Monday, 30 November 2015

False alarms

Over the winter, we usually get a few phone calls telling us that a peregrine has been found dead in Derby or perhaps been trapped in a building - and we had the latest of these last week.
Not knowing whom to ring, the person who found a dead bird of prey and thought it might be a peregrine rang the local radio station (BBC Radio Derby) who then contacted the wildlife trust.
When I emailed the guy he said he was a couple of miles from the cathedral when he had found a dead bird. Fortunately he had taken a photo and it was clearly not a peregrine but a male kestrel.
Here it is:
Male kestrel by Ian Lay
 In previous years the bird has always been a sparrowhawk. On one occasion, we received a call from the manager of the biggest shopping centre in Derby, then called the Westfield Centre, to say that some bird of prey, possibly a cathedral peregrine, was trapped inside the building and couldn't get out.
The red circle marks the spot  where the sparrowhawk
was trapped inside the glass frontage some 20 feet up!

When I went down to look I discovered a sparrowhawk that had obviously been chasing some prey or other and had flown in low down through the large glass doors. When raptors do this, they invariably fly up as high as they can get, to get away form the milling crowds below. This bird was on a rail at the top of the very tall glass frontage. A small cherry picker was brought in and I was taken up close to the bird which by now was somewhat exhausted. Moving towards it very slowly I was able to grab it from behind and bring it down to the ground.
The exhausted sparrowhawk finally in hand
Watched by a growing crowd of shoppers, I released the bird up into the sky and it flew off none the worse for its shopping trip!
(Note the bright orange eye - peregrines have dark eyes....).
On another occasion someone found a dead bird of prey thinking it was a peregrine. When I got down to investigate it too proved to be a sparrowhawk:
Dead sparrowhawk

On another occasion a kerfuffle from inside an upstairs chimney in the cathedral centre itself suggested a trapped bird was inside. When we opened up the back of the grate, there was a very sooty pigeon. It too was dusted off and released.....
So, as yet, no dead Derby peregrines...but the next phone call could just be one. Let's hope not!

Nick Brown
Project team

Ps. If you are a first time visitor to the blog, welcome.
Please note that the web cams are currently not in the best of conditions.
They have mostly been up there, exposed to the elements, since 2007 or '08 so it is not surprising that they are now struggling. We have bought some new cameras using our recent lottery grant money. Nick Moyes is configuring them and will get them in place before the season starts (February/March).
Also note that to save money we have also shut down Camera 3 until the spring.
If you want to see some great video clips of the highlights from the project's past (courtship, feeding the chicks etc) then we have over 50 video clips on You Tube that you can watch. Scroll down the right hand side of this blog to find the links.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Gear on the move down

Today, Nick Moyes moved all the various technical gear and gyzmos down a floor inside the cathedral tower. This involved turning the whole system off so we apologise if you were getting a black screen today!
It took two of us about six hours to make the move down. Unplugging everything was no simple task and each lead had to be labelled to ensure it went back in the right socket!
Fortunately the wiring Nick had employed back in 2007 when the web cams were set up was long enough to be fed through the ringing room floor and down into the room below.
Our new home is bigger than the previous one and well supplied with sockets too!
Clearly there may well be some teething problems (and the pictures seemed to be somewhat blurred at first) but we hope to have these sorted out when we next do a maintenance abseil....please bear with us.
Nick M figures out the wiring in
its new location
Finally, as if by magic, a picture appears on the monitor. There's some tidying up yet to be done but at least the system seems to be working.
The monitor in position with an old display board from upstairs
adjacent. This will be replaced before the summer.
A problem with Stream 4 seems to be caused by some external factor interfering with the signal as it travels from the tower to the Silk Mill Museum or, more likely, from the museum across to the council's IT.
One possible cause is a new hotel being built further down Full Street behind the cathedral. 
The new hotel which may possibly be getting in the way of the signal
with the nave roof in the foreground

Sorting this out is beyond our control but we have reported the problem - so fingers crossed.
We are aware of the ongoing problems with the camera that looks horizontally above the nest (towards Jurys Inn) and we plan to address this before the start of the new breeding season.

The project team
Ps. Stream 3 is off air until the spring.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Another one bites the dust

NOTICE: We have been asked to relocate our IT equipment into a different part of Derby Cathedral's Tower. This necessitates our webcams going offline at times. We hope to undertake most of this work on Monday 23rd November.

This time it isn't one of our peregrines but a juvenile bird from St. Michael's Church in Exeter, fledged (and ringed) in 2013.
It was found dead in Halifax in the spring with five lead shotgun pellets inside its body. The whole story has just been made public.
Read about it here .
X-ray of the Exeter peregrine clearly showing round lead
shot in its neck, base of skull and leg

It is of course illegal to injury, harm or kill any bird of prey, with special penalties if you kill a bird on Schedule One - and the peregrine is on that Schedule because of its rarity.
Sadly, peregrines are persecuted both up on the hills and moors where they come into conflict with the grouse shooting industry and also in more urban/lowland situations where pigeon fanciers sometimes decide to take the law into their own hands.
Where this bird was shot at is unknown but it seems more likely that it may have been shot as it flew over the grouse moors to the south of Halifax rather than in Halifax itself. We'll never know.
In Belper, a town in central Derbyshire, where peregrines have nested for a few years, earlier this year the resident male was found dead, again with lead pellets in its body. So we can surmise that many other peregrines suffer a similar fate but their corpses are never found.
Thanks to Lorraine for alerting us to this recent case and to Nick Dixon in Devon for the full details and the x-ray photo. Nick has been a constant supporter and source of wise advice to us here in Derby right from the beginning of our project in 2005/6.

Petition to ban the use of lead shot
The use of lead in shotgun cartridges is a subject much in the news at the moment. There is a petition to call on government to ban it completely since it does so much harm in the environment. Please sign the petition here. To read about the background (why it needs to be banned) please see Mark Avery's excellent blog here  - though you will need either to scroll back several posts or use the link saying 'Lead' on the right hand side of his blog. There are also concerns about anyone eating game shot using lead, a Mark explains.

Thank you.

The project team

Ps One bit of good news today is that the estate in Norfolk (Stody Estate) on which corpses of several buzzards were found (and proved to have been poisoned by the estate's gamekeeper) has been heavily fined.
To read about this see Mark's latest post.