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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

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Peregrine Behaviour

Recently, with many juveniles fledging, I have observed a number of nest sites as you would expect at fledging, one of which is a site I watch extensively – Battersea Power Station.

This pair has again been successful this year with 4 juveniles fledged in their purpose built Tower, since its installation in 2013 it has now produced 15 juveniles.

Watching the fledged juveniles earlier on June 23rd showed some odd behaviour by the adult Falcon concerning one of the juveniles.

Whilst looking for the adult Falcon from one of the roofs, I caught sight of her approaching the Power Station with prey, a little way out she was intercepted by a juvenile and an aerial food pass took place.

The juvenile then landed on a wall 30 metres up with the adult Falcon landing on one of the nearby Cranes just above the juvenile, the juvenile then proceeded to feed in view of the Falcon.

Shortly after this the juvenile was then found by 4 Crows, a pair with 2 juvenile full sized Crows in attendance, they then proceeded to mob the juvenile, as I watched, thoughts were this is going to be interesting as the adult Falcon will not tolerate this.

However, I couldn’t have been more wrong, she totally ignored the mobbing, she was watching it as it was in full view of her perhaps 25 metres away, even without hearing the juvenile’s chek-cheking in agitation.

Adult Crow with 2 juveniles

Both juveniles

Fluffing up to make itself look bigger

This went on for quite a while, the juvenile held its own but eventually flew, the Crows stayed inside the Power Station.

The Crows had bred inside the Power Station which made them territorial also; it could be that the Crows were defending territory/juveniles even though out of the nest. Crows being Crows though will always mob however given the chance, especially a juvenile.

It’s also possible they were after snatching the prey.

A similar scenario happened on June 16th, a juvenile was found by 3 Crows and relentlessly mobbed by them, it flew and was then pursued to another section of the Power Station, all this in full view of the adult Falcon sitting on the Tower.

Knowing how aggressive any territorial pair of peregrines can be towards Carrion Crows, Herring, Great and Lesser Black Backed Gulls, larger birds of prey along with Grey Herons, I found the behaviour hard to understand given their normal hostility towards Carrion Crows specifically.

Having watched this pair for a number of years, Crow attacks/mobbing increase greatly going into breeding, much the same as other pairs, only 3 years ago; one of the adults knocked a Crow down at Battersea breaking the wing of the bird which then had to be euthanized.

I can only presume that the adult ignored the juvenile’s plight on both occasions as she may have been teaching it a ‘life lesson’, like you’ve fledged and your big enough now, this is life deal with it.

A hard harsh lesson, if it was one, the juveniles have only just fledged so the bond is still very strong, unusual behaviour or just indifferent parenting?

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Coryton - Little Ringed Plover

Its been quite a while since a post, surveys and peregrine stuff has kept me very busy, now it is starting to ease,hopefully a little more time for posting.

Below shows a number of photos of a family of Little Ringed Plovers, very mobile and covering a wide area as they foraged, watching from the car gave realy good views.

Unusual behaviour observed of the 2 chicks included chasing down Damselflies, despite there small size they are very fast.

Adult Yellow Legged Gull

Monday, 16 January 2017

Patches and Peregrines


After a good start on New Year’s Day at Rainham, the next excursion was the Ingrebourne Valley; I squeezed in a visit on January 5th.

A stunning morning greeted me as I approached Deadman’s Wood, the idea being to take in the Farm Trail, the Reservoir, Berwick Ponds and finish at the viewing area and then a cuppa in the Centre.

During the walk down to Deadman’s I recorded 82 Ring Necked Parakeets overhead in small flocks, no doubt straight out of roost and all heading towards Upminster. In the last year or so they have increased in numbers over the Valley.

The game crop on the Farm Trail was its usual Finch and Bunting magnet and produced good numbers of both, the highlight being 7 Yellowhammers.

Lovely morning

Canary Wharf as seen from the Farm Trail

With freezing temperatures, most everywhere was frozen; even a section of the Reservoir, good numbers of wildfowl present on the Res included 33 Wigeon and 74 Gadwall. The hoped for Goosander or Goldeneye failed to materialize.

With Berwick most definitely frozen but in sunshine, thoughts turned to Bittern or perhaps Bearded Tit, after covering the reed bed end to end, both failed to put in an appearance.

Not even sure the Bittern is there, from what I understand it has not been seen for a good while.

Finishing up at the Black Bridge and the viewing area produced the final tick of the morning – Common Snipe; this bought me up to 51, a nice steady start to the year.

Snipe and Teal

Since then I have added a few after a brief visit, now 58 so up and running.

A few recent visitors to the garden


January is always a hectic month when it comes to the peregrines, monitoring 10 pairs, nearly all bar one with nest boxes or trays to clean out, keeps me very busy come January.

All come under Schedule 1 licence as of February 1st so there is obviously a time limit to observe and make sure all the work is completed by the end of the month.

2 of the boxes I made 6 - 8 years ago, have now seen better days, over the course of the years, they are now weather /water damaged, they need replacing or a bit of an overhaul.

One I can just recover, the marine ply has flaked on the roof and sides, but some heavy duty plastic sheeting screwed onto it and sealed should do the job.

Hopefully good for another few years.

The 2nd box is from a site that I can name, Charring X Hospital, due to bad falls in the drainage on the balcony where it sits, means that the box has, for much of the year, sat in water.
Obviously the rot has set in and the underside of the box is, judging from last year’s photos, shown it is now past its sell by date.

Sunday afternoon (15th) we are, courtesy of Paul, delivering a new bigger box to Nathalie and the Hospital ready for replacement and installation on the Monday.

Will post on this in the future.

This year I am also going into new territory, last year’s juvenile male is still present at Battersea Power Station, the first time I have ever had one stay into the following year.
Before and just after Christmas, the Falcon showed some aggression towards him, but since then she seems to have mellowed and is now more tolerant.

I am watching this unfold on camera and when I visit site, he is not one of these juveniles who comes and goes, he is there every day.

Watching recently, a number of times, even yesterday, shows the Falcon on prey in the nest box with the juvenile waiting patiently right next to her, he is calling and begging and she is occasionally feeding him.

The bond between them both seems to be still strong, it’s not as if she has not had young before, this is her 4th successful breeding season.

I know he also takes his own prey as I have seen him hunt successfully.


I am researching information on this as I have heard of juveniles before staying into the following year but it brings forth a few scenarios’.

Will he be allowed to stay as we fast approach breeding?

If he is allowed to stay will he assist or hinder breeding?

Could it be that she sees him as less of a threat, for want of a better word, as he is smaller and a male as opposed to a bigger female who is possibly more dominant and imposing?

To note also, the long staying juvenile at Charring X Hospital is also a male.

Interesting stuff for me, time will tell.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Rainham Marshes RSPB

New Years Day

First of all, a very Happy New Year to everyone, I hope 2017 brings everyone good fortune and a great year.

Sticking with tradition and despite the rather gloomy weather forecast, grey skies with rain from mid day, pre dawn found me standing in darkness at 7.00am down by Aveley Bay car park.

Waiting for the Short Eared Owls to show

At this hour the plan was to try and get both Short Eared and Barn Owl as the light grew but I began to think it was not going to be as light rain started.

However it did not last, and before long, I was lucky enough to see 2 Shorties quartering briefly in the gloom over the Saltings.

By now I had racked up a few ticks as the light got better, no luck with the Barn Owl (I got this later) but did add the usual waders/wildfowl in Aveley Bay with Avocet and Black Tailed Godwit being the pick of them.

From here it was a drive down to the Centre where Howard had picked out some ‘scarcer’ waders on the Kent side, scanning through these produced Ringed and Grey Plover although it seemed no Golden Plover were on show.

Whilst scanning through these however, it produced a Dark Bellied Brent Goose, a good tick as I missed it in 2016.

Pressing on I entered the Reserve, by now the list was up around the 60 mark, Common Buzzard, Peregrine and Kestrel were all seen over or near the Target Pools, I was also keeping my ears open for any Beardies, another that was missed last year.

By now the time was marching on, my little legs were starting to move faster with the threat of the forecast rain but did add Water Pipit, Stonechat and a flyby Kingfisher to join the tally.

Aveley Pools with the Centre in the distance

Reaching the woodlands, I listened for a Goldcrest or a Chiffie, none materialized or were vocal but I did get a flyover Mistle Thrush as I neared the car park, they can be difficult to get at times here.

I finished the morning on 71 species, missed a few silly ones that you more or less take for granted over here like Marsh Harrier and Common Snipe, but all in all quite happy with the years start. It’s a sign of the times that you expect to see a Marsh Harrier every time you visit, good to see its fortunes have been turned around, a real success story, hopefully the same can be done for Hen Harrier.

As per last year, and like half the country, I have started my annual diet, the tummy has got to go, in 2 months time, or possibly sooner I will probably be unrecognizable and a shadow of my former self.

Remember saying the same last year…..

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Beckton Sewage Works

Boxing Day

It’s been a while since I have written a blog post; surveys, peregrines and other issues closer to home have kept me occupied with little spare time.

With most of the December surveys now undertaken I slipped out to Beckton Sewage works on Boxing day morning, I know it’s not the most glamorous of birding sites but I have been watching the site for a number of years now and love the place, I have even got used to the smell.

As it turned out it was a good visit, my early morning jaunt coincided with high tide and the weather was good with wall to wall sunshine.

At the Outfall 22 Redshank and 3 Common Sandpipers were roosting with 40 odd Cormorants keeping them company along with hordes of Teal and Gadwall. 2 Rock Pipits were working the remaining foreshore and the usual Grey Wagtails were present.

Redshank roost with Common Sandpiper

A walk along the track produced a loose flock of no less than 11 Chiffchaffs, 8 in a bunch with 3 slightly further on, it’s the largest count I have had in the winter. Not surprisingly, given the insect food it attracts, the Sewage works has always been a favoured wintering haunt of Chiffies. It could also be milder winters are encouraging more to stay?

I also added another 2 Common Sandpipers and another 2 Rock Pipits along the track and 6 Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush near the Centre.

No sign of any of the Seals at the Outfall, it has been a while since I have seen one here.

It looks like I am going to finish the patch year list on 77, slightly down on 2015,as with the other patch year lists it’s a good bit of fun, not taken too seriously but enjoyable just the same.

New Years day will likely find me over Rainham RSPB to start the year off again, a bit of a tradition recently; I suspect I will not be alone, hopefully the weather will be good.

Happy Christmas everyone and all the best for the New Year.