Saturday, 25 January 2014

Let courtship begin....and two footnotes!

As we progress towards February and the weather remains mild, we can expect to see our adult birds spending more time on the nest platform.
Currently it needs a bit of a 'spring clean' - as do the cameras. So, sometime next month an abseil will be arranged to carry out the necessary annual maintenance work.
January 2012:  preparing to abseil down to clean up the nest 
First, the prey remains will be collected and lowered down to the nave roof for later analysis. Second, the gravel will be refreshed and treated with an anti-bacterial spray. Third, the platform will be thoroughly checked to make sure it is in good shape and that the drainage holes are clear. Fourth, the cameras will be cleaned and re-adjusted. And finally, the abseilers will drop down onto the nave roof below, keen to get inside and warmed up!
Cleaning up the platform 2012

The peregrines take little notice of all this activity and usually return to the tower later the same day. How lucky they are that their nest gets such VIP treatment!
If you have not seen the adults displaying to each other and also scraping out a depression in the gravel then there are several video clips from previous years available on You Tube. Search for VC57UK on YT and all the 50+ video clips should appear together such that you can select the one you want to see.
Job done! So down to the nave roof......

The other way to find the clips (and the blog posts which describe what's going on) is to scroll down this blog looking for the 'SEARCH THIS BLOG' window on the right hand side. Put 'courtship' into that search and several posts will appear, most with the relevant video clip right there, ready to start.

If you see nest scraping or head bowing/courtship displays in the next days and weeks then please do put a comment on the blog so we know what's happening. If it is a really good sequence we may even be able to convert it into yet another YT clip!

Footnote: taking some folk up the top of the tower the other day, we noticed three men on the top of Jurys Inn just above the two falcons. Whether they could see the birds (and visa versa) I'm not clear but they certainly weren't far away were they?
Photo by Abi Ashley
Second footnote: Feb 4th - Not for the faint hearted!
Soon after coming down from the tower this afternoon (and failing to see any peregrines on Jurys Inn to which they normally repair if anyone is on the tower) we photographed this abseiler trying to re-adjust the JI lettering. 
From that position there is a sheer drop of over 200 feet (in old money).
This may explain why our birds had gone temporarily awol! One was back nothing to worry about......
The Jury's out .....of line!
Even this photo doesn't show the whole drop!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Writing about peregrines - and painting them

With the nights at their longest just now and not a huge amount happening on the web cams, here are a few reading suggestions (and some art) that might entertain you through these dreary January days.
First, the peregrine 'bible'; The Peregrine Falcon, by Derek Ratcliffe (Poyser) is undoubtedly the most comprehensive and authoritative book on peregrines ever written. Sadly Derek is no longer with us. He would have been delighted by the opportunities provided by modern web cams to examine closely the intimacies of the lives of these iconic raptors!
Published by Poyser and now out of print
Derek Ratcliffe's book is a scientific one, full of facts, tables and details about peregrines and their lives. Incidentally the wonderful artwork is by Donald Watson, a Scottish artist who died a few years ago in his eighties.
For a (much) more readable text, try a book regarded as possibly the best piece of nature writing ever to have been written. J A Baker wrote The Peregrine in the 1960s, having 'set out to track the daily comings and goings of a pair of peregrine falcons across the flat fenlands of Eastern England' (Essex mainly). The book was published in 1967 by Penguin in the UK and by Harpur and Row in The States. Baker, a reclusive man, also died a few years ago.
Cover of the new edition, painting by Elizabeth Frink
A further book to delight in is The Peregrine by Charles Tunnicliffe, also now out of print. It is full of Tunnicliffe's writings, paintings and engravings entirely focused on the peregrines he watched at South Stack on Anglesey over forty years ago.

And here are some more peregrines painted by other wildlife artists that you might enjoy:
This painting is by Mike Warren, a Nottinghamshire based artist
This is by Noel Cusa, a disciple of C F Tunnicliffe.
Note the accompanying sea pinks and navelwort.....

This composite sketch by Darren Woodhead shows a peregrine 
chasing a flock of knot and catching one

This is by Darren Rees. The bird appears to be dozing in the sun
All these artists were (when alive) or still are members of The Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA). These are artists who really get to know their subjects by studying them in the field where sketches are made before returning to their studios to make finished work. To see more of their work and that of other members go to . They hold an annual exhibition in London each autumn - well worth going to. It costs only a few pounds to get in.
Incidentally, more of Charles Tunnicliffe's work can be seen on this website -
Nick B (DWT)