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Sunday, 16 June 2019

A good Saturday


I was out early, 4.30a.m ish, anyone connected with Peregrines will tell you that more often than not the most activity, especially with juveniles, usually happens at dawn, hence silly o'clock. It helps if you have no common sense or what constitutes normality, my wife Christine puts up with my ungodly hours well.

Anyway after checking 3 sites firstly, all good with juveniles I arrived at the 4th, this was the site I was especially concerned with, there were 4 juveniles and all had fledged in the recent rain during the week. Two of the juveniles, a male and a female I knew were ok as I had seen them on the CCTV returning to the nest site. The other 2 I had seen the other day, lower down on 2 storey building’s hunkered down in the rain, there was no way to retrieve them to get them back up high.

I know this is the way of things, but with constant rain over 2-3 days, thoughts were they wouldn’t be able to get back up to height where they will be fed, the adults at this low height will not come down and feed them. It’s a double edge sword, the rain and lack of food will weaken them and they need the strength to get back up there. The adult Falcon was also attacking any Carrion Crow or Lesser Black Backed Gull who ventured near them but that was the extent of her involvement, they were on their own.

So it was with a sense of dread that I arrived at the site on Saturday morning, had the 2 succumbed or simply disappeared to Foxes or had they managed to get back up?

To my surprise and immense relief on arrival, there were the 4 juveniles sitting atop nest site tower block, 3 males and a bigger female.

It made my morning and as I later watched the adult Falcon with prey leading the 4 around in a first come first served scenario, also teaching them, the noise was unbelievable, it made all the hard work by everyone involved in this site to get them to this stage thoroughly worthwhile and so rewarding.

I know I am a bit of a mother hen but where would we be without a bit of passion?


I received a call on Monday the 10th from Thameswater Beckton that 2 of the 4 juvenile’s had fledged in torrential rain and grounded, although the adult Kestrel was doing her best to defend them, the local Crows and Magpies had found them both.

The 4 at an earlier stage pre fledging

Thoroughly soaked through, cold and not looking to good, the staff had managed to get one in a box but the 2nd was still at large.
Luckily we found it trying to hide under a bush, it was weak, laying down flat, soaked through and not showing a lot of life, I just walked over and picked it up.

Both were then taken to Sue and Tom at the SEWH where they were checked over for injuries and found to both have a fungal infection in the throat.
Anyway after a course of tablets, warmth, exercise and the all important food both were ready to go back on Saturday 15th.
They were both totally different birds, the trick now as I arrived back at Beckton would be to locate the adult(s) or the other 2 siblings.

Bigger female left, both ready for release


Driving round near the nest site, as luck would have it the adult female Kestrel flew over the car and then promptly fed the other 2 siblings sitting on a pylon.

I released them both quickly, the male juvenile flew straight to the other 2 siblings and the female went straight to a high tree, the adult Kestrel had also seen them so the visual connection was made.

I watched for another 30 minutes and the released female juvenile was then consequently joined by the other 3 juveniles in the tree so a good result all round.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Family Reunited

Following on from the ‘Grounders’ post, the plan last Saturday, was to get the 2nd juvenile back with its sibling previously released on June 4th near the nest site under licence.

Juvenile ready to go back

If you recall on the Saturday June 8th it was exceptionally windy, obviously I was a bit concerned on the release, I was hoping the little chap would not fly and just sit around and take it all in first.

However circumstances dictated that we had to go with the Saturday so we pressed on.

After being ringed by Paul and Shaun I released the juvenile back from the box, the Falcon was circling which was good, it’s always good to have a visual connection to the juv, we had also seen the first juvenile on another building so we also knew it wasn’t present at the nest site.

Getting ready for ringing

Shaun and Paul putting the rings on, I have to work them a bit but there getting the hang of it.

Ready to go

However the little chap had other ideas and went for it on release, no doubt he could feel the wind whistling through the release box.
He turned into the wind and went up and after a short while he landed on an even higher building, the Falcon was watching him so all looked ok.

It’s always a bit of a concern on release, most won’t fly straight away and will take in their surroundings but this little chap had other ideas.

On Sunday I went back to have a look, very relieved to see both juveniles together on another building with the Falcon nearby so a good ending and a big thanks to the public who found them both.

As ever the South Essex Wildlife Hospital team did a great job, the juveniles always go back healthier and well fed, over the years we must have returned 20 back to their respective parents, or in some cases foster parents.

Also thanks to my 2 mates Shaun and Paul in helping out and doing the ringing, both juveniles are now green ringed so hopefully when they branch out on there own they will be seen in the future.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019


It’s that time of year again, with 15 sites to monitor, obviously not all successfully breeding but a majority are, it’s inevitable that some will mess up on their maiden flights.

The first this year was on May 24th, this was dealt with and relocated back up to a high point by Paul, he also ringed the juvenile with a green ring. We use these at 2 other sites for normal ringing and have been for the last 5 years, however this year, given the number of annual grounders; we decided to put a green ring on them where possible.

On Tuesday June 4th we relocated one of 2 siblings; the other is still being looked after by the Wildlife Hospital and hope to release it by Friday, however yesterdays release went well.
As I have said before Sue, Tom and all the staff do an incredible job at the Hospital, if you want to give money to a great cause this is it people.

As the only siblings and both down, I always try and get them back asap to make sure the adults are firstly, still present and secondly the bond to young is still retained, the sooner the better.
On release on Tuesday, adults were present which is half the battle, you need visual contact, the juvenile flew straight away and strongly quite surprisingly.

The 2 siblings - one now back with its parents

Hope to get this chap back by Friday

'DA' ringed and ready for release

Ready to go - note juveniles amazement at the size of my hooter.
When we got back to ground level we could not locate it but suspected it was on another building going on adult behaviour so I returned the keys and came back around 30 minutes later.

As soon as I arrived back I could hear it, a short time later out it came and flew quite good, even doing a mock ‘attack’ on the side of the building before heading to another building and landing relatively well. All this time both adults were watching it which was good, what surprised me however was how well it was flying.

It was quite windy which was good, plenty of lift which made flying a lot easier, as I have said before hot windless days are usually not good, hopefully more of the same at the end of the week and the family will be complete again.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Spain - Osuna Day 2


Day 2

Luis our guide for the day picked us up at 6.00 a.m from the hotel, still dark as we headed out for the Steppes and Farmland of the Osuna area.

After over an hour’s drive later and a nice breakfast to boot we arrived at dawn in Farmland, a nice little area off piste, on the way however we had already added Little Bustard, one of the target species.

As we were to find out during the rest of the day, there were many areas that produced so many good birds and this particular spot was just one of many.

First up was a calling Quail and then they all put in an appearance, White Stork, Red Rumped Swallow, Purple Heron, Montagu’s Harrier, Gull Billed Terns, Hoopoe but the stars of the show had to be 2 Great Bustards that dropped in out of knowhere.Only the 2nd time I have seen them you forget how big they are, even at distance size was apparent. One was a superb male no less as the pair foraged at the bottom of the field.

My interest however was in a line of pylons directly in front of us, in 2 respective pylons adjacent to each other there was a large nest in each, presumably old Raven nests, we had already seen a couple.

However both nests had been taken, a Peregrine Falcon in one and a Common Buzzard in the other, if there anything like they are in the UK, I would imagine quite a volatile relationship being this close to each other.

Both nests had 2 juveniles apiece and it looked like they weren’t far off fledging.

Being dry open Farmland, there were very few trees, the line of pylons were a nesting magnet and disappeared into the horizon. I could see nests on every one, too far to see if further occupied but I suspect many were likely were, the 2 we were watching even had Spanish Sparrow nesting in the twigs.

Juvenile Peregrines - one laying down

Common Buzzard guarding 2 juveniles

Great Bustards - distant but still enormous

Leaving here we headed for another area seeing bird’s enroute, another Little Bustard, Spectacled Warbler, Monties, Black Kite and more White Stork. Red Rumped Swallows were again present, every bridge section seemed to have them nesting, just a pity we don’t get them in numbers in the UK. 

All the driving was off road, during the course of the day we spent most of the time out in the wilds and even on disused or not open motorway type roads, you need a 4x4.

Moving on and we were stopped in our tracks by a hovering bird working the fields, a Black Winged Kite no less, personally, this was the one I wanted to see only ever having seen one other individual around 25 years ago.

My target species

We stayed in this area for over an hour, a nearby farm house and out buildings was a bird hotspot and contained a colony of Lesser Kestrels, the Black Winged Kite was still working the fields and at times you didn’t know where to look. 

Calandra and Crested Lark joined the list as did a Golden Oriole, a lovely male singing in the farmhouse trees, also another Montagu’s Harrier hunting nearby and more White Storks.

Whilst scanning the area I picked up a group of distant Raptors, it looked like they had been on the ground and were just coming up to thermal, this they did and more surprisingly they then flew straight for us.

It turned out to be a flock of 14 Honey Buzzards no doubt on their way to distant breeding grounds, they passed relatively low over us and gave outstanding views.

Unrelated to them we then picked up a larger Raptor and again this flew over us, an immature Egyptian Vulture no less, this particular area was proving very productive.

A Great Bustard was again seen, this time in flight, needless to say they are big birds.

Honey Buzzards

Up close

Great Bustard

Wouldn't come out

Immature Egyptian Vulture

Thoroughly spoilt for good birds and Spanish specialities, we move on to a relatively wet area along a disused road via lots of tracks. 

This was a massive field which held a number of Bulls bred for the Bullring, obviously don’t agree with it and sad to see so many magnificent animals knowing they had a bleak future. Way overdue to be banned in a modern world, how could people sit there and watch an animal suffer like that in a bullring?

Obviously the field and floods had attracted a lot of birds, first scan probably showed around 100 Glossy Ibises and probably half again of Cattle Egret, as we continued to scan up came a flock of around 20 Collared Pratincoles.These were very welcome and we then got individuals flying around before Luis picked out 2 Black Bellied Sand Grouse flying away from the floods, very lucky with these as it turned out to be the only ones we saw.

With the heat building, it was showing 36 degrees in the car, Osuna is one of the hottest areas of Spain we scanned the skies for Raptors.

A couple of Black Kites were followed by a Marsh Harrier and we then got a couple of Short Toed Eagles, one hovering and hunting with a 2nd on the deck at the far end of the field. Red Rumped Swallows were again present and as we left this area several Iberian Grey Shrikes and Whinchat put in an appearance, a cracking area that we all enjoyed.

Glossy Ibis

Black Bellied Sandgrouse

Short Toed Eagle

Collared Pratincole

We next headed for the area that held Rollers via lots of farm tracks, more than this a Roller Tower was present, never seen one of these and must admit they work with at least 5 Rollers present in their respective holes. 

Others were also present and I suspect there were at least 9 in the area along with some Jackdaws in the Tower, they were very flighty and we didn’t want to disturb them so left, lunch was calling.

Spanish Sparrow

Roller Tower

Spotted Flycatcher

After lunch we headed down to a massive field, along yet another set of very productive tracks and came across some good birds, Short Toed Lark, Tawny Pipit, Calandra and Crested Lark, Blue Headed Wagtail, Corn Bunting, Montagu’s Harrier and Whinchat. We spent some time here and then headed along another track picking up Spotted Flycatcher along the way before we arrived at a large lake. 

We added Spoonbill here and Collared Pratincole again and there were also a number of Greater Flamingos, some quite close, lots of photos as you can imagine. This was to be our last site and I think it was fair to say that we were flagging; I suspect the previous day’s excursions were also catching up.

A great end to the day, or so we thought, an unscheduled trip on the way home was a very welcome surprise as we popped into Fuenta De Piedra, the flood on the left as you enter was absolutely alive with birds.

To name but a few.

12+ Black Terns

Whiskered Tern

3 Little Stints

10+ Curlew Sandpiper

5 Audouin’s Gulls

16 Greater Flamingo’s

We were all running round like headless chickens with the cameras as the birds were so close, add to that people were at the side of the lagoon and the birds weren’t disturbed at all by them, a very impressive site.

Black Tern


Whiskered Tern with Curlew Sandpipers

Curlew Sandpipers

The icing on the cake and our day, was a Great Spotted Cuckoo flying over picked up by Mart, a good spot as it turned out to be the only one we saw. 

Great Spotted Cuckoo

Black Veined White

We finished the day on 122 species; with 75 seen the previous day at the Mouth of the Guadalhorce we had added 47 new species for the day. I must admit to thinking we would struggle and get a lot less, a stunning day and a Black Winged Kite no less, the one bird I really wanted to see.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Beckton May 17th


With grey skies and a rising tide I popped into the Sewage works on the off chance of there being a goodie on the River. Not my normal early a.m visit but a late morning quick visit to see if anything was around, its getting pretty manic with peregrine stuff at the moment so grabbing the chance of a visit whenever I can.

I have to say it paid dividends with some good birds seen and one no less a site tick that I should have picked up years ago, Little Gull.
I have to admit I cocked up the ID, I openly admit that Gulls don’t float my boat but I did think this initially was a Bonaparte’s Gull. I have always thought that if it was showing a black head, it was approaching adulthood so it would be showing a black underwing for Little, this didn’t hence thinking Bonaparte’s.

Putting the bird out with a BOC on local news and I was put right, very helpful and something that I will now remember.

Long overdue

It was a site tick no less and bought my site list nicely up to 140, not too shabby for a little urban patch so it was a good one to get under the belt finally, it had been in my head for a long while as well overdue.

Whilst watching the little chap, a 2nd Little Gull joined it for a short while before both headed off down river.

Before I saw these however one of the first birds I saw on sticking my head over the river wall was a Black Tern, this didn’t stay long at all and this headed off up river, very likely due to the Harbour Seal that suddenly appeared in the midst of the Black Headed Gulls.

Black Tern

On another section of the wall, 4 Whimbrel came out from the rocks, I didn’t get this last year if I recall so a welcome year tick.
The final year tick was 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls heading off down the Creek, this makes 12 I have seen at the patch to date this year and numbers have increased it seems everywhere.

Mediterranean Gulls
A good morning adding Little Gull, Black Tern, Whimbrel and Arctic Tern, I also saw the Gloriana go past, the Queens 90 foot royal barge, heading up river for some upcoming event I would imagine.

Chaps out on a jolly