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Saturday, 11 September 2021

Peregrine mobbing

Over the years you get to see a lot of Bird of Prey mobbing, Crows and Magpies are extremely intelligent birds and always pick their battles to their advantage.

They are no respecters of size, especially if a bigger raptor; they have the advantage mostly, especially if it is also carrying or on prey.

Common Buzzards often get the treatment as does smaller Sparrowhawks and Kestrels; however they pick their battles very carefully when dealing with Peregrines. It’s very unusual to see a Crow go up and challenge a peregrine when it’s not carrying prey, it can be very dangerous given the peregrines power, size and above all, in built aggression. They may challenge (often a territorial pair on territory) on a structure/pylon where there is less risk as they are more manoeuvrable/agile, but the open sky is a peregrines domain.

Along with Goshawk, another Crows are exceptionally wary of, Crows are on the prey list for both species but given the density of peregrines, conflicts will occur more, especially in urban scenarios.

I recently witnessed a Falcon take a Feral Pigeon very low, pretty early so no lift and was immediately mobbed by 3 Herring Gulls, forced to land on a pylon low down to get her breath, she gathered herself for the next flight.

In the meantime, 2 Magpies and 2 Crows found her, mobbing is instinctive, it may result in food for them and possibly making her drop the prey to defend herself, or attack them.

However she took matters in her hands and flew, the Magpies didn’t follow but the 2 Crows gave chase and stayed on her, she did a circuit round gaining height all the time, the Crows still in attendance giving her a hard time.

However.... out of the corner of my eye the Tiercel was coming in at warp speed and remarkably the Crow’s hadn’t clocked him, they usually do and dive for ground level.

I kept the camera on her and he was on them before they saw him, he actually put the brakes on before they both dived with him following them down.

                                                              Tiercel just coming into view


Spectacular stuff and to this day, 28 years on from when I first saw one up the Crouch Estuary, I still get a real buzz when I see one, the passion will always be there.

Friday, 3 September 2021

Kestrel Nest Box


Encouraged on by the success of the Barn Owl nest box placed last December and then accepted thereafter with breeding success, I decided to place another box.

This time it was aimed at Kestrels and I have to say a big thanks to the Farmer and various people, for letting me place it and some good friends helping me do it.

The nest box was fixed firstly to 2 timbers screwed and bolted together, 4.8m long, the idea being put them in the ground 1.2m down and then have 3.6m above ground.

I did it over the course of a few weeks, first up was clearing the vegetation to get to the hole position, the allotment strimmer was worth its weight in gold.

After this, the hard part, dig the hole 500mm square roughly by 1200mm down, kindly loaned the proper digging tools, hard graft but thoroughly enjoyed it. A bonus was hitting the water table after about a metre, adding the postcrete later on was a lot easier with water already down there.

The next step was standing it up, 3 of us did this and we then turned it eastwards out of the prevalent Westerly/South Westerly winds.

It took 9 bags of postcrete and the post was then plumbed and strutted.

The following day I placed some substrate inside and the rest will be up to the Kestrels, saw a couple of Stock Doves looking at it but very early days yet, won’t expect any activity realy until 2022.

It’s not a given that they will go straight in it but to quote – “if you build it they will come” .............. Fingers crossed.




Saturday, 28 August 2021

Battersea Power Station


Some photos from earlier in August of some of the juveniles and the adult Falcon, most were against the sun so not sharp and backlit.

The 3 juveniles are coming and going, close to going permanently I would say, spells are getting longer between CCTV viewings, a week at one point and not showing up when the adults take prey on the cameras.

It no doubt means they are taking their own prey at this stage not surprisingly, reaching this point obviously means total independence and I expect they will depart the territory soon.

                                                                Adult arriving with prey


                                    Hunting over the River, didn't see me until the last minute

                                                                      Adult Falcon

                                                        Always get great sunrises here.

On the adult’s part, the Falcon has again started to hunt at night recently taking another Black Tailed Godwit nocturnally amongst others in the early a.m hours.

Saturday, 21 August 2021

Cooling Marshes

First visit since March, great to be back again after the Winter surveys finished in March, as ever it never disappoints, from the start as I drove out, a family of 5 Ravens were cronking making their way West.

I had a few migrant birds that I had in my head that I was hoping to see, Wheatear/Whinchat being top of the list followed by Hobby, it’s usually always good out here for them.

I ended up seeing 1 out the 3 with no less than 9 Wheatears seen, always great to see one, I usually struggle to get one at the Valley or Beckton. It’s all about putting the hours in, I’m sure they go through but you can’t be there all the time.

It turned out a good morning, it was a rising tide, Curlew were everywhere and 7 Bar Tailed Godwits were good and I recorded at least 650 Avocets, by far the highest count I have had there in a long time.

As follows

Yellow Wagtail – 8

Corn Bunting – 2

Green Sandpiper – 1

Black Tailed Godwit – rather a surprise with only 2 present

Egyptian Goose – pair with 6 goslings

Southern Migrant Hawker – 2

Raptors – despite not getting Hobby plenty of others were present including 2 Marsh Harriers, 4 Common Buzzards, a nice Sparrowhawk and at least 6 Kestrels dotted around with some juveniles present.

All in all a very good visit, on the way out near Cooling Towers I also saw a good flock of Mistle Thrush numbering around 14 birds, always good to see as they are declining, flocks like this are getting hard to find.