Friday, 23 January 2015

Drifting into February

Anyone new to this blog and our Derby Cathedral peregrines may be surprised that, even as early as February, the pair begin to court and scrap a depression in the gravel.
This pair have been with us since 2004/5 when they first began to be noticed. So they are an old couple, well used to each other by now.
Not surprisingly, there isn't the same level of noisy display flights as there was in the early years though courtship behaviour on the platform or 'scrape' seems undiminished.
If you are lucky enough to see and hear the pair together on the gravel (as Lorraine in Devon did recently), you will be able to hear the 'e-chupp' calls, especially from the female as the pair bow to each other and go through their 'ritualised' courtship 'facing each other and bowing' displays.
It is clear how dominant the larger female is (the male is about a third smaller - hence the falconer's name for him - the 'tiercel'  - from an old French word meaning a third).
If you have never seen courtship or heard the 'e-chupp' calls we have over 50 You Tube videos available for you to watch.
To find them, once on You Tube do a search for VC57UK (Nick M's code) which will then bring them all up together for you to scroll down to the ones you want to see. Here are a few suggestions of some that show courtship and/or nest scraping (using the feet):

2008 Derby Peregrine Falcons (8) Courtship and E-chupping

2008 Derby Peregrine falcons (5) Courtship and Nest Scraping

Derby peregrines 2013 (6) Nest scraping and a good peer at you all (this is excellent, taken using the newest, wide angled lens!)

Our female takes a look at the new lens soon after
it was put up ( early in 2013)
And a mating sequence (best watched after 9 pm!):

2012 Derby Peregrines (8) Good mating Sequence.

All these clips were extracted by Nick Moyes, our technical wizard. For each one he had to climb the tower to the ringing room, find the clip on the video server (no easy matter!), save it to a CD and take it home and put it on You Tube. Where would we be without him?

Nick B (DWT)

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Happy New Year (and a talk)

Best wishes and a Happy New Year to all followers of the Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project which is now managed by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on behalf of a partnership consisting of the Trust, The Cathedral, the City Council (especially its IT team) and Cathedral Quarter.
Overnight and during the day, the snow on the platform, as elsewhere, has vanished as the temperature shot up by 10 degrees. Clearly there has been some feeding on the platform today (or last night?) since there are now lots of feathers and a length of some prey's alimentary canal!
Since this blog began, early in 2007, we have put up 570 posts, that's roughly 70 posts per year. In response we've received over 15,000 comments which is very encouraging - we really do have a virtual support community don't we?

So a big thank you to everyone who has posted a comment, sent in a donation, attended a Watch Point or just watched our birds on the wen cams.
2015 will be our tenth season and, naturally, the tenth breeding year for our resilient pair of falcons.
There's much to look forward to!

Best wishes,

The Project Team (Nick M, Ian L and Nick B)

Ps. Nick B will be giving an illustrated talk about the project to Staffs Wildlife Trust Local Group at All Saints Church, Branston Road, Burton on Trent on Tuesday 6th January at 7.30pm. should anyone live in that parking is over the road in Hurst Setters Assocs. CP.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The shortest day....

It's the winter solstice today and that is worth celebrating because from now on, the days get longer and the nights shorter.
Whether our peregrines are aware of this or not, it won't be long before they begin to show signs of courtship. By February, nest scraping and bowing will be happening on the nest platform, assuming our two birds are healthy and well.
Of course, they are getting older now so we must prepare ourselves for the inevitable. If one of them does die, we are confident that another bird will soon replace we feel sure that we won't have a year when breeding doesn't take place....fingers crossed of course!
Up the top of the tower a couple of weeks ago, Nick Moyes and I were showing Esther Kettel, a PhD student from Nottingham and her tutor the ropes. Well not the actual ropes of course, but certainly the setting for the dramas that take place every year.
We found some prey at the top of the tower of course. A lapwing had been cached on the south side, on the top of one of those wonderful mythical 'grotesques' that were carved almost 500 years ago when the tower was built. On the east side, a song thrush was also lying there uneaten. And in a lead gutter, what looked like a carrion crow was spotted, partially hidden by the side of the gutter and therefore not entirely visible. A snipe head was also discovered - so pretty much usual fare for the time of year.
Esther was delighted to see a nest site for real, having been incarcerated behind her computer for months. We hope that she will choose our project as one of the ten across the country that she selects to study. Her main interests are to log the birds' behaviour and to study their prey.
The floodlit tower on a December evening
It has been quite mild here in Derby so far this winter, with only a few frosts to date. Will we get a late dump of snow as we did in 2013? Or will it stay mild throughout? Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, Merry Solstice, a joyful Christmas and a Happy New year to all our 'virtual community' of peregrine watchers!

The Peregrine Project Team
Ps. We are now confident that we have enough grant money spare to employ Ian Layton, our popular People Engagement Officer, again next summer. Good news indeed! He'll start back with us in late February or March.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Top Ten award and another 2009 youngster comes a cropper

Our Project's web cams have been placed in the TOP TEN BIRD WEB CAMS IN THE UK by the magazine of BBC TV's Countryfile programme.
Considering how many bird cams there are now this is a great accolade and of course, it is all down to Nick Moyes who set them up and has managed them ever since.
The two cameras looking down on the nest platform went up in 2007, with the so called pudding-cam on the ledge above a year later.
Then, in February 2013, Nick fixed a new wide angled camera to the back of the platform. This is the one that gives a view out over Derby:

Another one comes to ground
In 2009, our Derby peregrines raised four young, two males and two females.
One of the females, colour ring 009, was found dead on the roof of a block of flats nearby soon after she had fledged. She'd flown into a smoked glass screen which ran around the edge of the roof and had broken her neck. She was set up by a taxidermist and we use her for educational purposes - see the previous post.
The other female, 010, injured her shoulder beyong repair and has been in the care of Colin Pass and now Dave and Lesley Robinson. Colin called her Cathy.
Last week, one of the two males of the 2009 brood, with colour ring 011, was taken to Lesley and Dave with a slightly drooping wing.
This male was found in Nottingham city in a school playground, unable to fly. Mark Speck from the Notts Wildlife Trust collected him and took him to Lesley and Dave.
He was taken to the vets who decided that, with a bit of luck, the bird might recover after some recuperation.
So, what happened to this male? He's in full adult plumage as you can see from Lesley's photo:
011, a male from 2009, injured last week in Nottingham
There are two possibilities, foul play having been discounted:
First he was chasing prey and flew into some obstacle - a wall or fence perhaps.
Second, he had an aerial battle with another peregrine. This is a real possibility since not so far from where he was found there is a pair on a church. Perhaps he tried to take over?
If he did, he didn't succeed because it now seems that the male at this site, seen this week, also has an orange ring on his left leg!
So, the plot many of our youngsters are trying to get paired up in Nottingham we wonder?
Nick Brown (DWT)