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Friday, 1 June 2018

Beckton update


I have visited the site a number of times in May, remarkably the Common Buzzard is still on site despite the attentions of the local Corvids and large Gulls, both are breeding locally so as you can imagine they get quite upset at its appearance.

Jay's are ignored basically

Herring Gulls are another matter

Whilst watching the Buzzard on a couple of occasions, I saw a male Sparrowhawk come out of nowhere and mob the Buzzard, both scenario’s it happened in the same area. I know there is an old nest there as I marked in the winter, sure enough looking through Bin’s, the tell tale sign was there with a female Sparrowhawk tail protruding.

Along with the Kestrels, will be good watching their progress.

The Kestrels are now taking prey into the box so eggs have hatched and young are present, as yet I have not had a visual with the chicks, likely next week, I am also hoping that fledging will take place without a hitch.
We positioned the box so that the young can access a large roof, hopefully it will give them more room to build wing strength and be better prepared for that all important 1st flight.

Plenty of food now going into the box with a Field Mouse seen on Sunday, additionally Lizards are featuring as per last year, they are very efficient little hunters.

Top marks also for Thames Water, setting aside large Wildlife Areas, not cutting and leaving to establish and grow wild, already invertebrates are colonising.

Female Black Tailed Skimmer

Needs no intro

Hairy Dragonflies

Mistle Thrush - now a Red List species

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Hybrid or Arctic Peregrine?

Last year, courtesy of other birders who contacted me, I was told about a Falcon who was holding to territory in London, at the time there was also a Tiercel with her.
After watching behaviour in 2017, there was no copulation and no breeding activity shown last year at all, after a while the Tiercel moved on it seems.

Hybrid or Arctic?

Ordinary Peregrine, admittedly a Tiercel and different posture

As soon as it was practical, I visited the roof to check if there was the possibility of them breeding and also came across lots of prey remains as you would expect. 
What surprised me last year was the number of Gulls on the roof, predominately Black Headed but also a few Commons in the mix.

Pigeons were present but it was on a par with the Gulls, in prey collections that I undertake the odd Black Headed is present but pigeons have always formed the majority of the prey.

Gull prey was very evident


At the time looking at the Falcon, I thought she may have the look of a Hybrid; I got a few photos of her and kept an eye on her throughout the year. 
I visited the site the other day, she, as far as I am aware she is still on her own although a Tiercel has been seen occasionally.
On this visit, again she is non breeding and summering, the number of Black Headed and Common Gulls outweighed pigeon prey; it seems her preference is Gulls.

Additionally 2 Lapwing and Woodcock were also present.

Normal Peregrine

My line of thought now, having looked at her plumage and the fact that she may possibly have developed a taste for Gulls at her natal site – possibly the Tundra where Gulls are the dominant prey species. 
It’s hard to imagine an Arctic Peregrine in London but the plumage in some areas does fit, she’s not the normal Falcon plumage and she is also quite large.

She has also been in this plumage for 2 years so not about to moult either from juvenile plumage.


Additionally she could be a Hybrid, possibly unable to breed which might explain the Tiercel’s coming and going and not bonding. 

An interesting bird.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Cooling Marshes

I have had the chance again recently to visit the Marshes, without doubt one of my favourite places having been involved in its transformation right from the start.

Visits of late have produced good migrants, although there has been a distinct lack of Wheatears, this place is usually a Wheatear magnet.
Without doubt it is the most flooded I have seen it in a number of years, however it bodes well for breeding waders, large floods for a food source that will take a while to dry up.

On my last visit, plenty of Yellow and White Wagtails seen working the area along with a distant clucking Ring Ouzel.

Perhaps the oddest record was a flyover Hawfinch, no doubt part of the national influx, can only presume it was looking for pastures new, hopefully some will stay and breed.

A massive flock of summer plumed Black Tailed Godwits was seen coming from the direction of Northward Hill, they headed straight over to Coryton, Essex presumably to roost at Holehaven Creek.

Black Tailed Godwit

I am out there again this weekend, hopefully more of the same.

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?