A Day with the Derby Cathedral Peregrines

Interview by Richard Palmer

peregrinesWe are always up with the light. We might go and get some early breakfast depending on what we’ve had to eat the day before. There are always one or two careless birds about at that time of the morning.

Why did we come to Derby? We came because it has the highest concentration of fast food outlets in the country. It means that there are always plenty of fat lazy pigeons and other prey about, nibbling up the crumbs. We only eat prey caught on the wing. The missus is bigger than me so she’ll go for the larger stuff, a nice bit of duck or some fishy waterfowl. I’ll stick to the smaller prey. When we’re raising a brood, the chicks are always bothering us for discarded food scraps – a kebab, a slice of pepperoni pizza or a meat pie. But we don’t allow them junk food; we only give them flight-fresh meals. And we are well aware that some people think of us as voracious and vicious hunters. But to be honest, you lot are quite happy to sit down to a nice bit of roast lamb or a juicy steak. The only difference with us is that we do our own hunting and killing.

We also like Derby because, when the chicks start to fly, we can take them out to the country very quickly, perhaps for a trip up to the Peak District to let them practice some of their aerial moves and dives. They enjoy that. As a species, we peregrines tend to keep ourselves to ourselves as families. We have some relatives that come to Belper Mill in some breeding seasons but we will give one another space and keep out of one another’s way. I’d say we all have each other’s interests at heart but let’s put it this way, we don’t exchange birthday presents.

If it’s the breeding season, life is busy. The wife and I are at it all day. She’ll do a lot of the early-days childcare, whilst I go out and get the shopping in. As I say, she’s much bigger than me so she can bring down larger prey and she’ll take over some of the food shopping as the chicks start to mature more. We want them to grow up strong and healthy and be happy in life. Therefore teaching them good hunting skills is vital. Some of our relatives get sucked into falconry and become tamed and kept in cages. It’s a nonsense and they can easily become enthralled with the celebrity lifestyle. They start to live an unhealthy and unnatural life and can soon lose sight of their purpose in life and go downhill. That’s a mug’s game. We want our kids to grow up wild and free, find a nice partner, a good hunting site, settle down and have some chicks of their own.

We’ll maybe have a rest in the heat of the day; it depends what’s happening in the air but we need to be constantly alert. Out worst enemy is you people. We know you’re watching us all the time. We’ve spotted the cameras and understand we are quite well known on Facebook and the web. But to be honest, we are not bothered by fame.  We just want to be left alone to bring up our chicks and do what we do best.

The weekends are noisier for us. Friday and Saturday nights are a bit rowdy in the city but we cope with it. There is not much that bothers us up here. Sundays are the worst. The bell-ringing starts up mid-morning and can get a bit overpowering. So we might clear off for some early lunch but the disruption doesn’t last for long.

As peregrines, we always live in high-rise accommodation, so the cathedral suits us well. We’re not quite sure what goes on in there. People seem to arrive looking guilty and downtrodden, then leave with their heads up, smiling and chatting. Strange.

At night, we’ll settle down. Sometimes there’s some night fliers come by and we’ll grab us some late supper. The floodlights help us here. And then it’s time to get some shut eye.

Do we believe in God? Of course. We have a very clear purpose in our lives. We are the fastest animal on the planet. We clear up all the less able prey and hence keep the various breeds in good shape. We recognise that people are interested in us as we are a strong breed. But we know our place in the pecking order of things. You lot seem to make life so complicated and difficult for yourselves, chasing after the wrong dreams and aspirations and getting yourselves into all sorts of trouble. We are much clearer in our purpose and calling in life and our role in the world. And we tend to live in the moment. It makes for a much more contented existence. A simple life is what we lead. You lot should try a bit more of it.

©Richard Palmer

This article first appeared in Outlook, Derby Cathedral’s monthly magazine, in May 2016. To view the peregrines on live webcam visit –

http://www.derby.gov.uk/environment-and-planning/parks-and-open-spaces/wildlife/peregrines/peregrine-camera-4/

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