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Thursday 29 October 2015

Battersea Power Station - 2015

After last year’s success with 3 juveniles, more of the same was hoped for in 2015, with the site now in full swing construction wise, my hopes were that they would adapt to the changing landscape.

Bearing in mind that they have been used to a derelict Power Station for a number of years, the pair’s resilience has proved quite remarkable with the major works just about everywhere in 2014/2015.

In 2014 we managed to get them off the Power Station and over to a purpose built nest site, my obvious hopes were that it would be more of the same for 2015.Over the years though I have learnt to never take anything for granted with them, unpredictability seems to go hand in hand with the species.

No mistaking the look of an adult Falcon


Battersea Power Station Development Company efforts along with Skanska’s have been quite remarkable in, not only providing them with a nest site since 2013, but also making sure that the correct mitigation is always in place to avoid any disturbance issues.

For 2015 we had also added 2 new platforms, this was after all 3 juveniles ‘grounded’ the previous year, this was to give the juveniles the extra space needed to exercise and build wing strength and muscle.
Anyone connected with peregrines will know, when fledging time comes it is never easy, as much as you look forward to it, you also dread it at the same time.
We were lucky with the grounders in 2014, all were seen and located when they came down, due to the vastness of the site it is the territory of several Foxes, they are the main danger, especially when the site is not active.

However, 2015 turned out even better than we all had hoped, 4 juveniles graced the Tower and fledged without incident, the new ledges had proved a success and all 4 made the flight over to the Power Station.

As juveniles go, these were no different; the working site became a playground and learning facility much to the amusement of the site populace. The Tower Cranes on site became ready made perching/resting point’s in-between frantic chases of each other and the adults, especially if they had prey.
In the coming months many of the workforce kept an eye open for them and the adults, this was borne out by the notices all round site and the enquiries that I answered whenever I visited. The peregrines generated a lot of interest, it is good to see that people care and there is always a place for nature, even on a large scale working construction site.

Juveniles all

Practicing Landings

With natural juvenile exuberance, the fledging and learning period did not go without mishap; it was inevitable on a site this large that one would not get itself into trouble, so it showed.
One of the juveniles flew to the top of a chimney; all are now undergoing complete rebuilds, and managed to drop down inside it. This was at a pretty early stage shortly after fledging when flight is not under 100 % control, it is likely that a gust of wind blew him off and down he went unfortunately.

The base of the chimney opened out to a large wash tower, it was here that he landed on girders none the worse for wear.

However getting back out was not going to be so straightforward, this was due to the fact that internally the wash tower had been netted off to keep out the many Feral Pigeons.
A decision was then made by BPSDC and Skanska, the contractor for the Power Station, to send down Abseiler’s and cut out large squares of the netting to let him out.

It worked, it took him a few hours but eventually I am glad to say he found one of the holes and exited to freedom, a great result for all concerned.

With 2016 just around the corner we are hoping for more of the same, there Tower is due to be moved on Saturday October 31st but will then be re erected the following day, 80 metres from its current position.

Also present on site - Black Redstarts

Here’s hoping for more success in 2016. 

Monday 26 October 2015

Essex Bound

October 24th

Having seen the stunning close up’s of the Rough Legged Buzzard on social media at Holland Haven, Paul and I headed down there at dawn on Saturday morning.

Unfortunately weather-wise it was not to clever with dark grey skies and the threat of rain, not having been here for a number of years, Lesser Grey Shrike if I remember correctly, I did recall some parts of the site. The Lesser Grey Shrike was quite a long time ago when I got dragged along on the occasional twitch.

We positioned ourselves at dawn and waited, sure enough we soon picked it up drifting across the Golf Course with a Common Buzzard, no doubt both had been roosting near or with each other.

Having forgot just how big a Rough Legged Buzzard is, the bird gradually worked its way towards us visiting the odd post along the route as it got nearer.

In the end I have to say we had incredible views of it near the hide sitting on a post, incredibly close for a large raptor, I was quite amazed that it seemingly did not react to people. Dog walkers were walking by, we and other birders were in view but no reaction from the bird as it intently watched for prey on the ground.

Mobbed by Corvids

Unsettling the locals

A bird to remember, previously seen Rough Leg’s have mostly been those on Sheppy,always distant dots it seems, this was stunning, even in bad light.

From here we headed for Heybridge Basin for the Great Grey Shrike, a few other birders were present and we saw the bird straight away.

Over the next hour we watched it, a bit elusive and flighty as it presumably hunted but decent views were had although very mobile.

Not being much of a twitcher, or even doing a proper Essex list, I thought back to the last time I had seen a Great Grey Shrike in Essex, the conclusion was never. The memory is not what it was, so I could be corrected. 

Never had one at Rainham although I did see one a stone’s throw across the river years ago on Dartford Marsh.

A great morning with 2 excellent birds, if the Rough Leg sticks I can well see myself going back.

Thursday 22 October 2015

Kent and Essex - 1st surveys


First up was Kent, Sunday 18th October on Hoo Peninsula to be more precise, as first surveys go at the onset of winter it was quite productive.

Along with Paul we both had some good birds, Bearded Tit was pretty numerous, I had 8 in my section in 2 separate groups.

Wildfowl and waders were mainly confined to the mud flats, it is early days with not much standing water on site to attract birds, this will soon change.
Notable species seen were 4 Green Sandpipers, 2 Wheatear, Peregrine and 4 Marsh Harriers. A distant cronking Raven was also noted by the river wall.

Best bird of the morning undoubtedly goes to a male Hen Harrier, a welcome sight after drawing a blank in the winter of 2014/15.
Picked up initially at the end of the survey, Paul managed to see it also and got the record shot below.

Last seen heading towards Egypt Bay, it may be Sheppey bound, hopefully it will remain in the area.

Paul's record shot of the male Hen Harrier

Tuesday 20th and it was the turn of Coryton, Essex, decent weather prevailed so a good start to the morning.

Good to see Stonechat numbers building, at least 6 were seen on the survey but no winter Thrushes as yet, this area is usually very good for them.

Other notables were 3 Green Sandpipers, 5 Bearded Tits, Marsh Harrier, 40 Knot, 4 Stonechat and numerous Goldcrest, not surprising given the influx.

Again best bird went to a Raptor, a walked up Short Eared Owl, hopefully a sign for more this winter, last winter I drew a blank on this species at Coryton.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Ingrebourne Valley

Farm Trail

October 15th

Not a bright morning weather wise with grey skies and a fresh northerly wind, the morning had a distinct autumn feel to it as I started the Farm Trail circuit.

Virtually the first birds seen other than 2 flyover Ring Necked Parakeets were a flock of 25 Lesser Redpolls in the tall trees on the bend by the river.

These were quickly on the move and headed over towards Glades, a very good start, I then started to pick up Goldcrest, overhead Song Thrush and Redwing.

Eventually going through Deadmans Wood and hearing even more Goldcrest I arrived at the Farm Trail, a few Meadow Pipits were calling before I arrived half way along where the game crop starts.

I was on the lookout for the Grey Partridge that had been seen recently, shoot birds no doubt but a rare bird these days and always good to catch up with.

However it was quickly evident that the game crop and surrounding bushes were alive with Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings and Chaffinches. Initially I had 16 Yellowhammers which flew out of the hedge and dropped into the crop, I then flushed another 19 as I walked down the hedgerow towards Glades.
A big count for this early in the year, considering I only had 6 on the 7th, 35 birds is a good number and may reflect the colder weather changes.
Added to this there were at least 80+ Chaffinches/Reed Buntings in and around the crop, hopefully this bodes well for some good winter numbers, perhaps even some Brambling.One year this game crop even pulled in a Tree Sparrow so well worth keeping an eye on.

Glades produced even more Goldcrests along with 4 Green Woodpeckers before I arrived in the viewing area.

Water levels are still high but 50 odd Lapwing had managed to find a spot to rest.

The finale was 18 Fieldfare going over high and a flock of 25 Wigeon seen distantly, I suspect put up off the Reservoir.

Coffee was calling; this new Centre is going to spoil me.

Thursday 8 October 2015

Ingrebourne Valley

Farm Trail and Visitor Centre

October 7th

With the rain at last letting up I made tracks for the Valley early afternoon, I had decided on a walk round the Farm Trail and then the Glades. I had Ring Ouzel in my head given we are now in October, they have always been a hard bird over the Valley with only a handful of records.

With the new Visitor Centre for the Essex Wildlife Trust now open, I made a note at the end of the walk to drop in for a coffee.

New Centre

It was quite apparent early on that there were good numbers of Goldcrest around with singles frequently calling; I even had one out on the Farm Trail.

Lots of Game Crop this year for the shoot, so it should again pull in Finches/Buntings in numbers as per past years, to emphasize this, 6 Yellowhammers were already present in the adjoining bushes.

The glades was quite productive and gave up more Goldcrests and also Chiffchaffs along with a single Redwing and Siskin, Green Woodpeckers seemed to be everywhere.

Alas no Ring Ouzel anywhere but some good birds were seen, the viewing area was only full of Mallards, easily 80 birds but I did have 4 Snipe flying around.

Highlights from the walk were

Goldcrest – 10
Blackcap – 1
Swallow – a late bird over the Farm Trail
Bullfinch – 3 calling
Chiffchaff – 7
Rook – 5

The top paddock is now gone unfortunately and is set to become a Landfill eventually, nothing is ever left alone, pounds notes will always take over.

On a brighter note the new Centre was worth the wait when I arrived after the walk, I can see it becoming the place to meet for local birders.
On a cold winter’s day, it is going to make the long walks a lot easier with a hot chocolate and a cake waiting at the end of it.

Bloody waistline will take another bashing though, just too much temptation everywhere you go these days.

Inside the centre

The view out over the Marsh - wader scrapes are planned

Saturday 3 October 2015

Rainham RSPB

October 2nd

I decided to walk my usual circuit, plenty of bright sunshine so was not expecting heaps along the River Wall footpath.

The first thing I noticed were the Harbour Seals, no less that 10 hauled out on the Kent side, good news and a great sight, testament to a cleaner river these days. With the regular Grey Seal I keep recording up at the Outfall and Porpoise sightings this far up, the Thames has come a long way since the old days.

Walking along the river wall produced good numbers of Robins and no less that 12 Chiffchaff, whether or not these are home grown birds or migrants bought in by the Easterlies is hard to say, I favour the latter, at one point I had 6 chiffies in a bush in front of me.

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31 Black Tailed Godwit, a single Bar Tail, Curlew and a flock of Golden Plover made up the other goodies along the Thames as I entered the Reserve.

2 calling flyover Redpoll sp were then heard, a year tick, no doubt Lesser’s I expect, before the real star’s of the show appeared and started pinging in a reed bed in front of me, Bearded Tits.
Initially 4 birds, by the time I got to the northern boardwalk it had grown to 8, presuming it was the same birds. As I walked round, I kept seeing them undertaking the towering flight ahead of me that they seem to undertake at this time of year.

To round the walk off I had a male Marsh Harrier and 4 Pintail were seen on the Pools.

The Rainham year list is stuck on 120, admittedly I haven’t been over there as much as in past years but it looks as if last year’s total of 138 is well out of reach.

The best year I have ever had was 160 if I recall correctly, Rainham has been pretty light this year on 'rares' it seems, hopefully the winter will bring in some good birds.