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Friday 31 August 2018

Cooling Marshes

August 28th

A morning visit to see what was around, I was hoping to catch up with Hobby, although I saw 4 over the Fields all kept their distance unfortunately.

However it turned out a good morning for Raptors, best of the lot will go to a female Merlin turning a female Peregrine inside out, good interaction that also pulled in a Marsh Harrier, quite the spectacle watching all 3 dog fighting.

Common Buzzard – 4
Peregrine – 2, adult Tiercel and juv female
Marsh Harrier – 4+ adult and juv’s grouped together hunting
Merlin – female
Kestrel – 12 working the fields as grass recently cut
Little Owl – usual place
Hobby – 4
Sparrowhawk - female

Female Perergine up river

On the wader front 19 Grey Plover still retaining some summer plumage were good to see and the Black Tailed Godwit flock numbered around 600 birds.

Bar Tailed Godwit – 4
Snipe – 3
Ringed Plover – 11
Avocet – 15
Golden Plover – 1
Whimbrel – 2
Green Sandpiper - 5

Plenty of other birds seen including 8 Yellow Wagtails, Corn Bunting and Wheatear. Photos are pretty poor, naff light and dodgy photographer.

Tuesday 28 August 2018

New Nest Box

On Sunday with the help of my 2 very good friends, Shaun and Paul we placed a new nest box in London in preparation for the coming 2019 breeding, the early placing I hope will give the resident pair enough time to find and hopefully accept it.

Shaun and Paul did most of the work naturally but I had to oversee them as they both need some guidance being a bit younger, obviously experience and an older head is needed to make them work properly and get the best out of them.
I did the hard part in taking the photos.

As above there is a resident pair that had already bred successfully this year fledging 1 female juvenile from 3 eggs, this juvenile also had to be rescued and re released in June after crash landing onto a nearby building site.

This year’s nest position was not good and 2019 will not be viable or an option, hence the new and alternative position.

As you will see from the photos, we had to get a small scaffold erected to get the new box up to a level where it is visual to hopefully pique there interest. A scaffold board access has been provided to give juvenile access to a large roof, this should help in building wing strength, very important on fledging.

The Box, 3 bags of Potting Grit,ready to fix

My workers

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Finished job,lets hope they like it.

I have seen all 3 on this particular block so I know the adults use it which is half the battle, the rest is up to the pair, more so the Falcon. 

Of course it is nature you are dealing with and they could just as well ignore it, time will tell. I will watch the block as much as possible in the coming months, fingers crossed.

In all seriousness though a big thanks to both the boys, couldn’t have done it without their help.

Thursday 23 August 2018

Battersea Power Station - Filming

August 17th   

On Friday 17th, BBC London visited the Power Station to hopefully film the Peregrines and try and make a  star out of me, needless to say it didn't work on my part, the Peregrines will always be the stars. 
Arriving on site at 4.30am, we were all in position by 5.00am high on the East side.

As luck would have it we had picked a great day for filming, especially considering the weather the day before, consequently I was extremely relieved to see a great sunrise, the rest was up to the birds.

En route I had checked the usual roost positions in the darkness, I located the 2 adults and the single juvenile nicknamed ‘Solo’ at roost but couldn't see if they had full crops or not.
My concern was that if a clear night, which it had been, they may have hunted nocturnally and all 3 could have possibly already fed. If this was the case they would just sit around for up to 5 hours
before they became active/ hunted again and we would likely not see much activity for filming.

Over the years I have turned up enough times at dawn, on clear nights, to see them sitting there with massive crops having already fed nocturnally, hopefully it would not be this morning.

As you can imagine after gaining access to the new slab with the BBC people and others, I was rather relieved when firstly, Solo appeared after 15 or so minutes then followed shortly later by the Falcon.
Both made straight for the Cranes, they had not fed so hopefully hunting was on, going by the racket that the juvenile was making, it sounded like he hadn't eaten for a week.
It was quite a while before the 1st hunt, Feral Pigeon numbers have definitely reduced judging by the numbers of birds leaving the Power Station, the Peregrines hunt these as they leave going south.

During the course of the morning the Falcon undertook 4 hunts and the Tiercel, who didn't show for a couple of hours, 3 hunts, some very close near misses, 2 were struck but they failed to hold.
More or less every Crane was used, especially the ones with baskets at the end to hunt from, even when most were working, the Peregrines, including Solo simply stayed in position turning round as the Crane turned.
Not only have they adapted to the Cranes, they have also mastered the art of staying aboard whilst the Cranes are working, even when jibbing up and down.

As I have said before, I know I am biased as I have a passion for them; they are an absolutely incredible species which seem to adapt and take everything in their stride including a major construction site.
Solo with lots of enthusiasm was getting in the way sometimes on hunts but was also trying for himself, in one instance hitting a pigeon, failing to hold and then returning back with talons full of feathers, he is getting close to the finished article.(This was in the filming when I got a little excited and dramatic and was heard to say, he’s got something repeatedly.)

Hunting by the adults seemed half hearted at times with no tenacity and I expect this was due to the gathering heat; it was certainly getting very hot.
Eventually the Falcon retired to the shade leaving the Tiercel with Solo in attendance on the north east chimney, which is how we left them.
They would eventually take prey but they are in no rush and have the patience of the predator.

Falcon on one of the Luffer Cranes




Trying himself going for a Feral Pigeon

Gathering speed

Juvenile with Tiercel, 'mantling' possibly trying to stay cool or intimidate his Dad into feeding him

Staying on Crane even whilst working

Juvenile and Tiercel



The BBC people thought the site was great, they got some good footage and found the peregrines quite incredible, at times struggling to keep up with the sheer speed of them as they hunted. 
A great day, the footage went out on Monday, not unexpectedly some of what I said was not used like Hen Harrier and Birds of Prey Persecution on Grouse Moors, additionally Black Redstarts that also breed on site.

I also mentioned what Battersea Power Station Development Company Limited and MACE have done for the birds, including how workers/crane drivers look out for the birds/toolbox talks, management plan and safety measures on site etc, unfortunately not used.

Hopefully everyone enjoyed it, a lot of credit should go to BPSDC and MACE for the incredible mitigation put in place on site, the Peregrines most successful breeding period has been when Construction began in 2013.

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Beckton Sewage Works

August 18th 

Some migrants are now starting to show, not least large numbers of Sand Martins frequenting the newer section of the Sewage Works.

The low level of activity around the tanks has given them a resting place undisturbed in the roadways and more importantly is also providing a great insect food source.
Much is down to Thames Water not cutting and leaving large areas to grow naturally, it pulls in massive amounts of insects not surprisingly; I have had good numbers of Dragons and Butterflies here as well.

On the above date there was around 150 Sand Martins, 10 House Martins and 3 Swifts fuelling up/resting in preparation for the long journey to Africa soon.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Beckton Gulls,whatever next

As you may be aware from past posts if a regular reader, Gulls have never given me my kicks unless it’s a Mediterranean Gull out on the end of Southend Pier.

However in undertaking a year list annually at Beckton, I still need Caspian Gull for the year after missing out on one last winter, I am forced to go through the vast hordes of them on the Thames forever searching.

It can be monotonous, I am not a patient man, additionally I feel guilty and a turncoat as I should be looking up at the sky looking for Raptors, however, after a visit on Tuesday, something happened, I quite enjoyed it and I found some ‘goodies’.

2 Juvenile Mediterranean Gulls were the highlights, the light was not great so picture quality was not good, additionally I then found a juvenile Yellow Legged Gull which was carrying a green ring on its left leg.
This bird had been seen previously by Dominic at Rainham and was carrying the numerals 060:C, from Dom’s info it appears the bird is from Carmargue, Southern France.

The heavy mob with juvenile, suspect this is the Jetty pair bred again

I will find/see a Caspian this year I am sure, my yearlist is stuck on 96 but having checked my site list which stands at 136, I realised that Little Gull is still not on there, now that I am a Gull Guru this will soon be rectified.