Saturday, 30 March 2013

Welcome to international (and local) blog readers

Checking the visitor map for readers to our blog I see that we have had interest from over 40 countries - and this even before an egg has been laid!
So a big welcome to everyone, wherever you are on the planet!
The Derby falcon - a 2010 portrait by Colin Pass
Not surprisingly the biggest blog readership is local (or nearly local):
Out of 8589 visits since 1st March, Nottinghan city (956) scored more than Derby city (859) but Derby and Derbyshire combined (1164) just pipped Nottingham and its associated county (1121).
Internationally, the USA (556) are way ahead, with Canada (126), the Netherlands (113) and Ireland (70) following behind. As always, visitor figures reflect where people's ISP connections are located, rather than pinpoint exactly where they live.

To see the figures for yourself, scroll down the blog and double click on the bright Clustrmap of the world. Archive maps of previous month's figures are also available.

If any of you visiting this site from abroad would like to leave a blog message to say who you are and where you're from we'd be delighted to hear from you...leave a comment here or on Facebook if it's easier.

Of course, peregrine falcons are one of the most widespread of birds, occurring in every continent except Antarctica. So, how are the peregrines doing in your country if you have any? We'd be pleased to hear from you.....

Nick B (DWT)

This project is managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, who's website  is well worth a visit and, naturally, has this headlining project firmly on its home page. Our valuable partners in the work we do in Derby are the Cathedral of course (without their support we'd be nowhere), Derby City Council - especially the staff in its webteam (and SERCO which manages their IT) and Derby Cathedral Quarter, who have helped the project in many vital ways since 2011.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Vandal bird attacks camera!

Following yesterday's attempt to melt ice on the peregrines' nest ledge, we captured this footage earlier today of  'ee-chupping' - the courtship  display and call between the smaller male (called a tiercel) and the larger female (falcon). It's encouraging that he takes up his usual place in the nest scrape and called to her from within it, with head bowed.
It was also encouraging that, as normally happens, she waddles over and he flies off somewhat intimidated, and then she inspects the scrape and 'nest-site to be'.

But on this occasion her attention was suddenly caught up by the camera fitted on the side of the nest. And the remaining mass of ice gives her rather more reach than we had expected. What results is rather amusing to watch, but disappointing that, in the end, she returns to the ice-covered base on the far side of the nest ledge, which contains no soft gravel in which to lay her eggs.

The picture below was captured and posted to Flickr by HelenSara - what a view!

An inside job!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Hot water bottle day - whatever next?

Monday 25th March - and the deep snow on the platform looks like it will be there for another week, according to the weather forecasters. Yesterday: the falcon was looking as if she was preparing to lay an egg - but on the 'wrong' side of the platform where there are flat slates put there intentionally in 2006 to encourage her to nest on the deeper gravel on the other side. It had worked until the now when surprise March snow and bitter easterly winds came with a vengeance this weekend.

Overnight thinking: how could we melt the snow to give our birds a chance of laying eggs onto the gravel and not onto a bed of cold snow and ice? There was concern that laying onto ice and incubating in that position might result in eggs not staying viable. There were, after all, only two options for them, and both were snow-filled.

Brainwave: since an abseil down was out of the question today (far too windy and also bitterly cold) what about lowering a hot water bottle (HWB) from the top of the tower  - or even releasing some hot water directly onto the snow in the nest?
Nick M dangles a HWB from the top of the tower
Checks with Ed Drewitt in Bristol (a good friend of the project and a bird ringer licenced to disturb and handle peregrines at the nest for ringing the chicks) confirmed we would need the say-so of a local licenced ringer. So we managed to get Ant Messenger (our usual chick-ringer) to come along and approve our plans, which he did after a bit of consultation with the British Trust for Ornithology. (Thanks Ant!)

Said HWB in situ, melting the snow...
Like something from Fred Karno's Circus, Nick M lowered a succession of hot water bottles down from the top of the tower to try to melt the snow right where the female has always laid her eggs in previous years in the deep gravel. The gusty wind took the HWB round the corner of the cathedral several times but, with persistence and luck (and OK a bit of skill too maybe!), Nick managed to land the bottle (at least four times) right where the eggs are normally laid. By the end, you could see gravel! Meanwhile our two adult birds sat quietly on top of Jurys Inn, unaware of the effort and discomfort we were going through on their behalf.

The media were informed (and rather liked the story) - there was a short piece on BBC TV East Midlands Today this evening, and Nick went in to Radio Derby to explain why we had taken this rather unusual course of action.

We realise we normally take a stance of not intervening too much, and always ensure we have pursued both the legalities and the practicalities of the actions we take. So not everyone has felt this was the right course of action to take today, but we can assure everyone that the birds were not disturbed in any way, nor even called out once, which did surprise us. It may turn out that our efforts were in vain after all. Later this evening our falcon appears to have returned to the still snow-bound, right hand side of the nest ledge after a brief foray into the defrosted bit.

So, as egg-laying time gets ever nearer we'll simply watch and wait now to see which part of the nest ledge she finally chooses. And hope that it turns out to be OK after all.

Nick B and Nick M (DWT)

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Derby eggs for Easter? With Snowy update and new VIDEO on 23rd....

The first urban egg of the year has been laid in London - on 13th with a second on 16th. and now a third!
So, as egg laying time approaches here in Derby (our pair have been mating for well over a week now), our hopes and expectations are rising by the day.
The video below was captured on 14th March, thanks to some nifty reporting by webcam watchers on this blog. It is followed by a sequence from the new camera showing the female scraping in the nest depression where we hope she'll soon start to lay her eggs as she had done since 2006......

The Derby pair are the same two that have been here all along. The theory is that, as the female gets older, so the date of laying the first egg gets earlier year by year.
However, our female hasn't been reading the text books!
In 2006, the first year she bred, we had no cameras in place and so don't have a date for the first egg - though it was certainly very late because the nest platform wasn't even in position until 6th April! She laid three that first year.
Since then she has laid four eggs every year but the date of the first has varied between 23rd March (in 2009) and 3rd April (2007).
Drawing of a full clutch from a school in Dronfield, N. Derbyshire 2012

More correspondence and a drawing from Zoe in Dronfield 
Nationally, the earliest urban egg I am aware of was laid in Bath on 10th March 2011, well ahead of other UK sites.
There's usually a gap of two days between eggs and full incubation doesn't begin until at least the third and usually the fourth egg has been laid. This means that they all hatch very close to each other - a quite different strategy from, say, the barn owl which incubates immediately the first egg is laid. This means the chicks hatch over a number of days and are different sizes. In years of low small mammal numbers, the younger chicks die, sometimes eaten by their older siblings. Peregrines, with a reliable food source every year, can always raise a full brood unless disease or some congenital problem intervenes.
Thanks to the children who were in Ash Class last year at Holmesdale School in Dronfield and their teacher Rachel for the letters and drawings they sent in to us last summer. Like Brigg Infants, they are avid web cam watchers!
Nick B (DWT)
For newcomers to this blog: DWT = Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, the organisation that manages this project  in partnership with The Cathedral, Derby City Council (who host the web cams) and Cathedral Quarter.
To learn more about DWT visit its website at .

Screen grab 22nd March by Kate from Devon
UPDATE: Notts peregrines now have their first egg, as of earlier today (21st). But looking at the snow covered platform in Derby on 22nd, you begin to see why it may not be sense to lay early.......especially in Derby where there's much thicker snow on the nest than at Nottingham......
Update 23rd March : now almost as much snow in Nottingham as here and in Nottingham the female is sitting on her egg (or eggs?) surrounded by a wall of snow! Peregrines are tough birds though, adapted to nesting high up on icy and snowy mountain they have inbuilt strategies to deal with situations like will be fascinating to see what happens both in Notts and here in Derby. Should first clutches fail, second ones are an option they usually take up.
The video below was taken on Saturday morning at 05:45am, showing how easily snow can be cleared with a bit of effort. Of course, if it continues to fall it all fills back in again, as has happened this morning.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Watch the birdy!

A stunning new web camera has just gone live, and you can watch it here. Set low down on the wooden nest platform on the side of Derby's Cathedral, it gives a superb wide-angle view right out across the peregrine falcons' scrape, and across over the eastern skyline of Derby city. The pictures  (plus a two-minute video) below show the results we can expect from it during this coming breeding season.

14 March 201328 Feb 2013

The camera was installed last month during our annual maintenance abseil. Only yesterday were settings changed on Derby City Council's networks to allow the camera to 'see out ' through their security firewall to send us these images.  For the moment we are using one of our existing webcam streams, which only has pictures changing every few seconds. But later we intend to stream the camera live with its own internal microphone, which you can clearly hear on the video clip.

You can watch other clips from this camera on our YouTube channel here.

The camera - an Axis P3364 - was purchased with Heritage Lottery Funding as part of our People and Peregrines Project. Its acquisition was also sponsored by Network Webcams to whom we are grateful.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Green Man, eggs-pectation (and an UPDATE)

(To read about the replacing of the 'pudding' camera and the new camera, scroll down to the previous two posts).
See Update at foot of this post added 13 and 14 March.....

The splendid 'green man' stone carving below has stood the test of time near the base of the cathedral tower, just to the side of the cathedral's west door (be sure to seek him out when you next come to Derby!).
This ancient symbol, with leaves coming out of his mouth, nose or ears (or all three) evokes the links between nature and humans. Versions of it can be found on many cathedrals and churches in the UK and as far a way as Asia (try a wikipedia search to find out more about the green man: ).
This Derby green man (there is only one) has seen some 500 springs come to Derby since the early 16th century, when the tower was built.  Had his ears not been covered by foliage, perhaps he would have heard the songs of many birds through the centuries.
In the last eight springs, he would certainly have heard the loud display calls of peregrine falcons as they carved through the air above him.

Green man by the west door
With our pair being seen mating recently, it is fair to say that we are on the cusp of the 2013 breeding season. As the days have lengthened, so the birds' hormonal state has changed. Nest scraping has been reported for many weeks now, a pre-cursor to full display and copulation. (If you do see mating occurring please email us at giving 'chapter and verse'.)
So, with the same parent birds as we began with in 2006, we can be fairly confident that we will have a full clutch of eggs before very long - with the first appearing by Easter or soon after. Last year the first egg was laid on 29th March. The dates for other years were: 2006 - late but unknown/no web cam, 2007 - 3/4, 2008 - 28/3, 2009 - 23/3 (the earliest of any), 2010 - 31/3 and 2011 - 2/4.
Anyone want to guess on what day the first egg will appear in 2013?
Peregrines elsewhere: there are web cams set up on peregrine nests at many urban and other locations across the UK and abroad too. Keeping an eye on all of them is a big task but if anyone spots the reporting of a first egg somewhere else in the UK before our birds lay one, do let us know!

Peregrine eggs are a wonderful colour
The male does some scraping 13 March
UPDATE 13 March: Kate has sent two screengrabs taken this morning (13th) one of which is copied here.
Clearly from Kate's comment, the birds are getting really noisy and active despite the freezing weather. She guesses a first egg on 18th which would be very early - but who knows! Thanks Kate for sending in the grabs.
UPDATE 14 March: Nick M has put the new camera view up but it is not streaming, just refreshing every 6 seconds. Also, we are aware of the problem with the 'pud' cam but won't be able to fix it for awhile unfortunately. NB

Nick B (DWT)
Ps. While we await an egg, Beatrice, one of Roy Dennis' satellite tagged ospreys, has begun her migration north. She winters in southern Spain but has flown up to SW France, a regular stop-over spot for this bird. To follow her go to .

Friday, 8 March 2013

Tower Cam replaced

Night-time view from the new 'Tower Cam' 
Replacement camera that looks across peregrine falcon 
roosting and feeding points.
Recently we installed a replacement camera on top of Derby Cathedral's tower to watch where our peregrine falcons feed and roost. Finding a model small enough to fit through the 10cm high drainage hole in the Cathedral's stonework was a challenge. We hope you will agree the pictures it is producing are markedly better than before. They are clearer in daytime and under infra-red illumination at night are unrecognisable from our previous camera which had slowly deteriorated since installation back in 2008 when it gained the nick-name of "pudding cam". (Read more on that here)

Tower Cam (a.k.a. pudding cam) was first replaced in February, well in time to capture any mating sequences on the top of the tower (like this YouTube clip).  But we encountered various focussing issues and removed it immediately. For that reason our "quad view" page has contained a black section for much longer than we anticipated, which was frustrating to everyone.

View looking through the hole that leads 
to the external lead gutter (10cm clearance!)
Our new camera is an analogue dome camera ( QVIS 650TVL vari-focal 2.8-12mm) which, as before, is slotted through the projecting lead and stone drainage gutter on the top of the tower, allowing rainwater to pass beneath it. On its wooden mount, the camera is 10 cm in height, leaving us just 3 mm of clearance!

Nick Moyes (Project Technical Advisor)

All three camera views

Measuring up for a new camera - we have just 10 centimetres
of height to play with through our Cathedral's stonework. 
The wooden board is 12cm wide and sits within the lead guttering.