Thursday, 21 August 2014

Bell Ringing Open Day this Saturday 23rd August

Derby Cathedral Bellringers’ Tower Open Day, Saturday 23rd August 2014.
Roger Lawson, a bell ringer and supporter of the peregrine project, writes:

Regular viewers of the live webcam feeds will be familiar with the sound of the Cathedral’s bells, whether it’s the simple tunes at the quarters and hours, the full tunes at 9am, 12pm and 6pm or the full-blown change-ringing on Tuesday evening or Sunday, but have you ever wondered how they are rung?  Well now’s your chance to find out.
View of the bells from above. Thye are within feet of the peregrine nest platform!
On Saturday 23rd August, the bellringers are holding their annual Tower Open Day where you can climb the tower, learn about the various ways the bells are rung, see demonstrations of ringing and, under careful supervision, have a go yourself.
You’ll also be able to see the high-tech alcove which is home to the peregrine web-cam hub and recording equipment and, if they’re around, watch the peregrines live on the monitor. You can then climb the rest of the way to the top of the tower to get a peregrine’s eye view over Derby and the surrounding countryside.
The tower will be open from 10am to 4.30pm, with climbs every 30 minutes and the last one at 4pm. On the 11:30 climb there will also be a rare opportunity to watch the incredible mechanism which plays the mid-day tune on the bells.
The climbs are £3 for adults and £2 for children over 8 years old.

Nick B (DWT)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Hen Harrier Day and an Post Rally Update and BIRD FAIR NEWS

Sunday PM Update: Well the rally was somewhat wet but a great success!
Over 500 people turned up in torential rain and stood to listen to Chris Packham and Mark Avery. There should be coverage of the rally on TV (tonight) and in the papers tomorrow (and perhaps on breakfast TV too). (and on Mark's blog ). Some photos below.

Tomorrow (Sunday 10th) is Hen Harrier Day when people will gather at three locations in northern England to show their concerns for the plight of this bird which is all but extinct on English grouse moors (there should  be at least 250 pairs but illegal persecution keeps them excluded from their moorland home).
The Derbyshire gathering is at the top of ladybower Reservoir but the event is now 'full'.

So if you are not already booked to go, here's what you can do:
First read Mark Avery's blog to understand the background - scroll down a bit (but not that far!):

And second, if you are into social media, here are some options as set out by BAWC - Birders against Wildlife Crime, who originated the idea:

"If you can't make it to one of our events but would like to have your say and speak up for Hen Harriers...all you need is a smartphone or a computer, and maybe a camera and a willingness to take a 'selfie'!

Thunderclap: The groups organising Hen Harrier Day are co-ordinating a 'Thunderclap' — a method of using Twitter or Facebook to create an amplified message across social media. The message is sent out at the same time to all of the followers of the supporters who have signed up: in effect it explodes across social media like a thunderclap bursts across the sky. BAWC would like to thank the team who met (online) and discussed the message and timing of this campaign, and especially Naomi Rose of the RSPB who took the lead on creating it.
Twitter: Let's get #HenHarrierDay trending! If you'd like to show your support on Twitter please use the hashtag #HenHarrierDay when promoting or discussing Hen Harrier Day.
Twibbon: We've launched a Twibbon campaign for both Twitter and Facebook which, after just a few weeks, has attracted over 1000 users! Note that it is very easy to remove the Twibbon — just go back to the Twibbon website, find this campaign, and revoke permission for the Twibbon app to 'see' your account. Not sure what a twibbon is or why you might want one? Have a look at .
'Selfie': Yes, we know, 'selfies' (photos of yourself posted online) have a bit of poor reputation now (thanks all you Z-list celebs) but actually they are a great campaign tool. And if you can't make it to a Hen Harrier Day event, how about being part of the action without even having to leave your home. We've uploaded a 'We're Missing our Hen Harriers' poster and simple instructions to . It couldn't be easier. Please do read the T&Cs, though; we wouldn't want to use your image using our image without your consent”.

Nick B
Male hen harrier by Chris Baines
Photos from HHD in the Dark Peak District of Derbyshire
Chris Packham and Mark Avery

500 folk listen to Chris Packham (left foreground)
Today (the inglorious 12th) there's plenty of coverage of the grouse/harrier issue on the media.
Best videos of the day itself are on You Tube - just search for Hen Harrier Day or go to Chris Packham's website or Mark Avery's blog.
Incidentally, both Nicks were present in the rain (and played an active part in the preparations for the day) plus several other peregrines volunteers (Sue peregrino included) plus a large contingent from the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust. Ian L was due to have motor biked over from Notts but the rain was just too impossible - the roads were deep in puddles everywhere.

BIRD FAIR at Rutland Water is this weekend - Friday, Saturday and Sunday 15-17 August .  If you have never been it is an experience for sure! Massive event!
I'm going on Saturday this time and hope to catch Ed Drewitt talking about his book Urban Peregrines at 1.30 in the author's marquee. There's so many stalls and events/talks it is always difficult to know which day to go on!

Friday, 1 August 2014

False alarm and a swift web cam that's still active

A call from the cathedral today suggested that a dead bird of prey brought into the shop/cafe was one of the peregrines.
Someone had actually seen the bird in question fly into a window not far from the cathedral while chasing a pigeon or some other prey. It died instantaneously, breaking its neck.
When I arrived in town I checked the cathedral tower and Jurys Inn first. Both adults and two juveniles were present but I couldn't see a third juvenile.
When I got over to the cathedral centre and opened the box, there inside was a juvenile male sparrow hawk, a tiny bird compared to a peregrine.
Sparrowhawk corpse and foot ruler
The bird was in perfect condition, its eyes still open showing a narrow pale yellow edge to the iris and a black centre (adults have fiery yellow eyes distinguishing them immediately from peregrines eyes which are black at all ages).
The colouraton isn't blood!
The corpse will be sent off for analysis to see what pollutants it may have - though the results won't come back for many months.
Every year we get many calls from people who think they have had a peregrine in their garden. They always (well, just about always) turn out to be sparrowhawks.
Incidentally, female sparrowhawks, like female peregrines, are much bigger than males - up to 25% bigger. This size difference probably allows the pair to occupy the same territory without competing for food but hunting a wider prey spectrum than they would do if they were the same size.
Swifts are superb aerial birds and nest all over Derbyshire and the UK. Sadly they are in steep decline. Part of the reason for this is that people accidentally exclude them from the roofs in which they nest when they have the house renovated, re-roofed or have new soffits and gutters.
A new Project aims to help swifts and engage with people, making them more aware of this excellent bird and its fascinating life.
To see chicks still in nests in Oxford .
If you are interested in learning more about the project and especially if you live in the county, please contact .
A wonderful website about swifts, run by Swift Conservation, can be found at

Nick B (DWT)

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Thank you Tony, thank you Ian, thank you all

With our birds safely fledged, it's a good time to thank a few people:
Tony Grantham. Tony was the Head Verger at the Cathedral when we started this project 2005/6). He resigned his post a couple of years ago to spend more time working with his wife, Dawn, on their thriving business importing and selling cutting machines.
Tony was a fantastic help to Nick M and me in those early days. Once he saw the birds himself, he became entirely hooked on them. He opened so many doors for us, both literally and metaphorically, that I doubt the project would have happened at all had he not been there to smooth its passage.
Thanks Tony for all you did for us - without you we'd be nowhere!
Tony helps out when a juvenile comes to ground
Ian Layton
Ian came on the scene early last year when he was appointed as People and Peregrines Engagement Officer for two summers, funded by our HLF lottery grant. Like Tony, Ian quickly adopted the birds and the project. He has made a huge difference both to our engagement of people and to the Watch Points themselves.
Just now we are trying to identify enough money to offer Ian the chance to work with us again in summer 2015. Meanwhile of course, Ian has to earn a living and that may mean he becomes unavailable next summer if he gets a permanent job somewhere. Time will tell.
We'd love to have him back if we can get him - he's been a pleasure to work with!
The likely lad

Our Watch Point volunteers
As usual, our trusty volunteers have turned up come rain, come shine, to help on Cathedral Green. Standing there for three hours and more can be very tiring - so they all deserve our thanks! This year they've been helped by our excellent Rolls-Royce team of graduates and apprentices. More on them later since they continue to work with us until the autumn.
Ian with sight-impaired children from a local school
School at a special Watch Point

Our donors
We have thanked each donor individually as we always do - but they deserve our special thanks because, without them, the project would have floundered long ago. Even with our lottery grant we still need our own income every year since the grant is not 100%. It requires 'match finding' to the tune of over £1000 each year.
If you would like to make a donation - please see the tab at the top of the blog home page which gives advice about how to do it. It is very simple!

Our partners
While the wildlife trust carried the bulk of the work, we would be no where without our partners. The Cathedral staff have been wonderful again, helping in all sorts of ways behind the scenes. We must particularly mention John Armitage, a great help to Ian especially, and Jackie Croft, Cathedral Administrator and Development Manager. Jackie is leaving Derby soon and we will miss her. She helped with the recruitment of Ian and in many different ways has been very supportive of our project. Thanks Jackie, we wish you well for the future!
The Grade One listed tower, now almost 500 years old!
Thanks also to the vergers who tolerated our incursions on their territory throughout the Watch Point season. Special thanks also to verger Matt who stayed late on bird ringing night so as to lock up behind us - much appreciated!
Final thanks to the cathedral office staff (Kim, Irene and Lucille) who booked rooms for us, handled enquiries and much more.
Thanks to Antony Messenger for ringing the chicks for us, as he has done every year since 2006.
Thanks to Serco and the city council's IT team for keeping the cameras up and running. An excellent job you've done! Thanks also to Melanie at Cathedral Quarter for her ideas and support, especially to the RR team.

Our web cam watchers and blog commentators
Last but by no means least, our virtual 'community of watchers and commentators; we'd be so much the poorer without all of you. 280,000 hits since January testifies to the way you've become addicted to our special birds. And over 800 comments so far this year shows how you have chipped in with observations and comments, keeping us on our toes and helping us too by keeping watch when we couldn't.
Brilliant work!

No doubt we've missed a few people....apologies in advance.....but it has been yet another good season and we look forward now to 2015, our tenth anniversary...provided the adult pair play ball and stick around! On that subject, do keep tuning in because our birds will be visible from time to time. We will keep the blog going all year...unlike so many other peregrine sites.
Two juveniles by Colin Pass

Nick Moyes/Nick Brown
Ps Don't forget the Hen Harrier Day Rally on 10th August 'up county'. Details as ever of Mark Avery's blog ...though you may have to hunt about a bit to find the latest updates, posted every Monday at 6pm.