Sunday, 26 February 2012

More than a Flickr of Interest

It's clear that spring is on the way now. The days are lengthening, and snowdrops are showing their  bright flowers in gardens and parks across Derby. The cool morning air is filled with the call of a multitude of birds, all  re-establishing their territories and preparing for the fast-approaching breeding season. On top of Derby's ancient cathedral the 2012 breeding season is also clearly underway. A number of you are helpfully clicking on the "comments" link to report times when interesting breeding behaviour is being seen. This forms a useful  guide to everyone else as to what is happening, but it also helps the Project Team look for and retrieve the best moments from the two video recorders installed inside the tower.

Local photographers and webcam watchers are also helping understand what's going on by uploading their photographs and screenshots to our dedicated Flickr site. We don't always highlight images posted there, but do take a regular peek at the latest images people from all around the world have seen and posted there. One local photographer is Ian (aka Superbrad) who regularly posts the most superb pictures to our site, like the one below.   We are looking up to the top of the tower on the side where our this webcam is positioned. It's here that we often see roosting, feeding and mating behaviour, and Ian has captured our falcon flying in, with the smaller male (tiercel) just visible on the stone grotesque in the extreme left side. IMG_6383

The video below shows just one of many moments when our two peregrines display to one another, and it's great to get a good side view of the falcon after the male flies off. We can clearly see how much larger and heavier she is than the tiercel. The date was 23 February.

The following day we captured this moment of nest-preparation. Look at how the nest scrape is created, with the bird lying low and pushing back with his legs. The fussing around with small stones is not actually part of the scrape-making process, and may simply be some sort of evolutionary hang-over from the full nest-building activity of most other birds, or perhaps nature's way of reinforcing the link to the nest site.

If you want to upload screenshots from the webcams yourself, or post photos you have taken outside Derby Cathedral, follow the link to our Flickr site on the top left side of this blog, and follow the instructions shown there in the introductory description. Alternatively, read this.


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's Day Videos

Head-bowing courtship behaviour - see video below
A climb up Derby Cathedral’s tower this afternoon yielded two lovely video clips, clearly marking the start of the breeding season.

First, we see the falcon (female bird) on the nest ledge where she had just arrived. It’s 8th February, 7:30am local time (GMT) and dawn is breaking, and the cameras are still in night-mode. She spends a considerable amount of time moving slowly around the nest scrape, picking at debris and possibly consuming small pieces of grit. It seems unlikely that she was picking at insects as it was far too cold and early in the season for that.

Next we see the typical courtship routine of head-bowing and eee-chupp calls from the female. We expect to see the pair mating on the tower during March, and as a precursor to this, we will see a lot of courtship activity. Typical of this is the head-down eee-chupp sequence that follows. It was 11th February, and our male has just arrived at the nest ledge and the female flies in, landing just off camera. They face each other, heads bowed, with the female making an “eee-chup, eee-chup “ call, with the male also calling in the same way. During this display the male may remain absolutely motionless for many minutes. But eventually it seems that his nerve gives in and he suddenly flees the nest, leaving the female behind. Though not seen on this occasion, she often then moves slowly forward and stands inside the nest scrape.

We ask that any webcam viewers seeing interesting activity to make a note of the date and time and to post a comment on this blog. We won't be able to retrieve every one of them, but we can use your feedback to quickly obtain and post as many interesting clips as we are able, given our resources.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Snow and who's eating what.....

The snow yesterday (4th) certainly filled up the nest platform though it has mostly thawed today. In the surrounding countryside, there was a good five inches of snow and if you were feeding the birds in your garden and cleared some patches so the birds could get to whatever you put out, you'd have had plenty of visitors.
In my garden, blackbirds and fieldfares came for the apples I threw out, tits, sparrows and finches for the seed, a woodpecker, a nuthatch and some starlings to the fat blocks and collared doves, dunnocks and robins on the bird table and pecking about underneath the feeders.
Fieldfares certainly love apples and will come into gardens in cold weather if you put some out. I had 41 of them on Saturday, though they didn't stay very long, there being more birds than fruit! BTW, the fieldfare artist is Mike Warren, who lives in Nottinghamshire just to the east of us.
Fieldfares are taken by the peregrines but since they come to the UK in their thousands each winter to escape the cold of Scandinavia, their numbers are hardly dented by this minor mortality. Redwings, their Viking cousins, are also taken by our birds. They too winter in the UK in many thousands though they don't eat apples. They prefer berries if there are any left.
Joyce S, one of our watch point volunteers, tells me she had redwings in her Derby garden
feeding on holly berries last week. All the holly berries round me have long been eaten so redwings here have been turning to those of ivy, a nutritious source of food.
Feeding birds directly by putting food out and indirectly (by making your garden wildlife friendly) sustains birds and other willdife and gives lots of pleasure too. Well worth considering if you've never done it before!

Nick B (DWT)

Ps. Robert Gillmor is the redwing artist.
Pps. I confess the snowy cathedral photo was taken last year...I didn't get down today.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Good turn out for Tony

Last night's service and presentations to Tony as he left the Head Verger's post went very well.
There were well over 200 people present, a much bigger congregation than is usual, made up mostly of people who had come especially to thank Tony for his hard work, help and unfailing good humour over the eleven years he's been at the cathedral.
A small band of 'peregrine people' attended (including one staunch supporter coming over from the West Midlands!). Nick's M and B presented Tony with a framed photo of the male standing on the platform edge waving at the assembled crowd below. This shot was taken by Graham Whitmore in 2007 and he has kindly allowed us to use this and other photos over the intervening years.
In addition, Tony was given some wine and a copy of J A Baker's beautifully written book, The Peregrine.
The lengthy introduction, by Mark Cocker, even mentions our Derby Cathedral birds!
Thanks to everyone who contributed to these gifts. photo copyright Graham Whitmore
Nicks B and M