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Saturday, 20 January 2018

Peregrines and the Drone issue

Due to the increasing density of Peregrines in London and the ever increasing density of Drones being used as a marketing/survey and even a leisure tool, it is inevitable that they will clash at some time.

I have touched on this subject before, simply put the 2 don’t mix, peregrines being the highly aggressive birds that they are will either react or ignore them, the big point here is that there is no way of predicting this.

If they were to clash, with the peregrines usual method of attack, dive on it and either hit it or try and grab it; obviously it’s going to sustain injury or worse from the blades.
That’s not to mention the damage possibly sustained to the Drone, they are very expensive.

I have nothing against Drones being used in a responsible manner, in many scenario’s they produce amazing footage, you only have to look at some of the Wildlife programs.

As a marketing tool, especially on high rise blocks they give never seen before footage from the exterior.

However on active Peregrine nesting sites, most of London’s pairs are territorial all year round, the potential for conflict is ever present, of course other than the publicised peregrine sites, Drone operators are not going to know where peregrine sites are to avoid them.

There are currently 30+ pairs in the LNHS area (20 mile radius from St.Pauls) and the Drone issue is arising on many peregrine sites now, it’s a new modern tool which serves a purpose, I can understand it, they offer incredible video footage.

NaturalEngland have recently advised that it could be seen as a breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, if a Drone is knowingly flown in an active Peregrine site at any time of year, not just the licence period (Feb 1st to July). Obviously the risks of reaction will be far greater during the breeding season, especially with chicks/juveniles involved.

It would be covered under ‘Reckless or Intentional Disturbance’

As I said above I have nothing against them being used responsibly; however it has to balanced on peregrine sites due to the potential risk, they are a Schedule 1 species.

Regulations are sorely needed for Drone operators in London to avoid peregrine sites, there needs to be a standard approach to the respective governing bodies before any use as I see it.

This way Operators can avoid them and sites that are not publicised can remain so.


  1. It's a good point Dave. I saw a bloke out on Wanstead Flats at 8am this morning with a drone. What is best though? Not publicising sites, or making sure all are well known so that drone operators know about them?

    From what I've seen of Londoners interacting with open spaces in London, wildlife is way down the priority list so I would favour not publishing and crossing your fingers that they stay away. My point being publishing Peregrine sites won't deter most drone flyers, they will just have no clue.

    The bigger issue is idiots flying them near airports - there have been so many near misses already with commercial aircraft on final approach, and the Police rarely catch them. What these people, and those with the laser pen things, think might happen is beyond me.

  2. Jono, by mutual agreement right from the start between various Organizations/Parties many years ago, it was agreed not to publish sites unless deemed secure -ie Battersea, Parliament and Charring X Hospital.In some cases Building owners don't want the peregrines advertised on there building anyway. In an ideal world without the minority persecution threat in London, sites could all be advertised and enjoyed by the public far more.I would certainly like to see that.
    Unfortunately its not an ideal world, you only have to look at what is happening on the Grouse Moor's.
    As I see it, all the breeding sites that I monitor, around 14 are passed on to NaturalEngland/RBBP, they know where they are, it could be flagged up if Drone flights are licenced in some way if they intend to fly at or near a peregrine site.
    All the managers/owners whom I have contact with, at the various sites, have been great and don't fly them,however its outside Drone operators coming in unconnected simply not knowing the peregrines are there.

    Probably lots more work but in this age of computers I would have thought feasible.

    As you say even more of an issue flying a Drone near an Airport, all the more reason for licencing/registering if they want to fly in London.

    I know it won't stop everyone but got to start somewhere.

  3. Surely greater public engagement and therefore wider public knowledge of the existing nest sites has to be the better long term solution to this issue?

    From my standpoint as a person not considered 'in the know' so to speak, I find the existing secret squirrel approach to peregrine nest locations actually possibly counterproductive in terms of actually being able to better protect the peregrines in London. I fully accept the wild population faces some serious persecution but that's much more the case to where there are a lot of gamebirds, particularly grouse. Last I checked, I don't think there were any red grouse within the ring of the M25. I am sure there were good reasons to keep the nest site locations secret years ago when the falcons were relatively scarce and just moving in to reoccupy urban sites. That's absolutely not the case nowadays - as you say within cental london itself there are a very considerable number of pairs about such that surely it is better for the general public around the sites to actually be able to monitor the sites to deter human intruders than relying on just a select group of people. Only yesterday I was able to point out, to much general excitement it seemed, a few people to a perched peregrine on a building when they would otherwise never have noticed it. That has been the case whenever I have pointed out one of the birds to a member of the public and the wider public in my experience has been very pro peregrine and being more aware of these birds can only be generally a good thing I would have thought.

    Particular to drones, current regulations already should in theory prevent them flying too near nest sites but clearly people are not particularly tempted to follow the existing rules with respect to approach to built up areas. Public knowledge of sites would also help people who are minded to follow the drone flying rules and can try to proactively avoid the nest sites rather than add a layer of further regulations that people are supposed to follow (and they cannot be told why or where in the specific area they wish to fly a drone is disallowed) if the sites still have to be kept secret when the people they apply to most are already not minded to follow existing regulations.

    1. Sorry, forgot about answering this.Its got nothing about being in the know or the secret squirrel approach, or select people if you want to get involved step forward,I could certainly do with the help.I agree with public engagement,if I had my way all the sites would be publicised so that everyone can enjoy them.However it is not my call to publicise them, the original agreement between NaturalEngland, Met Police Wildlife and with consultation with the LNHS was not to publicise them unless deemed secure.There are other scenarios as well, on at least 4 of the sites that I monitor the owners don't want the peregrines advertised.I monitor around 16 sites, not all in London and I can't speak for the L P Partnership but I would welcome any help from the public.I think if each site had a group of people covering it, it would be for all the better,especially at fledging time.It may be time to review whether to publicise sites or not but that is down to the power that be,not me.On the Drone issue as it stands, to avoid possible conflict professional Drone flights could be licenced in London and that way nest sites would be flagged up whether publicised or not,with around 35 pairs it needs something.Drones with guards over the blades would go a long way to helping.