Click on photos to enlarge, please do not copy photos without permission

Friday 26 April 2024

Return to Cooling Marshes

 If you have read the blog in the past, its no secret that I love the wildness of the North Kent Marshes, with more available time, I would spend a lot more time over there. At dawn you just can’t beat the sunrise as everything comes alive and the landscape is revealed.

Wednesday’s visit, dawn arrival naturally, was very rewarding and from 5.45a.m until 12.00p.m I recorded 73 species, I would expect that as the tide started to rise and more waders came to roost possibly, no doubt I could have added more.

Admittedly I was moving about and suspect if I had concentrated on the river more, I would have added Terns, possibly even Scoters to the day list.

However, a thoroughly enjoyable morning and I recorded 8 species of wader – standouts on these being 9 Whimbrel (suspect more as they were everywhere) and a couple of Bar Tailed Godwits along with a flock of Avocets feeding out on the mud.

On the drive out to it no less than 5 Corn Buntings singing, once I arrived, I checked the fields with the Cows, and it was great to see 5 Cattle Egrets feeding amongst them. Gradually becoming a more common sighting, much the same when Little Egrets first arrived, nowadays everywhere.

I watched these for a while, along with a Stoat that was just too fast for the camera, also circling overhead was a Tiercel Peregrine presumably from the Essex side as it came that way.

I was hoping for some Wheatears, only ended up with one but nonetheless as ever always great to see one, just don’t get enough of them.

A really good visit and definitely a prelude to more over the summer, quite looking forward to it already.






Saturday 20 April 2024

Beckton Sewage Works Latest


April 18th

I visited on Thursday morning and mostly concentrated on the Outfall and River for activity, still waiting for that much needed Osprey to add to the Life List. They have been seen here in the past by others, but for me, a much-needed addition to the list.

A good morning with a few additions in the shape of a Marsh Harrier, not regular here, also Arctic Tern with a single seen along with 11 Sand Martins, 4 adult Mediterranean Gulls were also good to see.

Elsewhere there are still 17 Redshanks hanging on from the Winter, I would expect these to go very soon to their breeding grounds. 3 Common Sandpipers were also seen along with 7 very noisy Oystercatchers.

The usual culprits on Beckton Sewage Works, the Ravens are still on site, and I am only seeing one of the Common Buzzards, so expect they may well be nesting in the Willows again.
The Kestrels in the nest box on the main building are incubating and a 2nd pair, likely a new pairing are hanging around the 2 tall Chimneys. I will have to get a box up for them if I can, obviously not up on the Chimneys but somewhere more accessible.

Don’t seem to get passage waders here anymore, I would suspect the sheer number of Crows, now working the mudflats, is likely a put off.

Still no Wheatears!



Friday 19 April 2024

New Kestrel Box


On Wednesday myself and my compadre in arms Lee, placed a Kestrel Box at a new site, following on from a previous visit having seen Kestrels in the area.

These days I can’t do it all myself like in the past, however I am lucky enough to have some really good mates around me, who help me no end and put up with my demands and nagging extremely well.

All went smoothly, apart from me trying to undo the rope, my sidekick performed admirably despite his office boy status and the box looks great, the rest as they say is up to the Kes’s.

It more than likely its too late for this year, but you never know, I would expect Stock Doves to show an interest as they do, hopefully it will peak the Kestrels interest also.

                                                                   Ready to go up


                                                    Heavy duty straps - no damage to trees

                                                             How can they resist it?

A massive thanks to Lee.

Friday 12 April 2024

Parliament - the week


As some of you may be aware, over last week, I have been covering and monitoring Drone flights at Parliament which are being undertaken, on a NaturalEngland disturbance licence due to the presence of the breeding Peregrines.

The Drone is photographing all the structures and masonry, my role involves monitoring the Peregrines in liaison with the Drone pilot, to gauge/avoid reaction and conflict. I am pleased to say that they have behaved themselves, the flights are well away though, from Victoria Tower where she is incubating.

As you do, sitting/standing up there on the roof for 7+ odd hours, I recorded what went over, what was present at Parliament, or what was seen/heard in Victoria Gardens Park, I was above sitting close to this.

On 2 specific days, April 8th and April 11th I recorded 22 and 23 species respectively, not to bad a figure with a couple of highlights, one in particular.

April 8th – 22 species

The immature Peregrine was still present, but I also recorded 2 Common Buzzards, female Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, Pied Wagtail and the highlight, a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Only saw this as the Tiercel tried to take it, luckily it made it to the sanctuary of the Abbey trees.

Can’t recall the last time I saw one in Victoria Gardens Park but would presume they are present in nearby St. James Park.

April 11th – 23 species

Much the same in terms of species, a single Common Buzzard, however a Blackcap was briefly heard singing in the Park early a.m. A female Sparrowhawk was again seen ,would presume the same one, likely from St. James Park, however bird of the week arrived at 10.59a.m. I know this exactly as I had a great big clock in my face.

I heard a Gull going off distantly alarm calling, and on locating it above the London Eye, it was mobbing a large bird of prey, bins up confirmed a very stunning Osprey! A hard bird to get over Central London, the only downside, was that I didn’t have my camera with me to get a few distant record shots.

Got the news out and then watched it thermaling towards the BT Tower, putting up every large Gull, it was eventually lost to view heading northeast, well chuffed to say the least. No doubt not such a rarity nowadays thankfully, but still gives me a buzz seeing a bird like this going over the Capital.

If I recall my first Central London Osprey, after another was seen in East London many years ago sitting at West Ham Station.

Saturday 6 April 2024

Nest Box pressures

On one of my sites I am covering, the urge to breed and find a nest site, shows the lengths and efforts, many species will go to reproduce and nail a nest site.

Most of it concerns a couple of Barnie boxes ,the pressure on these, even occupied, is nonstop, even from a relatively ‘ lightweight’ species like Stock Dove.

Up to 4 of these smart looking Doves are trying relentlessly to gain access to a Box, on watching the activity taking place, it was quite obvious that a Barn Owl was inside. Individual birds continually tried to get into the hole and every time, they failed and retreated/flushed as the Owl inside no doubt showed aggression.

I watched this over a 2-hour period, it was constant, such is the powerful urge to reproduce and breed.

On another box, an unusual scenario is that a pair of Kestrels seem to have claimed a Barnie box, the female in particular quite attached to it. At first I thought she was just using it to hunt and launch from on prey below, but after being joined by her mate, it seems they have designs on the box.

Again, watching over a good few hours, she didn’t try to enter it, possibly due to a roosting Barnie inside, then again, I thought perhaps she is waiting for the Owl to exit to mug it. However I have only ever seen Kestrels mug Barnies when they have prey.

                                                 Male returning with mouse for female on box

Previous to this on different days, I had often seen her on the box assuming she was hunting from it, however on watching the male take a mouse the other day, he flew straight to the box and gave it to the female.

Interesting development, more to come.