Eyas Update

It is week four of the NTU peregrine falcon chicks’ development and I am honestly amazed at how quickly they are growing!  I noticed yesterday that the cameras were off for a while, so knew that it was ‘ringing time’.  It was exciting to later read that the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and NTU Sustainability team had indeed finally ringed the chicks and found out that there are three females and one male!  To ring the chicks, the team waited for the parents to leave the nest and then quickly fitted a small, lightweight, harmless, metal ring around the leg of each eyas.  Ringing birds is essential for bird conservation as it helps provide information about their movements, locations and lifespans.

Some brilliant photographs taken during the ringing process.  (Thank you for these Emily).

The images below are just a few stills from the NTU live stream that I have saved.  Archie and Mrs P have been providing a constant supply of feral pigeons and other medium sized birds for the eyases and as you can see in the fifth image, their crops have been nice and full.  Although one chick is smaller than the others (and has been nicknamed ‘Diddy’ on Facebook) all four are getting their fair share of food… I even caught one of them possibly ‘gaping’ for food whilst both parents were away, which you can see in the sixth image!

On May 13th, I noticed that all four chicks were starting to grow their flight and contour feathers, and yesterday (16th) the new darker feathers were poking through their down quite clearly (image eight).  The chicks may have changed a lot already, but we still have plenty of development to see.  At this stage they have gained a sharp eyesight and are very interested in anything that moves – whether it be a fly or blowing feather.  Their legs are getting stronger and they are a lot more active in the scrape.

In the next week or so, they will lose most of their down apart from a few tufts on their heads (hopefully – for our amusement) and will be showing off their juvenile feathers.  We may see them flapping their wings and before long, in week six, the eyases may fledge the nest for the first time!  They should remain around the nest-site for a few weeks, during which time they will become adept at flying, pursue other birds and capture their own food, but will still rely on their parents for most of their food.  Around August they will leave the nest for good… and I must say that I will certainly miss watching them!

Rocket Results

Back at the beginning of June, I blogged about a UK-wide live ‘Rocket Science Experiment‘ which I was lucky enough to do with over 8,500 schools and educational groups.  Everyone received two sets of seeds, one red and one blue – one set had been kept on the ISS in microgravity, whereas the other set had stayed on earth.  Without knowing which set was which, the seeds were grown alongside each other to investigate the impact of microgravity, radiation and space travel on seed germination and growth, to ultimately help form a “clearer picture of the potential for astronauts to grow their own food to sustain them on long-term missions”.

Due to the fact that our blue set took a couple of days longer to germinate and grow seed-leaves, my team guessed that the blue set were those kept in microgravity.

It has now been revealed which Rocket Science seeds went to space…

RHS Campaign for School Gardening

Rocket Science Experiment

To increase our knowledge of growing plants in space, 8,500 UK schools were given the opportunity over April and May to be involved with a UK-wide live science experiment – growing Rocket seeds (half from Earth and half that have been into space).  

“Two kilograms of rocket (Eruca sativa) seeds were launched on Soyuz 44S on 2nd September 2015 and arrived on the ISS two days later. British ESA astronaut Tim Peake took charge of the seeds and after being held for about six months in microgravity, the seeds were returned to Earth”.

Myself and a handful of others were given the chance to be involved, so over the last month have been in competition growing the seeds at work.  The results will help determine any differences between those seeds that were kept in microgravity and those that stayed on Earth.  We were not told which set was which, but as you can see there is not much difference in size, colour or leaf-count between ‘red’ and ‘blue’ and the only obvious difference we noticed was the fact that the blue set took a couple of days longer to germinate and grow seed-leaves.  For this reason, our guess is that the blue set were those kept in microgravity.

rocket

Once all the data has been collected the results will be analysed by professional statisticians. Leading scientists from the RHS and European Space Agency will interpret the results and draw possible conclusions. An online report will also be made available on the RHS Campaign for School Gardening website from September 2016.