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Thursday 28 March 2024

Parliament Latest


March 23rd

I popped into Parliament last Saturday, arriving at 5.20a.m just as the dawn was starting to show.
It turned into a bright but very cold morning; however, it was good to finally see some sunshine.

Lots going on with the Peregrines, good to confirm we have an egg or 2, she's not on full incubation yet, this usually begins at 3 eggs, indeed copulation is still continuing, so obviously one or more to come.

Unfortunately, the new Riverside Tower nest site has again been ignored, she is in the old faithful nest balcony on Victoria Tower. The tie to this core structure is incredibly strong and it will take a massive carrot to move her. The height of the Riverside Tower nest site could be an issue being lower, it’s a possibility that they may not even look at it, until they can no longer use Victoria Tower.

What is unusual, is that last year's juvenile, now an immature is still present and being tolerated, it could be that he will assist with breeding, hopefully if all goes well, he will be a help and not a hindrance.
Long staying juveniles can be a problem, in that they often steal prey meant for the Falcon from the adult male, or even the chicks, I have had it happen at other sites like Battersea Power Station.

We will see what transpires, shortly after dawn, the immature landed on the balcony wall and was staring down, screaming to be fed, she was obviously down there incubating but appeared as soon as he flew off.
The whole point of this was to try and get her to feed him, even at this stage, he will still try it on to nab/steal an easy meal.
During the next couple of hours, he intercepted another intruding female Peregrine high up and saw her off out of territory, so hopefully he will help and benefit them if he stays.


                                           Falcon - swollen vent shows another egg on the way

                                                       Falcon arriving - Tiercel in with prey


                                                   Immature seeing off intruding Falcon



Eventually the adult Tiercel came in with prey, she was sitting nearby, he had obviously fed, what remained of the prey was definitely a Woodcock. A nocturnal migrant, especially on clear nights, unfortunately for it, Peregrines in Cities now hunt at night also.

The Falcon then fed while he dropped down to incubate, the juvenile was nowhere to be seen so she fed on the remains before flying to Central Spire.
The Tiercel appeared later, and they copulated on Central Spire, the Falcon then flew back and rested up near the balcony no doubt guarding it.

So, fingers crossed all will go well with breeding ,no reason why not, they are in a good position on the Balcony, they now have a good egg base/substrate and are safe from extreme weather.

Friday 22 March 2024

Battersea Power Station - March


I visited last Saturday morning 16th after checking Sunday's forecast which was very poor, Saturday proved better, not the bright sunshine forecast but a good morning, nonetheless.

Peregrines - no eggs as of yet, this is if they are coming given her age, she spends a lot of time in the nest box however, resting and creating/renewing the egg scrape and going through the normal process and routine.

Given that the new nest position in the Northeast Wash Tower has been such an outstanding success from everyone's hard work, it's such a pity, that she may not be able to grace it with eggs/chicks due to her age.

Both on show on Saturday, the Falcon in and out of the nest box, duffing up a Crow over the Thames also, but mostly just resting up in various positions/locations.
The Tiercel however was more active, I am fairly sure he hit a pigeon and failed to hold it, it was on the Roof Gardens of the Flats on Switch House East. He repeatedly circled this position for around 3 or 4 minutes, obviously not comfortable coming down to grab it.

I have seen them do this a number of times, failing to grab the prey on impact and it drops, this looked exactly the same, they are loath to give it up as you would expect.

                                                  Nest Box totally accepted - will she lay?



In regard to the Roof Gardens, we have a Magpie building a nest aloft in one of the Birches, not good news for all the small birds on the Estate, they will take a lot of eggs/chicks unfortunately. It is nature however and you have to go with it, the Magpies themselves, could also be targeted by the Peregrines, especially young freshly fledged Magpies.

The Feeders continue to attract large numbers of Goldfinch, especially feeding on the Sunflower Hearts.
Numbers continue to soar with 25+ seen at the Power Station, they are still sorting themselves into pairs, and it could be that we will again have double figure nests as per last year.

In terms of breeding, the Wagtails are paired and already nest building, the Power Station Estate has always been a regular established breeding site over my 24 years, for both Pied and Grey Wagtails.
It looks like we have 2-3 pairs of Grey Wagtails and 2 pairs of Pied, paired up, all are nest building already.


                                                      Grey Wagtails - already building

                                                                 Magpie building

The Black Redstart was again seen briefly in his favourite Garden, notoriously hard to get into a nest box, I have targeted them with several discreetly placed open fronted nest boxes, dotted around the rooftop gardens, well hidden in structures.

2 of the Aurora gardens nest boxes are in use, (Great and Blue Tit) but I didn't see the Blackbirds which bred last year in the gardens, hopefully I am just missing them.

Amusing sight of the morning, will definately go to 2 Pied Wagtails living up to their raptor harassing reputation, mobbing the Tiercel whilst he tried to recover his prey!


Friday 15 March 2024

Peregrine Latest


Of the 17 pairs I monitor, 8 pairs have now laid eggs as of today, the earliest layer being March 9th with another pair possibly even earlier. Long gone are the days when most pairs laid around the end of March, testament I would expect to warmer temperatures and global warming. Last year I had a pair lay on February 28th which is the first time I have known a pair lay into February if I recall correctly.

The Factory pair laid eggs on the 11th and 13th, I would expect a further egg today likely, they usually lay around 50+ hours apart from each other. A concern with the Falcon, was seeing her standing on the egg, obviously not ideal, when I looked straight after at the egg, there was a mark. I am hoping that it was a blood mark from feeding on prey, hopefully so.

                                                                       Clumsy Falcon


On another site, unfortunately 2 Fireproof boards were blown loose at the nest site and one of them, then partially covered the nest tray.

As you can imagine at this time of year, pre-eggs or even on eggs, the last thing you want to do is disturb her at this stage, desertion is extremely likely, however she had not laid yet thankfully if she still could, with the board half covering the Tray.

With no eggs confirmed at distance by a long lens, a very careful operation was then immediately mounted with the owners, under licence, we then removed the boards in under 3 minutes, when she was absent, but sitting above the nest site but unable to see into it.

                                              One of these was partially covering the nest tray

Checking the site after and since, showed her none the wiser and back in the nest tray, as I write this, she could even have laid an egg or 2, a great result.

Elsewhere, as yet the Battersea Power Station Falcon, now at a minimum of 13/14 years of age, not surprisingly has not laid, much the same as last year. No doubt fertility and being able to produce an egg at this stage in her life, will play a major part.

Copulation/Display continues, and she spends hours in the totally accepted new nest box resting, forming an egg scrape within the Grit, but sadly it looks like it will not happen again, we will see. Given the number of singles around in the outer counties and even further afield, I had expected her to relinquish her territorial position at the Power Station to a younger stronger Falcon last year.

She is holding on well and has been a fantastic female since her arrival in 2012 as an adult, she has produced no less than 22 juveniles, all during construction, more than the previous Falcon 2000 – 2012, who produced 14 juveniles.

I will be checking Parliament next week, hopefully she has laid but where, old, or new?

                                   Has there ever been a more adaptive resilient Bird of Prey?

Friday 1 March 2024

Beckton Latest - February

The Kestrels on the Sewage Works are going well, and all the signs are that they will breed again, if they can deal with the sheer number of Crows.

The large presence of a number of Crows, is solely due to McGraths Refuse Centre on the Creek.
With a massive food source, the Crows have increased to vast numbers over the winter, the Sewage Works is overrun with them.

Hopefully the Kestrels will outlast them and the bond to the nest box will remain as strong as ever, however it does make you think, just how much mobbing they can take. Everywhere they go they are harassed by up to 6 Crows, sometimes more at a time on the Sewage Works, it no doubt effects there hunting efficiency which is not good when feeding young.

At the Outfall itself, Oystercatchers have arrived back to breed, they are already pairing up and displaying in the run up to breeding, I can remember when these did not arrive upriver to breed until mid-March, a sign of the times I suspect with global warming.

I haven’t heard a Blackcap as yet but plenty of Chiffchaff around, the Sewage Works, presumably like other Sewage Works, is a major wintering area for them with numbers often exceeding 25 birds in some winters.

One bird that has been missing for the last 3 years, which I used to see on every visit is Green Woodpecker, not sure if part of a decline elsewhere but possibly linked additionally to something else.

It could possibly be down to the sheer number of Crows but along with this, I wonder if it could be since the arrival of the more aggressive Ring-Necked Parakeets.

2-3 pairs of the Parakeets now breed on site, winter numbers are up to 30, especially when fresh buds appear on the trees.

It’s a possibility that the feisty Parakeets could have out muscled them, both for old nest holes and new ones.