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Friday 30 January 2015

Peregrines - all set for 2015

Incredibly it is here again, yet another breeding season looms and I have all but completed refurbs, weather proofing and substrate change on the nest boxes/trays for the pairs that I monitor.

Pretty shortly they will all come under licence as of February 1st and I have to say that many pairs owe a lot of their success to the owners of the buildings/structures that they reside on. Without their help and co operation it would be difficult for peregrines to achieve the success that they have done in London.

Roof maintenance, Window Cleaning Rigs, Mobile Phone Masts/Dishes, all fit their work schedule in around the Peregrines licence period, as I have said in the past, it is not easy at times and they are to be commended for their part in the peregrines success.

I often wonder when they will reach the saturation point in the LNHS area (20 mile radius from St.Pauls) but as it stands they show no signs of slowing in there colonization.

Before and after - this was a relatively clean box by peregrine standards

The one pair which I do spend a lot of time on is the pair at Battersea Power Station, with a 12 year Construction program it is going to be a challenge to say the least to keep them breeding every year.

The difficult task of relocating them off the Power Station to another nest site was achieved in 2014 and they accepted another nest position. A lot of hard work was put into it by everyone involved and it was very satisfying to all when they fledged 3 juveniles.

Although I am heavily involved in Urban Peregrines in London and also have a construction background, this will offer a major opportunity of long term study of the peregrines co existence on a major construction site.

Power and speed- a flat out female - stunning birds

So far I have to say they have taken it all in their stride, some habits and characteristics on both their parts have changed, but given the major changes taking place visually, they have both adapted and coped admirably.

Phase 1 is well under way and the pair are already using the Luffer Cranes, the counter weights on the rear provide good stashing and feeding areas as well as making good look out points.

I am slightly biased, but peregrines are pretty unique in their ability to adjust and thrive in an urban environment, it is this ability that makes them the success that they are in our cities, being top dog helps a lot as well. 

Fingers crossed for another good year.

Friday 23 January 2015

Kent and Essex 2015

Regular readers will know of the winter surveys I am undertaking with others as in past winters, last Sunday and Tuesday heralded the first ones for 2015.

Both are on opposite side of the Thames, Sundays survey was on the Hoo Peninsula directly adjacent to Egypt Bay with Tuesdays survey on the Essex side at Coryton.

Seen at Hoo on Sunday

Both are terrific sites offering different landscapes, of the 2 I would say that the Kent side offers more in regard to waders and raptors.

Hoo Peninsula

An early start was called for so myself and Paul arrived in semi darkness on the chance of hearing/seeing some Owls.
Parking up along the entrance track produced no less than 5 Little and 2 Tawny Owls, all calling from far off points but we did also manage to see a single Little Owl.

A good start to the morning and buoyed on by this we headed out for our respective surveys.

It was cold, very cold with many of the Dykes frozen, my section produced very little in the way of Passerines, but as ever Raptors didn't disappoint.

2 Common Buzzards, a minimum of 4 Marsh Harriers and a Tiercel Peregrine kept the waders on their toes with the Peregrine doing low level passes to get them airborne, it is a tactic that I have seen before.

With the site now flooding with surface water it is starting to attract roosting waders, 178 Curlew and 50 Black Tailed Godwits no less, it bodes well for when the habitat really matures and establishes itself.

Not surprisingly due to shooting west of me on the river, there was very little high tide activity, all the Wigeon were well upriver towards Mucking and probably numbered over 3500 birds.

Other than this there was very little seen on the river.


 On Tuesday it was the turn of the Essex survey, again bitterly cold with all the Dykes frozen, little in the way of wildfowl, but also passerines this winter, have been rather thin on the ground in regard to numbers.
Last winter’s good counts of Yellowhammers and Corn Buntings have been nonexistent, this survey provided just 2 and 3 respectively.

Stonechats however are getting back to their old numbers with 3 pair seen, I didn't get any photos due to the fingers not working, getting bloody old and feeling the cold.

It is also looking that it is going to be another Short Eared Owless winter after the 2 regulars in the winter of 2012/13, last winter didn't produce any either.

I also have not seen a Barn Owl this winter at Coryton apart from the remains of the bird seen early this winter; presumably a Fox caught it on the ground.

Apart from a single Green Sandpiper the only other highlights were 40+ Meadow Pipits.

Monday 19 January 2015

Ingrebourne Valley

January 17th

Only my 2nd visit of the year, on this visit I had more time so covered it a bit more thoroughly, very cold but just good to be over here.
The new Visitor Centre is starting to take shape and it will be good to see it completed, not sure what they have planned for the Marsh directly in front, but it has the potential for wader scrapes/feeding stations along that stretch up to the viewing area.

New Centre

Having kicked off the year list with 44, I was hoping to add a good number of ‘ticks’ and started off pretty well with a flyover Great Black Backed Gull, it can be a tricky bird to see over here.

The viewing area itself produced the goods with a very early Shelduck, Cetti’s Warbler calling, Teal, Water Rail, 7 Snipe and Cormorant.Kingfisher was also added, another one that can be a little bit elusive.
The Glades was next up and here I got Yellowhammer in the middle Paddock and 2 flyover Bullfinch but despite a good search of the Glades, I couldn't find one Lesser Redpoll.

Shelduck - usually March


From here it was over to Berwick for the hard one, I missed it last year – Bittern, I know one is here as Les has seen it twice whilst fishing – elusive does not even begin to describe this one, it is mega hard to see in all those reed beds.
I went all over it spending at least an hour scrutinising every clump of reed where it might be hiding behind, my efforts were not rewarded but this year I will get it, I will also win the Lottery as well.

Making my way back I had 2 drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers and also added a year tick in the shape of a Goldcrest, they have been rather thin on the ground this winter, I usually get 4 or 5 on a walk round.

Now firmly established as a Peregrine favourite

Ring Necked Parakeet

I ended the walk on 59 species, 15 additions, not bad for a start in January, still need some of the harder to see birds like Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Woodcock, but I am hoping that the 3 recently arrived White Fronted Geese at Rainham will also put in an appearance shortly.

Saying that they disappeared from Rainham today and they weren't with the Greylags on the Reservoir when I checked, it could be that they have popped over to Belhus C/P.

Monday 12 January 2015

Harbour Seal

January 7th

Along with the Mink I saw here on exactly the same day - January 7th in 2012, this was as much of a surprise to see a Harbour Seal coming out of the Roding at a rate of knots.

Being low tide I am presuming that it went up in the night after the Mullet etc and who knows could well have gone right up to Barking.

Its not getting a surprise to see a Seal this far up the Thames anymore, even Grey's but seeing one in the Creek coming out was certainly unusual.


Teal actually got out of its way.

Impressive speed

Friday 9 January 2015

Dagenham Riverside

Below are a few shots taken on the D7100,must say its knocking the spots off my older D300.Used with 300mm F4 Lens

Taken at Dagenham Riverside on Friday.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Peregrines - 2014 a year in review

I can’t believe how fast 2014 has flown by, I can remember writing up the last review for the previous year, seems like yesterday.

For me and the pairs that I monitor it has been another good year, not so good nationally in some areas unfortunately but as per 2013 London did not fare so bad.

I monitor 11 pairs, 9 of these are monitored week in, week out with the 2 remaining pairs being looked after and monitored by others, in the case of Charing X Hospital, a publicised site, Nathalie looks after these from Fulham and Barnes Peregrines.

When I say looked after, they have to be ‘ managed ‘ as such due to the Schedule 1 Laws, the licence period for peregrines is February 1st until mid July minimum.

With climate change and London’s warmer temperatures laying times seem to be getting earlier and earlier, I can well see the Feb 1st licence date one day being reviewed.

The pairs above produced 25 juveniles, of these 6 grounded on their maiden flights, managed to get 5 back up but one was lost unfortunately.

More recently I have heard that one of the ringed juveniles (AT) has been found dead, unfortunately a possible victim of power lines or another pair of Peregrines. It was found 300 metres from a nesting site so suspect that it could have been chased.

An unfortunate end but many don’t get through their first winter sadly.

Sadly no longer with us - if anyone sees these coloured rings or any other colour on a Peregrine could you contact the BTO.

Highlights of the year have to be a ringed juvenile from another pair, leaving its own family of its own accord, and then attaching itself to another family, in this case the Battersea Power Station pair.

A remarkable series of events as it happened very early, the end of June, both adults accepted it at Battersea and as far as I am aware, the new juvenile, she was ringed, never went back to its own ‘blood’ parents.

As to the reason why it left who knows, who’s to say it’s not a by product of high density in London and adults will accept other juveniles without question?

It had ‘natural’ siblings of its own – 2 no, it left them and went with the 2 juveniles at Battersea, I last saw it in September, I often wonder where she is now.

Middle female is ringed bird - the 2 bigger females were inseparable after this

The 2 females

Ringed female flying

Another highlight was fostering another fledged juvenile with another pair, it was found concussed and taken to Sue at the South Essex Wildlife Hospital. I knew where it was found and I knew the pair involved, I also knew I would have the devil’s own time re - finding them. This pair, as soon as the juveniles are flying strongly enough leave the nest site and go a wandering for some reason; they also have a big territory.

Needless to say, after picking it up from the Hospital, they were not at the nest site building when I looked, I then made the decision to foster it with another pair. Without adults to teach them to hunt and feed them they will likely not survive if released on their own.


I released it with the new foster parents and they took it in straight away, it also had 4 juveniles for company which was great for it. The juveniles now numbered 5, to see 7 peregrines in the sky together as the juveniles loudly chased the adults for food was simply stunning, and at times amusing, it gave me a lot of satisfaction watching them.

This is the 2nd juvenile that I have released with another pair, I did the same the year before, in both cases I used the same Fosters.

All in all another good year, hopefully 2015 will match it.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Dagenham Riverside

January 2nd

Referring back to the last post I was itching to get out and try the new camera, checking the tides showed a morning high tide for the river so the old Jetty was opted for.

Getting into position before they came into roost, some were already in, had me covering the ground SAS style, belly crawling and eventually setting up with the camo netting over me.

What I hadn’t realised was that I was right next to a Foxes den, the area and my clothes absolutely stunk of them.

As many will know photographing in Essex across the Thames you always seem to have the sun against you, today was no different as the morning cleared it was from the south east. Consequently most of the shots I took today were against the sun unfortunately.

Never less the D7100 is far superior to my old D300, the auto focus for one is brilliant, I am looking forward to trying it out on a fast moving peregrine, a challenge for any camera.
Like anything its new with lots of different gadgets to try, the trick as always is remembering them all, it will take time, I am not technically minded.

The roost itself held 12 Curlew, 89 Redshank, 150 Lapwing, 23 Black Tailed Godwits, 3 Common Sandpipers and 34 Shelduck.

I had hoped that the main Black Tailed Godwit flock would come in, around 300 birds but suspect they chose Crossness, Barges or Rainham RSPB to roost.