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Friday, 6 December 2019

Battersea Power Station




Cranes



Having been involved with the iconic Power Station and its peregrines now for touching 20 years, I have been a very fortunate man to have witnessed the colossal change from an empty structure to a modern major construction site.

Obviously with the construction and due to the sheer size of the Power Station Estate, a number of Luffer Cranes were needed from the beginning; the total is probably around 21 at the peak of all the various phases.

When I saw all these Cranes going up a good few years back now, it did cross my mind that peregrines have always been a bird of open sky needing clear and open flight lines which suited there prowess and power flying style, would the density of the Cranes inhibit behaviour/flight, in short would they stay?



Tiercel






What I had not allowed for in those early days, was the sheer tenacity, adaptability and resilience of this remarkable species to adjust and above all how strong the connection and bond is to the ‘core ‘nesting site. 

Watching them recently from aloft and in the past shows that all Cranes are used, whether working or not, yes both adults have mastered the art of ‘riding’ the Crane whilst working.

I have seen it before in London, they obviously know where to sit and rest working or not, if working they simply adjust or turn as the Crane turns/drops the jib down, to watch for Feral Pigeons leaving or passing the Power Station.

Falcon feeding on one of the new chimneys


Tiercel


Tiercel

Quite amusing at times when hunting, to see them holding position and readjusting as the crane turns to face the right way for prey activity. As I said they are an incredible species and it shows why they have colonised the UK’s Urban Cities and Towns in such a big way, there are so many strings to their bow.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Beckton Kestrel release





Glad to say he made it, picked up the little chap from South Essex Wildlife Hospital on Wednesday 20th, as ever they did a fantastic job and he looked a far cry from when he was found, he looked lively and his feathering was back to a nice colour.

Always good to see a bit of attitude on release, he flew and climbed quickly landing on a pylon, its one he always uses. Watched him for a while before he again flew west, he had fed well in the morning so presumed he was having a look at territory or looking for the female as 12 days had elapsed since Friday 8th.


Still with blood on his bill from morning feed.


Pylon

Off sightseeing

Left him to it and had a look round site and came back a couple of hours later, briefly saw the female with him before he then started preening back on his favoured pipe. 


Back on his favoured pipe preening

A good result all round considering his condition on the 8th, I didn’t think he would make it.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Cooling Marshes





Occasionally whilst birding you have really good days where you can do no wrong and the bird’s line up for your viewing pleasure, Saturday was a very good day it has to be said.

It was patchy fog which soon cleared to reveal a stunner of a day on the North Kent Marshes, as I have said before it is one of those magical places to be when the sun shows itself at dawn, just love the wildness of the place and the birds it attracts.

Couldn’t locate the Little Owls from the off but starting the usual transect gave no indication of the good birds to come, there all good birds I know but some being scarcer and less seen do give you a kick.

First up were 2 Short Eared Owls, one flushed which promptly flushed another before both did a few circuits and then plunge dived into long grass.


One of the first 2 Short Eared Owls, a pity there hazy




At least 9 Bearded Tits were heard/seen before I did the return leg, having marked the 2 SEO who had not moved from the position last seen, I then walked up another in cover around half a mile away which promptly flew around me before again dropping down into long grass.


3rd Shortie




It’s been a while since I have seen 3 Short Eared Owls here, in the past winters yes, when the Rough Legged Buzzard was present but hopefully seeing 3 was a sign of a good winter coming for them.

In the meantime I had also seen Common Buzzard, Peregrine and brief views of a Merlin scattering all the waders as it flashed past.

Moving on and glancing back at one of the Fleets distantly showed a Great White Egret standing in the shallows, always good to see this ever increasing Egret. Both myself and Paul keep checking the Cows and Sheep for Cattle Egret but none as yet although I understand they have been in the area.


Great White Egret

Whilst recording the Greylags a Raven was seen, unusually on its own, used to seeing them in pairs, after this I eventually reached the river.

A single Common Scoter sped by with 3 Great Crested Grebes also seen fishing before hearing a call of a trilling Finch/Bunting overhead, the mind went blank, as it does at my age, before the call eventually registered – Snow Bunting.

The last time I heard these was in Scotland 2014 with the boys so great to catch up with one, presumably the same one that was seen east of here by Chris or Frank. Managed to get a couple of record shots as well as it turned and came back over me, that was hard enough as it wouldn’t fly straight. A F5.6 200-500mm is not designed for a small relatively close Bunting, out of 20 shots, 2 were in focus, there are times when I wish for my old F4 300mm as the auto focus was a lot sharper and quicker.



Snow Bunting




After this walking back to the car I unbelievably kicked up another Short Eared Owl, admittedly I was looking for this one as I have had one in this area before, pretty sure given the distance covered in the walk and noting where they went down, that these were all separate Owls.


No 4

So all in all 4 Short Eared Owls, not a bad morning, photos were hazy with the early morning fog but can’t complain given the quality and number of birds seen.


Also saw this coming up from Southend way, presumably a Transport Plane









Sunday, 10 November 2019

Beckton Kestrel






Received a call on Friday from Thames Water that a Kestrel had been found trapped unfortunately, further to this I learnt on arrival to pick it up that it had been in this position for possibly 4 days.

It is the male from the nest box that I watch who has produced a good number of young Kestrels in the last few years.


Not looking good



Well done to Marlon at Thames Water and whoever found it, as I picked it up not surprisingly it was thin and obviously very weak so took it straight to South Essex Wildlife Hospital. 

Being checked out



Very dehydrated it was also then given some food straight away, initial observation was no injuries, hopefully it will pull through.


When he was better, as you can see a good provider for the female.




















Thursday, 31 October 2019

Beckton Sewage Works and C'mon England






Winter has arrived lately and with it many of the winter speciality species like Redshank, Curlew and Black Tailed Godwits.




All were seen recently on visits heralding the approaching cold stuff and in particular Redshank numbers are rapidly building, usual wintering numbers are around 100 but according to the weathermen, it will be a cold snowy November/December so numbers may well rise.

However I recall cold snowy winters are forecast most years so we will see.









I caught up with the Common Buzzards again on a couple of occasions, at one time both in the air together, they are remarkably similar given that there is so much variation in the species, you only have to look at the individual seen earlier in the month at Rainham.

She is clearly bigger than him when together, not so pronounced as peregrines but there to see nonetheless, plumage is very similar as you can see from the merged photo, when you look closely little difference’s appear.

Her black band to the tail is not as obvious as the male so she may be younger than the male, although not clear photos so it may well be the light and the angle of the image.



Dawn just about to go worming - I think this is the male

Merged and very similar






As I write this we have hit November; however Saturday November 2nd is hopefully going to be a great day as we face the Springboks in the Final.

There is no doubt that the battle of the forwards is going to be immense, the Boks are always physical but hopefully we will have their measure.

With Curry and Underhill I think we have the best pairing in world rugby and with Tuilagi again a big threat and always making ground, the backs could play a bigger part.

Great also to see another Sarries man in there also, Heinz has done a great job and a shame he got injured but a great opportunity for Spencer.

C’mon England!






Thursday, 24 October 2019

Peregrine Nest Clean Up







I had kindly been give access to this nest site by the owners as the building was being scaffolded for some reservation works, the opportunity was there as the cleanup is usually undertaken annually by 2 Abseliers. The best thing about it was that it had a hoist to the top, a bit of a luxury, far easier on the joints and my little legs.

It’s been a very productive nest site, since 2006 it has produced an outstanding 30 juveniles, its only the second time I have had access physically to the nest site in 13 years so I jumped at it literally, as expected plenty of prey up there.

However most of it was underwater near the nest tray as the drain hole was bunged up but a lot of stuff was identifiable, if not a bit smelly being in the water.

I was able to confirm at the nest site - Wood Pigeon, 4 Ring Necked Parakeets, 3 Starling, Green Woodpecker, 2 Black Headed Gulls, 2 Redwing, an unidentified small wader and various Feral Pigeons.



Green Woodpecker skull

After getting it ship shape, fresh substrate in the tray, cleaning out the tray area and bunghole it was ready for them for 2020, the work will be finished before breeding so all good hopefully.


After with fresh substrate - should dry out soon




On the way back down we went past 2 other caching sites, on the first one was another Wood Pigeon partially eaten, the chaps had watched one of the peregrines bring this in that morning, I would suspect it was the Falcon as Woodies are heavy birds to carry.

On the next caching site was a Woodcock, again fresh and more or less definitely taken at night as most are, it is sad that it was taken but its nature as we know, nocturnal hunting is just another string to their bow.


Partially eaten Wood Pigeon

Woodcock 

On the other side of the building, yet to be scaffolded, there are 3 high level larger cache ledges that I know they use the most for stashing prey; it will be very interesting to see what is on these, I know there is going to be far far more.







Thursday, 17 October 2019

First surveys of the Winter



October

First up was Cooling Marshes on the Kent side, we weren’t expecting big wader numbers as its still relatively early in the winter but it was good to get out on the Marshes again, if I recall correctly this will be our 7th winter.

Nice to see the pair of Little Owls again straight off, many of the Pools have dried up not surprisingly but with the amount of rain we have had this month, it’s only a matter of time before they start filling up and becoming wader/wildfowl magnets again.







The regular winter Raptors were seen on both the surveys with Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard present, 2 Peregrines were sentinels on the posts ever watchful and Paul picked up a Merlin trying to pick off passing Chaffinches.

On the recent Sunday survey Chaffinches were flooding in going west, with a strong westerly wind blowing, around 6, it was extremely hard work for them fighting the wind but none it seemed stopped, the migration movement urge to be somewhere outweighing the need to rest it seemed.

I recorded over 600 and I know Paul probably had around a 1000 moving through further inland, both of us also picked up Tree Sparrows tagging on to the Chaffinch flocks.

Enjoyable surveys and good to be back again.


Recorded 9 Bearded Tits on the last survey

Big boys - 2 Ravens out on the Marshes


On the Essex side I visited Coryton for the first time this winter, decent weather with a light wind as I started the survey.

The Kestrel was holding station by its nest box and a distant flock of birds sitting on a telegraph cable turned out to be Corn Buntings, hopefully I will keep seeing them here for years to come, another bird declining.



Kestrel keeping an eye on the box

Being October I had in mind one bird that I had seen here before, Ring Ouzel, there had been a few around lately in Essex so quite pleased when I stumbled onto 2 feeding with a flock of Starlings in Hawthorne’s.

They were off transect so photos are distant but likely 1st year birds, both went to ground when a Peregrine appeared.



Ring Ouzels - distant but likely 1st year birds


Peregrine 


Moving on as it was high tide after a long walk I eventually arrived at the wader roost, much the same as Kent numbers were low but to be expected until the real colder stuff arrives.

Black Tailed Godwit, Redshank, Grey Plover, Dunlin were all present in low numbers along with a couple of Rock Pipits on the Saltings.








To cap off a good day a flock of Avocet came in, again low numbers but good to see this elegant wader again and as with Kent, good to be back treading the turf.