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Friday, 18 July 2014

Territories







As you are aware from the previous post, density is increasing and with it comes smaller territories; most of this comes from a single or a pair settling on a core structure/building in between other pairings.

From then on, if in between 2 pairs it is about the 2 regular pairs and the newcomers observing invisible boundaries.
Recently I was told of a new pairing and I must be honest, I thought no way as I knew that a regular pair( just over a mile away east) used this structure also, as you could imagine I was a little skeptical. Further to this there is another pair west perhaps 1 ½ miles away, both of these regular pairs fledged young this year and all carry green rings as part of a new registered colour scheme.

So you can imagine my thoughts until I saw the juveniles myself, I only saw 2 of the confirmed 3 at distance, it was also confirmed that none of the juveniles are ringed which goes to prove they are indeed new birds.

Great to see ‘holes’ getting filled in but I must admit that going on territory sizes I didn't think there was room in between for another pair, nice to be proved wrong and also I owe an apology to the chap who told me.


Below is the juvenile male from the Flooded Out site, I am pretty sure it is him after studying photos of him from the CCTV and CD's kindly forwarded to me.
He is recovering with Sue at the South Essex Wildlife Hospital after flying into the glass of a very large Office Block in East London.
I went to see him on Wednesday and although lively and feeding himself well, both eyes have blood in them, inquiring today showed no difference in his condition, if it is a detached Retina it is not good.
The Hospital does a marvelous job for Wildlife so if you ever want to help feel free to make a donation, the web site is at the side of the blog.Your money will be well spent in helping wildlife, the Hospital is also under threat from a Crossing so they are looking for as many signatures as possible.

It also shows the danger of glass for any birds, not only peregrines but migratory ones, on reflective glass on a sunny day they all think there flying towards blue sky or cloud,as a standard all glass should be non reflective or tinted to offer no reflection.



Juvenile Tiercel

I managed to catch the chase below of a female juvenile peregrine going for a more or less full grown juvenile Shelduck.
It was likely just practice on the juveniles part as it would be very unlikely that she could carry this sized prey, not only that it would be extremely dangerous for her.
The Shelduck's natural instinct as you will see when threatened is to dive - clever behavior.










Friday, 11 July 2014

Here to stay






Following on from ‘The best of both Worlds’ there is now little doubt that the ringed juvenile female has switched parents and siblings.

Over the last week or so I have been back and forward from this site to Parliament a number of times, the idea being to confirm whether or not she is commuting between her 2 sets of adults and siblings. It is intriguing stuff and I can confirm that there are only ever 2 juveniles at Parliament, I would be very interested if anyone who reads this blog and visits Parliament in the near future see’s more than 2.

My last visit to check on her was on Wednesday July 9th, this was at her usual adopted site and not Parliament, she was at roost not 4 metres from her unringed new sibling sister, the male juvenile has already become aloof and singular.
Watching the 3 of them on Wednesday for around 4 hours showed the order of feeding to be, unringed female first, then ringed female and the male had not been fed by the time I left. I have no doubt that the adults see the 2 juvenile females as ‘equals’ and it is not a conscious thing to feed their ‘blood’ offspring first. It is and always will be, first come first serve, the juvenile females will also dominate the juvenile male when it comes to the pecking order being larger and stronger.


Ringed juvenile female practicing on a feather


Ringed juvenile with the juvenile male

So at this early stage of fledging, the juveniles of both pairs will be with the adults into August/September, sometimes longer so why did this ringed juvenile leave her own blood family and take up with another permanently only 2-3 weeks after fledging?
I tend to look for reasons why and have been trying to find some literature on it; I remember reading about it on a rural pair year ago but can find nothing on it scrolling the web.

At the time of ‘defecting’ was it a case of seeing and interacting with the neighboring juvenile after fledging and then just following it back to its natal site and liking her new site better?
It is easy to apply human emotions to the case and always look for a reason but it could well be that on close nesting pairs it could be a regular occurrence, who would know unless monitored regularly.

Being a female she will always slightly dominate her new adult Tiercel but was it the case that to a certain extent she is dominating the adult Falcon as well?

Was acceptance by the adopted adults based on the fact that they lost one of their own juveniles?
I suspect not, the adults instinct is to hunt and feed, numbers of juveniles become immaterial, they just react to their presence and hunger calling and will supply them with food.

I have no doubt that if the whole brood of 3 had come over and adopted them, making 5 to feed, they would have just got on with it and fed them.

I suspect it is the maternal instinct kicking in and numbers mean nothing.

But would every 'adopted pair' react the same……………?





Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Battersea Power Station - early days





Following on from my last post regarding the Power Station, little was I to know that locating the breeding peregrines nest site in 2001 was to basically change my birding life. This may sound a little dramatic and over the top but from then on it was all peregrines, from this I was then very kindly given access by the owners at the time – Parkview International. Then came lots of help from Peter Massini from NaturalEngland, Dusty Gedge (Living roofs.org) and Valerie Selby from Wandsworth Council.

To this day Valerie is still involved at the Power Station but Peter has moved on to different climes. Dusty undertakes a lot of Green and Brown Roof work and has given me a lot of help and work in relation to Black Redstarts over the years.

Like many people, even before this, I was always a Bird of Prey nut, peregrines in those days was a rare bird in London with perhaps 3- 4 pairs in the whole of London(LNHS Boundary), to this day and virtually seeing them every day,I still get a buzz every time I see one.

As mentioned in the last post I located the nest in the side of the Power Station at the northern end nearest to the river, over the years I came to realize that this was always going to be the favoured end. The nest site in common with many nowadays was facing east and throughout 2001 I covered and monitored them as much as I could, there was much to learn.
Books were bought and I slowly gained the knowledge through watching and reading – Derek Ratcliffe’s book – ‘The Peregrine Falcon” was the bible and still is, I have not read anything that surpasses it for information.

Most of my visits in 2001 when they fledged 3 juveniles were undertaken on a Sunday, in those days I worked 6 days a week, I didn't have a DSLR so I dabbled in Digi – Scoping to record activity. I also applied for a Schedule 1 licence from Natural England.

Moving on to 2002 I now knew what to expect in regard to the peregrines breeding, plans were also afoot for the Power Station’s Redevelopment, with another Schedule 1 species breeding on site as well I monitored both species throughout the year.
Black Redstarts are annual breeders at the Power Station and in some years, 2 pairs have graced the site, as with the Peregrines I suspect that they were breeding long before I came along.

After 2 years of successful breeding with 3 juveniles to show per year, 2003 dawned, this was when I was introduced to grounded peregrines, unfortunately rather sadly.

With 3 juveniles ready to fly the nest I remember leaving on the Sunday already looking forward to the following weekend, all 3 would no doubt be on the wing, they only looked a day or 2 from fledging.
Sunday dawned and I arrived but could only locate the adults and 1 juvenile which was food/hunger calling, why weren't the others calling and where were they?

I remember looking all around the Power Station for hours until I found one, it was on the ground and had been eaten by a Fox, very little remained but the legs and talons were unmistakable.

The other remaining juvenile according to my diary was located 3 weekends later, this was in a remote corner, little was left that was recognizable but there was no confusing the shape and plumage. Again this had also fallen prey to a Fox, both birds had no doubt grounded, stress called to the adults but this had no doubt unfortunately alerted the Foxes.
Over the years now I have lost a number of juveniles to Urban Foxes, it’s always going to happen on derelict sites but such is the density of Foxes in London now it can happen just about anywhere.

Still one made it and it was another success for the pair, very sadly 2 were lost but that is nature, as much as I would like too, you can’t save them all.

2004 was to mark the introduction of a purpose built Tower, this will be related in the next post, as the youngsters say – radical.





Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The best of both World's?






On one site that I monitor there are 2 fledged juveniles which given the time of year is perfectly normal, a male and a female, fairly recently fledged, both were grounders, now ok and learning there trade from the adults. Unfortunately there was a 3rd juvenile but it quite simply disappeared and was last seen on June 4th, a Fox is the likely culprit.
There are a few people that watch them and recently, last week, I have had a few chaps coming up to me and saying that the 3rd juvenile has returned. At the time I thought they were likely mistaking an adult sparring with their off spring, hence 3 birds in the air.


June 25th - the resident  juvenile male and female



On Wednesday 25th I was watching the 2 juveniles, sparring as per usual when they disappeared from view and then re –appeared shortly later, only this time there were 3 juveniles!
I know the 3rd juvenile has gone, as above I last saw it on June 4th, I was nonplussed then to see a 3rd juvenile interacting with the 2 regular juveniles, all 3 were sparring and getting on, I knew it was not the missing juvenile.

Further still it was not being attacked by the adults, they were sitting watching the interaction between the 3, all was well.
On further investigation I looked and the new juvenile was carrying the standard BTO metal ring and also an orange ring, I knew then where it was from. It had come from another localized pair that breed around ¾ of a mile away, 2014 is the first time that both sites have bred successfully simultaneously. The juvenile, quite amusingly has probably come over seeking a meal, the best of both worlds, 2 sets of adults feeding you or so it seems.



June 25th - ringed female in middle

The male doing his thing

Orange ring can just about be seen on bottom bird - plumage is slightly different as well



I have read about it in rural pairs but this is the first time I have encountered it, additionally to this it looks like it is becoming regular as the juvenile was again present on June 27th, June 29th and July 2nd.

June 25th - there's a peregrine in there somewhere, can also see the orange ringed bird



I will keep an eye out for her, she is a female, but to all intents and purposes it looks like this pair have gained an extra juvenile, they are back up to 3.Furthermore the neighboring adults and 2 remaining juveniles have gone back to Parliament( they don't nest there), I looked on Sunday June 29th afterwards but only 2 juveniles were present at Parliament. It could be that our new juvenile missed the boat when they moved from their nest site to Parliament and has latched onto this adjacent pair, unable to find her adults and siblings. It could also be that she has been to Parliament and is using both pairs of adults? I find it hard to believe that she is not aware of them at Parliament. 

June 29th - presumably the same juvenile female - orange ring can be seen., adult was sitting near her.

Overhead pretty low - orange ring showing




Watching her this morning (July 2nd) the adults fed her, totally accepted as if their own sibling.

It may also be that the adopted adults may well see this new ringed juvenile as the original 3rd bird that was lost, even though that was 3 weeks previous.

It’s a first for me and very unusual and brings many questions to mind.

1. Is the ringed juvenile moving between her blood adults and adopted adults?
2. It is way too early for her to go it alone but has she been rejected by blood adults (highly unlikely)

3. Given that I know she has been present 4 times with her ‘adopted adults,’ she comes from a brood of 3, is it the same ringed juvenile I have seen on the 4 occasions? I have not been able to read the orange ring yet on her but if there is another female that was ringed on the neighbouring site, who is to say it is the same female on the 4 occasions?Unlikely I know.

4. After last year’s successful foster juvenile placed with another pair and perhaps given the very early stage of post fledging, the adults natural reaction is to feed and react to the food call, would they still give the same reaction, say at the end of July?

I will go to Parliament on Saturday to see if there are still just the 2 juveniles present, if not I know where the other one is.





Saturday, 28 June 2014

Prey





During the week I watched a site, the pair have had another successful year and have fledged 4 juveniles as per 2013.
During the course of the morning the adult Falcon was intercepted quite away out with prey, as you know with juveniles, it is first come, first serve for a food pass.

Below shows a sequence of photos showing 2 juvenile females squabbling over the prey, in this case a Ring Necked Parakeet, with the other 2 siblings waiting in the wings.


The 4 juveniles below after the food pass.

Adult Falcon above about to leave them to it

2 contesting the prey


Clamped on and trying to use her weight to take the prey







Held on successfully

Friday, 20 June 2014

Latest on Breeding





From the information I am gleaning from the rest of the country, it appears not to have been such a productive year in 2014, particularly in the historically persecuted areas up north and above.

Without doubt it is easier protecting them in London where you can secure buildings/structures and can ‘manage’ them easier, albeit less at fledging time.

Make no mistake urban peregrines due to the Schedule 1 have to be managed, it is all about forming a good relationship with the Building/Structure owners before and after the licence period of February 1st too around the end of June/mid July in London.
I am very lucky that in all the people I work/liaise with are good helpful people and safeguard the birds and will make sure they are not disturbed, I know at times it can be very difficult and not easy for them when they need roof access.

Thanks go to them all for without there co operation and good will, their respective pairs wouldn't achieve half the success attained over the years in successful breeding and fledging.

Adult female and juvenile male showing size and plumage difference



This year of the 10 pairs that I keep an eye on and monitor 9 pairs have been successful and have produced 25 juveniles, just under 3 a pair so a good return for all those concerned for their hard work.

Flooded Site


The success story this year along with Battersea Power Station has been the Flooded out site, this gave me a lot of pleasure, not so much at the time when the nest site was under 8 inches of water and the pair simply disappeared, I thought that was it.

As the site was on CCTV I was watching constantly as were others, the pair did return and glad to say that successful breeding took place and 3 juveniles, 2 females and a male fledged.

Completely flooded - Tray just visible with last years egg now turned white in the water

Cleared with old egg on Tray - the tray is now 9 years old, time for a new one

June 17th - all 3 fledged and flying strongly coming together pre -  roost

                                                             

June 17th - all 3 at roost

As per usual with urban peregrines it was not straightforward and one grounded, a good system was in place with staff and I got her back up.


Scaffold Nest Box site


After last year’s success I was hoping more of the same but unfortunately not to be, this is the one failure of the year, no reason, she was incubating, perhaps a fertility issue?
I photographed her in Mid April sitting tight, obviously incubating and then made quite a few subsequent visits in early to mid May. She was incubating still right up to May 16th but kept getting up; I also noted her leaving the box unattended.

Realising that there were likely no chicks I kept monitoring before deciding to go up there to check for unhatched eggs, not surprisingly the nest box was empty.

Scaffold Nest Box - empty

I suspect that she may have eaten them when they failed to hatch; it is easy to read more into it but this site is pretty impregnable.

There will be failures, this is a natural process, it may well be that one of them is getting a little long in the tooth, whichever bird it is I will keep an eye open for any change in adults.


































































Friday, 13 June 2014

Grounders






Its fair to say that the last few weeks have been manic, the now seemingly annual earlier fledging times have spread it out but it is hard covering a lot of sites.

The problem comes from the fact that the sites must remain undisclosed, a majority anyway, with increasing pairs how do you cover them all at fledging time?

It’s getting to the point with the numbers where I am questioning fledging time; do the undoubted risks in an urban site out way the non disclosure in publicising it?
There is no doubt that each site at breeding time needs a nucleus of local people involved to cover the grounding issue but how can people get involved if they don’t know there are breeding peregrines on their doorsteps?

To cover a site at fledging time you need a number of people involved, the more the merrier, each group can do a few hours each day and then another couple or group takes over. The site is then covered for a number of days, up to a week at times during staggered fledging usually beginning with the males.
If a few people or a group can get involved they will become passionate over them, (trust me I know), especially the chicks as they grow, you then have more people and eyes watching them, if a year round territorial pair on a structure/building, it need not just be the breeding season.

If you are going to publicise, some sites are more secure than others or to put it another way, more user friendly and a nice place to watch peregrines, I stress that I am only talking of the sites that I monitor. Some are not in ideal areas and walking round with expensive Optics and Cameras strapped to my body in the wee hours of dawn is like wearing a sign come and mug me on a couple of sites..
A lot of the night clubs turf out just as I am arriving so not ideal as you can imagine, 99% of people are good natured but there is always one or two who you keep an eye on.

With this in mind how can you ask the public/local people to get involved, let alone stand there covering a nest site building at 5.00am in the morning to cover fledging?

The grounding issue has arisen a few times in the last week or so and these are on sites that there is plenty of exercise space to build wing strength and confidence, alas hot still windless days as we know are not ideal. Of the 5 that come down, I lost one juvenile presumably to a Fox, it just disappeared, the rest were taken back up and given another chance. It’s no coincidence that the days that they fledged and came down were hot and windless.


Without eyes watching for them these likely would have been lost





Of the grounded birds, people were watching out for them, the system worked well but without these people there is doubt, given the dangers of an urban site, that they would have got back up under their own steam.

Perhaps if they had time, but the presence of Foxes, even Dogs, Cars on roads, Industry, the urban jungle and landing in areas which they can’t fly out from and being trapped means that the time is not always there.