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Wednesday 25 September 2019

2019 - Season review

Not a bad year again with the sites that I monitor or are involved in, unlike 2018, the publicised sites Parliament and Battersea Power Station both unfortunately failed.

In the case of Parliament they simply did not breed, this may well be down to the arrival of a new Tiercel, hopefully this will be corrected next year.

Battersea Power Station as we know was quite tragic, with 3 of the chicks being spiked by the sub adult and the 4th being uncharacteristically knocked out of the scrape by the Falcon. However things have now changed with the new Tiercel and hopefully they will rectify this in 2020.

Within the LNHS area of the sites that I monitor, 2019 produced 32 juveniles from 14 sites and this includes 3 sites that failed so taking the successful sites – 11 it would work out at just under 3 as an average.

In comparison to 2018 it is pretty similar with 32 juveniles produced from 13 sites, as you can see not a lot of difference from this to last year.

Compared to 8 ‘grounders’ in 2018, 2019 was a better year for fledging with 5 grounders, 2 were from the same site and were rescued by the public via the RSPCA, both ended up with Sue/Tom at the South Essex Wildlife Hospital.

Without the priceless work of Sue/Tom/Staff/ RSPCA and obviously the public involved, there is little doubt that these 2 would have succumbed either to Foxes/Road Traffic.

Another 'grounder'

Stunning looking birds

Being checked out at the South Essex Wildlife Hospital

These 2 were the only siblings, the grounding was staggered so returning these 2 back with Paul gave us a lot of pleasure, especially in the weeks following where I watched them interacting with each other. 

In regards to clutch/juveniles produced, sizes were as follows –

5 sites produced 4 juveniles apiece
6 sites produced 2 juveniles apiece

Unusually no broods of 3 this year, the very late laying pair which laid 3 eggs in late June was the other failure, I recently got the results back from the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme after sending them the eggs – no development in any of the eggs whatsoever.

Late - sadly this clutch failed

Nests were as follows. 

Nest box – 8 pairs in boxes
Trays – 2 pairs in Trays
Pylon – 1 pair
Structure – 1 pair
‘Natural’ scrape – 1 pair on roof of building (nest scrape on accumulated moss)
‘Natural’ scrape – 1 pair on a balcony (scrape made in pigeon guano)

Hopefully I can add to the above nest box total with a nest box installed earlier this summer on a building, a pair investigated it after a couple of weeks and are now territorial back on the building, looks promising for 2020.

High hopes for this new box, there already in and out of it

We again ringed chicks at 2 sites in London, if I recall correctly this began in 2012 using Orange rings and then transferred to a Green colour 3 years ago. It has worked well and there have been a number of returns, sadly a few deaths but the majority live sightings. One juvenile Tiercel from 2013 relocated only 4 miles from its natal site paired with a Falcon and then bred in 2017. 

Another juvenile Tiercel, again from 2013, replaced his Dad at the natal site in 2018 and bred with the Falcon, however she was not his mother but had been replaced by a different Falcon.

Lots of information/data which comes from the ringing program so it works very well, additionally a number of juveniles/adults have relocated much further afield.

Ringing - gives lots of data

If you see any of these green ringed juveniles please get in touch.

This year with any grounders, with the help of Paul and Shaun a green ring was placed on juveniles prior to release, in particular it was the 2 siblings referred to earlier; hopefully the future will be good for both. 

Finally also, a big thanks to my 2 mates Paul Hawkins/Shaun Harvey for putting up with my demands, as I have said before, both are a little ‘soft’ from working indoors all their lives but I’m now getting the best out of them with a little guidance.

In all seriousness though, good to know that the peregrines will be catered for in the future when I’m past my sell by date.

Sunday 22 September 2019

Battersea Power Station

Stability at last

The adult Tiercel has now moved onto the Power Station site and as per previous update has usurped the sub adult Tiercel, it was badly needed and just a pity it didn’t happen earlier in the breeding season, the breeding outcome I have no doubt would have been different with the chicks.

He is already pulling his weight more than the previous sub adult, bringing in far more prey with the Falcon obviously taking it from him, even if he did in one case try to hold onto it. It is the natural state of things and unlike the sub adult pestering/bullying his mother for prey, this new Tiercel delivers and waits.

Adult Tiercel - taking his place on site

His arrival on site has also altered the Falcons behaviour, she now spends more time resting/sleeping in the nest box, previously she was pestered by the sub adult but has now reverted back to type. 

Of the sub adult there has been no sign, hopefully he left ‘naturally’ pushed out by the adult Tiercel choosing this as the wisest option.

Sunday 15 September 2019

Beckton Sewage Works

 September 14th 2019 

With wall to wall sunshine forecast, a visit was on the cards to check on the Beckton wildlife and hopefully get some decent photos.

Initially checking all the usual haunts at dawn showed 2 Grey Herons at roost on a Willow Tree and I caught one of the Common Buzzards slipping away in the low light.

Roosting Grey Herons

The forecasters were spot on as I headed to the foreshore, a nice surprise was a record count of 14 Little Egrets picking off the shrimps, certainly the most I have seen, the one I am still looking for is Great White Egret. Still needed as a patch tick and spreading out all over the UK and breeding, it is only a matter of time before I hopefully catch up with one.

Can still recall the first Little Egret I saw in the late 90’s, a big rarity then, working on a site in West London, who would have thought they would have colonized like they have, it looks like Cattle Egret is going along the same route.

Part of the Little Egret flock

I also added a site first in the shape of a Spotted Flycatcher, a welcome addition to the site list taking it up to 143 species seen on or over the Sewage Works over the many years. A good bonus as well was a Whinchat seen near the Flycatcher, another site rarity and passing migrant, seems to have been a good Autumn for both Spotted Flycatcher and Whinchat.

Spotted Flycatcher

All in all it was a good morning with some good migrants moving through, the hoped for passing migrant Osprey has not yet materialised but I know that one was seen going over up river so hopefully still in with a chance before they all pass through.

Birds of note seen –

Yellow Wagtail – 10
Grey Wagtail – 7
Whinchat – 1
Spotted Flycatcher – 1
Green Sandpiper – 1
Black Tailed Godwit – 4
Swallow – 1
Linnet -12 on the set aside

To finish the morning I caught up with the pair of Common Buzzards, no sign of the juvenile so presumably moved on but good to see the pair together, the female being slightly larger, not as pronounced as in Peregrines but there to see when you have got them together.

Both were given a hard time by the Crows but eventually they went up on thermals before heading off east, very likely off to Rainham RSPB where there have been quite a few recently.

Sunday 8 September 2019

Cooling Marshes

September 3rd

A spare morning arose so it was off to the Marshes hopefully to catch up with some migrants, wasn’t expecting too much in regards to waders as tides were wrong.

A great sunrise heralded a good mornings birding, 2 Kingfishers initially in the Dyke together and a Wheatear on the road on the drive out in low light.

I do like a good sunrise

Wheatear on the way out

A couple of Raptors on the way out included a female Peregrine, juvenile Marsh Harrier and a Common Buzzard straight out of roost, no early Shorties but a nice perched Yellow Wagtail was good. 
As the sun came up a mixed flock of Swallows/Sand Martins dropped out of the heavens which probably amounted to around 150 birds, many will be on their way very shortly for that epic flight.

Hirundines coming down at dawn

Tilbury bound no doubt

After working a circuit on arrival, an early overhead calling Golden Plover, a couple more Yellow Wagtails and a close Hobby were seen. 

However just about to leave, I came across a flock of 7 Whinchat, a Stonechat and 2 Wheatears which were very flighty and nervous as a Hobby had started to pick off Dragonflies nearby.

Whilst I was watching these I also had a flyover calling Tree Pipit, in all the years doing surveys here I can’t recollect getting one before.

Anyway all good, also added another 5 Whinchat on the way out. 

Surveys start again in October, as much as I like Spring/Summer visits; I don’t think you can beat winters on the North Kent Marshes,whether I'm still saying that in a few months time getting changed at -1 out there with a howling wind is another matter.

Tuesday 3 September 2019

Power Station Latest

Looking like he’s gone

From the previous post on Sunday 25th visit, you will recall the adult Tiercel was constantly attacking the sub adult and had obviously upped the ante and the aggression levels, checking the cameras later that day, the last view I had of him was around 4.00pm.

At 7.00pm on the 25th, the adult Tiercel was on the tower displaying to the Falcon, the adult Tiercel was also again on the tower shortly before at 6.30p.m.

Since then and every day thereafter she has been with the adult Tiercel, he has now moved onto site with sub adult not showing since the 25th ,we will see if he appears in due course, however I now think it unlikely.

Given the sub adult’s previous form in holding to the box when threatened, it speaks volumes that the new Tiercel is now in it daily.
As its stands I like to think he has moved on thinking it a better and wiser option; however it’s also possible that the adult Tiercel has struck him given what I saw on the 25th and the level of aggression being used.

Obviously if he has gone, hopefully deciding to leave as a safer option, it is well overdue; it will then now give breeding stability going forward, especially after this year’s events.

So after all these months why the sudden increase in aggression from the Tiercel?

It’s possible that the adult Tiercel may have been holding back due to the Falcon, even though 'bonded' with her, a concern for him could have been creating 'divided loyalties' on the Falcon's part, in short would she attack him if he went at the sub adult too aggressively?

You have to remember that all Falcons are dominant,having said that she never interfered whatsoever.

It’s also been suggested that it could be related to plumage, as the sub adult was now nearing adult plumage, did it trigger higher levels of aggression as he was then seen as more of a threat being a near adult?

Right from the start, I was surprised that the adult Tiercel did not remove him, the immature for his part kept the adult Tiercel out off the Power Station site, the change in guard should now bring breeding stability hopefully.