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Sunday, 17 February 2019

Battersea Power Station





February – Nocturnal Hunting - more strings to her bow?


Following on from January’s post little has changed, the juvenile is still with the Falcon and showing no signs of going his own way, he is still displaying to her also. However she doesn’t seem as keen on his advances of ledge display from the CCTV images, she keeps renewing and forming the scrape so we will just have to wait and see.

The above title refers solely to the Falcon, one of the benefits from having access to CCTV and especially playback is that you don’t miss a thing, everything is recorded.

I have known, as has others that Peregrines hunt at night, they haven’t got an Owls large eyes to take in everything and hunt prey, but they do have incredible vision and more importantly in the City, artificial light.

It is enough to give them an edge and I think it happens nocturnally on some peregrine sites more than we think, I know I have turned up enough times at dawn in years past on numerous sites to see one or both birds sitting there with bulging crops.

I remember thinking a number of times, ahh they have had a nocturnal feast on cached prey, no hunting this morning, in fact it was just as likely that they had taken prey in the night.


The Battersea Falcon I think has taken this to another level, it is well known that they will go up and take nocturnal wild migrants or winter movers like Woodcock, Fieldfare, Redwing, Coot, Moorhen and Snipe but Feral Pigeon?

The wild birds are presumably reaction hunting, birds calling or seen overhead etc as they pass over.

Feral Pigeons do not, as far as I am aware, move around at night, once at roost they stay there as far as I know, often communally roosting.

Over the last 3 weeks the Falcon has bought in 11 Feral Pigeons nocturnally, intact birds and not from a cache, in short they have been taken shortly before she arrives.

The favoured times seem to be 1.00am to 4.30am, similar when she was taking the Black Headed Gulls; these no doubt were taken on the River.

What the Falcon is doing at Battersea, as I see it, is not nocturnal reaction hunting but pre meditated hunting as she knows where a food source is located.
I think she is flying into the Power Station at night, which is lit up as you can imagine from works and taking static roosting Feral Pigeons within.


Feral Pigeon

Just arrived with Feral Pigeon

Well fed and full crop

I at first thought this a Moorhen but checking the feathers on the CCTV in the morning showed another Feral Pigeon

All diurnal prey taken at the Power Station is always taken in pursuit, chasing down Ferals as they leave the Power Station. As I see it she would not be able to take them during the daylight hours static and resting, as they are far too mobile, alert and nimble in the tight spaces, Peregrines need room to manoeuvre and open sky. 

It looks as if she has learnt to exploit a food source inside nocturnally, possibly by accident and is now actively hunting as much nocturnally as she is diurnally.
Obviously much of this is surmising but it makes sense as they often chase Ferals inside but rarely catch one.

The illuminated light inside has made this possible for her to exploit this to her advantage, it adds up as having watched them for nearly 20 years, all hunting has nearly always been at and from the Power Station, they have no reason to go elsewhere for a food source with one on your doorstep.



Sunday, 10 February 2019

Beckton - early February






Not great weather of late but Spring is showing the first signs with some birds beginning early courtship, Song Thrushes are already blasting out tunes and Great Spotted Woodpeckers are drumming, makes you feel warmer just hearing it.

The Common Buzzards are perhaps giving an indication that this year could be the one that they try and breed, I have marked all the old Carrion Crows nests so will be keeping an eye on them for signs of use.
Still trying to sort out who is who but pretty sure now, they are hard to sex, that the male is the one with the white crescent on its chest, I originally thought this was the female.

This was reinforced when I saw it go up after another passing Buzzard; it was then attacked so good signs of territoriality, at the time I could see the other Buzzard, hopefully the female sitting in a Tree so looking promising.


'White Crescent male' above going for intruder





The Kestrels as ever are glued to the nest box; the male now is giving Feral Pigeons the heave ho every time one comes near.

Saw them copulate so breeding is on again.







The Black Redstart is still favouring the same area of tanks but have now seen a 2nd bird, a more advanced male which is extremely elusive on another section of the site. A stronger wing bar was quite evident and more rich markings, hope to get some photos of this if it sticks.





Grey Seal

The bull Grey Seal again put in an appearance the other day and judging by the size of the fish he had, which looked like a Thick Lipped Mullet he was having a good morning.










Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Beckton Sewage Works




January



Up and running again for 2019, I have visited a couple of times over January; I finished last year with 101 species for the Sewage Works and the Outfall. Not bad for an urban site so the aim this year will be to better that, over half way there so far with 56 species.

The pair of Common Buzzards are still with us and I am keeping an eye on them come breeding time, I have marked a few old Corvid nests around site so we will see. Who would have thought that an urban sewage works site like Beckton would attract in not one but 2 large Raptors, 5 years ago I wouldn’t have thought it possible.
Much is obviously down to a food source on site along with little disturbance, lots of Rabbits, the occasional dead gull and I have watched them doing a lot of ‘worming’ ,sometimes in the dark under artificial light.

I never realised how versatile a species they are to be honest and for such a large raptor, they are quite brazen and thick skinned, testament to their successful distribution I expect. Even the local Crows are obviously getting used to their continued presence, they hassle and mob them but no matter what, the Buzzards favour the same areas, day in day out, Crows or no Crows.












The Kestrels are already tied to the nest box as we approach breeding, on these cold nights they are roosting tight in the corner next to the nest box, I would suspect that roosting tight together and up against the cladding gives them a good bit of body warmth.

Hopefully another successful season beckons, I have sussed out there favoured hunting areas so they are now becoming easier to find on dispersal from roost, the female in particular always goes to the same spot.





Taken in darkness, hence quality,shows pair huddled tight into corner



The Sparrowhawks I only see occasionally, last year’s nest is still in situ and has survived this winter’s bad weather so far, whether or not they favour imprinted previous successful nest sites is another matter.



Green invaders, another hole gone for our native species

I recently located a 1st year male Black Redstart on the tanks, not seen in 2018, a rare bird on site and many years ago an annual breeder, hopefully this chap will stay and breed. However I suspect that it’s here like many others species, especially wintering Chiffchaffs, as the site provides an unrivalled food source.



Hopefully it will linger



Thursday, 24 January 2019

Battersea Power Station - Unknown Ground





A scenario is developing at the Power Station that I have not come across before, a lot has been observed on CCTV which has given me a good insight into the family’s behaviour.

The established pair, the Falcon arrived in December 2013 and the Tiercel I know is 12 years old from photos have bred very successfully, raising multiple broods since the Falcons arrival, to be precise 18 juveniles fledged to date.

Quite remarkable as well is that the most successful breeding period has been whilst Construction was, and still is, in full swing.

They raised only a single juvenile last year, a male, incredibly he is still present, much of the reason could be that his father, the adult Tiercel, was last seen on November 4th by myself. Over the last 11 weeks I have searched for him, being territorial all year round I should have picked him up at some time stage from multiple visits.

I can only presume that age, or the dangers of an urban environment in London may well have caught up with him, no doubt it will remain unknown. There is enough strength in depth in London of adult singles for him to be replaced pretty quickly, on a couple of other sites I have had adults replaced within 2- 3 weeks if they go missing(ringed adults). If an intruding stronger Tiercel drove him off/or even killed him I would have expected it to have taken his place as part of a natural process, unless the Battersea Tiercel intruded on another pair and was attacked.

However the juvenile is still with us and not looking like leaving at all, without his father’s influence/aggression as we fast approach breeding, it could be that the Falcon may well not push him on either if he doesn’t leave of his own accord.

This could boil down to the fact in that, how is she now seeing him, as an offspring or a potential mate? I have seen her showing slight aggression but this is was over prey, she mantled it and did not want to share it ,that's normal beit adult male or juvenile male.

I did a bit of research regarding incestual relationships amongst Peregrines, it is documented in the USA, not common however and I also received the following below from Ed Drewitt.

In Bath in 2008 we had a first year bird paired up with his mum after dad disappeared around the egg laying stage. He reared the chicks with her and carried on breeding with her the following year.

Lots of permutations that could happen -


Breeding together.

They could just summer and breed in 2020 if the juvenile is not ready this year.

The juvenile could just up and leave.

If a stronger adult Tiercel come in and attacks the juvenile and ousts him, with the Falcon's still apparent maternal instinct, will she allow this and bond with an intruding Tiercel?
I say maternal instinct as she is still, on occasion feeding him; I haven’t seen adults do this so possibly not seeing him as a mate?
However I have observed ledge display lately on 2 occasions between them, this is usually reserved for paired and bonded birds.



Dependant offspring or mate?

As previously mentioned there are enough singles in the wings, it is likely that the juvenile’s presence and possibly the Falcons reaction may well be stopping a new Tiercel coming in.

In February I should know more, it will be very interesting to see how it pans out......

Also noted during the last week or so, the Falcon has taken at least 5 Black Headed Gulls including a Gull taken at 12.45am in the morning, 100% nocturnal hunting and I suspect resulting from more Gulls on the river coinciding with the cold spell.










Sunday, 6 January 2019

Peregrines - season review 2018







I had meant to address this earlier in the year but it’s been a bit hectic in the Autumn of 2018 with the long holiday and moving out of the Flat whilst it was refurbished.
Now back home to a nice new Flat, things are returning back to the normal routine with a new year bringing on a breeding season fast approaching.



Peregrines – 2018 has not been a bad year, 13 sites produced a very healthy 32 juveniles averaging out at just over 2 per site so not a bad ratio.

Of the 13 sites, 8 used nest boxes that I had made, 2 were in Trays and the remaining 3 I classed as ‘natural’. One was a Carrion Crow nest, one was in pigeon guano on a balcony and the 3rd was laid on roof top substrate/moss.
The Parliament nest box was made by Brunel University, not wood but cardboard composite; it has been accepted and used by the pair now for the last 3 years.
Another 3 nest boxes were made last year, one was installed by Shaun and Paul with 2 waiting in the wings ready for installation, one of these is a replacement with the 3rd shortly to go up on a new site.



A big thanks to Paul and Shaun, couple of posers, had to work them a bit to get the best out of them.

Grounders or juveniles taken into care numbered 7, either myself or Paul returned them back to their respective nest sites; incredible work was again undertaken by Sue and the team at the South Essex Wildlife Hospital. 

The Thames juvenile, a very lucky bird



One juvenile had to be fostered with a new family of 4; it was an only sibling, it spent 3 weeks in the Hospital recovering from a dodgy maiden flight. After recuperating, I was a bit concerned at the time, of it going back and adults accepting it again, furthermore locating them on the release and access could have been an issue, hence the new family. 

The foster family of 4 siblings worked a treat, it was accepted straight away, it now had ‘siblings’ to interact with and learn from as well. I had fostered twice before at this site as well in the past, so the pair had a proven track record.
This juvenile was noticeably darker plumage and gave me a lot of pleasure following it around in the next few months, quite a sight with 5 juveniles gracing the sky often with the adults in attendance.


Released back, this was the bird that crash landed in a Balcony trashing all the Flowers
So another year is with us, February 1st they all come under licence again, breeding is such a long commitment, especially when you consider that some, like the Battersea Power Station juvenile, have seen the New Year in.