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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.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

All Creatures Great and Small

For most of this month I have been undertaking Reptile relocation on a site down at Coryton, its enjoyable and rewarding work and it has been a learning curve to me having done mostly bird surveys over the past years.

Occasional Reptile surveys have been undertaken before but I only ever encountered Common Lizard, this area of land is producing the goods with Great Crested and Smooth Newt, Common Lizard, Slow Worm, Adder and Grass Snake.

Of them all, Great Crested Newts and Slow Worms I find are quite stunning with their detail and colouring; up close they are even more impressive. Both have been rarely seen in the past let alone in the hand.

Adders are another that are fantastically marked, to date I have caught 2 (with snake gloves on I might add), obviously treating them with a little respect, it’s the first time I have been ‘hissed ‘at.
A good opportunity to see them up close, the intricate markings were superb, never held one before, there usually at the end of my camera.

Below is a selection of photos.

Hope I have this right - Dark Bush Cricket

Wall Brown

Great Green Bush Cricket

Smooth Newts trying to make a break for it with there bigger relatives GCN below

Great Crested Newt

Smooth Newts

Slow Worm - lovely colouring and pattern

Adder - stunning

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Battersea Power Station Peregrines 2016

The 2016 breeding season was always going to be a challenge to the Peregrines, works have now begun in earnest on the Power Station itself and the skyline had dramatically changed with ongoing construction, new buildings, chimney demolition and Luffer Cranes.

With 3 successful seasons behind them due to our new female’s arrival in the winter of 2012/2013, 2016 heralded another new breeding season, the pair as ever took it all in their stride.

Would the works and the ever changing site perhaps send them off looking for pastures new?
It did occur to me many times, but the site faithfulness of the pair again reasserted itself and they laid their first egg on March 15th.

This year Battersea Power Station Development Company had installed CCTV, no less than 4 cameras watching their every move. It gave me a comprehensive insight to study the species even further, along with providing incredible live footage and images.
In total she laid 5 eggs with the last being laid on March 24th, this was also my first clutch of 5 in London. Laying durations between eggs were very consistent, 53 hours between eggs 1 to 4 and 55 hours between eggs 4 to 5.

The 5 eggs did create a problem for the Tiercel, his smaller size occasionally leading to one egg not being covered, sometimes for long periods in relatively cold weather.
This may have been a contributing factor in only 4 of the 5 eggs hatching, the first hatched on April 26th with the 4th hatching on April 30th.

On a diet of meat they quickly grew and all fledged in early June, one however did it the hard way and grounded on his first flight.
A Falcon Recovery Plan was in place particularly for this sort of occurrence; he was thankfully seen and located, placed in a box and then taken to a special safe area high up on the Power Station.

Battersea Power Station Development Company and construction contractor Skanska had set aside this non disturbance area on the Power Station specifically which I knew the adult peregrines used, it worked a treat and he was fed by the Falcon the same day.

Before long he joined his siblings, who also fledged shortly after, gracing the skies in and around the Power Station, by the end of the week all 4 had made it to the summit of the brand new south western chimney.

To have 4 screaming juveniles chasing an adult with prey around the Power Station construction site is truly a remarkable spectacle, obviously it has not gone unnoticed by the 3000+ workforce.

If you know peregrines, you will know how loud juveniles are when they are hungry; on occasions they even drowned out the noise of the site.
Many of the workforce have often stopped me to discuss the birds and get the latest, even on a major construction site there is a place for nature and it is good to see people taking an interest.

3 of the 4 juveniles on the new south west chimney

2 Juveniles in front of the new chimney

Adult Tiercel

Practicing on each other

A male and 2 female juveniles resting up on site

Practice makes perfect

Adult female

To date the 4 juveniles are spending more and more time away from site exploring and presumably hunting the adults territory, similar to teenagers they only return when they are hungry.

Pretty shortly I suspect the male juvenile will leave site, probably in September and then his 3 sisters will do the same, not long after him. Having said that, there is always one young one, as we’ve seen last year and in 2014, who takes a little longer to make their move.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Juvenile Mediterranean Gulls

July 27th 2016

Although still very early in the year I made a visit to Southend in the chance of seeing a juvenile Med Gull, in past years they have turned up quite early, sometimes in numbers.

With a peak high tide around 5.35am, I was down there just after hoping that the tide may have pushed them up on the beach.
Armed with some bread it proved so and worked out quite well, the only downside was the dark skies for photos but nonetheless I still saw 2 juveniles so all good.

Both were loosely associating with each other along with 5 other more mature Med Gulls in a large flock of Black Headed Gulls.

Also had a look along the beach for any Sanderling just in case but suspect it’s still a bit early yet.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Sand Martins

I have been coming across Sand Martins, up to 200 of them in the last week out on Cooling Marshes, Kent.

Good to see a great many juveniles amongst them, as you will see they have taken a shine to the entrance road and adjacent reed beds to rest up. First seen on the 14th, the flock is still present this week.

Unusual to see them on the road in numbers, I suspect it is a good place for resting and dust bathing, it also offers good all round vision against approaching predators.