Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Peregrine prey - latest finds

Yesterday afternoon (27th) I helped Tony G (Head Verger) clean up the nave roof, a job we do annually after the breeding season is over. The falcon was sitting on the edge of the platform when we emerged onto the roof, probably asleep since we were able to walk down from the roof's apex to the lowest part and out along the roof before she even noticed us.
Of course when she did see us she made quite a noise, flying off directly onto the Jury's Inn lettering. As soon as she made her alarm call, the male, who had been on Jurys Inn, set off and circled towards the tower but veered off before coming even half way (he's such a wimp!). No immediate sign of any juveniles by the way.
Prey remains were spread about, most having been washed or rolled down to the gullies at the edges. Fortunately

it has been dry for several days so the remains were not as smelly as they can be.
Among the species noted were teal, moorhen, little grebe, snipe, lapwing, golden plover, mistle thrush, quail (shown left), several starlings, fieldfare and great spotted woodpecker as well as pigeons of course.
We also found (see above) the head of a kingfisher (and later its body), this being a first for this species in Derby (though it has been found as prey elsewhere several times).
These peregrines certainly like to have a varied diet. So far we have found over 50 species of bird represented - that's a very wide food spectrum.
Some of you may find this rather disturbing but peregrines (like most humans) are predators. They feed only on birds caught in flight (with the one notable exception of a rat brought in for the young a few years ago). It's what they do, they have no choice in the matter. We may wish that they would refrain from taking the more 'attractive' and rare species but their hunting is often opportunistic so they catch what they see in front of them, wherever they are.
This spread of prey species means that they don't make any impact on the numbers of one particular species, preying on different birds without simply eating one kind monotonously.
Having said that, our Derby birds do have a liking for wading birds. We now have 12 wader species on the list....remarkable for a site with so few suitable wetland habitats nearby. Many (eg woodcock, godwits, knot etc) were probably caught as they migrate over Derby at night.
Quite why they bother catching such small birds as blackcaps and even goldcrests is a mystery. Perhaps they like the challenge or perhaps they just can't resist a small 'snack'.....who knows.
We certainly know that our adults hunt by night, using the floodlighting in Derby to spot birds flying over the city. Of the above list, little grebes and the quail were almost certainly caught in this way, both being strictly night fliers/migrators....
Nick B (DWT)

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Donations pour in

Since we appealed for donations a few weeks ago we have been delighted with the response. So far, just over £2500 has come in, a figure which includes donations received at the 20 Watch Points. We also know that more money has been promised and that some further donations will be received.
So a massive 'thank you' to everyone who has donated to us. You really have been most generous.
Some of you have said that you prefer to remain anonymous and for most we don't know whether you would be happy for your name to appear in full or in abbreviated form, so printing a list of donors is tricky. For the moment we won't publish one unless there seems to be a call for it. No doubt you'll let us know.
In previous years, th
e sum of £2500 has been sufficient to keep the project in the black, covering the costs of keeping the web cams running and buying such equipment as was required. The time devoted to running the project was mostly donated voluntarily with a relatively small but significant amount of Nick M's time working at the museum covered by the city council (most of his time was and still is voluntary).
Now that Nick no longer works for the council we will need a higher level of income to pay for (some of) his time. In addition it may be necessary to take on someone who will have time to take the project forward - for example, go into schools and invite schools to come
and see the birds.
So we are now in the process of applying for grants to cover these additional costs.
The money donated already however is crucial. First it can be used to cover some of the immediate costs of preparing a bid, investigating live streaming etc and secondly, it can be used as 'match funding' or 'seed money' for any bid that is made.
Grant givers like to see that projects they support don't just expect 100% to be given to them. They like to see projects making an effort to raise money themselves - so your donations will be vital in this respect.
Over the autumn and winter we will keep you informed of any developments. For now though, even though the breeding season is over, our behind the scenes work continues in earnest.
Should anyone who has not yet donated feel inclined to do so, then we would be delighted if we can get that figure up to £3000 or even £4000......
The work on funding and development is being co-ordinated by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

Again, many thanks from the project team and from the project partners,

Nick M, Nick B and Tony G

Photo of a flying adult by Andy Byron, web cam screenshot from 2008

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Where do the youngsters go? Plus new juv photo & Updates

Monday 11th Update: John Salloway took photos of one of the juveniles (probably 015 the male) with food in his talons. Probably it was passed to him by an adult - John didn't think that 015 had caught it himself but flying about with prey is the next step in the learning process! Good to see..... NB.
Weds 13th: a report of all four juvs seen from Cliff & Christina - to whom thanks. NB
We are aware that the web cams have frozen and are trying to fix the problem. Please bear with us while we do.

So far, we have no information about where the surviving Derby youngsters travel to despite the fact that since the first brood back in 2006, all the young except two have been ringed and all except five have, in addition, been colour ringed.
Initially the young stay around the cathedral or begin to use nearby tall structures such as the top of Jurys Inn, the swimming baths and also the (very tall) police aerial in Chester Green, about 500 metres away. Where they go beyond Derby we have
no idea.
One possible sighting a few years ago of a peregrine with a 'red ring' from Attenborough Nature Reserve near Nottingham, some 12 miles away, was unconfirmed.
Undoubtedly some of these vulnerable young birds will have died from starvation, accident and even from accidental (or deliberate) shooting.
In Poland, peregrine workers have satellite tagged several young birds and their movements since fledging have been tracked. They all moved a long way away from their natal sites though they backtracked and circled about as well.
The website translates (in part) into English but the tracks of the birds on a map of Poland and neighbouring countries can be followed on a video clip here:

Satellite tagging costs about £3000 per tag plus the tracking costs subsequently - so unless we can plug into some (very) substantial new funding, this option is not yet available to us in Derby.

Also, our English young may behave very differently from these continental birds - but it is interesting to see what happens over there in any case.

Nick B (DWT)

(The photos taken in previous years show an adult on the top of the police aerial in Chester Green and the
floodlit cathedral tower in December.)

Please note that the web cams and the blog remain active throughout the year - so do visit us occasionally to see what the latest news is and even, with luck, to see a wintering adult!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

What now? plus an Update

Update Thursday 7th: all four juveniles on the tower this afternoon, three above the nest and one on the north side. No sign of either adult. NB

With luck, the experience of watching our Derby peregrines this year has also opened your eyes to the wildlife around you - so where can you turn next and what can you do?

We would encourage everyone, wherever you may be, to support and - where possible - also join your local wildlife organisation. In Derbyshire this is the
Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (DWT) and you can find out more about what the trust does by visiting its website;

You can join DWT via the website or by phoning the Trust office on 01773 881188 - you don't have to live in the county to become a member.
There are county wildlife trusts in every other part of the UK. To find you local Trust, be it Surrey WT or Scotland WT, visit the trusts national website

Also, why not take a trip to some of your local nature reserves or attend a field or indoor meeting organised by a trust? Details are on their websites. The DWT website also features a weekly wildlife diary which is located under the 'news' section (written by a certain NB!)

DWT's Chee Dale Nature Reserve near Buxton

If you still have some money left over after donating to the peregrine project, then there are many hundreds of deserving conservation projects both in the UK and abroad. For example, the great work that Birdlife Malta does trying to halt the slaughter of migrating birds (including many birds of prey) which pass over that island. The conservationists there are incredibly brave, facing physical attacks from the hunters and regular vandalism of their newly established nature reserves. There are similar organisations in Italy and Cyprus....

Obviously, DWT is the organisation we would hope to direct you to first and foremost since the trust has been a major partner and supporter of this project since its inception more than six years ago.

Nick B (DWT)

Ps. And don't forget our excellent project DVD 'The Peregrines of Derby' is still available at £9.95 (inclusive of p&p) from DWT by phoning 01773 881188 in office hours.