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Sunday 29 March 2020

Cooling Marshes

Both myself and Paul managed to finish the last of the surveys in March before we went into lock down, March was the finish of them before we hopefully begin again in October.

It’s been 2 a month, high and low tide and if I recall correctly this is our 7th consecutive year out on the North Kent Marshes, as I have said before I love the wildness of the place although at times with the cold and cutting constant wind I have cursed it.

Over the winters we have seen some of the rarer birds out there, Rough Legged Buzzard, male Hen Harrier, Lapland and Snow Buntings, Shore Lark, around 4 Richards Pipit, Great Grey Shrike and Woodlark. Good birds to see anywhere, male Hen Harriers are always magical and memorable seeing one for me, just a pity they are such a rarity these days due to the relentless persecution.

In the March finishing surveys we were also lucky enough to catch up with a couple of early spring migrants moving through, Wheatear and Little Ringed Plover, also an early single calling Yellow Wagtail was seen on the last survey.

Corn Bunting

Initially thought this was White Wagtail with sharp border but settled for Pied.

Always great to see in the Spring - Wheatear
On the last high tide survey the Curlew roost hit 107 and I had the most Avocets at roost I have seen for quite a while – 330, good numbers.

Also a nice 2nd summer male Marsh Harrier with what looks like Marsh Frog legs hanging down as prey.

Marsh Harrier

Like many others I have started to do a window list, more on that later.

Friday 27 March 2020

NHS - Battersea Power Station

In these troubling times and seeing what is happening all across the UK and the world, life has changed and suddenly become dangerous. The easy part is ours having to stay home, my respect and admiration goes out to the NHS having to deal with this front line.

They are the ones bearing the brunt of this, especially in many cases, not having the proper protection and knowing the threat is far greater in communication with patients.

As I said my gratitude for each and every one of them working for the NHS is immense, can you imagine going to work into this environment every day as they do?

They need our support just by staying home.

On a lighter note I have been keeping an eye on the cameras at Battersea Power Station, they are going well, 3 eggs so far, the Falcon is approaching 10,quite old in peregrine terms so it may well be the extent of the clutch.

However she has surprised me since her arrival in 2012 with large clutches, 3 lots of 5 eggs so I will keep an open mind on it.

Before we went into lock down, we had another intruding Tiercel at the Power Station, an adult, eventually seen off by the resident male but quite a tussle at times. No injuries thankfully to either bird, I know the damage the talons can do.

I have seen a number of intruders over the years, I have to say this particular one was a very determined individual and pressed his case quite extensively, he came back at least 3 times before finally getting the message.

Stop Press - she has laid a 4th egg!

Monday 23 March 2020

Beckton Sewage Works

Now fast approaching and in some cases already breeding, Spring is more or less here, the winter migrants like Teal and Redshank are fast reducing as the breeding urge kicks in. Lots of display and courtship battles already taking place amongst both species, Shelduck is another that has ongoing battles for females amongst the males.

Many Shelduck are already paired, nest sites as you know are usually Rabbit holes and such like, many Brownfield sites next to the Thames that hold Rabbits are fast disappearing in East London as the land gets eaten up under development. My old stomping grounds of Barking Bay is a prime example, the Shelduck used to nest in burrows in good numbers quite a way from the Thames and then walk the Ducklings down to the water. With the land disappearing under Brick and Mortar, nest sites will disappear, hence another Inner Thames breeder reducing. It’s little wonder with no mitigation, purpose built Shelduck Banks would be a good start all along the Thames.

Elsewhere on the Sewage Works the Kestrels are fast approaching egg laying as you will see from the photos, as with Peregrines multiple copulation's right up to egg laying.

The Iceland Gull as of March 18th was still present along with the Stonechat, the Common Buzzards however seem to have moved on to pastures new.

Stay safe everyone in these difficult times.

Monday 16 March 2020


Hi, it’s been quite hard in the last month or so to get some decent weather to catch up on the pair, I at last got in a visit on Saturday March 7th, not the hoped for blue skies but a bit overcast after a promising sunrise.

Nice sunrise but didn't last

When I arrived in Victoria Gardens Park in semi darkness, I could see the Falcon straight away roosting right next to the nest box, a good sign, after a short while she then entered the box before re emerging 3 minutes later. The Tiercel then materialised on a fly by and both then headed over to Westminster Abbey, had a walk round but could not locate either bird.

However with her roosting near and entering the box, it is pointing in the right direction for breeding hopefully, as we get closer she will spend much of her time close or in the box with the Tiercel undertaking the hunting.

I settled down to wait in the Park and eventually after an hour or so spied them on the Abbey, walking round found her on the Methodist Hall with the Tiercel back on Victoria Palace. Both looked like they had fed a little, a couple of sorties after by the Tiercel but half hearted.

Methodist Hall - one of the buildings they use




Tiercel just about be seen

With more stability after last year, hopefully she will start spending more time round the nest box, normal laying is any time from now onwards for London. We will see what transpires in the next couple of weeks.

Fingers crossed for breeding and stay safe people, certainly worrying times.

Friday 6 March 2020

Beckton Sewage Works

The changing of the guard occurred at Beckton with the first spring breeder back in the shape of a returning Oystercatcher, first seen early in February, it marks the earliest returning bird I have had at the Sewage Works.

The Kestrels have become very territorial and the female in particular is becoming glued to the box, with the recent bad weather, not unexpectedly, worms have featured a lot on the diet. The Kestrels in particular will stay under cover, fly out quickly, grab a couple of worms and then back up, they get wet but they don’t go hungry.

It’s a substantial never ending food source and they, along with the Common Buzzards on site rely on worms heavily in foul wet weather.

Female Kestrel in better weather


Wet after worming

In regards to the pair of Common Buzzards I have not seen them now in over a week, it’s possible that they may have sought another territory for breeding, hopefully they will return. They’re pretty nailed on when I want to locate them, favouring the same stretch of trees, after last year’s success I thought it would be normal service this year but perhaps not. 

Drake Shoveler - likely breeding on site

Great Spot - new addition to the Feeders

Squirrel proof - is there such a thing, so far so good.

I have marked the Sparrowhawks nest for 2020, I am hoping she will just follow on using it for this year but seem to recall from someone, that it’s not a given the following year. 

I have also bought myself a Medaisse Trail Cam(s), still learning how to use it but good fun and getting some good images which I will eventually post.

It is very sensitive though, first time I used it, it gave me over 400 shots of the Wind Turbine Blades on site, quite amusing looking afterwards if you’re a fan of wind turbine blades, but I had not allowed for their sheer size, I thought distance meant that it would not be picked up. You live and learn as they say, I was trying to get one of the Kestrels, I set it to close to the turbine and I can now say I am an authority on wind turbines blades, positioning is key and avoid windy days!

I also recorded Stonechat on site for the first time, been after one over here for years, a good addition pushing the site bird list up to 146.

At last