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Wednesday 28 December 2022

Beckton December 2022


Not so many visits in December, the year list has finished on 100, so that is it for 2022, my next visit will be 2023.I strive to make 100 every year as my goal, I don’t bird it flat out with multiple visits, if I did, more than likely would achieve a higher total.

What it does show in all these annual visits, is species that are doing ok and ones that you could count on at one time, disappearing. Mistle Thrush for one used to be an annual breeder here but sadly disappeared 3 years back, I now struggle to see one annually, not surprising seeing that they are now Red List as well. Green Woodpecker used to be nailed on but again, haven’t seen one for a couple of years on site.

I recently added 4 species to the list, this was due to the cold weather-related conditions, these were Skylark (3), Lapwing, Common Snipe (2) and Dunlin (5).

I half expected to see them due to the weather, thankfully conditions have become milder, and it is now easier for birds and wildlife to find food.

I also caught up with not one but 2 Black Redstarts having a bit of a dispute, both looked like 1st year birds.

They are annual on site but remarkably elusive, I often just get brief views as I drive around site.

The Sewage Works not surprisingly, is a food magnet for wintering passerines and the number of Pied Wagtails on site is very likely around 70 birds. Grey Wagtails numbers are not so high, but the numbering of wintering birds is always into double figures.

The numbering of wintering Chiffchaffs has often reached 30 birds in some winters, it is a favoured site for the little warbler, as yet in this winter period I have not picked up a Siberian, if it is present.

Another year nearly past, all the best for the New Year to everyone, have a great year.



Sunday 25 December 2022

Happy Christmas!


                         Wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Saturday 17 December 2022

Drone - Peregrines

December 3rd 2022


NaturalEngland have given their agreement for several Drone surveys to take place at Parliament, there has been some loose masonry and the Drone surveys are site wide to catalogue, photograph and record all the stonework prior to works. Similar to the Elizabeth Tower which took a few years, this will be much the same.

Obviously in the breeding season the work would be licensable and as such, at a breeding site would require a licence from NaturalEngland.

My role in this has been to monitor the resident pair of peregrines to try and avoid any conflict with the Drone. The key thing here to reduce the risk, is always to know where they are always positioned, and visually if not viewable, to have a good position to be able to see if they are approaching. The more airspace you can see the better, less chance of being surprised if you can see one or both approaching.

Whilst static, watching body language and being able to hear them is a must, obviously its better if they have fed, sitting there with a bulging crop and more lethargic, depending on the time of year, they are hopefully inclined to be less aggressive.

Victoria Tower

As part of the wider based Drone surveys taking placed at Parliament, this survey directly targeted one building – Victoria Tower.

This structure as we know is the breeding site of the pair, it houses their nest box, it is where they spend much of the time resting, roosting, feeding, and caching prey. As such it is their ‘core’ structure at Parliament for the very highly territorial pair.

As it was late in the year now, thankfully the 3 juveniles have now left so it was only the resident pair to consider. I cannot speak for NaturalEngland, but if the 3 juveniles were still present earlier in the Autumn, I would have advised against it. A Drone to a young peregrine who is still learning the ropes, chasing and practicing aerial attacks on passing birds, large or small may be too much of a carrot to resist. With 3 present, excitable, and tail chasing/practicing on each other, I would see it as far too much of a risk, even out of the main licensable breeding season.

Of all the Drone surveys to date, there has been others, this was the survey that could possibly provide the most risk of reaction and aggression from the adults. This was due to the very strong breeding link to Victoria Tower and an even stronger link to the nest box.


The 1st flight went up at 9.35a.m, having noted both peregrines positions – the Falcon was on Central Spire and the Tiercel away west, I opted to undertake the potential riskiest side of Victoria Tower – the eastern elevation nest box face. With the pair not present on Victoria Tower, this was the best opportunity.

This I considered, to be the face which offered greater possible reaction to the Drone, possibly triggering aggression and possible alarm/stress.

I was in constant contact with the Drone operator by Walkie Talkie, we had a procedure if there was a reaction, basically drop-drop-drop and I obviously had the Drone in view at all times.


For the most part I have to say that both peregrines ignored the Drone when they were present until late afternoon, on 2 occasions previously they showed some slight reaction earlier, with both bird’s stress calling mildly and flying to the nest box and alighting in it, or just above it. Coupled with the calling this was a Drone reaction, albeit fairly mild and lacking aggression as such but more a defence action.

It was noted that the Drone had changed camera on 2 of these occasions and was going slightly closer on both these periods, the Drone was on the east face and not far from the nest box. On both events also, the pair were absent at the time and arriving back from a hunting foray. I would suspect, that perched up say on Central Spire and having watched the Drone for several hours, attaining possible partial conditioning to the Drones presence, there may not have been a reaction, hard to say. After a while though, the pair left on both occasions, to resume normal activities and behaviour.

                                                                      Pair - Central Spire

The most reactive and biggest encounter came on the 3rd occasion, late in the afternoon, in bad light when the birds were possibly looking to roost on Victoria Tower. The Drone was on the east face again at a fair elevation, fairly close to Victoria Tower, at the time both birds were on the Abbey but were then lost to view behind buildings as they flew.

As the Drone got close to Victoria Tower, both birds suddenly appeared and started to circle above the Drone, not that high above it and it was noted that both birds were stress calling.

As they circled, the Falcon undertook a very shallow mock dive at the Drone, nowhere near it, but showing slight intent, so in communication over the walkie talkie, the Drone was dropped immediately, this they did, and we then called it a day as the light was also going.

After this they, immediately alighted on Victoria Tower.


Although Peregrines are no respecters of size when it comes to territorial defence, say from bigger birds of prey, I think in this case the size of the Drone may have helped.

This Drone measured 1.1 metres across so it was of a fair size, the mindset is that a smaller Drone may possibly have stimulated a stronger reaction. I have seen peregrines reactions to smaller Drones; however, this could be coincidental, different pairs, different reaction.

The fact of the matter is that you cannot apply one pairs reaction and logic to every pair and expect the same results. Each pair is individually different, younger pairs are likely more excitable and in turn more aggressive and seeing a Drone for the first time, may well bring on a more aggressive response.

With far more human activity in an urban scenario, it could be that urban pairs, as opposed to rural pairs, have a higher threshold to what constitutes disturbance and reaction, however again this is only based on this pair.

The fact of the matter is, that every pair is different and based on this, Drones should not be flown at a Peregrines nest site, the outcome and reaction to each individual Drone flight cannot be predicted.

Territoriality, all year round in London, goes with the species and there will always be the danger present of the peregrine attacking the Drone. 

However, in this case at Parliament, it is necessary due to Health and Safety, it is also providing good data and feedback on Drones.


With works due to start on Victoria Tower, a new nest box with a ledge is being installed closer to the river, facing east as per the normal nest box, it is slightly lower down but hopefully they will take to it.

For 2023 the old box will be closed off but then reopened in the future when works are complete.

Friday 25 November 2022

Parliament Latest


Parliament Latest

I haven’t seen the 3 juveniles now since early October, the last sightings was of a male on the 9th, normal times to go, what was not normal is that they didn’t use the nest box. This was despite being in and out of it in the run up to breeding as per previous years, they haven’t used the box since 2018 however. I had put this down to the Falcon being older and fertility issues kicking in on her part, I have had this happen on other peregrine sites that I monitor.

However, this year with the 3 juveniles and the adults using another position, it is usually a sign of a different Falcon, however I cannot see any difference in her.

Whatever the reason, I am not complaining, and it is fantastic to see them breeding again after a gap of 3 years with noisy juveniles again gracing the skies of Parliament.

                            2juv's around the Elizabeth Tower and below, the 3 on Central Spire

                                                                       Adult Falcon

                                                   Adults on the Abbey, Falcon feeding

                                                             Juvenile above and below

                                                                Tiercel Crow bashing

For those of you not aware, works will start in the future on Victoria Tower for a good few years much the same as the Elizabeth Tower, mitigation in the shape of a new nest box will be put in place for them going forward in another area.

With the 2023 breeding season fast approaching and egg laying in London, seemingly getting earlier and earlier, presumably due to global warming, hopefully the new nest box will entice them into another successful year. Gone are the days in London when most used to lay at the end of March, even into April, some now are in the 1st week of March, on one site I monitor, I worked it back this year after fledging in May and 1, possibly 2 of the eggs, had to be at the very end of February.

Previous to this year the earliest 1st egg I saw at distance, was March 5th.




Saturday 12 November 2022

Beckton and latest Barnie Box

Beckton Sewage Works

Winter migrants are now arriving in numbers with a count of 103 Redshank noted on November 4th, also seen was a single Curlew, 4 Black Tailed Godwits and 3 Common Sandpipers.

A nice sunny morning and Chiffchaff numbers are building, a conservative count of 9 was very likely way under the real number, in the past up to 25+ have been recorded.

It was a rising tide and the Redshank fed until the mud was covered, I watched them split into 2 flocks as they were pushed off, one roosted on the old disused Jetty and the other on a section of river wall. Both are traditional roosts.

2 Rock Pipits gave decent views feeding around the Outfall and the pair of Common Buzzards were active early a.m in the Nature Reserve, Cormorant numbers continue to rise at the Outfall also.

                                                           Old Jetty Redshank Roost

                                                             River Wall Redshank Roost

Barn Owl Box

This box was the 8th one referred to in the last post, quite pleased to dig the hole, this was 1.1 metre down by 600 x 600mm, then connect the box up to the pole, 3 of us then stood it up, plumbed it and it was then concreted it in with 12 bags of postcrete. A late finish but worth the aching back to see the end result.

Extremely satisfying seeing it in position, the rest is up to the Barnies, it is in fantastic long grass habitat in the middle of nowhere and I found a couple of pellets under a post nearby, so signs are looking promising.

I will take the positioning struts off early next week, level the substrate out inside the box as well and then place a Trail Cam to cover it for a week.

Watch this space……..

Saturday 5 November 2022

Season Review 2022


Another year gone by, they seem to fly by so quick these days, however it was another good year on the Peregrine front for the pairs that I am monitoring.

Little did I know where this journey would take me 22 years ago at Battersea Power Station, I still have the same enthusiasm for Raptors and more specifically peregrines to this day, and my biggest kick is still building a nest box/tray and seeing it get accepted.

Now at the tender age of 65, I can’t believe I get my pension next year (although with this Government they are likely to raise it to bloody 76) the body is not what it once was, and my joints are protesting big time after a lifetime of Steelfixing.

However, I still love it and I have no intention of going gracefully into retirement, more boxes to build, with nothing to do I would stagnate and probably go nuts, I need to be doing something.

I have to say a massive thanks to all my very good pals Paul, Shaun, Mart, Lee, Jake, Ben, Russ and his mate for all the help they are giving me, whether it be installing Peregrine/Barn/Little Owl and Kestrel boxes, or getting me the materials to build them, I simply couldn’t do any of this without their valued help.


Back to the review, it was a good year for the pairs, 31 juveniles fledged, as per usual, not without incident and dramas and urban fledging, continues to be dangerous and precarious much of the time.

Of these 31 juveniles – 9 were in Nest Boxes provided and 3 were in Trays with one pair ‘natural’, this was the Parliament pair who fledged 3 juveniles.

Of the ‘publicised’ sites, Battersea laid 2 eggs but sadly they didn’t hatch, both were eventually removed and sent to PBMS, little development inside unfortunately, it seems age has caught up with the 12+ year old Falcon.

                                          Battersea - they have taken to the new nest site well.

Parliament this year was ‘natural’ in another area despite being in and out of the nest box in the run up to egg laying.

I have been using recycled plywood and 2x2 offcuts for Barn Owl boxes and more recently, I have just completed a recycled Peregrine Box using the same materials. This will be installed asap on an East London site, unfortunately the pair failed in the spring, hopefully the box will do the trick.

This ply box may not have the shelf life of an 8x4 sheet of conventional ply at £45.00+, and that is a cheap sheet, but being recycled from old packing crate lids is a step in the right direction for me. Once weatherproofed, I give it 4 coats, it will hopefully last just as long as a conventional sheet.

Even the 2x2, again not cheap to buy, is from off cuts from jobs, so rather than go to waste, or be thrown or burnt, it is getting a secondary use.

We again colour ringed at 2 sites which produced 7 chicks/juveniles and Paul/Shaun also colour ringed 5 ‘grounders’, from various sites, where they have ended up at South Essex Wildlife Hospital, as you know they do incredible work there.

Again, a massive thanks to Sue, Tom and all the staff, over the years I, along with the RSPCA have taken a number of juveniles into them that were found grounded, trapped or poorly, without all their hard work, care and dedication, they wouldn’t have made it back and been given a second chance.

                                                  My amigo's ringing birds that are going back

                                                              Recycled Peregrine Box

                 Sadly they don't all make it, one of the ringed juveniles that died from collision.

Totting up all the boxes/trays that have been made/installed for the various species., it works out to the following.

Peregrine Nest Boxes/Trays – 13 – this will be 14 by the end of November.

Barn Owl Boxes – 7 – this will be 8 shortly with another pole box going up this week.

Little Owl Boxes – 3

Kestrel Boxes – 6

The take up on the other species boxes, compared to peregrine boxes is slower, there is a higher acceptance rate on the peregrine front and rarely do peregrines, not respond to a box being placed. I have had it happen on a couple of sites but ironically, they have been accepted and taken up the following year.

In the case of peregrines, once accepted they are glued to it annually, thereafter, Barn Owls it seems are different. A pair accepted a box we placed in 2021 fledging 5 juveniles, so I thought breeding was again nailed on for 2022 for this box. This was not the case; they chose another box, and a pair of Stock Doves used the box.

Never take anything for granted it seems, it will be interesting to see if the Little Owls again use the box, they successfully used this year, if I can keep that bloody Grey Squirrel out hopefully so!

                                         Hopefully the same again next year - Little Owls