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Sunday 26 June 2011

Juveniles down

Each year I monitor a number of Peregrine sites at fledging time along with others trying to gauge it right and be on hand when they ‘ jump ship’. Some sites you can work out more or less when they are likely to fledge, if you can get the exact date of egg laying (CCTV), and others I have to wait and ‘scope’ the juveniles to age them.

For those not familiar with fledging peregrines, they do have a habit of grounding as mentioned earlier in the diary with the juvenile that died in an unfortunate accident. Much depends on the nest area, if there is an adjacent flat area where they can exercise and make short flights, they are usually ok. The weather plays a big part, still windless days are a nightmare, no lift.

The nest sites that are confined are usually the ones that give problems, there simply is not enough room to build and strengthen wing muscles for 4, or even 5 juveniles.

Last year I was lucky, I had a couple low down, on separate sites, but these got back up under there own steam, hunger is a great motivator, if they are too low, the adults will not come down and feed them unfortunately.

Juvenile 1

On Thursday I was called to a site in London( Fulham&Barnes Peregrines ) , Nathalies site as a juvenile had come down, looking at it when I arrived, it still had 3 or 4 days to go to attain full fledging status, why it had gone we did not know, perhaps an adult had tried to coax it out with prey, or a strong gust of wind. (Looking at the CCTV recording later showed it went of its own accord).

Not very happy, (photos courtesy of Nathalie)

Checking for injury, she was ok

Peregrine juveniles like most birds of prey are full of attitude, this one certainly was as it did it best to penetrate my gloves, even as juveniles the strength they display in there talons is considerable, this was a female. A cardboard box had been placed over it to contain it, this also helps to calm it down. The juvenile was taken back up under licence, and then released on a high point near the nest site. The following day the adults found it and all was well.

All ok
Juvenile 2                                                                                                                               

This bird was in a confined nest area on another site which did not allow much room for exercise, it was a small space even for the 2 juveniles that occupied it.

Friday was not ideal weather for fledging
This bird came down on the Friday, the site owners quickly contacted me and did very well in keeping the bird in sight, well done to them, I was then able to catch the bird and return it to a high point below the nest. It is good to know that the system works, it gives me a lot of satisfaction knowing that I and others have made a difference, these juveniles will now get the chance they deserve. The site in question is not manned during the weekend and is quite desolate, with the juvenile down and food/stress calling for an adult, there was every chance it would have ended up as Fox food.

Juvenile 3

This bird came from the same nest site as the 1st juvenile, it also fledged on the Thursday, it was seen to go on CCTV on Saturday and that was it, gone.

On Saturday late afternoon it was relocated, quite a way down from where it should be, and also not having fed.

On catching it, it was still lively so it was then taken back up to the roof to join its sister, we were hoping that the adults would feed it in the evening.

Little male, adults found him this morning

Taking it out on the glove after release
I learnt this morning (Sunday) that it seems to be making up for the last few days and has had 2 feeds along with its sister.

All the juveniles are now getting fed so they should be ok, juveniles 1 and 3 are from Nathalies site, there is a 3rd juvenile in that nest that has not fledged, fingers crossed…..

Monday 20 June 2011

Little and Large Falcons

On my travels around London trying to keep up with the Peregrine population I get the chance to visit some unique sites, factories, high rise blocks, derelict brownfield sites along with working industrial sites. All are different and offer every kind of habitat going, disturbance on many is high, but on a number of these I have found that Peregrine Falcons and Kestrels do co exist and breed.

Male Kestrel

Male Peregrine
This year on the Peregrine sites that I monitor 4 pairs of Kestrel have bred on the same structure but at a lower level, both species are obviously aware of each other and there is some interaction between the 2 occasionally. It seems due to the abundance of prey in London, Kestrels are only occasionally targeted by Peregrines, the larger Falcon is basically lazy like most birds of prey, and seemingly always goes for the more abundant species.

In many cases this may be down to taste, feral pigeon may be more to there liking rather than Black Headed Gull for instance, the Gull is no doubt easier to take, so it could possibly be taste. Also the feral pigeon is just the right size to carry, I know that some Tiercels fly over a mile to a favoured hunting area, carrying the larger Gull back this far is hard work for the male, especially at dawn when there is no lift. I have recorded Kestrel as prey along with 2 male Sparrowhawks and know of other Kestrels taken as prey elsewhere. The smaller Kestrel will certainly go up and mob the Peregrine, I have seen this, some of this comes down to knowing when you can get away with it, and when not.


On all of these sites where the 2 coincide I have noticed that the Kestrels give the Peregrines a wide berth at dawn onwards when they are 100% hunting, they fly extremely low to and from the nest site, and will not go up high. When the Peregrines have killed, fed and then layed up, the Kestrels will go up higher and even thermal. The Peregrines, although extremely aggressive and territorial do not perceive them as a threat to eggs/young unlike Carrion Crows, these are attacked with relish, laying up or not.

The Kestrels may just see the Peregrines as an occupational hazard, similar to Carrion Crows, they have a territory and a nest site, they are certainly not going to move site due to the presence of a higher authority, no matter how dangerous it could be.

Hopefully the Peregrines will keep to there normal prey
It is good to see the 2 species together, on one site both species have 3 juveniles apiece, that gives the possibility of 10 Falcons in the air, should be quite a sight,hopefully I may be able to get some photos.It will certainly be interesting to see how both sets of juveniles regard each other and to record any interaction between the two when they thermal.If the Kestrel juveniles are not deemed a threat, will they just be watched and not driven off by the adult Peregrines?

Sunday 12 June 2011

Rainham RSPB and a Privet Hawkmoth

June 12th

I don’t seem to be able to visit the Reserve as much these days, Peregrines and surveys now seem to take up every weekend, this morning I made the most of the weather before it turned with a dawn visit.

Little Egret

Tail less Wren
I was not expecting much in the way of migrants, but hoped for a hunting Hobby for a photo as it was quite bright to start with.

The Thames was very quite with no waders seen apart from 3 noisy Oystercatchers displaying, no birds on the Kent side other than Gulls and Shelduck, the odd Mallard made up the balance.

The Reserve produced a calling Yellow Wagtail, around 4 Little Egrets with a Little Ringed Plover heard, the highlight was undoubtedly 2 Peregrines pair hunting a flock of Starlings, quite a sight, even for me who watches them all the time, spectacular stuff. All the sorties were launched from the pylons, 2 Starlings were seen to be taken.

Much darker Falcon
Another highlight came as I left the Reserve, due to the early hour I had parked the car outside, as I came to the path outside I found a Hawkmoth on a large granite stone. Not sure of its identity I called Howard, he confirmed it was a Privet Hawkmoth, due to its location it was moved to safeguard it as it was in open view and in a dangerous position on the path.

Hawkmoth on path


Sunday 5 June 2011

Common Terns - Barking Bay June 4th

With the Peregrine breeding season in full swing this was the first chance I had to visit the Bay for nearly a month, added to this migration was now dropping off so I thought I would have a crack at recording the breeding Common Terns.

Part of the Tern colony (click on photos too enlarge)
I was not sure of the juvenile hatching time so I was lucky enough to find most birds still incubating, very likely some with small young underneath. At least 3 pairs had small young walking round, very surprising how mobile they are at an early stage.

Herring and Lesser Black Backed Gulls cannot get near the colony, there are simply too many Terns to contend with, one immature Herring did drift into ‘ Tern airspace ‘ and was immediately set upon by no less than 11 Common Terns. The real danger to the colony is Great Black Backs, they can and will just bully there way in with aggression and size.

After passing over the colony at least 3 times I came to a figure of 29 pairs, I cannot see the south side of the Jetty so this is very likely an undercount. Talking to John Archer shortly after he estimates, and I agree with him, there are around 80 Common Terns on this section of Thames at Crossness/Barking.

Oystercatcher on nest
With this many Terns around it is also possible that they are using another unknown jetty for breeding, definitely worth looking for and then all the colonies can be safeguarded. This also opens up the possibility of further increasing breeding Tern colonies along the Thames by creating new ones on the river, there are certainly enough redundant jetties. Numbers seem to be decreasing elsewhere so this may be an answer.

On the walk back decided to give the Butterflies and Dragons the once over and try a few different settings on the camera.

Four Spot Chaser - seen at another site

Large Skipper

Male Emporer Dragonfly
Meadow Browns were out along with a few Small Heaths and around 6 Common Blues. Best of the Butterflies were 5 Large Skippers, firsts of the year.

Black Tailed Skimmer

Emporer Dragonfly
On reaching the pond I found 2 male Emporers and 2 Black Tailed Skimmers. I tied myself up in knots trying to photograph the dragonflies on the wing, need a faster lense, good fun though.