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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Parliament July 15th/Clean up

I had the chance on the above date to try and catch up with the adults and there 3 juveniles, weather was not great it has to be said.

All kept their distance but I got a few shots.

The 2 female juveniles on Westminster Abbey

Male juvenile giving it his all as he chases a Black Headed Gull over the Thames

Now in their 2nd year of breeding at Parliament and in particular on Victoria Tower, they have again fledged 3.

There previous nest site in Vauxhall, Keybridge House is being demolished, it may already have gone and is making way for the regeneration of the area, it served them well and produced a respectable 14 juveniles.

The nest box on Victoria Tower has been in situ for a number of years but the pair, with an established site on Keybridge at the time ignored the alternative box on Victoria Tower. It was only accepted in 2016 when the Vauxhall nest site was no longer available to them, it was touch and go for a while but in the end it was adopted glad to say.

On July 18th we also had a clean out of the balcony and nest box on Victoria Tower, as you would expect from feeding 3 juveniles, there was some interesting prey present.

Along with the many feral pigeons, there was also other species of note, these included Goldfinch, not surprisingly Ring Necked Parakeet, Starling, Blackbird and Dunnock.

Other interesting prey was also present namely Lapwing, Herring Gull and 2 Little Grebes.

L-Right - Lapwing, Herring Gull and Little Grebe

The Lapwing was undoubtedly a passing overhead migrant be it night or day; however the Herring Gull feather, one of 6 similar present is very interesting.

Having had the feather identified, it is an immature bird, it is unusual prey for a peregrine in London, it is bigger, very aggressive and in short a right handful. It could well have started as territory defence if it flew too close and may have escalated into prey, after attacking and subduing it. Why go for risky prey when there is far more easier alternatives like feral pigeon?

I can only see the Falcon as being the only one capable of carrying the Gull, must have been quite a tussle, there is also the possibility of her going up and intercepting it nocturnally.

This brings me onto the Little Grebes; these move around at night mostly as they are such weak flyers and would suspect they have been taken nocturnally.

It’s likely they were either moving down the Thames/or they have been predated over nearby St.James Park in the dark.

It’s hard to imagine them flying high overhead in the dark but having said that I know Coots/Moorhen do this nocturnally, weak flyers also, I have recorded them as prey often, especially Moorhen, so why not high flying Little Grebes.

Room with a view - what a peregrine sees.

With the artificial light that London throws up and the peregrines incredible eyesight it’s likely that most every London pair is hunting nocturnally, it’s an exploitable food source and testament to the peregrines resilience and adaptability.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Cooling Marshes

On July 4th I visited the site to undertake a BBS, even though getting late in the season there was still plenty of breeding activity by a number of species.

Waders were much in evidence with freshly arrived Black Tailed Godwits present back from their breeding grounds, most still in their breeding plumage, alongside them were good numbers of Avocets also.

The Avocet flock also contained many juveniles, with a rising tide the breach held good numbers of birds at this early stage in the year.

Yellow Wagtails seemed to be all over the place with many juveniles, as a breeder on my local patch they now seem to have disappeared entirely.

No Raptors were evident as yet, the hoped for camera friendly Hobby on the entrance track failed to materialize.

Some photos below from the visit.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Hen Harrier Day - RSPB Rainham

A good turnout of probably over 300 people were present to hear speakers Rob Sheldon, Mark Thomas and Chris Packham getting the message across over the illegal killing of Hen Harriers.

Great speeches by all which really got it across as to what is happening to Hen Harriers, the facts below says it all, the persecution of the species has to change, it’s simply not acceptable in this day and age.

Good also to catch up with many friends who also supported the event.

Crowd starting to gather

Rob Sheldon

Mark Thomas and Chris Packham

Local support - Jono, Steve and Russ

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Fledging Peregrines

2017 for me will go down as one of the busiest ever when it comes to peregrine fledging time in London, to date no less than 15 have grounded/ or become trapped somewhere on high rise buildings.

For such a powerful high profile bird, juveniles, especially in the 1st - 2nd week of fledging, are incredibly vulnerable. If they come down behind glass/a wall, many times they simply do not have the wing strength/agility to exit. Stamina and vertical take off capability during this stage, to clear obstructions, is not always there unfortunately.
Even low obstacles like the glass below they struggle to clear, they are simply to tired from flying.

Hence if they are not located many will just get weaker and starve, however many are found by the public so hats off to them.

The numbers obviously reflect good density in London but it does make you think just how hard and dangerous fledging can be for urban peregrines, without the help of the public, RSPCA and the South Essex Wildlife Hospital and other various organizations, none of these birds would likely have made it.

The grounders, unless they can get airborne again quickly, often fall prey to urban Foxes or simply disappear and are lost. If they have come down from a long way up, it’s a hard job working your way back up in the City especially if it’s all glass/metal buildings all around with nowhere to land/rest safely and take a breather.

Released back and raring to go

Juvenile on camera

Releasing 2 back with Paul

Stuck behind glass but luckily seen by the owner of the flat

Many modern buildings are simply not peregrine friendly let alone nature friendly, the standard on every building in London should be a Brown/Green Roof/Wall at the very least.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Peregrines and the dangers of pigeon netting

I received a call along with Stuart from the LPP on Saturday in regards to a trapped juvenile peregrine in London, which at the time was thought to be trapped behind netting and not in it.

Peregrines, especially inexperienced juveniles and the fine gauge pigeon netting do not mix and where possible, on the sites that I monitor, I try to get it removed. From past observations it can be deadly to them.

In this case I was hopeful as we thought it would be a straightforward catch and release after removing the netting altogether, sadly this was not the case.

On arrival in the afternoon, the juvenile, a female, was hopelessly entwined in the netting and had obviously on occasion during the day, been hanging by one leg, it was apparent straight away that this leg had sustained damage.

Held fast with leg hooked up

As we cut her out I noticed the twine netting had completely gone round the foot, 2 talons had been ripped out completely, she must have been in agony. The circulation to the foot was cut off and there were further wounds up the leg as she no doubt tried to escape whilst hanging.

We eventually removed it all, a very big thanks to John for helping me; the twine was all over her leg and parts of her body, he had to be very careful cutting whilst I held her.

Hopelessly snagged

Snagged so tight with 2 talons already gone

I then took her down to the Wildlife Hospital, she was x rayed and it was found that there was further extensive damage to the whole of the leg, every joint, reluctantly they had to put her to sleep.

A very sad case and an end to a magnificent bird which highlights just one the hazards that they face on fledging in the City, but also brings home the issue of low guage pigeon netting on peregrine sites, it is a major major hazard and an accident waiting to happen I’m afraid.

Basically it should not be present at any breeding peregrine nest site aloft in their environment,especially loose netting, in  low light/nocturnal flying it is a massive danger, even with their eyesight.

Juveniles are most at risk as they simply don’t realise the danger it poses, sadly this bird found out the hard way.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Little Ringed Plover family

Below are some photos following on from the June 24th posting, it relates to the same family of 2 'chicks', as you can now see more or less fully grown and now juveniles.

The area that they frequent is a flooded area unfortunately also favourited by large Gulls, these or Crows could be what accounted for the other 2 chicks,additionally there is a resident Kestrel.
However they have done well and good to see that both juveniles are now at the flying stage.

1st juvenile

2nd juvenile - not quite so advanced