A blog post by Phil Sheldrake on 25 March
Whilst the very roots of our lives are being shaken daily by the rapidly evolving Covid19 crisis, nature is quietly going about its business in the background. Wildlife goes on. We have a second egg at Salisbury Cathedral – two and a half days after the first, as expected really, something quite normal in an otherwise very unnormal world! An email popped up early yesterday evening from James Fisher to say he had seen it on the webcam. Those of you who have followed the fortunes of our peregrines over the past few years will have doubtlessly seen many of James’ stunning photographs. James is based locally to Salisbury and has become our unofficial official peregrine photographer at the Cathedral, do have a look at his amazing photographs on his website www.jfwildlife.co.uk
I used to do a lot of nature photography myself, taking it very seriously with all the gear and at least some idea. Then children came along at the same time the digital revolution, and I let it slip, focusing more on snaps of the kids. Whether you choose to look through the lenses of a camera or binoculars, or just look, the real joy comes with watching nature. The webcam provides us with a fascinating insight to the lives of our peregrines – it’s captivating, it’s difficult to glance away or turn it off in case you miss something. And now more of you are watching – the ‘stats’ tell us that there’s been a whopping 94% increase in visits to the webcam page this year compared with last year, and the Cathedral’s social media posts have reached over 60,000 people!
The webcam gives us an insight into the lives of our peregrines, for many of us it will be a fascination and for a few it can be a lifeline. The story was covered in The Guardian and The Times yesterday, and I was struck by a quote from Jayne Cahill, 71, in the Times article who is a transcriber and carer for her husband Dennis, since he suffered a stroke ten years ago. She said the nest webcam could be like a soap opera, “…I can drop in and out of the webcam and have a window into another world.” I hope she’ll be watching for the third egg……Friday morning in a normal world?
Phil Sheldrake is the Cathedral’s Nature Conservation Adviser. He describes himself as a social conservationist, focused on bringing people and the natural world closer together. Phil began life as a teacher, but 25 years ago a lifelong love of wildlife signaled a career change and he swapped the classroom for the great outdoors. Starting his RSPB career as a reserves warden in Wales, he went on to manage the Wessex Stone-curlew Recovery Project and most recently covered Wiltshire & Gloucestershire d as Conservation Officer. He is a founder member of the (Eurasian) Curlew Forum, a national network for curlew conservation groups across England. Phil first approached the Cathedral in 2011 with the idea to provide a nest box for the peregrines he had seen roosting on the Tower over winter. In 2014 his efforts were rewarded with peregrines returning to nest successfully after an absence of 61 years. Since then Phil has continued to support the Cathedral in development of the peregrine project including the provision of the webcam to give us a window into the life of this charismatic bird. Phil works closely with another peregrine expert, Granville Pictor of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society and Cathedral Clerk of Works, Gary Price. He also co-ordinates the peregrine ringing, with the help of naturalist Ed Drewitt of the British Trust for Ornithology.