Sunday, 28 December 2008

Prey Update

Through December, the Derby Cathedral peregrines have continued to exhibit their catholic diet (and this on a Church of England cathedral too!).

Species identified recently have included several woodcock, teal and snipe and single collared dove, redshank, water rail and knot, the feathers of these latter birds kindly identified by Ed Drewitt at Bristol Museum.
In addition, Nick Moyes found what he thought was a dunlin corpse at the top of the tower in mid-December (photo above). To me it looked rather grey and long winged but in the absence of a head (the dunlin, not me!), identification was a bit more tricky!

The problem was further complicated by the fact that its wing measured 126mm, some10 mms longer than 'normal' dunlin wings - but exactly that of another small wading bird called a sanderling.
However, my hopes of adding this species to the growing Derby prey list were quickly dashed when I discovered something I suppose I should have known- namely that sanderling, uniquely among small waders, have no hind toes - which this bird certainly did have.
Surfing the net to see if any dunlins have longer wings, I found an article about those trapped on autumn migration in Israel and this indicated that some birds have longer wings - the longest being 130mm.
Meanwhile, I sent photos of the wing and tail to Ed and he quickly confirmed it as a dunlin, possibly from Siberia!
The photo left shows a dunlin's wing from Ed's collection.
Glancing quickly through recent records on the local bird watchers website, I could find only one dunlin reported from the vicinity of Derby - namely on at Aston on Trent Gravel Pits sometime in late November. The dunlin is indeed a rare bird inland in winter and indeed in summer too.
Now, Nick's tower-top bird was fresh when he found it on 10th December so the records don't really tie up unless the Aston bird was a long-stayer.
Alternatively, and perhaps just as likely, one of the peregrines grabbed it as it flew over Derby by night.....along with the knot (and in previous years, a mid-winter bar tailed godwit, turnstone and two further knot). Could these birds have been making nocturnal commuting flights between feeding sites on estuaries on the West and East coasts of the UK, entirely unseen by Derbyshire's oh-so-diurnal bird watchers? Who knows!
Anyway, since someone asked for the complete prey list of the 46 bird species and one mammal found at Derby Cathedral since 2005, here it is:

mallard - teal - gadwall - ruddy & tufted ducks
woodcock - common & jack snipe - dunlin - knot
redshank - lapwing - golden plover
bar & black tailed godwit - whimbrel - turnstone
quail - water rail - little grebe - moorhen
common & arctic tern - black headed gull
jay - jackdaw - crow - magpie - pied wagtail
swift - little owl - fieldfare - redwing - blackbird
song & mistle thrush - great spotted woodpecker
robin - skylark - chaffinch - goldfinch - starling
wood pigeon - feral pigeon - collared dove - waxwing
and one brown rat!

Cheers and Happy New Year to everyone!
Nick B (DWT)

Monday, 8 December 2008

Season's Greetings from the project

Season's Greetings
to all our wonderful supporters and peregrine watchers around the world - we've had a very successful year once again - in no small part due to the excellent number of people who have dedicated themselves to the web cams and blog.
You have demonstrated your enthusiasm for our site and the birds themselves, donated to the project and bought the DVD too!
In particular, thanks to everyone who has left feedback to help others appreciate what the birds have been doing, almost hour by hour. (See bottom of page for visitor survey and a chance to win £100 or equivalent in your local currency)
As you may recall, four young peregrines fledged successfully last summer, though we think the only female youngster may not have's a very steep learning curve for these novice fliers. Let's hope for another brilliant season in 2009!

The photo on the right shows the tower bathed in early morning sunshine with decorations that cross Irongate (the street than runs down into the city centre from the cathedral) silhouetted against the blue sky. The sandstone stonework of the tower has a pinky colour but the effect is much enhanced by the low morning light. The night shot was taken recently and one of the peregrines was roosting on the ledge that links the gargoyles (or 'grotesques' as they should more properly be called!) trying to hide from the glare of the floodlights.
The Cathedral now has a brand new website ( . They hope to see many of our local peregrine watchers at this year’s Christmas services detailed on the website.

Finally a big thank you to all the volunteers who helped to run the Watch Point which ran for 56 days last summer, with only two days rained off!
If you want to help next year please email If someone is willing to organise the volunteer rota that would be a big help to us - again please email us. It's a demanding job in some ways but it doesn't require going to the cathedral - so it could be undertaken by someone from their home computer......think about it and get in touch after the holiday period for more information.
Again, thanks for supporting and encouraging us throughout the past year.
Best wishes from the team:
Nick Moyes (Derby Museum)
Tony Grantham (Derby Cathedral)
Nick Brown (DWT)
Hoping you all have a nice Christmas and New Year.

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Friday, 5 December 2008

Talk on the Derby Peregrine Project

Next week (16th) Nick Brown will give a talk about Derby Peregrine Project to Carsington Bird Club (see for details). The club welcomes non members so if you live within striking distance, do come along (£2 entry). Copies of the DVD will be on sale (at £6 each) - great as a stocking filler, as we said before (see the blog entry two down from this one - 29th October - for details of how to purchase a copy direct from the wildlife trust and have it posted to you before Christmas...or if you are in Derby you can buy it direct from Derby Museum or Cathedral shops).

A week ago my partner and I visited a very well known peregrine nesting area - namely the sea cliffs at South Stack near Holyhead on the Isle of Anglesey in NW Wales.

The weather was cold though sunny as you can

see from the photo which shows South Stack Lighthouse sticking out into the Irish Sea.

After a walk up Holyhead mountain (where a distant peregrine was seen sitting on a rock) on returning to the car park just above the lighthouse we were treated to a fine flying display by a female peregrine and soon after by the same bird and her mate.

Initially she was floating along above the clifftop but then she suddenly changed up a few gears and sped off out to sea, gaining height as she went. She had seen something - a wood pigeon. She made a stoop at the pigeon but missed because the wily pigeon closed its wings and fell like a rocket down and out of sight below the clifftop, followed swiftly by the falcon. Wonderful stuff!

Then, once she re-appeared empty taloned, she circled up with her mate high into the blue sky until lost from sight. Also seen from the same point were a couple of ravens and a small group of chough, a delightful member of the crow family which has red beak and feet and feeds mainly on insects - South Stack is a favourite place for this rare bird.
Charles Tunnicliffe, the famous bird artist who lived not far away until his death in 1979, used to visit these cliffs to sketch peregrines. After he died, a book showcasing his peregrine paintings, wood cuts and line drawings was published. Called "A Peregrine Sketchbook" it is still in print and well worth purchasing. (about £20 a copy).

Nick Brown (DWT)

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Natural World magazine feature

Natural World is the national magazine of The Wildlife Trusts, a working partnership of 47 local wildlife trusts across the UK - the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust is just one of these 47. So this magazine is seen by the total membership of the wildlife trusts nationwide - about 756,000 people.

The winter edition, just about to be mailed out, has a peregrine photo on the cover and a three page feature on our Derby peregrines inside, written by yours truely, with many excellent photo's to illustrate it.
If you are a wildlife trust member, your copy will reach you shortly with your normal membership mailing.

If you are not - why not join your local trust or ask for membership as a Christmas present?
Go to or, for the Derbyshire WT, direct to for details.
Otherwise, you can buy a copy of Natural World for £5 (incl. P&P) within the UK. For the price of overseas copies please email There are only limited copies available, so first come first served! Phone us on 01773 881188 and order your copy direct (and a DVD or two as stocking fillers too maybe?)!

Meanwhile, our birds have been taking snipe and woodcock - usual autumnal fare for them......

Nick B (DWT)

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Only 56 preying days to Christmas......

Just a quick reminder that you couldn't think of a better stocking filler than our DVD 'The Peregrines of Derby Cathedral' now could you?

Even if you have your own copy (which I'm sure most of you do by now) there must be friends or relatives who'd be interested to snuggle down by a fire on a cold winter's day and watch what happens up on the cathedral tower in the heat of summer?

The price now is just £6 per copy excluding postage and packing - so do get on the buzzer and speak to someone at our Derbyshire Wildlife Trust office (01773 881188) and they will post one to you at the drop of a hat (or of a prey item if you prefer!).

Speaking of prey, our peregrines are now turning their attentions to birds that have moved down from the north and east to spend the winter near Derby.

One such is the golden plover and I found an almost complete corpse under the tower only the other day. I also read that there is now a flock of 500 of these birds feeding in fields about six miles from the cathedral and just beyond the city boundary - well within the peregrine's hunting range.
The photo shows the tail of a golden plover - what beautiful feathers these lovely birds have!

Lapwings, fieldfares and redwings will also feature on the menu shortly I have no will night-flying woodcock and maybe some rarer night-fliers such as quail and some coastal waders moving from one side of the UK to the other.....we'll just have to wait and see what turns up!

Nick B (DWT)

Monday, 13 October 2008

Children and peregrines

Last summer many schools used the webcam images to show their children what was happening on the cathedral tower....and there is so much educational learning potential quite apart from the sheer enjoyment of watching peregrines at the nest!

The drawings here are by infants from Brigg Infant School in South Normanton.
Their teacher, Helen Naylor has really used the peregrines in so many ways with her class - and the artwork they have produced is great for children so young, even if the cathedral (and the birds) appear in some interesting and lively

Last summer the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust organised some family events at the cathedral aimed at children between about 7 and 12 and these went down very well.

The Wildlife Watch Club, the junior branch of The Wildlife Trusts, used our Derby peregrine story in their national magazine more than once.

If you have children of this age then why not join the Trust as family members or just join your children into Watch Club? Details are on the Trust's website at

The national Trusts magazine, called Natural World, will have a feature article about our peregrines in the next issue which is due out shortly, so if you belong to the Derbyshire or another county trust, keep an eye open for that.

Nick Brown (DWT)
Ps. A peregrine is back on East Mill in Belper today, just above my DWT office window in fact (though I can't see it except from the outside....)

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Cooling down, warming up

This morning, with a chill in the autumnal air, both adults were warming themselves in the early morning sun that was shining onto the East face of the tower, the male on the middle gargoyle and the female out of sight of the webcam on the lead gutter just behind the camera, as seen from the ground.

Under the south face of the tower were several feathers of a teal, easily identified by the green sheen on the secondary flight feather that I picked up among many browny breast feathers. Teal are small duck which are often taken by the falcons between now and spring when this species frequents local gravel pits and reservoirs.
(The photo by Jon Salloway shows the female last summer with prey).

The last couple of days have been very warm and sunny here, perfect September days in fact and exactly the type of weather you want coming back from a holiday in SW Spain where mid day temperature were in the mid 30s!

We did see at least one peregrine while we were down there (perching on a pylon) but the main attraction was to watch the exodus of the many different types of birds of prey as they leave Europe bound for African warmth, accompanied by big flocks of white storks, much smaller groups of the rarer black stork and other species such as bee eaters, swallows and swifts.

The southward migration of these birds is focused on the short sea crossing to Morocco between Tarifa and Gibraltar. Over 100, 000 honey buzzards pass through between late August and the end of September with similar numbers of black kites and smaller numbers of short toed and booted eagles, egyptian vultures, harriers, sparrow hawks, ospreys etc. If you happen to be there on a day when the birds are moving in numbers it is really an amazing spectacle to watch. One day, apparently within an hour and a half, over 900 short toed eagles and 1000 other raptors flew over one of the watch points which have been set up to monitor this twice yearly passage.

Back here in Derbyshire it is still possible to see hobbies, especially the young birds which are honing their flying skills before they too set off bound for southern Africa. To watch these birds high in the fly sailing about catching insects is a treat to return home to. They'll soon be gone as the days get ever shorter.

Nick B (DWT)

Thursday, 18 September 2008

September Update

Our webcams are fairly quiet now that this year's young have grown up and moved away.

But there are still things to see. Passing Derby Cathedral in the morning, it's likely that I'll spot one of our adult birds perched somewhere on the ancient stone tower.

It's nice to see the bird in real life, and then arrive in my office a few minutes later and be able to continue watching the bird over one of our webcameras. Other have been lucky and watched a bird feeding in full view of our tower-top camera, sometimes even at night.

In these quiet days it is rare that both adults are seen in view together, so today it was nice to be able to catch this shot on one of our nest platform cameras. The nest scrape is obviously still being maintained in a good state, though it will be many months before it gets used for nesting again.

Anyone keen to watch nesting peregrines right now will have to visit Frodocam, or the Alcoa Anglesea webcams, both in Australia, or catch up on a lot of other world-wide peregrine news on Froona's blog, over in Holland.

Follow this link for more information on our own peregrine project, including technical details of how our set-up operates.

We'd like to take this chance to wish Canon Nicholas Henshall from Derby Cathedral all the very best in his new post in Harrogate, Yorkshire. Nicholas features on our Peregrine DVD and is a well-known Radio Derby presenter. He will be much missed.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

In Memoriam

Peregrine - adult female on Derby Cathedral. Photo by Graham Whitmore.

I hope readers will forgive me if I take a moment to note the passing of a family friend whose interest in poetry and peregrines gave pleasure to many. Ray Woodland passed away in his eighties earlier this week. A member of "PM Poets", he allowed us to reproduce one of his pieces last year, and it seems fitting to share this with you again.

The Peregrine

Swifter than swallows and straight as a dye
an elegant peregrine hunting will fly,
bright barred is his plumage, but Nature decreed
that it's hidden from laggards in bursts of sheer speed,-
he falls on his quarry as bullet from gun
and strikes ---- all is over as soon as begun,
then homeward in triumph, his prey in his claws
the bird of the whirlwinds flies on without pause
to his eyrie on cliffside or cathedral ledge
to devour his catch standing bold on the edge
in view of the watchers who envy his skill, ---
immune and indifferent, he does what he will.

Ray Woodland (1924-2008)

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Logie follows Beatrice south

Logie and Beatrice are female ospreys, birds which migrate between West Africa and their breeding areas in north Scotland. Both have satellite transmitters fixed to them thus enabling their every move to be followed.
Beatrice has just crossed the English Channel, having paid a brief visit to Rutland Water while the Bird Fair was running there last Saturday. Logie has just set off from her nest, 15 days later than she began migrating last summer.
Go the Roy Dennis' website to follow these birds and others that he has tagged (including a honey buzzard which will also soon set off south too):

Nick Brown (DWT)
The photo is by Roy and shows Logie.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Juveniles out and about

It was nice to see a juvenile visible close up on pud cam just now (Tuesday 19th at 10am).

Yesterday, about 10 miles north of Derby, I watched a juvenile peregrine flying with nine ravens. They were all enjoying the updraught by a hillside, swooping and soaring with very little effort. The peregrine repeatedly dived at the ravens, causing them to croak in mild annoyance and sometimes to turn on their backs to fend off the peregrine, which was clearly just playing casually with the corvids.

This display lasted at least 10 minutes before a light shower ended their fun and games and they all dispersed.

I suspect the bird was from a local quarry where they breed and probably not a cathedral juvenile since these birds seem to stay in the Trent valley as far as we know....though we don't really know much about the movements of the juveniles of course, having had no positive sights away from the cathedral since they fledged. One seen near Spondon a week or so ago could well have been a cathedral bird but unless someone glimpses the colour ring, we can never be sure.

The photo, by John Salloway, shows the moment back in July when a buzzard flew past the cathedral and was attacked by the female
peregrine - notice how the buzzard has turned
on its back to defend itself with its feet, just as
the ravens were doing yesterday - though they lack the sharp talons of the buzzard of course.

Nick Brown (DWT)

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Hobby ringing

On local TV last night they showed a hobby chick being ringed. What was unusual for a bird that usually breeds in old crow nests in trees was that this chick had been hatched 12 metres up on a high voltage pylon close to a power station.

A nest basket had been placed up there for the hobbies but I would guess the birds originally adopted a crow nest on the pylon. Peregrines also occasionally nest in such locations, similarly taking over old crow nests.

As with the New Forest hobby's (see previous post for web cam link), there was only one chick reared.

To see the clip go to and click on watch again / last night's programme on the right side of the screen.

The photo, courtesy of Ed Drewitt, shows peregrine chicks in Poland somewhere reared in an artificial 'basket' though on what type of structure I can't recall exactly.

Nick (DWT)

Saturday, 2 August 2008

watching hobby chicks

To watch two hobby chicks in a nest in southern England go to
the New Forest Gateway website where you can watch the live web cams (rather boring since the two chicks get fed only 1-2 times all day and otherwise just sit there!) or to see highlights of this and last year's action at the nest - which is frankly much better.

The hobby is the smaller cousin of the peregrine. It uses the old nests of crows and there are some 30+ pairs in the county of Derbyshire and maybe 1500 in the UK. The birds are very secretive at the nest and finding them is very difficult.

Since their numbers are low nationally - and because of egg collecting - this species has the same high level of protection as the peregrine in the UK.

Hobbies take smaller prey than peregrines - birds like larks, swallows and swifts, but they also eat large numbers of insects. In the UK, dragonflies are favoured but when in Africa in winter, they follow the thunderstorms which induce termites to fly, picking off these large insects with relish. The painting top right of a hobby chasing a swallow is by Peter Partington.
The photo shows one eating a dragonfly in mid-air.

Hobbies breed much later than peregrines.
They only arrive back in the UK from their winter quarters in southern Africa during May, lay eggs in June, hatch them mid July and fledge mid August.
Nick B (DWT)

Thursday, 31 July 2008

All quiet on the western front

As was expected, there's not much action to be seen from our web cams now - just the occasional presence of an adult or juvenile bird maybe. So maybe it's time to spend more hours at the pub? The Peregrine is in Chaddesden in Derby and was named after our birds.....they even have some pictures of them up on the walls!

One solution - assuming you can't cope with blank screens (or indeed the pub!) is to make a virtual visit to the other hemispere and watch peregrines in Australia, where the peregrine breeding cycle is just starting up.

Try Frodocam at

They have a blog going this year, run by someone at the local newspaper who hosts the webcams.
Of course, if you get hooked, don't forget to keep an occasional eye on Derby and to re-join us next spring!
Nick B (DWT)

Friday, 25 July 2008

Display in the ringing chamber

The cathedral bell ringers will be showing off their skills tomorrow, Saturday 26th, in the ringing chamber (situated about a third of the way up the tower) to anyone who wants to learn about this ancient practice. In addition, there will be a small display on the peregrines in the chamber plus the option to look at the web cams via the monitor screen up there.

The usual tower climbs will operate and there's a further tower climb day the following Saturday too (2nd August) though without the bell ringers this time.
So, if you are in or near Derby, do go along although I'm not quite sure of the times - so ring the cathedral for details.

This morning the falcon was sitting below the nest platform sunning herself and dozing - you can see her nictitating membrance covering her eye. No sign of any other birds.

Don't forget to buy the DVD, now at the reduced price of £6 (plus P&P) - scroll down to the earlier blog posting for details of how to get one sent to you. We posted one off to regular blog commenter Ann in Canada yesterday - hope you get it soon Ann!

Nick B (DWT)

Monday, 21 July 2008

Web-cam outage Sunday 20th July

Scheduled work on the computer network at Derby City Council resulted in a break in our webcameras all day on Sunday. The service resumed again this lunchtime after we reboted our server inside Derby Cathedral tower. Turning on the monitor inside the bel-ringing chamber, it was a delight to see on of our adult birds not only on the nest platform, but actually scraping and picking at stones on the nest.

Note that the live video/audio feed is still functioning, albeit intermittently, for which we apologise. (See Key Links on left side of page) This seems to be a problem with equipment at our end, and not with the service generously provided by Media on Demand.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Fantastic new DVD offer!

The Peregrines of Derby Cathedral DVD price has been cut to £6 so now is the time to buy a copy if you don't already have one.
Front cover of peregrione DVD - price now reducedDelta Echo Media, the company that produced the DVD, have now covered their costs and want to contribute to the project rather than take any profit which means that when you buy a copy at this new price, almost all of your money will go directly to the three project partners.

Ashley Sims, of Delta Echo Media, said:

" We have enjoyed been associated with the peregrine project and been greatly impressed by the passion and incredibly hard work of everyone involved, so much so that, we have decided not to make any profit from this venture, instead preferring to give everything over and above the direct production costs directly back to the project partners".

So, please buy a copy now if you don't have one already, in the knowledge that most of your outlay will come directly back to support our work.
{If you have bought one at the original price, please think that only because you did so has Ashley been able to make this great offer to us now!}

To get a copy by post, just phone the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on 01773 881188 in office hours and we'll send you one at £6 (exclusive of postage) the same day.

As they say: Hurry while stocks last and while you have withdrawal symptoms!
Follow this link to find our more, or to read viewer testimonials of the DVD
Nick B (DWT)

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Of doting donors and inspired infants

Following our appeal for donations to help support this project, we are pleased to report that 26 people emailed the wildlife trust to find out how they could get money to us.

Of these, 18 kind folk have made donations totalling just over £500 to date, a very encouraging response.

Today we have been chasing up the remainder, making sure we had sent them the necessary information. So far, most have responded with encouraging emails along the lines of 'thanks for reminding me, I'll get my cheque in the post to you tomorrow'!

If anyone else is inspired to send a donation, however small, please email us at to find out how to do it.

On Monday, a large red folder appeared at the Trust office containing wonderful drawings and writing from children at Brigg Infant School near Alfreton, spurred on by Helen Naylor, their class teacher.

Once we can locate a colour scanner, we hope to reproduce some of this fabulous work by these young but eloquent children here on the blog - so watch this space!

Encouraging children to admire and understand peregrines will be a major theme of our developmental work over the winter though we will need to seek funding to underpin the staff time involved....nothing comes free these days!

The photo, taken at the watch point on one of the few wet days, shows Andy M, one of our regular volunteers, helping one local youngster to see the young peregrines standing on the edge of the platform.
We have calculated that our brilliant 24-strong volunteer team contributed over 300 volunteer hours to the running of the watch point - an excellent effort.
They were (in no particular order):
John & Sue H, Andy & Chris M, Steve & Ann R, Mary C, Ian & Judith F, Mary B, Peter W, Margaret K, Sue J, Margaret & Brian H, Jackie T, Pat S, Barry P, Mike S, Jan H, Matt B, Diane L, Lynne M and Alison R. (We hesitate to publish their full names without seeking their permission).

Meanwhile, we have been busy writing articles and short news pieces about our peregrines - check out July's Derbyshire Magazine, August's Bird Watching magazine, Bird Guides webzine (accessible only to subscribers), August's Derbyshire Ornithological Society's bulletin among others.
The pud cam has continued to give plenty of good viewing of our birds even though their visits to the nest platform below have been rather few and far do keep on logging in!
Shortly we hope to have a new exciting announcement about the DVD - so keep an eye open for that too!
Nick B (DWT)

Friday, 27 June 2008

Watchpoint ends this weekend

After six weeks of daily operation, with hundreds of people coming along to see the peregrines, the Watch Point, organised by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, comes to an end this weekend (the last day is Sunday 29th).

A huge thanks to the 20 or so dedicated volunteers who have trundled the telescopes, table, donations boxes, plastic model peregrine, banner and box of leaflets to and from the area among the fencing set aside for the Watch Point.

It has been a trying season, with so much redevelopment going on all around and Full Street cordoned off by ugly barriers. No wonder that donations have been down on last year when we were able to welcome people to Cathedral Green when it was still green and open.

Having just looked at pudding cam and seen probably four birds up there in the fading evening light, we can be pleased with the way the season has gone. We do have concerns about one of the four young (possible the female 003) who has not been seen now for a week as far as we know.

However, there comes a time when these young birds simply have to face a difficult and dangerous world on their own. We've done what we can to give them a start - it's down to them now. The photos by Colin Pass show one of the young flying in front of the platform and another about to 'mewt' - the old falconers term for you know what!
Incidentally, early on Thursday morning, the project team was called to a local solicitors close to the cathedral. In one of the offices the staff had heard flapping from behind a closed-off fireplace - clearly, something had fallen down the chimney...could it be a peregrine?

We unscrewed the boarding revealing a pile of debris and soot but no bird. It was higher up the chimney and had to be reached by putting a hand up into the darkness. Fortunately it proved to be a wood pigeon, which, apart from losing a few feathers, seemed none the worse for its adventure. It was released much to the delight of the office staff of course who were not relishing the thought of a bird of whatever species left to die a slow death in their chimney.

Obviously, although both adults and young only occasionally use the nest platform now, the present of pud-cam will allow folk to keep an eye on the family when they perch above the platform on the gargoyles, as tonight.

Watch out for new exciting news about the DVD coming shortly plus regular updates about what we are seeing from the ground.

Nick B (DWT)

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Thanks from Schools - and some questions for teachers

Letters from a Stanley Junior School, Middlesex, UK. Click image to enlarge The school-children from Class 5JC At Stanley Junior School in Middlesex in southern England wrote to us recently. Thanks, everyone.

Shown below are a few extracts of the things they said. For other teachers reading this blog, we've included a questionnaire at the end which we'd ask you to complete and return to us.

Simone M: The parents were good when the babies were born, keeping them warm, the dad was going out and geting food to bring them. I have enjoyed waching them and found it interesting.

Stanley G: My teacher has been showing us the webcam of the peregrine falcons. They are very high up and always seem to be hungry. I am worried they will fall out of the nest. I would love a photograph of the peregrine falcons. I am sure my teacher will pay for it.
Lianne K: I am very very worried that they are too high up. They have a very dangerous nest they might die up there from the height can you do something so they don't fall out, and also I am worried that the bells might make the birds deaf.
George: I have learnt about them and know they are birds of prey. I have also learnt that they were very rare but now growing in numbers. Best of all I enjoyed watching the babies being fed by their parents.
Nassam A: My name is Nassam. I have enjoyed watching your video. I was worried the babies might fall down on to the street and die. I'm looking forward to watching more footage of the falcons.

I'm sure most of the readers to this blog -wherever we are in the world - would like to thank the children of class 5JC for writing to us. (They must all be around 9-10yrs old.)
The Peregrine Project Team were certainly pleased to hear from you, and we can tell you that the young chicks are very clever at staying on the nest ledge, and rarely fall out. But you'll have seen that a few weren't quite strong enough to make their first flight. (We have plans to stop that happening next year.) Of course, it helps to be up high, especially when taking that first flight - so we don't worry about that at all. Peregrines like being high up on cliffs and mountain tops, even if some of us humans don't! Nor should you worry that the Cathedral's bells may make them deaf. The bells certainly are loud, but not enough to damage their hearing. The birds seem to completely ignore them - and their hearing is still pretty good.

And from Red Class, Brigg School, Derbyshire:
Thank you for answering all of our questions. We were happy and excited to see them on the website. We learnt lots about peregrines. We enjoyed reading the answers. We are going to make a book all about peregrines. Our headteacher is going to put the name of the website on our school news letter. Some of the children have been to Derby to look through the telescope. They liked it when the birds were flying around in circles. We watched the video clips of the mummy bird feeding the chicks. They made lots of noise. Thank you very much from Red Class.
For teachers everywhere

If you are a teacher (anywhere in the world, but especially in Derbyshire) please have a go at completing this questionnaire which we hope may guide us to aiding more schools use our webcams. We want you to tell us what we need to do to help you take better advantage of them in class.

It's probably best just to cut, paste and edit the text in an email, sending your replies back to

1) Have you personally visited the Watchpoints or seen our peregrines for real? YES / NO

2) Has your school or class watched the webcams or used our blog? YES / NO
. . If YES, how often and in what way?

Once or twice / weekly / daily
General interest / Environment / Life cycles / ICT / Numeracy / Geography
Other-please specify:

. . If, NO, what are the constraints?
 Not aware
 Not relevant to teaching
 Too technical, or insufficient ICT resources
 Can’t view for technical reasons (sites blocked)
 Too distracting
 Other – please specify…

3) What would encourage you to use Derby’s peregrines as a teaching tool?
 Nothing – I use them already.
 A visit from an expert to talk to your class or assembly (Derby & Derbyshire schools only)
 A school visit to the Cathedral and Watchpoint (Derby & Derbyshire schools only)
 WEB: More background information on peregrines (FAQs)
 WEB: More help and ideas for teaching opportunities/links to National Curriculum
 WEB: Downloadable activity sheets
 WEB: High definition video clips on intranet/learning platform
 WEB: An hourly image archive for you to select, store and re-show images of your choice from any past hour, day or year. (if you like this idea, feel free to expand on how you might use it, or what functionality you might like to see)
 Other suggestions:

Would you be willing to pay for? (and how much):
Unrestricted access to live video feeds YES / NO
Classroom visits by experts with supporting material. YES / NO

Your Name:
Name of School:
Age of Children Taught:
Would you like us to add your email to our mailing list for peregrine news and updates? YES / NO

Paste and edit in an email, sending your replies to

Monday, 23 June 2008

Buzzing a buzzard

The other day John Salloway managed to get photos of the female peregrine driving off a passing common buzzard....and here's the evidence!
The buzzard clearly had to turn on its back to fend of the attacking peregrine. John commented:
"The Falcon did seem to have the upper hand. The buzzard was nearly always upside down in the pictures I managed to get. It would be a good fight if the birds had locked talons but thankfully the buzzard got the message without any harm to either bird. What highlighted us to the event was that the Falcon flew from the cathedral screeching in a straight line of attack. By the time she got to the Buzzard they were a good 300m away, making it difficult to hear any noise.The Buzzard was no match for the agile falcon. These birds are truly masters of the skies. Fantastic to see."

Buzzards do pass across Derby quite frequently but only when they are low and close to the tower does the falcon feel the need to drive them off.

Buzzards are a species that has re-colonised Derbyshire in the last 10-14 years having been previously 'excluded' by gamekeeping and shooting interests and also by the decline in rabbits from myxomatosis.
Unlike peregrines, buzzards take a wide range of food items including worms, small mammals, rabbits and in summer, the young of many birds (including crows, magpies and other corvids).
Of course they are much slower birds in flight (with large rounded wings for soaring and gliding). They are certainly not designed to hunt on the wing but do so exclusively on the ground or by taking young birds from nests.
Other birds of prey that sometimes fly past the cathedral include sparrowhawks, kestrels and once only, a hobby and a honey buzzard.
Nick B (DWT)

Friday, 20 June 2008

Another peregrine sighted

Another peregrine was spotted in the city yesterday, on the roof of a building near the Ambulance Station by Bold Lane. It doesn't appear to have moved much, nor do other birds seem too concerned by its presence. It'll probably be there for some time if anyone wants to see it!

There's also a rumour of an Eagle Owl being seen in a similar situation on a roof on St Mary's Gate.

Meanwhile, we'd urge viewers to visit Froona's blog for her superb presentation of many of the webcam pictures from Derby ( and for her nice comments on our DVD) See June 19th

Here we have a short clip of one of our chicks and a parent on top of the tower in the morning sunshine yesterday. Notice how the youngster's breast has vertical stripes and a generally brown plumage on head and back, whereas Mum has horizontal barring and slaty grey plumage. (Sorry - just realised the vertical barring doesn't show up in the YouTube video very well)

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Urgent call for help at Watch Point

Due to a last minute cancellation, we are short of just one volunteer for tomorrow (Friday's) watch point between about 10.45 and 1.30. No previous experience is required, just a willingness to help to show others the birds you have been enjoying on line. We will have to cancel unless we can find a second volunteer.

If you are free tomorrow and could help (and live close to Derby) please ring DWT on 01773 881188 for fuller details and a chat about what's required as soon as possible today (Thursday).

There are also some gaps next week which need filling too......

Many thanks,

Nick B (DWT)

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Licenced to Thrill

Tiddler on The Roof
Here is just one of the photos 0f 007 I took on Tuesday night.

Here's the link to the full story broadcast on BBC's "East Midlands Today"

(The drinker in the red T-shirt is Dean, to whom we owe our thanks for capturing the bird and calling the police. The chap in yellow is Peter who also contacted us via the police.)

It was an exceptional evening for us but especially for my wife who has never been that close to a wild Peregrine before. Thanks to Nick M for helping to make this happen and, of course, to 007 himself!!

In response to an earlier comment - yes I think I will charge for my autograph now!!: Please send a minimum of £2 to the Peregrine Project at DWT and I will send you my autograph!!! £20 will ensure I do not appear on film or in print for at least a day!!!!

Seriously, the project can only continue, and grow, with the generosity of yourselves. Please, please help us to continue this very important work. See earlier postings for details of how to donate. It has been, as always, a privilege to work alongside Nick M and Nick B but the Peregrines must be the real stars - your support is vital to them.

Tony G
Derby Cathedral

Write You Own Caption!

Tiddler on The RoofTony the Head Verger from Derby Cathedral can be seen tonight on BBC "East Midlands Today" rescuing tiddler or "007" as described in the yesterdays blog entry.

We don't think he'll be demonstrating his water-skiing pose, as we see here. But who knows? Perhaps you can suggest a better caption for this picture?

How Wild is Your City?
Tonight at 7:30pm (18th June '08) there will be a short walk from Derby Market place to the river and back to the Cathedral to see how much (or little?) wildlife we can find. Join staff from Derby Museum outside the Assembly Rooms/Tourist Information Centre for this easy walk on mostly level ground, finishing with a peregrine watch, of course.
(I owe a small apology to all 35 people who turned up for this walk tonight: I promised to tell them at the end how many different plant species we recorded yesterday whilst walking in just a 300metres in any direction from Derby's Tourist Information Centre in our Market Place. The answer is: one hundred and twenty five! Nick M.)

Learning Outside the Classroom
And tomorrow (Thursday 19 June) school teachers are invited to call in at Derby Museum & Art Gallery for an event showcasing our new primary education services.

Drop in any time from 1pm – 7pm to find out what’s on offer and sample some taster sessions.
These new sessions include:
Secrets of the Mummies; Roman Derby; Vikings; Looking at Art; Habitat Heaven; Nature Detectives; Victorian Voyage; Houses and Homes; Time Travel Toys and Children at War.

Pupils will be demonstrating sessions from 1pm-3pm, and there'll be a chance to tell us what you'd like us to do to help you use the Peregrine Falcon project in your classroom.
(All teachers/teaching assistants who attend will receive a free voucher entitling their class to 50% off one of our new sessions.) Follow this link to find out more about Learning with Derby Museums

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Latest news: third youngster rescued tonight

Tiddler, 007, has just been rescued from the car park of The Dolphin, a local pub close to the cathedral.
Nick Moyes received a call from the police about 8pm this evening and, with Tony Grantham, the cathedral head verger, headed for town.
Apparently, a member of the public found 007 on the ground, picked him up and put him in a basket and took him to the pub itself.
Nick and Tony took him back up to the top of the tower to release him as the light began to fade.
So all's well that ends well for 007......but we still have concerns for one of the other fledglings since we have only seen three youngsters all day. ...unless 007 is indeed the fourth.
Hopefully the missing bird will turn up somewhere in the morning.
Nick B (DWT)

new photos for your delectation

Herewith a few new pictures, this time by Graham Whitmore who helped me shepherd 003, the big female eyass, into a garden where we could catch her up.

Graham works in photography so his pictures should be good and by goodness they certainly are!

The first shows 003 safely captured but complaining somewhat all the same!

Note the size of her feet - a feisty bird this one.......

Next Graham's picture of 003 before she was caught, standing in the shady alleyway below the trees through which she fell.

Once these powerful birds come to ground they are very vulnerable. They can't take to the air unless they can clamber up to some vantage point - and there no chance of that in a city environment.

Graham's third photo shows a couple of the fledglings being tempted by the falcon with a big morsel of food, right up on the top of the tower.

Double click on the image to see the details.

Thanks Graham - great shots!

Donations and DVDs

Thanks to those of you who have either offered or already sent donations to the project via the wildlife trust. These contributions really make a difference to the future of this project.

If you have enjoyed the web cams and the blog as much as everyone else seems to have done, then do please consider making a contribution. Email or ring the trust on 01773 881188 in office hours.

And just a reminder that the excellent DVD is still on sale and is another way of contributing to the project, with 40% of the selling price going to the project for every copy sold via the wildlife trust. Again, ring 01773 881188 to purchase your copy.


Nick B (DWT)

Ps. So far today as far as we know, we have only seen three youngsters. The fourth must be somewhere in the city, hopefully up on a roof somewhere and not down in some back alley or yard.

Monday, 16 June 2008

more pics of this morning's fun

Stop press: the live video feed has now resumed, albeit without sound. (Nick M 6pm)

Jon Salloway and Colin Pass kindly sent me these photos which add further to the story of this morning's rescue of 003 (see blog entry below).

First, Jon's photo of 003 on the ground in the alley before we shepherded her through a gate and into the garden where we could catch her up safely.

Next Jon's fine photo of the falcon (female) flying round while we were up the top of the tower releasing 003. She was calling anxiously of course, but soon settled down once we departed.
Great flight shot Jon!

Next Colin's photo of one of the youngsters trying to get in between the wooden louvres of the window by the platform. Hope it didn't get stuck!

Finally, another of Colin's photos showing one of the youngsters flying in front of the tower.
Thanks guys!
Please remember to donate to this project if you have been glued to your web cams - see my plea at the end of the previous blog entry. Thanks.
Nick B (DWT) Ps. Double click on these pix to enlarge them and see the detail better.

Back up top

More drama this morning when 003, our only female, took her turn to fall to earth.
At 7.30 she was on the top of this building which is just West of the tower. As you can see the roof is being repaired and when a workman went up to start work she took off and flew round the north side of the tower.

Unfortunately she either didn't clear the trees that grow there or tried to land in the top of them. By the time I got round there she was hanging upside down from a branch but soon came crashing down through the branches onto the paving below. Fortunately Jon Salloway and Graham Whitmore were on hand to help shepherd the bird into a small garden where she could be easily caught.

She was much bigger in the hand than the male, 005, that came to ground on Friday (see previous blog entry). In a strange way, we had rather been hoping 003 would come to ground because worries had been expressed privately about her foot being swollen up. In the hand we could see that her feet were absolutely fine and the rings were loose and free.

Our gloves and carry-box were inside the cathedral but fortunately the verger, Heather, had just arrived to open up, so we boxed her up (the bird not the verger!) and took her up the 198 steps to the very top.

We held the box by the crenellation and she just scrambled out and sat there looking inwards, none the worse for her ordeal....if a little bemused.
These are my less than wonderful photos...some of Jon and Graham's to follow no doubt
Nick B (DWT)

By the way, should you want to make a donation towards this project and the work we do to look after these fabulous birds (and rescue them when the need arises) please email and we'll send you the details of how to get money to us. This is an expensive project to operate. It takes a lot of man hours to achieve everything we have achieved and this does cost money (we do get paid for some of the time we spend on this work, though by no means all, as we give a lot of time voluntarily).
The Wildlife Trust is a charity and it has to earn its keep. We try hard to get external funding, legacies, donations and raise money in many other ways too. Despite this effort, we have a deficit budget again this year so we'll be working even harder to get the funding in to keep all out work for wildlife across the whole county going. See the Trust's website for more information about its work. Derby Museums also has to raise monies for its various project work such as this one, so here again, money underpins everything we do.
Many thanks in advance.

Latest Fledge

A phone call from outside Derby Cathedral this morning brought the news that juvenile 003 had fledged but hadn't quite made it. She had landed on a nearby roof but been frightened off by workmen. Taking to the air again she made for a tree, but failed to get a hold, and fluttered to the ground. Just as before she was rescued by Nick Brown from the Wildlife Trust, aided this time by John Salloway (so we should have some good pictures to show you).
As I write this (08:00) they were waiting for the Cathedral staff to open up, so she'll soon be returned to the tower roof once more.

There'll be more news of this later today, and we now have just one bird left to fledge.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Britain's Got Talons!

Juvenile 005 shows us his talons after being captured from an unsuccessful fledge from the tower of Derby Cathedral, England
There was more excitement in Derby City this morning.
Juvenile male 005 decided to land on the pavement in Irongate, next to one of the many pubs in Derby's Cathedral Quarter. Called out of staff meetings, or days off, or church services, the project team all rushed to the scene, armed with sturdy gloves and cardboard boxes. Nick B swiftly got hold and, after a few minutes posing for the cameras, we took him back up to the roof of the tower (the bird, that is).

We carefully carried peregrine 005 up the spiral staircase in a cardboard box and decided it was best to release him on the edge of the tower stonework, facing inwards to recover.

He remained perched there for an hour or so, watched from just a metre or two below by another recently fledged bird.

Mum circled around the tower, calling loudly, whilst Dad kept watch from the air some distance away. The shot below shows Mum zooming past.

Not long afterwards we were emailed this webcam screen shot by Carol Crowe, showing all six birds in view at once. We still have further fledgings over the weekend to look forward to, and hope to meet some of you down on the Green at our Watchpoints.

Our thanks to Helen Bousie who (we've only just learnt) spotted the downed bird at half past eight this morning and set in chain the events reported above.

If you want to see more of Derby's peregrines, may we once again recommend our new DVD with much unseen footage and insights into how this project was set up. Your purchase helps to fund this project, and here's what one anonymous viewer said earlier this morning:
Wow! I've just received my DVD today, thankyou, thankyou, thankyou truly wonderful the imagery insight and also the music. Well done [everyone]
Follow this link for more information on The Peregrines of Derby Cathedral DVD.