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Friday, 19 April 2019

New Nest Box

I placed another nest box in London on Tuesday, due to circumstances a bit late in the year for breeding but peregrines are anything but predictable so you never know.
A pair has been present previously, but as is the case in a number of sites, lack a position for nesting although the structure/building is perfectly suited for peregrines, hence giving them a helping hand with either a Box or a Tray.
If using a box, where possible unless the available position dictates, I will face it east or north, it gets them out of the prevalent westerly/south westerly winds nowadays, none of us like a draft up your back do we?

The box I fitted on Tuesday I managed to get round to the north and I also gave it a back access hole for adults/juveniles alike.

I try to do this wherever possible where 3 week old juveniles start to explore their habitat, giving them access to a larger area where they can exercise and build wing strength is often the difference between a successful or unsuccessful maiden fledging flight.

Ready to go up - tools,leads and 3 bags potting grit


It fits

In position with a 'scrape' to encourage them

Hole for juveniles - have to make a staggered step for access

100mm of substrate - peregrines often go down to the wood if you don't make it deep enough

I have to go back next week, as you can probably see I need to build a staggered step so juveniles can access the back a bit easier.

Fingers crossed for next year.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Beckton Thrushes

I have been visiting the Sewage Works quite often of late, it’s a good time of year with many migrant birds now starting to arrive from Africa etc so the site will soon be buzzing with more bird song.

This year it seems to have been invaded by Ring Necked Parakeets, on Sunday on a drive round site I recorded 50 of them, all seemingly feeding on fresh tree buds. Not great for our native birds, hopefully they are just visiting and not trying to nest, 1 pair are already breeding on site.

Ring Necked Parakeet feeding - not good for native species

The site has always been good for winter Thrushes and this year is no different, on Sunday there were 40 Fieldfare, around 6 Redwing and a Mistle Thrush, there are 2 of these but I suspect the mate is incubating now. Like Song Thrush, around 8 singing birds on site, Mistle's have gone Red List as well, they are declining so good to see them still on site.

Fieldfare - the site has always been good for them.

Mistle Thrush - declining

It was as I was taking a few photos of the Fieldfare that I struck gold in the shape of a female Ring Ouzel, a rare migrant on her way up North where they breed, it’s the first one I have had on site over the years. It bought the Beckton site list for me up to 139 species which is not too shabby for an urban site on the edge of London as I see it.

Ring Ouzel - a very welcome patch addition

Elsewhere I am only seeing the one Common Buzzard at the moment which is interesting so will keep an eye out, the female Kestrel I would say will lay shortly, the male is bringing in quite a lot of varied prey.

Common  Buzzard 

Green Sandpiper - these winter on site

There is also another female/immature Kestrel on site, I keep seeing it near the set aside, I suspect it could be one of last year’s youngsters possibly, good to see though that the site is again holding good numbers of Raptors.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Green Winged Teal and plastic

Lots happening of late during March, I will start off with the Green Winged Teal.

First of all well done to Paul for finding a site 1st over Ingrebourne Valley in the shape of the American Teal, it brings the Valley site list nicely up to 198.

Sadly, as it stands it is looking like just a one day stayer found on the Friday 29th, many local patchers connected with it but unfortunately it was not there on Saturday, if not still hidden in the depths of marsh and pools in the Valley, Rainham I expect would be a good bet otherwise.

Good comparison, other than the vertical white stripe little difference

Like everyone else, I am dismayed at the levels of plastic around the world; we are slowly and surely polluting the oceans with plastic and the life in it. Lack of action by various Government's has failed to address it, drastic change is needed but I suspect pound notes/profit will always get in the way until some Government has the balls to say enough. I know they are doing some things to make a difference which is good but large scale change with every Government committing has to happen. 

Recently on one of the Peregrine sites that I monitor, the incubating Falcon came in with plastic around her neck, as I was watching on the CCTV in the nest box, she repeatedly lifted off the eggs and tried to get it off continuously during the night.

It was over the weekend (Saturday) and I resolved to contact NaturalEngland on Monday morning for advice, a plan was forming in my head of trying to catch her to remove the plastic. With this around her neck, there was no way she could hunt or even fly effectively and this was the only opportunity as I saw it of removing the plastic. The plan, it was not ideal and not good and I absolutely dreaded having to do it, was to block exits and catch her in the box, the obvious dangers being her smashing the eggs in panic/ or desertion of the eggs if we got her out with the eggs unharmed.

Incubating with it attached around her neck

Constantly lifting at night trying to get it off

I watched the site on Sunday morning and to my immense and immeasurable relief it had gone, I saw her fly after a nest relief and again after, checking the CCTV showed it had gone, presumably she had removed it or it had worked itself off.

It was possible that it could have just been round her wing but it didn’t look like it, the label, 4 for £5.00, I suspect beer, could well have been her end.

Whilst watching her at night trying to remove it, the thought sprang forth, how does a bird like a Peregrine get a piece of plastic stuck round its neck? 

I suspect windblown with the recent strong winds.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Beckton Sewage Works

Late March

Now more or less into spring, thoughts now turn to breeding for a lot of species, some have already started on site and the pair of Kestrels are looking like they are going to breed again shortly.

The female is staying very close to the nest box so hopefully they may lay soon, the books say mid April but on behaviour I would say it will be this month, suspect like Peregrines they are likely earlier down ‘south’.

Pair - male in the box

Another species that is breeding on site is Ring Necked Parakeet, they have taken over an old Green Woodpecker hole and are breeding inside, they are quite aggressive as well.

An introduced species, the story goes back to the African Queen with Bogart and Hepburn, apparently lots escaped and they colonised from that, possibly myth but you never know.

Unfortunately they take nest holes from both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue, Great, Coal Tit along with Nuthatch and Starling, all native species so not good, they divide opinion but the fact that they are here is not good for native species.

Male guarding the nest hole

Mean looking birds, Peregrines love them

Elsewhere the pair of Common Buzzards are still very active, one particularly so which looks like the male being smaller, as yet I have not seen them in any of the Crow nests but hopefully they will soon.
Goldcrests are on site, 2 pair in their respective Fir trees and are singing already as are Chiffchaffs, Cetti’s Warblers seem to be all over the site.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Battersea Power Station

Quite an eventful visit last Sunday, great weather for a change and thankfully the recent high winds had reduced making it a very pleasant morning.

It is quite a saga that is occurring, the immature Peregrine, is not looking to leave and is holding to the Tower for security, the reason being the new adult Tiercel is attacking him most time’s when he flies out from the Tower. My initial early thoughts when the new Tiercel showed up on previous updates were that the Falcon was protecting the immature, this is not the case, she is not interfering and leaving the immature to face the adult Tiercel. The immature is holding to the Tower and hiding either inside or outside the nest box knowing that he is relatively safe there, the adult Tiercel cannot directly attack him next to the Falcon, something I suspect that the immature is aware of. Instead the adult Tiercel drifts around at distance watching for the immature to leave/or trying to lure him out.


Immature holding to the Tower - Falcon looking on


Falcon after a Crow inside.


Immature being ambushed by Tiercel

As soon as he leaves the protection of the Tower the adult Tiercel appears and is on him, this happened at least 5 times during the course of Sunday morning; the adult when not drifting around aloft spends his time east sitting on buildings on Riverlight and beyond.

I did not see him alight anywhere on Battersea Power Estate, certainly not on the Tower otherwise I would have seen him on the CCTV also, it’s an unusual scenario.

Lots of permutations here as I see it.

As it stands.

1. Is the immatures presence now stopping the Falcon fully bonding and breeding with the new chap?

2. We know that copulation has taken place with the adult Tiercel, will she still allow the immature to stay even if she lays?

3. If she does lay eggs/young who will incubate/feed young when she is off feeding herself - Adult or immature Tiercel if the adult cannot move him on.

Different scenario's, it boils down to the fact that the adult Tiercel, given what I saw on Sunday, has to displace the immature to bond properly. I am hoping that the immature will just go really, he is putting up a fight that much is obvious, however the adult Tiercel certainly seems faster and likely stronger, it’s possible that he will come off second best and he could likely be injured or worse.

Adult Tiercel after the immature

Safety in numbers

Time will tell........

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Parliament and Battersea Power Station

All Change?


Quite an eventful weekend just gone starting off with Parliament on Saturday at dawn, positioning myself in Victoria Gardens Park I awaited the Falcon to emerge from the Palace from one of the many niches/ grotesques.

After an hour and no sign of her I hobbled to the edge of the park (knee op last week) and looked across at the Abbey, lo and behold there she was on prey with a Tiercel next to her!

Obviously it made my morning and I couldn’t have been more pleased, it likely means that breeding may well now go ahead on Victoria Palace.

I got a few distant shots of them both for reference, I was surmising that it was a new Tiercel after not seeing the resident Tiercel for a few months and thinking he was no longer present.
Checking the photos later, although fairly distant and not detailed I could see no difference to the old Tiercel; better photos will be more conclusive, hopefully this weekend.

Pair on Westminster Abbey

Whether it is a new Tiercel or not, I must admit that I thought he had gone given the time I had put in and the visits, others as well whom I keep in contact with had only seen the Falcon. I was contacted by a chap on Twitter who mentioned that he had seen the Tiercel fairly regularly, great news and well done to him, hands up it looks like I was wrong about him being missing.

Hopefully breeding will now be a foregone conclusion so looking forward to Fridays visit when hopefully I can get some decent photos of him – weather permitting if I don’t get blown away....

Battersea Power Station

Another dawn visit on Sunday, albeit in exceptionally strong winds, the prelude to the approaching storm we are now experiencing now, not surprisingly not one of the Luffer Cranes was working.

I soon located the Falcon and then consequently the immature not far behind her as they located to the Tower resting up for around 30 minutes, neither bird hunting.
However this was soon to change when I soon heard the Falcon’s agitated call, looking up to see the cause of the stress showed another Peregrine, quite obviously an adult Tiercel as he began to display.

It’s been a long time since I have seen an adult Tiercel display, the pairs that I monitor are mostly long bonded and there is little display it seems if they have a settled bond and are paired and territorial all year round.
For around 5 minutes he showed off his flying abilities, vertical stoops, casting up, down, power flying at breathtaking speeds, using the wind it was the most incredible display I have seen bar none.

I was impressed, she was obviously as she went up and joined him, you may ask what the immature did, he obviously stressed called but remained on the Tower as both adults were eventually lost to view as they went further and further up towards the heavens.

Distant and poor photos of the new Tiercel but you can see the speed was there.

Casting back up after a vertical dive

Classic shape, wings closed coming down at speed

Checking the rest of the site for birds, 3 Grey Wagtails were already showing breeding behaviour along the river wall and the House Sparrow colony numbered 15 birds at roost in the Buddleia, I eventually left site.
As I exited, I spared a thought for the immature still sitting on the Tower, going on this morning’s activities it was likely that his world was about to change, or so I thought.

After arriving back home I consequently checked the CCTV and lo and behold, there was the Falcon again feeding the immature after the morning visit and also later again in the afternoon.

Falcon continuing to feed immature

A very odd scenario given the morning’s reaction to the new adult Tiercel, could it be that she could well bond with the new Tiercel but continue to nurture the immature going forward?

If so a very unusual event, especially if the Tiercel is accepted by the Falcon, I would not have thought that an incoming new Tiercel would accept the presence of the immature unless the immature retains the protection from the Falcon?

It seems quite a complex early relationship it seems as I was contacted over the weekend to say that the new Tiercel was seen copulating with the Falcon on Saturday, so signs look good for breeding it seems.

Early days and hopefully pointing towards successful breeding, we will see.