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Friday 24 September 2021

Kestrel Box Update


Well that didn’t take long, as with the Barn Owl box that was placed last year, the Kestrel Box has shown activity very early; however it seems to have attracted the attention of not only a Kestrel but also a Barn Owl!

Admittedly I thought the size and design of the box, straight off a Kestrel template would be too small for a Barnie, however this particular Barn Owl has other ideas it seems.

I placed a Trail Cam on it quite early and checking it one morning, the Barn Owl exited, it simply didn’t occur to me one would roost in it. I would expect it started with the Owl using it as a look out nocturnal spot for watching prey on the ground below it.

Since then it’s used it pretty regular, even plonking itself on the camera, however the box has now attracted the attentions of a male Kestrel.

Looking on the cam shows him entering the box/sitting in the box so obviously the Owl has not been present during this.

I know that Barnies are pretty laid back and docile when it comes to aggression, many species will mob them when diurnally flying, Kestrel being one of them.

I noted on the Cam images that the male Kestrel is calling, it’s possible that he was getting a bit excited with a female in view, Tiercel peregrines do exactly the same thing.

                                               Didn't expect a Spitfire and Hurricane flyby.

Obviously early days yet but a good start, it will be interesting to see what develops.

Monday 20 September 2021

Beckton Sewage Works


Beckton Sewage Works

It’s been a while since an update from the Sewage Works, busy of late over the last few months with Peregrine stuff and various projects, consequently have not been able to visit as much as I would have liked.

The annual list is on 99, nearly there and of late, have added a few good additions - Common Redstart and Mandarin (both 2nd for the site), the Redstart as ever elusive and unable to get a photo.

Also had a Northern Wheatear recently, I thought I had missed the boat with one of these for the year but looking at the list already seen one earlier in the spring. Senior moment kicking in, happening more often of late.

Teal/Redshank have started to arrive back for the winter period, with the Oystercatchers probably gone now until next March/April.

The Kestrel juveniles seem to have well dispersed, both adults occasionally in the box, the tie to it not surprisingly, similar to peregrines, is retained outside of breeding.

Little Egret numbers peaked at 9 at the Outfall, along with the small Shrimp type things, they have also been taking small Elvers amongst the rock pools left on the receding tide.

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.