Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Quite some female and news of some juveniles

Our female peregrine has done very well over the years that we have watched her.
She was first seen in 2004/5 and has been present ever since, along with her trusty mate.
As we wait for her ninth clutch of eggs to hatch, here are some statistics about her:

  • The first year she bred (in 2006, soon after we put the platform up) three eggs.hatched.

Our successful female......photo: Colin Pass

  • In the subsequent eight years she laid four eggs each year, making a total to date of 35 eggs.
  • Obviously, this year's eggs have yet to hatch but in the previous eight seasons, only two of the 31 eggs she laid failed to hatch (in 2007), though we don't know why.
  • Of the 29 eggs that did hatch, 27 chicks went on to fledge (leave the nest)
  • In 2010, two small chicks died in the nest.
  • Of the chicks that fledged we know rather little. All we do know is as follows:
  • In 2009, one female broke her neck by flying into glass screens on top of a nearby building. She's now been set up as a museum specimen and we use her at events to show people what a peregrine looks like.

Our taxidernied juvenile female, complete with rings
In the same year, another newly fledged female damaged her wing and could not be released back into the wild. She is called 'Cathy' and she has been looked after for us since then by Colin Pass, a local falconer, to whom we owe many thanks.

recent picture of Cathy, now in adult plumage 
At the moment we are looking for a new keeper for Cathy since Colin doesn't have sufficient room to house her properly any more. We'll let you know when we have found someone willing and suitably experienced to look after her...she's very tolerant of people so if her new owner is willing, perhaps they could bring her to the cathedral occasionally when we have events there. Watch this space!

Last summer we were contacted by a bird watcher in North Yorkshire who had seen a colour ringed female peregrine at a nest up there. We strongly suspect this bird is 002, a female ringed in 2007 and we hope to get a decent photo of her leg sometime this summer to clinch this.
Ringed female peregrine photographed in Yorkshire 
This would be the first of our juveniles which we have proved to be breeding somewhere else - exciting for her and for us!
Finally, a juvenile from our brood of 2012 was recently found injured near Alfreton and is now in the care of a very experienced falconer. This bird, a male, is now almost two years old. He seems to have a damaged elbow joint and another vet will be checking him out shortly. Apparently he's now eating well and putting on weight - but it looks possible that he will never be able to fly in the wild again.
More information about him will follow as soon as we get it.
Clearly, our female has been a successful bird - even if she lays no more eggs in her life, her record so far is very good. We know that the first year in the life of any juvenile is fraught with dangers and that many, probably most, don't survive into adulthood. But having fledged 27 young so far, we would hope that at least a handful are still alive and breeding somewhere else in the UK....the Yorkshire bird being just one of them!

Whilst we celebrate these breeding successes, the sad fact is that parts of northern Derbyshire and the Peak District are still no-go areas for all birds of prey - indeed, for any species that is deemed by shooting interests to interfere with the management of grouse moors, even on land owned by the National Trust. Our National Parks should be full of  raptors, but they are silent. And questions are being asked as to how this has been allowed to continue. More on this later.

Nick B/Nick Moyes

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Odds and ends and news from Malta

UPDATE 20th April: Chris Packham is frustrated by the fact that no UK TV company or channel will either make or broadcast what goes on in Malta each spring (and autumn) as thousands of migrant birds get blasted out of the skies. Everything from robins to hoopoes, bee eaters to swallows, ospreys to honey buzzards and cranes to storks are targeted....and many die a slow painful death from their injuries.
Raptors are blasted from the Maltese skies.....

So Chris is funding his own initiative and has taken a camera crew out there to record what goes on.
Starting tomorrow, Monday 21st., Chris will post video diaries of the day’s events on You Tube at 9pm each evening through to 26th:    http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/ 
Watch them if you dare.......
 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Now about a week into incubation, there's time to post about a few other peregrine-related things:
First, a reminder for teachers that the free resources boxes are now available for schools in both the county and the city. For full details please scroll down this blog to the entry for 21st March.
Contents of a resource box displayed

Second, a new book on peregrines; 'Top Gun of the Sky' is available direct from us.
The book, by Martin Bradley, has few words but wonderful paintings and is mainly aimed at children. Martin works at Fawley Refinery near the New Forest in Hampshire. The refinery has a pair of peregrines nesting on it - and Martin has become fascinated with them.
Book cover

To obtain a copy including postage of £1.50 within the UK, either send a cheque for £6.50 payable to DWT to East Mill, Belper, Derbyshire DE56 1XH or ring the office (01773 881188) and pay by credit/debit card. Should anyone want a copy send overseas please ring the office for a price to include overseas postage. We have a limited number of copies in stock but can obtain more as required. The project gets £2 for each copy. Should you wish to make a donation in addition to the basic £6.50 we would naturally be delighted!
Third, while our urban peregrines are pretty much safe, peregrines in the north of the county are not, especially if they try to nest on moorland in the Peak District National Park which is managed for red grouse shooting. Despite being protected by law (and receiving the highest level of protection under 'Schedule One'), peregrines and other raptors keep 'disappearing' from the moors and nest sites are left empty.
One nest site which has failed to rear any young for years, has recently been occupied by a new pair of falcons and in an attempt to ensure these birds survive, the nest site has been made public and a hide for watching them has been erected by the National Trust which now seeks volunteers to take part in a round the clock rota watching the birds.
Upland Peregrine by Noel Cusa
Simon Barnes, wildlife writer for The Times, visited the site last week and has written about the shameful situation regarding peregrines and other raptors in the Peak District in his column last Saturday (12th). Unfortunately, Simon's excellent article is unavailable online unless you take out a trial subscription to the paper for a month (cost £1).
Nick B (DWT)

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Full clutch

Our fourth egg appeared on Saturday morning around 9am. As usual it was first reported on our blog by comments from a number of our web cam watchers. This is yet another full clutch of four for Derby's amazing peregrine falcons.

The two video clips below were captured by an automatic recording process from our super new nest camera (see Stream 4). The first was a moment just before midnight last night (4th April); the second at 07:20am this morning, with the male bringing in food to our hungry falcon. (The male will do all the hunting now, whilst the falcon does the majority of the incubation).

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Egg number three is laid

Thanks to our eager band of egg-watchers, egg number three was spotted just after 9 pm tonight (2nd April).
So just a final one to go (we hope) to complete the clutch and start full incubation. Given that the gap between numbers 2 and 3 was well over 48 hours, the last egg might be laid sometime on Saturday?

Down at the cathedral this morning for another BBC Radio Derby interview (they're mad keen on peregrine stories this year!), there was no sign of the intruder.
Four different clutches of peregrine eggs
The male flew in and landed on the stonework just above and to the side of the platform - a position I don't remember seeing him take up before. He peered down into the platform and soon flew down to cover the eggs as the female flew off and away to Jurys Inn.
The male's job for the next month once 'serious' incubation has begun will be to hunt prey and bring back all the female's food requirements for her. She will do the bulk of the incubation, just slipping away to feed, preen and perhaps go for a bathe (we have no idea where they go to wash and drink by the way!).
She is rarely away more than an hour or two, returning and almost pushing the male off the eggs so keen is she to get back onto them.
Peregrine eggs are a wonderful colour when fresh
This makes sense since, being a bigger bird, her brood patch is large and she is much better at covering the clutch than is the male. (A brood patch is that part of her lower belly where the feathers moult leaving a bare area rich in blood vessels. This, when pressed close to the eggs, allows them to be kept really warm to aid their development).
Nick B (DWT)

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Should we expect a full clutch?

Now that April 1st is out of the way (no comment but see the previous post if you missed it!), we can look forward to the laying of a third egg tomorrow, 48 + hours after the second.
We have become very accustomed to our female laying a full clutch of four eggs. After all, she has done so since 2007 (she only laid three eggs in 2006 - her very first year of breeding).
Our fruitful female

However, as she gets older, we need to be aware that her egg-laying capacity may diminish and she may only lay three or even two eggs.
Also it could be that the male's fertility will decrease...but hopefully not this year let alone next - which will be their tenth year breeding together, assuming both of them survive into spring 2015.
With luck, and now maybe tempting fate a wee bit, we expect the fourth egg to be laid around Friday/Saturday and if that is the case, full incubation will start straight away.
This allows us to predict when the chicks might appear and when they will be big enough to peer over the front of the platform and be seen from below. Ian Layton, our Engagement Officer, will now be able to start planning the Watch Points that we run each May and June down on Cathedral Green behind the cathedral.

For those of you new to Derby's peregrines these are events where we bring telescopes so that anyone passing by (or coming specially) can see the birds 'for real'. Details of dates etc will appear on this blog nearer the time of course.
So, there's plenty to look forward to...though, once incubation starts, be warned; things will go very quiet for about a month.
Nick B (DWT)

Mystery eggs cause extreme eggcitement

Alerted by devoted American web cam watcher, Isabelle B. Leevitornot, Derby peregrine project workers were amazed to see two more eggs suddenly appear overnight in the nest, less than 24 hours since a second egg was laid.
Screengrab of the four eggs which are attracting international attention
Nick Brown for the project said:
"Female peregrines take two day or more days to form an egg. Since she only laid the second egg mid-morning yesterday (Monday 31st March), she cannot possibly have produced these two new eggs without outside assistance. The only possibility is that both the male and an intruding, mystery third bird have each laid an egg, probably trying to make up time on peregrines elsewhere in the UK which are all well ahead of Derby, with most already sitting on four eggs by now.
Nick said:
"Obviously this is very eggciting news and quite unprecedented  - though a similar thing happened once before in Egsville USA. This would be the first occurrence in the UK and in Europe too.
We know that some species of male fish can change sex and lay eggs, so it's not entirely impossible that peregrines could do likewise. And it would also prove that the strange intruding third bird was a female."
The members of the project team are scouring the literature now to try to validate these observations and find other cases.
Nick Brown
April 1st 2014
Ps Egged on by the opportunity this provides to further our scientific knowledge, Nick Moyes is abseiling down from the top of the tower now to remove the two extra eggs for analysis - so if you log on and only see two eggs, that will be the reason. There is only one day in the year when such activity is permitted under government lie-cence. And today is the day.