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Monday 30 March 2015

Red Kites

Last week I undertook some Red Kite surveys in Buckinghamshire, just over an hour’s drive above Aylesbury from my house on a good run.

It never fails to surprise given the number of pairs of Red Kite around the Chilterns that we don’t see more in Essex or even Kent for that matter.

The way I see it, and I could be wrong, is that the dispersal into other counties should be greater than it is given the numbers involved around the Chilterns. Both Essex and Kent provide the perfect habitat of Farmland for foraging and Woodland for breeding, to me it looks as if they will not leave guaranteed food sources like Tips.

Common Buzzard showing a bit of feather wear

Red Kite

Pair of territorial Red Kites giving a Common Buzzard the treatment

Pair of Common Buzzards nest site prospecting

Marsh Tit

While I was surveying I came across a Tip and no less than 17 Red Kites were present, aerially competing with large Gulls and Crows for scraps, it is possible that with these and other feeding points in their areas they will not disperse.

Can’t say I blame them, with guaranteed food on your doorstep why look for pastures new, however there must come a point when they reach saturation, be good to see them gracing the skies one day above Rainham Tip.

Thursday 26 March 2015

Last Hoorah at Hoo?

Hopefully not, last Saturday marked the end of the winter surveys, it’s no secret that I like the North Thames Marshes, and not just for the birds but the remote landscape has always called to me, be it here or Sheppey.

Spring has spurng

I am not Billy no mates, quite sociable really, but when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, not a sole to be seen and you can’t hear constant yapping dogs or dog owners shouting for lost dogs, it becomes a special place. Listening instead to calling Curlew or flights of Wigeon going over is the norm, in short it is peaceful, as I have said in the past, it stirs the blood.

Saturdays birds were mainly made up of Wigeon, Curlew, Lapwing and returning Oystercatchers looking to breed in the new habitat.

We have not had the birds of previous winters, no wild Geese or Swans but it has still been great birding with just the regular birds, as it has flooded, numbers of high tide roosters have grown inland.

Paul did well at the far end towards Egypt Bay on Saturday in finding a Shore Lark in the stubble, a good record for the site to go along with the 3 Richard’s Pipits, single Snow Bunting, Great Grey Shrike and 2 Lapland Buntings seen over past winters.

Add to that the 16 and 7 Bewick’s Swans, White Fronted, Pinkfoot and Barnacle Geese, Rough Legged Buzzard and of course winter Raptors it has been a happy hunting ground.

If last Saturday was the last one, as the saying goes, it has been epic.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Hunting Feral Pigeons

Below is a sequence of shots taken at Battersea Power Station, it is home to a good number of Feral Pigeons, sometimes the Peregrines target them as they leave.

3 Ferals sighted by Tiercel with back one the target

Feral evades him

Switches targets

Now has the height

Feral taken

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Catching up again

As per normal at this time of year, with peregrines having laid or about to lay shortly most of my time is spent concentrating on them.

More often than not I am at Battersea Power Station, a few days a week keeping them breeding on site along with Black Redstarts, the male has just arrived back, he always seems to go missing in January and February.

Other site breeding species include Pied and Grey Wagtail, Linnet, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Great and Blue Tit and Egyptian Goose.

Being empty for so long created good habitat hence the species numbers, it really is a unique urban site positioned in Central London.

Grey Heron - Battersea Power Station

On Friday I have another Essex Survey followed by a Kent Survey the following day, of the 2 sites Hoo is far superior in habitat and attracts more varied species along with greater numbers.

Last week however I at last caught up with Bearded Tit at Coryton, as usual it proved nigh on impossible getting a clean shot without some offending stem in the way. None the less they are always a pleasure to see regardless of the fact that it wouldn’t stay still for a minute and was then gone.

Locally the 3 White Fronted Geese are remaining faithful to the Ingrebourne Valley always with the large flock of Greylags and the Red Crested Pochard pair have now been joined by 2 other Drakes.

Great Crested Grebe - Ingrebourne Valley

The 1st returning Green Sandpiper was seen by Dave McGouth over the Valley on Wednesday, hopefully it will herald the arrival of others and summer migrants.

Green Sandpiper - this one was present at Beckton Sewage Works on Sunday

Monday 9 March 2015

Peregrine and Kingfisher

I was lucky enough over the weekend to witness a Tiercel Peregrine targeting a Kingfisher, nature in the raw as they say as the Kingfisher tried every move to get away.

The sequence of photos shown below are not great and against the light, but shows the tenacity of the Tiercel and the desperate measures the Kingfisher employed to evade the Peregrine.

The chase starts as the Tiercel locks on to the Kingfisher

The Kingfisher comes in view after diving into the Thames

The Kingfisher dives into the river several times whilst the Tiercel tries for it over and over.

Pursued to the mudflats the Kingfisher can just be seen on the waterline

Desperate measures as the Kingfisher ploughs into the mud

Kingfisher is up on the mud as the Tiercel goes for it

Tiercel overshoots

Kingfisher is about to bolt again

Tiercel banks round after it again

Kingfisher if off like a bullet low with Tiercel catching

Overshoots again

Last frame - closing on Kingfisher
Did he or she make it?

Glad to say that the little chap made it to the rocks and the Tiercel gave up, must admit to having a bit of a soft spot for Kingfishers.
What surprised me though was the tenacity and length of time of the chase, they usually give up after 2 or 3 misses, this reminded me of Merlin.

Thursday 5 March 2015

You can't help them all.....or can you?

My aim over the years has always been to help peregrines breed successfully in the urban jungle; in many cases a nest box or tray has made the difference.

Without either it is likely in some cases they would not succeed through poor nest site location, exposure, bad drainage or egg rolling from a bad substrate choice, usually young birds.
Without the boxes or trays the success rate would not be there, I am not blowing my own trumpet, others all over the Country do this as well along with the LPP who monitor the other half of London’s peregrines.

Of the 11 pairs that I monitor, 9 now uses boxes or trays I have provided for them, but one pair, pretty local and becoming well known are under achieving due to a lack of a nest site.

It pisses me off no end that I can’t give them the chance to breed and fledge young, it’s not through a want of not trying, I have explored several buildings which they use but each time an obstacle has appeared unfortunately.

The Tiercel from the site

I saw this pair copulate the other day so I have no doubt that, as in other years, they will try and likely fail, there simply is nowhere for them to breed successfully without the aid of an artificial nest site. Of course I would love this particular pair to prove me wrong.

I won’t touch on the persecution they sometimes face, mostly up north but some sites are not publicised for a reason, I wish it was otherwise but unfortunately this is the world we live in.
It would certainly be easier for me, my friends and colleagues will likely know which site I am referring to, it has now been 5 years with no success.

What we should be achieving - brood success, this is one of my other monitoring sites

The authorities and building managers I have approached have been helpful but we need to be doing more, quite simply we are failing them, they should be breeding by now.