Saturday, 29 May 2010

And All That Jazz

Fancy celebrating American Independence Day this year with a spot of music, preceded by some peregrine watching and perhaps a bite to eat?

There are many concerts coming up at Derby Cathedral this summer. Amongst the more unusual is this one, booked by our very own Head Verger, Tony Grantham.

On 3rd July the East Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra will be performing a special concert at 7.30pm inside Derby Cathedral in aid of the Cathedral Fabric Fund. No, not drapes and curtains - sandstone, lead and mortar!

There are always costs involved in maintaining the ancient stone building in good condition, so funds are always needed. (There's a lot of lead flashing and stonework that needs looking after. We know, we've seen it when we've been abseiling down!)

With tickets priced at £8 and £10, it's a great way to get ready for Independence Day. You can even have a spot of supper in the Cathedral Centre beforehand. With luck, our two surviving young birds will have fledged and still be seen doing their aerial acrobatics around the tower whilst you eat.

Pay on the door, or pay before - it's your choice!

There are many other concerts and events coming up at Derby Cathedral this summer which we'll tell you about later. Most imminent of these is An Evening with Dr Wesley at Derby Cathedral. This marks the bicentenary of Samuel Sebastian Wesley, and is on Saturday 26th June 2010 at 7.00 p.m. with actor Keith Briars as Wesley.

Music by The Choir of Melbourne Parish Church and Derby Cathedral Voluntary Choir Simon Collins and Tom Corfield. Tickets are available from Foulds, the Cathedral Coffee Shop and the Cathedral Vergers. £10 (concessions £8, children free), including refreshments.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Our global audience (and Freddie the Falcon flies in)

Watch Point early update: we welcomed Annette and Peter who'd come up from Kent specially to see the peregrines having watched them online and also several people over from Nottinghamshire too. Carol, also from Notts, very kindly donated £25 to the project since it had given her so much enjoyment and interest. Thanks Carol - good to meet you. The falcon perched below the platform giving everyone good views and the chicks occasionally appeared above the platform edge. I left at noon so further updates will follow from our volunteers.
You may have seen the Clustrmap on the left hand side of the blog but have you ever clicked on it? This enlarges the world map so you can see in detail where everyone reading this blog comes from. It doesn't count visitors to our webcams - this is done separately and those counts are much higher! The list of blog readers includes a remarkable 60 countries in every continent apart from Antarctica!

Here's the breakdown for May so far with number of visits for each country:

UK 24,212, USA 1405, Canada 382, Netherlands 233, France 172, Switzerland 143, Australia 140, Ireland 129, Belgium 89, Germany 84, Italy 77, Spain 68, Taiwan 58, Norway 52, Hong King 45, Isle of Man 29, Japan 28, Poland 28, Sweden 27, New Zealand 24, UAE 23, Denmark 20, Malta 20, Latvia 18, Czech Rep 17, Jersey 16, Hungary 12, Greece 10, Cyprus 8, Belarus 6, Thailand 5, Austria 5, Turkey 5, Cook Islands 4, Brazil 3, Guernsey 3, Saudi Arabia /Bulgaria/S. Africa /Singapore/Phillipines/Libya all 2 visits and Indonesia/India/Russia/Argentina/Korea/Bermuda/Zimbabwe/Ivory Coast/Croatia/Serbia/Barbados/Bangladesh/Sri Lanka/Luxembourg/Portugal/Pakistan and Malaysia all one visit.

That's quite a list isn't it? Welcome to everyone wherever you are! (Do say hello via our comments page if you're on the far side of the world on one of those little red dots - especially so if you're the person viewing from Cook Islands, way out in the Pacific. (Nick M. has long been intrigued by how regularly you visit us - but you've not yet said "hi" yet!)

Come on down!
For those closer to Derby City, in the hearty of the English Midlands, there's a Watch Point on Cathedral Green again today (Saturday, 10.30am to 1.30pm) and it is a glorious day here today. So if you live within reach, do come and visit us. Watchpoints will run every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from now on in good weather until mid June)

Want even more hot bird action? Well, Freddie the Falcon is making his debut in Derby's Market Square today, too. No, not an early fledging bird. Instead, Freddie the Falcon is the brand new human-sized mascot for Derbyshire County Cricket Club's team. More details here. Named in recognition of the part that peregrines now play in our City's culture, we're looking forward to him being unveiled later this morning. If anyone can get a snap of him and post it to our Flickr Pool, we'll get a picture up on our blog just as soon as we can. (Remember: Our Flickr Pool is only for photos relating to Derby Cathedral and its peregrines, but is a great way of sharing relevant images with other interested people.)

It will be hot for Freddie the Falcon and everyone else in Derby, for sure, today. No doubt our peregrine chicks will huddle in the shady corner of the platform until the sun goes off the East face of the cathedral tower around mid-day.

Some viewers will no doubt wonder why we haven't provided a roof for the platform to keep the rain and sun off the birds. Well, we were advised against it back in 2006. Most natural peregrine nests have no 'roof'. Some are on shaded north-facing cliffs of course while others face south so birds nesting 'in the wild' have to contend with a range of climatic conditions.
And it was suggested that an enclosed nest might allow a build up of decaying prey remains which might harbour disease -whereas with an open platform like ours, prey remains dry up quickly.

Certainly, although the chicks do get hot, they have survived all previous summers since 2006 and these have been both hot and wet this year's birds should be OK.

The falcon has been sun-bathing on the platform as many of you will have seen, exposing her preen gland at the base of her tail to the heat of the sun and opening up her feathers and wings to allow the sun in. You can see similar sunbathing on your garden lawn - blackbirds in particular do it and it is a normal part of the behaviour of many birds....and fascinating to watch.
Off for a wash?

One thing we don't know about our birds is where they go to bathe and drink. They must know some secret places along a local river or by a lake where they can come down and have a bathe and drink without being disturbed!

The insight we get with our web cams into the life of peregrines is allowing us to make new observations, as we have done this last week as we watched the falcon carefully tend her sickly youngster. But many more questions remain unanswered.

Nick B (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust)

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

News Update and Position Statement

Update 20th May 11am: The ill chick has now died and has been partly fed to the other chicks. Please click the comments link at the bottom of this post to read a range of observations by webcam watchers around the world which recount this morning's events.
Update 21st May 8am: both chicks visible while doing a Radio Derby interview about them this morning - and both adults sunning themselves on the gargoyles above the nest too!

Digiscoped photo shows one of the chicks looking perky! Taken 7.30 a.m. UK time, 21st May.

The paragraph below is now out of date as you can see from the updates above:
The three peregrine chicks on the nest platform at Derby Cathedral are still alive at the time of writing. Many of you have been watching closely since a second chick became ill on Tuesday morning. Despite all our predictions, it is still alive and has received much careful attention and protection from the Falcon (adult female). Despite its tenacity, it does seems highly unlikely to survive for much longer.

Poorly Peregrine

Not surprisingly there have been many comments left on this blog discussing possible causes and the appropriateness or otherwise of any intervention by the Project Team. It has been a pleasure to read all these views and to appreciate the different perspectives on the subject, even if seeing the chick via our webcams has not recently been so pleasant. Just as with the injured bird last year, we have had to think most carefully about what action we would like to take (and indeed what action we are legally permitted to take.)

The bottom line is that we shall not be intervening nor, unfortunately, shall we be ringing the chicks this year. Read on for further explanation . ..

Despite appearances (and some illness amongst the Project Team and families) we have not been idle these last few days. We share many of the concerns expressed on this blog and in deciding what course of action to take we have consulted with many people: local falconry experts, local veterinary experts, a national urban peregrine expert, DEFRA, Natural England and even Derbyshire police.

Since the near extinction of peregrine falcons in the 1960s, the legal protection afforded to these birds in the UK is amongst the highest of any species. Any unlicenced disturbance whatsoever to a peregrine nest site is regarded as a most serious offence (even if carried out with the best of intentions). In essence, we cannot just decide to intervene as all those involved would be open to police investigation and possible prosecution for disturbing a Scheduled 1 species under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. There have been a number of incidents in Derbyshire affecting birds of prey recently, and the police advise us that there would be every likelihood that pressure would be brought to bear for at least a full investigation of each of our roles in such an incident, if not a prosecution for an unlicenced disturbance to a Schedule I species occurring in Derby. We are pleased the police take such a view as it clearly demonstrates how wildlife crime in our area is now taken very seriously indeed.

So, taking the advice of DEFRA and Natural England's Licensing Unit in Bristol, we applied late on Monday night for special permission to remove what we thought would, by now, be a dead chick, and had planned on arranging for post-mortem analysis to be carried out for toxins and parasites. One local veterinary expert suggested that, if parasites were proven, treatment could be offered to the other chicks at the time of ringing later this week, and he even offered to attend. Not unreasonably, our application to Natural England was rejected today on two grounds:
a) that any intervention or treatment to the other chicks is considered to be inappropriate, and
b) that any corpse could be retrieved at the time of ringing, meaning only one short period of disturbance, rather than two.

As with all other aspects of this project, we rely very heavily on volunteer input, and this includes ringing. Yesterday we realised that for the first time since peregrines started breeding here in 2006 our two bird-ringers would be unable to find a mutually convenient evening during the very short window of opportunity available for this task. So we have regrettably had to cancel our plans to ring (or "band") the chicks in 2010.

So late this afternoon we resubmitted our licence request simply to retrieve the chick should it die, without offering any other intervention to the other chicks, and we now await a second response. For a department normally offering a 15-30 day response to licensing applications, Natural England has been brilliantly efficient, and we will fully support whatever decision the national experts make. As a Project Team consisting of three respected organisations we need to show that we uphold the law at all times in relation to UK wild bird protection, even if it differs from that in other countries. Yes, we realise it is unpleasant to see another creature suffer - be they predator or prey, but our hands are tied in what must be regarded as being in the best interests of wildlife conservation. And even if they were not tied, we would still be making roughly similar decisions, possibly going down only to shorten its anguish if we could, as it will clearly not survive to adulthood.

We have always said how Derby's peregrine webcams have made us all fortunate observers of wild creatures, and not wildlife managers. We hope this explanation does clarify the situation in which we find ourselves, and we recognise that some of you will feel very differently. Meanwhile, despite the chick's obvious anguish, many of us have surely been impressed to discover just how much care and attention a falcon can give to a chick when it is poorly in some way and is calling out in distress..

Nick M., Nick B, Tony G.
Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project

Monday, 17 May 2010

Of Life and Death

So, as many webcam watchers are well aware, a second chick now looks certain to die. From early this morning it was clear that one of the chicks was on its back, unable to right itself. The falcon (female parent)  did its best to shelter it from the sun, but made few moves to right it, though she was clearly concerned with it all day long. Despite kicking its legs vigorously every few minutes, the chick was not successful even in moving more than an inch or two.  Not surprisingly, many comments were left expressing concern over its welfare, asking about the cause and the solution. The realistic answer at this stage is that there is no solution - this is nature at work, and we must wait to see whether it regains the strength to recover, though this is not likely.

I had planned to find a form of words that highlighted how  privileged we are to be able to see nature at work and to highlight that, with this privilege, comes the need for us not to become overly attached or sentimental. All around us, everywhere we could look, nature is at work in its continuous life and death struggle for survival. But this comment left here earlier today probably does that job better far than I could, so we decided to reproduce most of it here:

"Although it's sad to see a chick not making it, and doubly so probably for the children watching, I feel we should be careful not to react as though they were human babies. This how the natural world is, and most of us living in towns and cities have to some extent become divorced from this reality. Don't get me wrong - I've invested a lot of my own time and hopes, like everyone else , in this pair and their chicks,  and I do feel the pain; but we shouldn't get sentimental . . . "

At around the time the picture below was captured earlier this evening *suggesting all three chicks were receiving at least some food) two of the Project Team met to discuss our course of action. The experts we have spoken to feel the problem probably lies with a "rearing issue", which itself has a number of possible causes.We're still investigating how best to proceed, and will do our best to keep you informed of progress. As we so often say here, these are truly wild creatures whose life and death struggles - along with those of their prey - are playing out countless times across the spring countryside right now and intervening is rarely an option..

17th May 2010 - 17.54.52 - Three were fed

We hope you may also understand that for each of us in the Team this Peregrine Project is not our main job - it's an added extra which we're happy to support, sometimes in work but more often than not in our own time. So forgive us if we aren't able to answer every question you may ask, or provide video clips of every moment - no matter how delightful or upsetting they may be. The comments and screen shots many of you are however posting are proving immensely helpful in letting others follow the daily life and death challenges faced by just one city's family of peregrines. And for that we're grateful.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Watch Points begin this weekend

Fluffballs full-up

You'll be pleased to know that we've been planning our summer Watch Points on the Green behind the Cathedral.
These will give visitors to Derby the chance to see our birds close up through telescopes which we provide. There is no charge but donations are always welcome, of course.
Watch Points have so far been arranged for every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from this Saturday (15th May) until at least mid-June and probably later, depending on how the chicks fare and exactly when they fledge.
Watch Points start about 10.30 a.m. and end at 1.30 p.m. when the sun moves off the east face of the tower.and starts getting in our eyes! If the weather is very wet on any one morning, then our volunteers may decide not to set up at all. They have no shelter there - so please bear with them.

We hope to see many of you over the next few weeks - do make yourselves known to our volunteers who will be only too keen to provide information about the birds and the project itself.

Other Things to Do in Cathedral Quarter
After watching the birds, why not drop into the Cathedral Centre on Irongate for a warming drink and food and perhaps also visit either or both The Silk Mill Museum by the river or the City's main Museum & Art Gallery on The Strand. You can purchase a DVD about the project from either venue (and sometimes also from the Watch Point).
The Watch Points are organised and run by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and its volunteers.

The Project Team

PS Check out the Big Screen in Derby's Market Place from now onwards - our falcons will be live there every weekday from 1.15-1.45pm. and 3:15 to 3:45pm. More times will be added later we're told.
The live webcam in Derby Museum & Art Gallery is currently out of order whilst we await a replacement monitor, but the webcams are often available to watch on request at the reception desk of The Silk Mill.

Report on the first Watch Point - Saturday, 15th May:
The watchpoint went well today and the weather remained dry.
We were busy to begin with and had visitors from the local area, Leicester, Northampton and from Italy!
During the first one and a half hours the male was present- mostly perched on one of the gargoyles and seen eating prey. The female stayed on the nest platform for a lot of the time and had a couple short flights but kept the chicks in her sight.The heads of some of the chicks were visible on occasions. The tiercel left at about noon and didn't return before we closed. After the male left, there was less activity and there were few sightings of the chicks or the female who lay low on the platform.She appeared to be slightly disturbed by the people on the tower tour and made an appearance soon after 1 pm, circling the tower before settling back on the platform.
Celia & Helen.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Picture Perfect

Grub 2
Here are some lovely video sequences of our young peregrine chicks' first days. We were all surprised by how many of you were glued to your computer screens last weekend, and are grateful to everyone who captured screenshots and took the trouble to post them to our Flickr photo pool for others to see. But nothing compares to seeing these otherwise hidden moments on video, and here are a few selected highlights.

Our chicks hatched out at roughly these times, and comparing these videos to our live webcams it's already quite apparent how rapidly our chicks are growing each day.
1) 1st May 1pm
2) 1st May 6pm
3) 2nd May 11am
4) 2nd May 1pm

(Please note: We're rushing to get four videos posted in total. It takes a while for them to be "resolved" within YouTube, so they may appear black for some time yet. It's likely we may have the sequences and times in the wrong order - we'll check and correct any errors, retitle the videos as soon as we're able, and notify you when this is done.)

Three chicks get their first meal. May 2nd 19:26pm

Four chicks being fed May 4th 12:41pm

First Hatch May 1st 12:19am
We've included this rather long sequence because we were surprised to see the female falcon actively assisting the chick to escape from the egg by helping to break off fragments of shell.

Ten minute later we saw the chick still in the egg, but with the top half completely free. Watch for the zoom-in and the little wing sticking out.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Come on down (Past event)

(Please scroll down for the latest news of the chicks!!)

There was a Peregrine and Cathedral Tower Open Day today, organised by the cathedral staff, between 11am and 4pm on Monday 3rd May, with a (rare) chance to climb the tower and also to view the nest platform and the off-duty adult from Cathedral Green.

Teas/coffees were available and there was a small display about the project plus peregrine masks for childrne to colour in.

Tower tours were at 11am and 12 noon with further ones through the afternoon though the early afternoon ones may well be booked up because a school is bringing two classes along to see what's what.

There were telescopes available for you on the Green with DWT volunteers on hand to point out where the platform is, where the birds perch and hopefully a chance to see the male bring food into the female too.

Bring warm clothing because although the sun may shine and it should be dry, there's a cold wind blowing!

Don't forget to scroll down to the previous post to get all the latest news and photos of the newly arrived chick.
Two Reports on the happenings of the day are appended at the  bottom of  this post. Thanks to our volunteers who generously "manned" the Watchpoint during the day.

The Project Team

Here are some of today's photos you've captured.

Postprandial Somnolence? -  3rd May 2010  - 15.37


Egg toss

WatchPoint Report part 1.
Watchpoint Report Part 1 - 10.30am to 2.00 pm

Not a great deal to report this morning unfortunately. We never saw the falcon from the ground although, as we were setting-up at about 10.30, one of the adults flew into the nest platform and wasn't seen to emerge (although we were quite busy and may have missed it leaving again). The tiercel spent two long periods sat on the J of Jury's Inn giving good views.

On the Tower Tours, we saw the remains of several prey items including Song Thrush and Little Grebe as well as seeing the tiercel fly off from Jury's Inn at about 11.45 and landing briefly on the nest platform in a rain shower at around noon before returning to his perch on the J.

Finally, to thank people for coming down and for all your donations.
Andy & Chris M.

Watchpoint Report Part 2 - 2.00pm to 4.00pm

Things remained quiet for the first part of the afternoon with the tiercel continuing to sit on the Jury's Inn sign. During a particularly heavy shower he again returned to the tower to take shelter underneath one of the arches above the nest platform for a while, before disappearing. He was later seen back on the hotel lettering. There was a steady stream of people including a large party of school children, as well as some Dutch visitors who were suitably impressed! It was also good to meet several of you who have contributed to the blog. Unfortunately from the ground it was not possible to see the exciting developments taking place on the scrape, as both falcon and chicks stayed well hidden. However, on the last tower tour we were treated to some lovely views of the newly hatched fourth chick, whilst watching the live images on the monitor in the bell ringing chamber. Perfect timing!! The chicks were fed for around ten minutes, after which the falcon then settled back down to brooding them.

Helen, Brian & Margaret

Saturday, 1 May 2010

First chick hatches out!

After what seems like a very long time since the first chip was detected on one of the eggs, we now have our first hatching! It occured about 1pm, Saturday 1st May. The shot below shows our female peregrine on the three remaining chicks and newly hatched chick (which is just visible as a damp ball of feathers protruding from under her breast. Half an egg-shell is discarded at the side of the nest.


food 7 _01052010_181439

Many webcam watchers have captured screen-grabs like the ones above and posted them on our Flickr Pool here  As the weekend goes on, the Project team will try and embed a selection of your pictures  at the end of this post.

All being well, we can expect the other three eggs to hatch in the next few days. (See below for news of a special Bank Holiday Monday event at Derby Cathedral)

We expect feeding to begin quite shortly after the chicks start appearing. But here's where we need your help. Nick Dixon, the national expert on peregrines nesting on artificial structures such as buildings, pylons and bridges, is keen to discover how long it is between hatching and first feeding - so please leave a comment  with the time when you first see the tiny chick being offered food and maybe again, when you see it actually taking food and swallowing it down.

The parents are incredibly delicate and gentle when they are feeding small chicks as you will see.....amazing for birds that are predators - how marvellous is evolution!

Occasionally a chick fails to get out of the egg and dies inside, unhatched. We have never had this happen at Derby but it is a possibility - so, as the old adage goes; don't count your chick(ens) before they're hatched!

If they are all successfully out of their shells by say Monday, then we will be able to watch them grow over the next 5-6 weeks with fledging likely to occur sometime around 9-11 June at a guess.

Watch Points on Cathedral Green, organised by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, are being planned now. There's not too much point in starting before the chicks get big enough to show themselves over the front edge of the next platform so we expect to start them about mid-May. Full details will be posted here on the blog. If you have never been to see the birds live so to speak, then do make the effort to come along (assuming you live within reach that is - though we have had visitors from as far away as Hong Kong in previous years!).

Meanwhile Tony, the Head Verger at the Cathedral, has planned an Open Day for THIS MONDAY, 3rd May, the bank holiday. There will be trips up to the top of the tower and a chance to see the monitor in the bell ringing chamber as you go up. There are almost 200 steps so beware of the physical demands this places on you before you think of going up. Also note that children under 8 are not allowed to climb the tower.

The Trust has arranged people to run a Watch Point on Cathedral Green behind the cathedral that day too - so between 11 am and 4pm, we will have volunteers able to show you any action and hopefully at least the off-duty bird - almost certainly the male (you won't be able to see the brooding bird or the chicks themselves from the ground for a few weeks yet).

Do go along....Derby is quiet on these holidays and parking is easy (though you will probably still have to pay).......

The Project Team

Your Photos:  Photo credit is given above each image.

HelenSara 08:54 1 May
Nearly there ....

Craig, Nottingham 12:31pm 1 May
01.05.10  Shot 2

Twwitcher 12:50pm 1 May
Peregrines 1.5
Twwitcher 14:03 1 May
Peregrine 1.6

Twwitcher 14:30pm 1 May
Peregrines 7

Craig, Nottingham 17:12pm 1 May
New Hat

Comment by "Dutch Eagle Fan": A new life born on the birthday of Froona Veldhuis. How fitting.

Hatching Day Today??

Update: 1.30pm hatching is going on right now. Lots of you are posting images at

Will our chicks hatch today? This seems most likely, but images captured automatically overnight show nothing has happened yet, with the female doing most of the work as usual. Only one moment was caught where all four eggs were visible during a changeover - at 04:30 this morning.

It's a lovely sunny morning here in Derbyshire, though the forecast is for greyer skies and rain later
We know you'll keep watching and commenting on the time of key events, and we all find this most helpful.

Picture taken at 12:18 Today  - feathers of chick visible, and Project team can hear faint "tseep tseep" sounds.

Meanwhile Tony, the Head Verger at the Cathedral, has planned an Open Day for THIS MONDAY, 3rd May, the bank holiday. There will be trips up to the top of the tower and a chance to see the monitor in the bell ringing chamber as you go up. There are almost 200 steps so beware of the physical demands this places on you before you think of going up. Also note that children under 8 are not allowed to climb the tower.

The Trust has arranged people to run a Watch Point on Cathedral Green behind the cathedral that day too - so between 11 am and 4pm, we will have volunteers able to show you any action and hopefully at least the off-duty bird - almost certainly the male (you won't be able to see the brooding bird or the chicks themselves from the ground for a few weeks yet).

Do go along....Derby is quiet on these holidays and parking is easy (though you will probably still have to pay).......