Devon, at the request of the BBC, where Bill Oddie, Kate Humble and a huge team of technicians are preparing for this years TV extravaganza - "Springwatch". Broadcast each night on prime-time UK television, it uses live cameras and specialist photographers to capture and broadcast the marvels of British wildlife. Whether they will want to use our footage is another matter. But time will tell.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Worldwide Web indeed

A big thanks to everyone who has already 'commented' to our request for feedback (May 19th, Where are you watching from?).

27 comments so far and a further dozen direct to the Trust indicate that the site is very much appreciated and being avidly watched in many places in the USA, Canada and Australia, with further peregrine addicts in France and Hungary as well as many across the UK!

Please keep the comments coming. Reply either directly to this post or to the previous one or email us at We are particularly keen to hear from teachers about how they are already or might like to use the peregrine story at school. Such responses are best sent to the email address above if you will.

The family events on 29th and 30th May (see 19th May post) are aimed at 7-11 year olds with a parent accompanying them. They are filling up nicely now, with just a few places left. Ring the wildlife trust office on 01773 881188 in office hours to book a place.......but hurry!
We have put together a powerpoint presentation and a 'make a model peregrine' activity for the children who will also get to see the birds directly through our telescopes.
Very soon the chicks will be viewable from the ground as they begin to poke their heads above the front of the platform to view the world for the first time. This is a further incentive to visit the watch points which are now running daily on Cathedral Green between 10am and 2pm, weather permitting, and thanks to the volunteers who have been running them for us!

Our First Sponsor!

Capita logo - our first supporting partnerWe would like to welcome Capita as the first sponsors of the Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project. This is an exciting moment for us, as Capita are Derby City Council's IT support agents, and nationally have a huge role in supporting key business operations.

Until now, our project has utilised their expertise in wireless connectivity and server configuration in a normal customer-client relationship. i.e. someone pays for their skills, and this has been the City Council.

But now we hear that they are keen to support our project by offering us free technical support. Not only that, they are keen to meet the cost of a second "Peregrine Watch" banner which will Watch Out for another banner like this one - but bearing the name of Capita - a new supporting partnermore effectively promote and publicise our manned Watch Points on Cathedral Green, in both this and future years. The Watch Points are now running every day in good weather from 10am-2pm right to, and perhaps beyond, fledging in mid-late June. (see blog entry for May 15th)

We don't expect Capita to be at our beck-and-call every minute of the day, but it does mean we can now pursue some IT developments this season to give us a more rugged service without incurring costs we simply can't afford. Not only that, we can talk together about future IT opportunities for next season - something we've already started to think about.

If you would like to donate to the Peregrine Project, or discuss sponsoring us in some way, please contact any of the three Project Partners. Very soon we will have a "shopping list" of the essential items we will need to purchase once we've returned the items loaned to us this season.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Zooming Marvellous

Close-up of 8-day old chicks during a feed on 17th May. Click image to enlargeUntil a couple of weeks ago the only way to zoom in our cameras was to climb the first 82 steps of the spiral stone staircase inside Derby Cathedral's mediaeval tower. There we could connect a hand controller to adjust the camera. But Derby photograper and electronics expert, John Salloway, recently built us a simple relay device to replace it. By connecting this device to our Axis video server I can now control the camera over the internet, and get wonderful shots like these. So if the webcam picture changes whilst your watching, you'll know that I'm there fiddling again. It's also clear that our two chicks are starting to lose their sweet looks!

Sunday, 20 May 2007

First Walkabout

After witnessing the chicks first "projectile poo" on Thursday, we saw another first today - an exploratory walkabout, as this series of pictures shows. Click on any shot to enlarge.
Shot 1 of 5. Taken at 13:19:48pm 20 May 2007 Shot 2 Taken at 13:21:32pm Shot 3 Taken at 13:22:24pm Shot 4 Taken at 13:22:35pm Shot 5 Taken at 13:24:03pm

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Where are you watching from?

With hits now well over 60,000, and increasing by 3000 a day, we are aware that there are many folk watching the Derby peregrines from abroad, as well as the UK. It would be great if you would post a 'comment' letting us know where you are, what you think of our birds and also, perhaps, if you are watching at work, at school or at home......or elsewhere!
We hope to develop the educational side of this project as soon as we can. If you have ideas for linking the peregrine story and the web cam pictures to school curricular work in particular, please get in touch (
This half term the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is running four pre-booked 'family' activity sessions on the peregrines at the cathedral, aimed at 7-11 year olds, accompanied by their parents. Those on Tuesday 29th May are full but there are still some places on Wednesday 30th, both am and pm. There is a small charge. For details and to book places, ring the Trust office on 01773 881188 anytime after 9am on Monday.
Details of a similar event run by Derby Museum in June will follow later.

Friday, 18 May 2007

TV Stars

BBC Television came to Derby to film at Derby Cathedral yesterday. It was our Peregrines, and those who come to watch them, that were centre stage. BBC TV film crew during a Peregrine Watch Point - now on every day from 10am-2pm through May. The nest platform is just visible in the lower left hand corner of the dark bell tower window. Click image to enlargeA new series called "Nature in Britain" is being filmed this summer, to be presented by Alan Titchmarsh - well known in the UK as a TV gardener and all-round presenter.

Three cameramen, sound recordist, interviewer and producer gathered at the Peregrine Watch Point (now on Cathedral Green every day from 10-2pm) to talk to shoppers and passers-by.

Later, whilst we were filming inside the tower we were lucky enough to see on-camera one of the chicks doing its first "projectile poo" - by 8 days old they can squirt out their faeces some 15-20cm. This is the white mess you see on the wooden sides of the platform, but sadly the activity doesn't BBC TV film crew during a Peregrine Watch Point - now on every day from 10am-2pm through May in good weatherquite come across that well with static web images.

There was mild concern yesterday about the adult male's left eye, which he was keeping closed for much of the time, though it did not stop him hunting for food. We'll bring you more news of this in the next few days.

As well as the Peregrine Falcons, two other local wildlife features in Derby were being filmed: the crayfish at Markeaton Brook, and the sand martins and skylarks at The Sanctuary - which is the city's first bird reserve, right next door to Pride Park Football Stadium.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Breakfast Feed

The chicks get a breakfast feed on Wed 16th May at 07:48am. Click image to enlarge.For the last few days the chicks have been fed about 20 minutes either side of 08:00 BST (local time). This is a good time before heading off to work to watch for clear views of the chicks and the two addled eggs. Feeding is now getting more frequent during the day. Our chicks are already much larger and will soon lose those charming looks they first had when they hatched. (That's the wonder of the Atkin's diet.)

All our webcam pictures include a local date and time at the top, so those of you watching in different time zones - and we know there are many - will be able to work out how far ahead or behind us you are.

We do try to answer any questions included in viewers' comments - and we're starting to get quite a few now, and some helpful feedback too, but we apologise for any delay between posting and publishing. There's no need to repost - any delay is the result of the moderation process we use. We aren't online 24/7, though sometimes it seems like it.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Birds for Real!

Click on image to enlarge Miraculous as it is to see our birds on the screen, there's nothing quite like watching an angry peregrine fly over your head chasing off a passing buzzard or flying up to the nest carrying food!
So, provided you live near enough (sorry to our foreign web-watchers, eg those of you in New Jersey who sent such a nice comment to the blog) please do come down to Derby and join us at the Watch Points organised by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust which will be running on Cathedral Green daily from 16th May. Weather permitting, we plan to be there with telescopes between 10am and 2pm each day.

Cathedral Green is situated at the back of the cathedral and from there we get good views up to the tower (though not into the platform of course). The Assembly Rooms multi-storey car park is just 100 metres down Full Street and there is on-street parking as well (metered except on Sundays). Buses run close by and the train station is only 20 minutes walk away.
If you have your own optics, do bring them along, but we will have a couple of telescopes for you to use, so don't worry if you haven't.
Last year, we had over 2000 visitors in less than three weeks. This year we plan to run the Watchpoint daily until the two chicks fledge in June....that is, if we can get enough volunteers helping us to run it! If you would be interested in helping, we need people able to stand for up to four hours on the green, helping visitors to get good views of the birds through the telescopes. If you could help, please phone Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on 01773 881188 and leave your name and phone number, or your email address and we'll get back to you. The office number has an answer machine running outside office hours.
To check if the watchpoint will be running, go to
See you soon maybe?

Monday, 14 May 2007

Egg Failure

Derby's peregrines are not alone in failing to hatch all the eggs in the clutch. The peregrines in Exeter hatched only one out of three and those in Bath hatched only two out of three, so we are following a bit of a trend it seems.
Note: if you are a new visitor to the blog, be sure to scroll down and see and hear the excellent YouTube video of the chicks being fed.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Wet or what?

Our female keeps her two chicks dry during stong easterly wind and rain, but is sodden herself. The wet object at the bottom of the picture is a prey item, not a chick! Click image to enlarge No doubt, everyone watching the web cam this afternoon will be concerned about the chicks welfare as the brooding bird becomes wetter and wetter in this heavy and persistent rain which is blowing straight at the East face of the tower, where the platform is situated.
Peregrines traditionally live and nest in very exposed mountain and sea cliff habitats and are use to getting wet as well as brooding chicks in heavy rain...though they obviously don't like it any more than we do! For now, we can only keep our fingers crossed....
The platform has many drainage holes and these were checked in February when the gravel was renewed, so we trust there will not be any build-up of water beneath the chicks.
It will be interesting to see if the parents attempt to feed the chicks while this rain persists. No doubt they have stashed some drier prey somewhere on the tower in case of weather like today's when hunting is presumably out of the question. Attempting a feed might not be a wise move right now......
Identification of the sodden corpse that is partially lying under the brooding bird is problematic but if you think you can identify it, please add a comment to this blog entry. (Subsequent comments suggest a thrush - thanks for that).
Postscript: At about 18.50pm the rain stopped and a feed took place. Two dry-looking chicks were seen begging for food. So all's well though I guess we must abandon hope that the two remaining eggs will hatch.
The brooding falcon still looks incredibly wet now that she has settled back on the will be a long, uncomfortable night for her!

Sunday preyers

While we wait to see if the last two eggs might hatch, the study of the amazing range of prey that these birds are taking continues.
Around the cathedral this morning were some teal feathers and also the rather soggy remains of a black headed gull. While these species have been recorded as prey here at Derby before, a feather from a robin found recently was an additional species to add to the lengthening list we already have.
While at the cathedral, it was good to see swifts back in town, screaming overhead early this morning. Last year we found swift feathers beneath the tower and we know from other urban peregrine nest sites that these fast fliers are not fast enough to evade the talons of peregrines.
The male bird was dozing on the edge of the platform and he was still there when I returned home and turned on my computer, so it may occasionally be worth switching to see the view from the other camera when the brooding bird seems settled and inactive.

No Change: - still just the two chicks

By late Saturday evening we still had just the two chicks. They had a good feed around 8pm, possibly from a thrush, though most of the time the chicks remain out of sight under Mum, who is still sitting on both them and the eggs. According to the books, it's rarely more than 48 hours between the first and last eggs hatching, so it seems increasingly likely that the remaining eggs may not be viable.
In Columbus, Ohio none of their four eggs have hatched this year, so now they've all been removed in the hope this may trigger the adults to try again. But it does seem rather late in the season. Do visit their blog, if only to see the stunning photo of their female, Scout, taken as she was defending her nest site as the addled eggs were removed.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Still Just The Two

Click to enlarge, or click the image below to watch the full video Mum and Dad have taken well to their task of feeding the chicks. We had thought we might see another arrival by this morning, but there's been no change. They had a good feed at 8am this morning, and the shot above was taken during a later feed at 1pm. Click on the "play" symbol in the image below to watch a video clip of this feed. Note: Following numerous emails and comments from people who came to Cathedral Green in Derby to see the birds for real, may we reassure you all that both chicks fed very well. This is only about half of the full sequence we filmed. What happened next was that the left-hand chick continued to be fed for a while until it was totally gorged. It then flopped, exhausted, over its sibling's shoulder who was then fed until it, too, seemed replete. of course, if you look at subsequent blog entries you'll see for yourself how well the two chicks are doing on their rich diet.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Breaking News - we've hatched!

News came this morning that two of our peregrine eggs had hatched. One observer, Martin, reported seeing tell-tale signs of fluffy white under the female at around 10.30pm last night. Both he and Tony from Derby Cathedral then confirmed at around 7am this morning that two chicks had hatched, with two eggs remaining.

The photo above shows our female settling back down to incubate her remaining eggs and to protect the two new arrivals. Checking the video recorder today, we can see that the first egg probably hatched around 9.30pm last night. At one point, sometime before dawn, the adult female could clearly be seen eating one of the egg shells, though the chicks stayed mostly out of view until the morning.
Daylight brought some clear views to webcam-watchers of the two tiny white chicks, flopped down beside the remaining two eggs. But you had to be quick to see them when the parent birds swapped incubation shifts. It was amusing to see the male take over for a few short spells, as his smaller size makes it quite a challenge for him to cover both the eggs and the wriggling chicks. But he did it. Frustratingly all we’ve so far seen of feeding efforts have been obscured by the female having her back to the camera.

News of the arrivals soon spread, with Radio Derby covering our arrivals both in their news bulletins and with a good interview with Nick Brown from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust late this afternoon. We’ll be getting film footage off to BBC TV tomorrow.

Visitors to our webcams this evening may have wondered why the picture kept coming and going. This wasn’t because the 3,000 visitors today caused the guys at Streamdays a problem – it was simply our light sensor which detects the change from day to night. The artificial illumination on the Cathedral’s tower was causing the sensor to trip in and out, changing the camera from daylight to infra-red mode. There’s little we can do, I’m afraid; the option of a quick abseil to adjust the camera is quite out of the question!
We’re all hoping for more breaking news tomorrow, and those of us who have been checking out the peregrines in Ohio are saddened to learn from their blog that this year’s eggs seem not to be viable. A great disappointment for everyone there.
Follow the links at the left side of this page to view our own webcameras.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Signs of hatching...what to watch for

It's hard to believe it's been nearly a month since our peregrines laid their first egg in the nest, and just three weeks since we went online.

And now our eggs are about to hatch. In fact, we thought yesterday that they had already done so, as we've received feedback from a peregrine expert that our female was sitting differently on the nest. We watched the cameras all afternoon, but spotted four eggs on a changeover at 3pm. We thought the strong winds were causing the larger female to brace herself by spreading out her wings, but today she still has an outspread posture, even in calm weather. At 11am her four eggs were still visible to us.

So what are the signs to watch out for? Donna Daniel at the Columbus Peregrine Falcon Project in Ohio has just published some wonderful notes about what signs we might see. She's kindly let me reproduce them here, with a few modifications of our own.

When will they hatch?
Firstly, incubation takes about 33 days, but it's difficult to say when the birds actually start. Counting from the date of the 4th egg, which appeared on 10th April, 33 days is 13th May, so that is when we predicted hatching to occur. However, it's not an exact science, and if we count from when the 3rd egg was laid on 8th April, this gives us a hatching date of 11th May. But all along we've been saying somewhere between 8th -13th May to be safe!!

Don't be surprised if hatch begins earlier and don't panic if they are late! And, remember that the eggs won't all hatch at once - they will hatch over a couple of days.

Given that, here are some signs to help tell when hatching is close:
A day or so prior to hatching the chicks will begin vocalizing from inside the egg and pecking to work their way out. The adult birds can hear the chirping and feel the vibration, so their behavior will change. While throughout the majority of incubation they have sat tight on the eggs, they will now become very restless. They will get up and look down at the eggs more often, settle back down, and be up looking again within a short time. We have a microphone above the nest scrape, but it's not online yet. Sound will still be captured on film, and we will be monitoring it from our office inside Derby Museum.

After hatching the chicks need to be kept warm, so our female will brood the hatchlings. This may look similar to incubation but she will actually be sitting up higher and may hold her wings out from her body more than we see during incubation. Finally, keep in mind that some or all of the eggs may not even hatch. We have no plans to intervene in any way with this natural process.

Our female is now showing increasing interest in the eggs beneath her. At 5pm yesterday the male arrived carrying a small prey item, ready plucked, which suggests his instinct to bring food to the chicks was prematurely kicking in.

So let's hope for good weather, and enjoy watching the eggs hatch live on camera. And if you want a sneak preview of what's to come here, why not visit the live streaming video webcams in Ohio, where recent talk has been of a small hole appearing in one of their eggs.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

The Calm Before The Storm

Female peregrine incubating her four eggs. Click to enlarge picture. It's a deceptively quiet time now.

We're now settling in to a routine of around 500 new visitors, plus another 500 returning visitors to our webcams every day. We welcome you all, and thank you for heeding the call to close your browsers after watching. It's done the trick, and drastically lightened the load on the Streamdays servers.

The Derby Cathedral peregrines have now settled into an incubation routine, too. It's clear that the female sits on the eggs for most of the night, getting relieved either an hour or two before dawn, or shortly afterwards. There are usually a couple of changeovers during the day before she resumes again for the night shift. Only once so far has the male spent most of the night on the eggs.

Male peregrine incubating four eggs. Note his smaller size, darker tone, and tiny dot on the side of his face. Click to enlarge picture.These changeovers nornally takes less than a minute, but once or twice the eggs have been left exposed for six or seven minutes.

Sometimes the sitting bird simply doesn't want to move. More than once the larger female has seemed to stand bemused by her failure to rouse her partner, or vice versa. But she's bigger, and when she waddles slowly in from the right side of the platform he invariably gets up and flies off. If you see a changeover online you're quite lucky. Had we managed to get our audio channel up and running in time this would have been a useful early-warning of a changeover, as the birds call to each other with a gentle chirrupping or ee-chupping sound when one of them arrives on the ledge.

So how do you tell which is the male and which is the female?
The answer is it's not always easy when there's only one bird there. But look firstly for size. The female (top picture) is considerably bulkier than the male (lower picture). Because of her bulk, her wing tips usually stick upwards much more than those of the male. She is a lighter grey tone than him. If you look at the male in the lower picture, you'll see he is smaller and slightly neater in size, with a darker tone to his head and back. Note, too, the tiny white dot on his right moustache-like stripe on his head. The female doesn't have this, and it's visible too through a telescope from Cathedral Green. When they are side by side, there's no problem. She is so much bigger then he is, and he acts quite submissively to her.

We've pulled back on the zoom a little bit as the night-time focussing wasn't very sharp when the camera was really close up. At night it's nearly always the bulkier female who incubates the eggs. hatching won't be too far away, and our next blog entry will give you some clues to watch out for when it becomes imminent.
Behind the scenes it's anything but a quiet time. The DWT are busy gathering volunteers together to organise various Watch events on Cathedral Green, whilst the Museum is in talks with Streamdays about a possible full-speed streaming video service.. We've had a BBC wildlife photographer down to film at The Sanctuary and at Derby Cathedral this week for a new series on the Nature of Britain with Alan Titchmarsh. We're working on ways to remotely focus and zoom the peregrine camera in time for hatching, and we're trying to get an audio stream and a still image archive set up. That, plus the rest of our duties, it's far from a quiet time. Someone once asked whether we did this for the money. Most certainly not; it's for the love of the work that we do.

Meanwhile, enjoy watching.