Friday, 30 July 2010

All quiet on the western front...

After the busy breeding season our adults are now in moulting mode and I've already found a couple of moulted feathers below the cathedral.

No recent reports of the two juveniles but having recently made a trip round the area to the east of the city (Chaddesden, Spondon, Locko Park, Elvaston and Alvaston) I have realised just how many pylons there are in that area....perfect for peregrines to perch on! Plenty of trees too of course but whether they use trees or not is a moot point.

There is a theory that peregrines that have been fledged from an artificial structure such as a church, cathedral, commercial building, pylon or even a bridge also look for a nest site on a similar artificial maybe our cathedral peregrines have an aversion to perching in trees?

Incidentally, in case you're wondering, when they breed on pylons they use the old nests of crows - and only certain styles of pylons seem to be used by crows. I did see one crow nest on a pylon in my travels...but no sign of either a crow or raptor there.

Meanwhile, the peregrine's smaller cousin, the hobby, is still feeding its young, two months after the peregrines were busy feeding theirs. Why the time difference?
Well, hobbies are migrants wintering in southern Africa (where they mostly feed on insects such as termites) and returning to the UK in late April and May. They also use old crows nests, nearly always in trees. Their breeding season is timed so that the young are growing up just when there are plenty of young birds on the wing - in particular, the young of swallows, martins and swifts.
(Young hobbies look very much like young peregrines, only smaller!)

August will see the young hobbies fledge and by mid September they will be on their long and solitary journeys south.

Hobbies are increasing in numbers in the UK and there are now about 40 pairs in Derbyshire.

They nest in farmland, using crow nests in lines of hedgerow trees or isolated trees in fields. They are very secretive birds and therefore hard to see. August is a good time to search since the fledged young can be noisy and, if you know of a swallow roost, hobbies will visit it at dusk as the birds circle round before flying down into the roost site (usually tall crops like maize, dense trees such as enery willow or reedbeds).

Nick B (DWT)

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Juvenile 008 and a new update (24th July)

Updates for 24 and 14 July: both adults on tower early morning on 14th and one juvenile on the aerial.
On 24th, none on either the tower or the police aerial and an hour-long drive this morning round Breadsall, Chaddesden, Spondon and Alvaston failed to find any on the numerous (and very suitable) pylons in that area East of Derby city. NB.
Regular followers of this blog will known that the 2010 season saw four eggs hatch succesfully. But shortly afterwards we all watched helplessly as two of the young chicks subsequently died.

Surviving the first year of life is not easy for any bird, and this is very true of the peregrines. Last year only two out of four birds survived through the summer.

Last week we heard more bad news - that one of those two surviving male birds (colour ringed as 008) from 2009 had been found dead somewhere in Spondon - a suburb on the east side of Derby. We believe the bird was found during May, and are hoping we may be able to find out more infomation. If we do we will let you know. Show here is a picture of that male bird, taken by local photographer and falconry expert, Colin Pass, plus a webcam screen capture made by Marski2009.

It is 008 in the tray!

Sunday, 11 July 2010

City wildlife and Webtest

Sunday 11th July: both adults on the tower this morning but no sign there or on the police aerial of the juveniles. They must be further afield somewhere.
Now the peregrines are less in evidence, us naturalists can turn our attention to other wildlife in the city. Here are a few recent observations:

On elm trees just north of the cathedral by the inner ring round there's a small colony of the delightful white letter hairstreak butterfly. They are small and tend to fly round the very tops of the elms so they can be difficult to see. The photo shows one that was sunning itself on a leaf low down early one morning. The white 'w' mark across the wings gives this butterfly its name.

The swifts that fly round the cathedral are now reduced in numbers and, withthe hot summer we've had, may have successfully completed their breeding season and set off back to Africa already. Certainly there have been large southward movements of swifts at the coast involving up to 10,000 birds in a single day!
On one roadside verge I found a profusion of ladies bedstraw, an attractive plant which was indeed used to sweeten the smell of bedding in times gone by. It's a widespread plant but always good to see in an urban setting.

Finally, in case I get grumbled at for going off topic, here's a Colin Pass sequence of photos from 2008 of the falcon stooping.

Nick B (DWT)