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Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Parliament and Battersea Power Station




All Change?


Parliament



Quite an eventful weekend just gone starting off with Parliament on Saturday at dawn, positioning myself in Victoria Gardens Park I awaited the Falcon to emerge from the Palace from one of the many niches/ grotesques.

After an hour and no sign of her I hobbled to the edge of the park (knee op last week) and looked across at the Abbey, lo and behold there she was on prey with a Tiercel next to her!

Obviously it made my morning and I couldn’t have been more pleased, it likely means that breeding may well now go ahead on Victoria Palace.

I got a few distant shots of them both for reference, I was surmising that it was a new Tiercel after not seeing the resident Tiercel for a few months and thinking he was no longer present.
Checking the photos later, although fairly distant and not detailed I could see no difference to the old Tiercel; better photos will be more conclusive, hopefully this weekend.


Pair on Westminster Abbey






Whether it is a new Tiercel or not, I must admit that I thought he had gone given the time I had put in and the visits, others as well whom I keep in contact with had only seen the Falcon. I was contacted by a chap on Twitter who mentioned that he had seen the Tiercel fairly regularly, great news and well done to him, hands up it looks like I was wrong about him being missing.

Hopefully breeding will now be a foregone conclusion so looking forward to Fridays visit when hopefully I can get some decent photos of him – weather permitting if I don’t get blown away....



Battersea Power Station



Another dawn visit on Sunday, albeit in exceptionally strong winds, the prelude to the approaching storm we are now experiencing now, not surprisingly not one of the Luffer Cranes was working.

I soon located the Falcon and then consequently the immature not far behind her as they located to the Tower resting up for around 30 minutes, neither bird hunting.
However this was soon to change when I soon heard the Falcon’s agitated call, looking up to see the cause of the stress showed another Peregrine, quite obviously an adult Tiercel as he began to display.

It’s been a long time since I have seen an adult Tiercel display, the pairs that I monitor are mostly long bonded and there is little display it seems if they have a settled bond and are paired and territorial all year round.
For around 5 minutes he showed off his flying abilities, vertical stoops, casting up, down, power flying at breathtaking speeds, using the wind it was the most incredible display I have seen bar none.

I was impressed, she was obviously as she went up and joined him, you may ask what the immature did, he obviously stressed called but remained on the Tower as both adults were eventually lost to view as they went further and further up towards the heavens.

Distant and poor photos of the new Tiercel but you can see the speed was there.

Casting back up after a vertical dive

Classic shape, wings closed coming down at speed

Checking the rest of the site for birds, 3 Grey Wagtails were already showing breeding behaviour along the river wall and the House Sparrow colony numbered 15 birds at roost in the Buddleia, I eventually left site.
As I exited, I spared a thought for the immature still sitting on the Tower, going on this morning’s activities it was likely that his world was about to change, or so I thought.

After arriving back home I consequently checked the CCTV and lo and behold, there was the Falcon again feeding the immature after the morning visit and also later again in the afternoon.

Falcon continuing to feed immature



A very odd scenario given the morning’s reaction to the new adult Tiercel, could it be that she could well bond with the new Tiercel but continue to nurture the immature going forward?

If so a very unusual event, especially if the Tiercel is accepted by the Falcon, I would not have thought that an incoming new Tiercel would accept the presence of the immature unless the immature retains the protection from the Falcon?

It seems quite a complex early relationship it seems as I was contacted over the weekend to say that the new Tiercel was seen copulating with the Falcon on Saturday, so signs look good for breeding it seems.

Early days and hopefully pointing towards successful breeding, we will see.








Saturday, 2 March 2019

Battersea Power Station




March arrives


The juvenile Tiercel is still here and has made it into March, officially the longest ‘stayer’ and showing no signs of leaving given the Falcons reactions to him.

I have been watching them for 20 years and as mentioned before, this is unknown territory, a juvenile staying this long, I suspect it would not be the case if the adult Tiercel, his father, was still present.

I now cannot see breeding happening for 2019 for the Falcon, certainly not from an incestual relationship with the juvenile, if he is still present next year he will be an adult, the relationship may well alter then.

With the adult Tiercel now departed for 3 months, there is no doubt that over this period there would have been new potential single Tiercels trying to locate a mate of their own passing the Power Station, I can only presume that she is simply not accepting them due to the juveniles presence.

I may be proved wrong and a particularly strong adult Tiercel may well force his way in and replace the juvenile, if the Falcons urge to breed is stronger than her protective maternal instincts at this late stage, we will see.

Quite surprisingly she is still feeding him whenever she can so the maternal flame still burns strong it seems.


Falcon

Victoria Tower from the Power Station

The juvenile - Cranes are widely used

Still insisting on feeding him whenever she can

Full crop at dawn - nocturnal hunting again no doubt

I remember when Nat West on the left was the highest

Falcon about to go after spotting a Crow encroaching




If the juvenile stays he will start his moult into adulthood usually around 10 months after fledging, so likely around April/May the transition will begin.



Thursday, 21 February 2019

Parliament - February 2019






After 3 successful breeding seasons at Victoria Palace I was hoping for more of the same for 2019, however after several visits in January and February, it looks like the Tiercel has gone unfortunately.

Similar to Battersea Power Station, the Tiercel has coincidentally disappeared there also, as we approach the egg laying stage(mid March) onwards I was hoping that both sites would have been replaced by now given that a few months have gone by.

Given the density of single birds around London and the number of juveniles produced each year drawn back to the City, not to mention ‘migrant’ UK peregrines living up to their Latin name ‘wanderer’, I am a little surprised it hasn’t happened already.

The Parliament Falcon is on her own unlike the Battersea Falcon, who has the juvenile Tiercel from 2018 still present, so hopefully it should be more straightforward possibly for the Parliament bird.
The Tiercel from Parliament was ringed, no colour ring but the standard BTO ring on his right leg, presumably if a colour ring was on the other leg it had broken or he never had one in the first place.













Hopefully on both sites the Tiercel will be replaced and they may still breed, with breeding shortly upon us and the urges and wanderlust it brings to unattached birds they may still be replaced.

Photos are from last week of the Parliament Falcon, for once she landed in the right spot to get some decent photos of her that do her justice.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Battersea Power Station





February – Nocturnal Hunting - more strings to her bow?


Following on from January’s post little has changed, the juvenile is still with the Falcon and showing no signs of going his own way, he is still displaying to her also. However she doesn’t seem as keen on his advances of ledge display from the CCTV images, she keeps renewing and forming the scrape so we will just have to wait and see.

The above title refers solely to the Falcon, one of the benefits from having access to CCTV and especially playback is that you don’t miss a thing, everything is recorded.

I have known, as has others that Peregrines hunt at night, they haven’t got an Owls large eyes to take in everything and hunt prey, but they do have incredible vision and more importantly in the City, artificial light.

It is enough to give them an edge and I think it happens nocturnally on some peregrine sites more than we think, I know I have turned up enough times at dawn in years past on numerous sites to see one or both birds sitting there with bulging crops.

I remember thinking a number of times, ahh they have had a nocturnal feast on cached prey, no hunting this morning, in fact it was just as likely that they had taken prey in the night.


The Battersea Falcon I think has taken this to another level, it is well known that they will go up and take nocturnal wild migrants or winter movers like Woodcock, Fieldfare, Redwing, Coot, Moorhen and Snipe but Feral Pigeon?

The wild birds are presumably reaction hunting, birds calling or seen overhead etc as they pass over.

Feral Pigeons do not, as far as I am aware, move around at night, once at roost they stay there as far as I know, often communally roosting.

Over the last 3 weeks the Falcon has bought in 11 Feral Pigeons nocturnally, intact birds and not from a cache, in short they have been taken shortly before she arrives.

The favoured times seem to be 1.00am to 4.30am, similar when she was taking the Black Headed Gulls; these no doubt were taken on the River.

What the Falcon is doing at Battersea, as I see it, is not nocturnal reaction hunting but pre meditated hunting as she knows where a food source is located.
I think she is flying into the Power Station at night, which is lit up as you can imagine from works and taking static roosting Feral Pigeons within.


Feral Pigeon

Just arrived with Feral Pigeon

Well fed and full crop

I at first thought this a Moorhen but checking the feathers on the CCTV in the morning showed another Feral Pigeon

All diurnal prey taken at the Power Station is always taken in pursuit, chasing down Ferals as they leave the Power Station. As I see it she would not be able to take them during the daylight hours static and resting, as they are far too mobile, alert and nimble in the tight spaces, Peregrines need room to manoeuvre and open sky. 

It looks as if she has learnt to exploit a food source inside nocturnally, possibly by accident and is now actively hunting as much nocturnally as she is diurnally.
Obviously much of this is surmising but it makes sense as they often chase Ferals inside but rarely catch one.

The illuminated light inside has made this possible for her to exploit this to her advantage, it adds up as having watched them for nearly 20 years, all hunting has nearly always been at and from the Power Station, they have no reason to go elsewhere for a food source with one on your doorstep.



Sunday, 10 February 2019

Beckton - early February






Not great weather of late but Spring is showing the first signs with some birds beginning early courtship, Song Thrushes are already blasting out tunes and Great Spotted Woodpeckers are drumming, makes you feel warmer just hearing it.

The Common Buzzards are perhaps giving an indication that this year could be the one that they try and breed, I have marked all the old Carrion Crows nests so will be keeping an eye on them for signs of use.
Still trying to sort out who is who but pretty sure now, they are hard to sex, that the male is the one with the white crescent on its chest, I originally thought this was the female.

This was reinforced when I saw it go up after another passing Buzzard; it was then attacked so good signs of territoriality, at the time I could see the other Buzzard, hopefully the female sitting in a Tree so looking promising.


'White Crescent male' above going for intruder





The Kestrels as ever are glued to the nest box; the male now is giving Feral Pigeons the heave ho every time one comes near.

Saw them copulate so breeding is on again.







The Black Redstart is still favouring the same area of tanks but have now seen a 2nd bird, a more advanced male which is extremely elusive on another section of the site. A stronger wing bar was quite evident and more rich markings, hope to get some photos of this if it sticks.





Grey Seal

The bull Grey Seal again put in an appearance the other day and judging by the size of the fish he had, which looked like a Thick Lipped Mullet he was having a good morning.










Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Beckton Sewage Works




January



Up and running again for 2019, I have visited a couple of times over January; I finished last year with 101 species for the Sewage Works and the Outfall. Not bad for an urban site so the aim this year will be to better that, over half way there so far with 56 species.

The pair of Common Buzzards are still with us and I am keeping an eye on them come breeding time, I have marked a few old Corvid nests around site so we will see. Who would have thought that an urban sewage works site like Beckton would attract in not one but 2 large Raptors, 5 years ago I wouldn’t have thought it possible.
Much is obviously down to a food source on site along with little disturbance, lots of Rabbits, the occasional dead gull and I have watched them doing a lot of ‘worming’ ,sometimes in the dark under artificial light.

I never realised how versatile a species they are to be honest and for such a large raptor, they are quite brazen and thick skinned, testament to their successful distribution I expect. Even the local Crows are obviously getting used to their continued presence, they hassle and mob them but no matter what, the Buzzards favour the same areas, day in day out, Crows or no Crows.












The Kestrels are already tied to the nest box as we approach breeding, on these cold nights they are roosting tight in the corner next to the nest box, I would suspect that roosting tight together and up against the cladding gives them a good bit of body warmth.

Hopefully another successful season beckons, I have sussed out there favoured hunting areas so they are now becoming easier to find on dispersal from roost, the female in particular always goes to the same spot.





Taken in darkness, hence quality,shows pair huddled tight into corner



The Sparrowhawks I only see occasionally, last year’s nest is still in situ and has survived this winter’s bad weather so far, whether or not they favour imprinted previous successful nest sites is another matter.



Green invaders, another hole gone for our native species

I recently located a 1st year male Black Redstart on the tanks, not seen in 2018, a rare bird on site and many years ago an annual breeder, hopefully this chap will stay and breed. However I suspect that it’s here like many others species, especially wintering Chiffchaffs, as the site provides an unrivalled food source.



Hopefully it will linger