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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

More on Beckton

April 18th

With a glorious day forecast and wall to wall sunshine predicted, I was over the Sewage Works again from 1st light.

With migrants now starting to arrive, it was good to hear a number of Blackcap singing as I drove through the site.

Came across the male Kestrel at roost and I sat in the car and watched him, positioned near the nest box, I suspected that she was inside.


This was shortly confirmed that she was, and had laid eggs, when he undertook a nest relief and she exited to feed on what looked like a Mouse.

Female feeding

After about 5 minutes, with the mouse entirely consumed, she re entered the nest box to resume incubation.
Incubation of eggs is around 27-29 days so not dissimilar to peregrines, although in most cases Peregrines lay around 2+ weeks earlier.

Going back in

Now looking forward to seeing young, the position of the box will give the young a large roof to exercise on and build wing strength for that all important 1st flight.

Moving on from here to check some favoured areas, I again came across the Common Buzzard, admittedly I thought it would have been long gone by now as we are into its breeding season.

I am now thinking that it may possibly summer, there’s certainly no lack of food here for it,(think Watership Down) it could well be that it is not mature enough yet to breed.
From the car I watched it moving round and ‘working’ the site, they are quite confiding and tolerant of occasional Thames Water traffic, in some cases Vans passed only 5 metres away and no reaction whatsoever.

As mentioned previously it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that it could one day breed on site, the site is certainly remote enough for it, I have even earmarked a couple of ideal tall trees that will fit the bill.......

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Beckton Raptors

April 4th

The usual dawn visit resulted in a good morning right from the start, on arrival the female Kestrel was in the nest box. She was looking around for the male so it looks like the box has been accepted for breeding, she will now spend much of her time tied to the box whilst he provides prey.

As it stands she has not laid as yet, the usual average for eggs is late April, unlike peregrines who lay about a month earlier.

However I do wonder with London’s Kestrel’s, will they lay earlier than the norm like London’s Peregrines?



Moving on from here I drove through the Sewage works and came across another Raptor, the resident Common Buzzard which I thought had departed. 

It was feeding in the road picking off Earth Worms bought out by the overnight rain, easy pickings for it as I watched it feed.

Got some photos off on a high ISO in the very bad light, not great but ok.
If someone had told me a few years back that a Common Buzzard would spend its winter here at Beckton Sewage works, I would have said you’re off your trolley. Obviously a change in its fortunes, it is becoming more common and established and can compete in an urban environment even with half a dozen Crows giving it grief.

It just ignores them basically, as I have said before the rabbits on site are a massive carrot for this big raptor.

After this I had a look round site watching the skies as usual, low and behold another 2 Common Buzzards went over, at this rate they will be breeding on site soon – one for the future? 

Thursday, 29 March 2018


We are coming up to our last winter survey on Hoo, Saturday 25th survey with Paul was low tide with a high tide coming up on Saturday 31st.

As late March is upon us we were both hoping for migrant Wheatears, Little Ringed Plovers and possibly passing Sand Martins on the 25th.

Of the 3 species we both got lucky with Little Ringed Plover, surprisingly no Wheatears, usually nailed on around the compound area, however it is still early days yet, getting impatient in my old age. 

Some photos below showing Little and Ringed Plover showing the difference's.

In it's usual spot

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Happy Valley

As spring migrant time is more or less upon us the competition and the competitive streaks amongst the 6 of us has turned all of us into Valley bashers.

In my case and probably a few of the others, gone are the regular visits to Rainham and such like, the Valley is being thoroughly flogged and has  produced the best starts for all of us regulars.

As it stands this is the table to date –

Shaun – 91

Paul – 91

Me – 86

Dave Mc – 82

Lee – 81

Mart – 76

Good totals considering no spring migrants in yet and the goodies yet to come, for all of us, notwithstanding the 2 newbie’s Mart and Paul, 2018 has produced the goods in terms of scarce birds and annual starts.

The best year I have ever had was 122 species, this was many years ago when I had more stamina and energy, younger and longer legs and would cover the whole Valley thoroughly in a morning. The way we are going it is likely that this total will be surpassed, with more coverage it is on the cards.

I can remember in the past seeing good birds like Marsh Warbler, Honey Buzzard and Black Necked Grebe, with more of us now and better coverage there is no reason why scarce birds can’t be picked up again.

This year to date we have had Bewick’s Swan, Goldeneye, Dunlin, Hawfinch, Firecrest, Jack Snipe,Red Kite and Grey Partridge, all are hard birds to get in the Valley, the Bewick’s Swans and the Hawfinch are mega’s. To put it into context, the only Bewick’s Swan record for the site is December 3rd 2010 seen by Les and the Hawfinch again is a single record seen by Shaun and Mart on November 27th 2005.

I suspect that some of these birds are indeed annual; there’s just never been the coverage or the enthusiasm until this year to find them.

For my part I am still missing Kingfisher, Golden Plover and Siskin, the Bittern seen last year by Les has not materialised, neither have the Bearded Tits.

By my own admission I am relatively competitive, so are the others although some don’t like to admit it, it’s a light hearted competition (like hell) but were all having a bit of fun doing it.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Parliament Peregrines

For the last 2 breeding seasons (2016 & 2017) the pair has bred at Parliament on Victoria Tower, successfully fledging 3 juveniles in each respective year in a nest box provided for them by Brunel University.

Hi tech and made out of cardboard composite, it was installed if I remember correctly in 2011, the idea at the time was to give them an alternative position.

The fact of the matter was that every year they bred up river as there was not a nest site at the time on Parliament, they wintered at Parliament regularly, it was there ‘ core’ site.

The nest site was the old BT building at Vauxhall, Keybridge House, now demolished, very retro and with good ledges it was ideal for Peregrines especially fledging juveniles.

Keybridge House

Falcon outside the nest scrape

The Scrape

When the young fledged however and became confident in there flying/landing ability, usually around early July, the adults would return to Parliament with the young in tow. I suspect the young had little choice in the matter if they wanted to get fed. 

They were originally found on Keybridge House by Michael Mac and then the London Peregrine Partnership, some others and myself monitored them until the building was recently removed as part of the regeneration of the area.

They obviously accepted the nest box on Parliament in 2016 but had ignored it for a few years previously but as soon as works started on Keybridge House, they went straight into it the box at Parliament.

Parliament Box

Fingers crossed for another successful year, the box faces east and this weekend’s weather will have tested them as the box no doubt filled up with windblown snow. 

They are hardy resilient birds so hopefully all ok.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Beckton Sewage Works

With the extreme conditions and heavy snow recently, I visited the Sewage Works a couple of times over the cold period. 

Beckton has always provided a massive food source for many species over the winter, you only have to look at the number of wintering Chiffchaff present each year, in the cold spell Lapwing amongst others were actively feeding around the tanks.

Species like Common Snipe were also present along with the Lapwing, single Dunlin and a real hard one to get here, Ringed Plover.

All were here looking for food, it is exceptionally hard for them in this weather, the Thames foreshore always comes up trumps as well, never freezing, thankfully for wildlife so does the Sewage Works.

Even the Curlew was feeding around the tanks which was a surprise as they are usually quite a timid bird.

In a 3 hour visit I recorded 16 Lapwing, 14 Common Snipe, Jack Snipe, 9 Black Tailed Godwit, 2 Common Sandpipers, Curlew, Green Sandpiper, 33 Redshank, Stonechat (mega here) and Rock Pipit.

A good selection of waders, remarkably also the wintering Common Buzzard is still on site, it has been present all winter, with breeding just round the corner it will surely go soon.

Still here, Rabbits will breathe a sigh of relief when it goes