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Friday, 19 September 2014

Battersea Power Station






Non Breeding Years



Reverting back to my last Battersea post on August 12th – Tower, 2008 arrived and with it came a change of Falcon, a natural process due to the increase in numbers. It took me a little while to determine that indeed it was a new female as she took to the Tower so well, I didn’t expect anything was amiss or untoward until I noticed that her rest, even roost places were different.

Sure enough before she started her moult I compared photos of her and the 2007 successful breeding female, quite obviously 2 different birds, how I had not noticed I don’t know.

However she had taken to the tower like a duck to water and with successful breeding in the tower the previous year - 2007 I had high hopes for more of the same, especially given that the Falcon was spending a lot of time in it, including roosting when the wind was right.


Falcon



2008 dawned and as mentioned in the previous post, the inevitable happened, for no reason, they ignored the tower and selected a nest site on the Power Station. The tower was still in use by both, the nest box had become a prey stash but egg laying was quite obviously in a ledge on the northern end.

Unfortunately it did not work out as I knew that the ledge had no drainage, after some heavy rain over a 2 day period both birds were on show from then on. Presumed flooding out or even egg rolling, I couldn’t get up there to check but these seemed the likely reasons.

Ownership of the Power Station had changed, I can’t exactly remember when and development was being put forward for the future, the site was to change.

2009 arrived; I watched them - come the end of March - where would they go? Peregrine unpredictability kicked in and they chose the tower, I was over the moon as the Falcon had shown a lot of interest inside the Power Station.

March 29th 2009 - in the Tower

This however proved to be a false dawn despite seeing the Falcon disappear inside the nest box for hours on end, by the 2nd week of April both birds were again on show.

This pattern was then re- enacted over the next few years, the tower was never used again with all attempted breeding inside the Power Station, despite copulation a number of times there was no end result, why?
My thoughts turned to this relatively new female, was she a bit long in the tooth and the issue was fertility? Not uncommon in older birds, perhaps it was this?
Was the Tiercel now too old to actively breed?
I watched them intently throughout each breeding season, I even saw her going through the motions inside, making a scrape and then incubating for long periods but she gave up after a while each year.

Was it an age issue and she was not in breeding condition, were they just going through the motions of breeding?
I had many questions at the time, non breeding was certainly not down to a suitable nest site, there was no disturbance whatsoever and inside the Power Station ledges/niches were plentiful so they didn’t simply not breed due to this.

Some of the other species breeding on site - Kestrel

Site Breeder - Black Redstart



From 2008 until 2012 they failed to breed despite going through the motions each year, I put it down to a fertility issue on the Falcons part, during this time period,5 years, there was also a change in Tiercel.

What the Falcon did a lot - rest


Older female - rest and laying up, she spent hour upon hour like this

The end of 2012 arrived and it was out with the old and in with the new, a ringed Falcon ousted the old female, would things change?…………

Yes.













Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Little Peregrines







On Tuesday I got a chance to visit a wood in Kent, it’s a fabulous place, it’s private and rented by my Uncle and Cousin.
There’s all sorts of wildlife in there, I myself have seen Goshawk here, Common Buzzards are plentiful and my Aunt showed me a photo taken on a nocturnal snapshot camera, a Wild Boar no less.

It’s a fairly large Wood, adjoining a large Forest, having somewhere like this to yourself is a million miles away from my local Country Park and its shouting dog owners looking for lost dogs and dogs barking constantly.
At this time of year with some bird song, the peace and quiet is absolute in the wood, occasionally broken by a calling Fox or even a Deer.

Not surprisingly it is full of wildlife, Goldcrests and Coal Tits are plentiful, however my visit was due to a pair of Hobbies, juveniles and adults had been seen and not surprisingly heard.

Arriving with my uncle Steve around 7.00am the juveniles were soon heard and located, like most birds of prey the hunger call is universal and carries a long way.
I went off on my own tracking their movements by their calls, fledged and out of the nest I soon realised they were very mobile, lots of interacting as per peregrines juveniles, and seemingly due to the early hour, full of the joys of flight and practicing on each other.

I was never going to get really close as they moved around the tall Firs (they favoured these more so than broad leafs) but in the end I couldn’t complain with the shots that I got.


Adult bringing in likely Migrant Hawker




Juvenile about to feed before.....

I worked out that there were 2 juveniles, I would suspect male and female and in watching the family most of the morning, it looked like prey was Migrant Hawkers most of the time going on size.



2nd juvenile arrives also trying for Dragonfly


Sibling rivalry






As the day grew warmer and the unseen thermals developed out came the Common Buzzards, 8 in total, all very high but all Commons, I was hoping for a Honey having seen one here 2 years ago.






Possibly female left and male right juveniles


The last sight I got of the 2 juveniles Hobbies was way up, totally engrossed in each other tail chasing.

A very fitting end to the morning, next month they will likely be in Africa.





Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Parliament






August 23rd


As I have mentioned before I am not getting to Parliament as much as I would like to, other commitments and especially the weather have marked the number of visits this year.
With all the gear needed, Bin’s, Camera and Telescope it has to be by car which means weekends visits otherwise it’s a case of a weekday congestion charge visit.
On top of that during the week , outside of Parliament it is very busy as you can imagine, also having to pay to park around Westminster can be an expensive exercise, in short it would cost a few bob for a weekday visit.

Last Saturday I at last got a chance to catch up on the pair and hopefully the 2 juveniles, arriving at my usual time around 5.30am.

Located both adults at roost on Victoria Tower, they soon emerged and took up station to hunt, the Falcon went to Big Ben and the Tiercel disappeared, possibly to a favoured hunting area.

I positioned myself on Westminster Bridge and waited for the Falcon to begin hunting, light at that time was not great but was getting better all the time.
There is one shot that I have been trying to get for a good few years, that is of one of the peregrines speeding past the London Eye after prey. All depends on the direction of the hunt and location of the prey, also my lens – F4 300mm is not really man enough for the job. The reach is better with a 1.4x convertor on but trying to keep a lock on a speeding peregrine, in not so good light can be very frustrating, it just won’t lock.
I have got one of the Falcon going past the Eye but it was far too distant and taken from a lot further away.


Falcon just about viewable,she's the dot on the right of the 'crown'

The shot I am after.




Just about to go

After prey




Anyway it didn’t matter as all of her hunts went north or west, the bridge is east of Big Ben so the hoped for shot never materialised, also no prey was taken.
Of the Tiercel there was no sign during this time, possibly having taken prey for himself and feeding on some distant building rather than carry it back.

As for the juveniles not a sign either so they could possibly have gone, it looks that way, with earlier breeding in London it seems earlier dispersal as well.

I also met a very nice couple taking their wedding photos in the morning, prior to their wedding, on Westminster Bridge against the backdrop of Big Ben and Parliament.




If you read this, all the best, congratulations and the very best of luck for the future.



Sunday, 24 August 2014

Devon





Have just returned back home after a short but hugely enjoyable 3 days in Brixham, myself and Christine have always enjoyed the County and try and get here as much as we can.
Port of call has always been Brixham, the fish restaurants are a must and if you go there, I can recommend Simply Fish in the Harbour, the fish and chips is out of this world.



A very impressive crab in Brixham

Of course I got out for a few hours here and there and walked the cliffs and fields and kept an eye open for Cirl Buntings, not a bird I see a lot but I have had them on the coastal paths in past years. I know there are certain areas I could drive to see them and they are more or less guaranteed but this was just casual birding and walking.

Out with the Larks one morning, nothing like a dawn at sea.


Chiffchaffs seemed to be everywhere on the coastal paths and looking out to sea produced numbers of passing Gannets and also pretty close Harbour Porpoises, Fulmars as well were pretty active including some with full grown young.
I watched one adult repeatedly passing the nest site close trying to lure the juvenile out but he or she was having none of it, like kids they will walk when they’re ready.

Both seen regular - Gannet and Fulmar



Although only grabbing a couple of hours each day, It was inevitable that I would see Peregrines, a Tiercel one morning hunting low over the fields, not on anything but looking like he was trying to flush something and a nice female on another day.

Not a building in sight - a rural peregrine





We also discovered Dartmouth, I cannot believe we have been coming down here for all these years and have not visited it, needless to say we were hooked straight away, even saw a Peregrine and 2 Common Buzzards high over head.

The Galleries were as impressive as the town and one in particular did the wooden carvings of birds, one in particular caught my eye, a flock of Dunlin and I can see myself heading down there again to get it.

Not everyone's cup of tea but I do like this - flock of Dunlin

All in all though a very enjoyable couple of days, good weather and good food, you can’t ask for much else can you?
Good also to make the acquaintance of Stephen Watson in Totnes, a fellow peregrine man, good to meet you,hope to see you again one day at Symonds Yat.





Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Battersea Power Station





Tower


Following on from Battersea Power Station – early days July 8th, the owners at the time – Parkview International were going to proceed with redeveloping the Power Station after years of the site lying dormant.
With the peregrines firmly established in 2004 and holding to the site 24/7 365 days a year ideas were needed to try get the peregrines to nest elsewhere on the site; it was imperative that they stayed but not on or in the Power Station itself.

Meetings were scheduled and I attended with Colin Shawyer, who at the time I believe was working for the Hawk and Owl Trust. From this we discussed a tower designed specifically for the peregrines. An idea was arrived at and the vertical section of a tower crane was installed in the North West corner with the now older type Hawk and Owl box positioned around 6 metres from the top.


Seen by many from the railway - erected in 2004 and de rigged in January 2013

Although both peregrines took to it, prey was stashed in it, the falcon rested/roosted in it, in regard to breeding it never happened for 2004, that year they failed after laying in a position where they were washed out on the Power Station by rainfall. This came from bad nest site location on the falcon’s part, there was heavy rainfall and the nest scrape became waterlogged and chilled the eggs.

The old Falcon catching some sun.

Totally accepted

Falcon leaving

2005 arrived and I had high hopes for the tower, activity was non-stop on it including copulation but true to form they went back on the Power Station, this year however they were successful, they fledged 3 juveniles. It looked like they had learnt from the previous year and they laid in a more ideal position, although due to their Schedule 1 status restrictions as to disturbance had to be put in place. The tower had been ignored as a nest site, there were quite simply too many locations and potential ‘scrapes’ on the Power Station, they wanted to be on it so why move?

Due also to the non- acceptance in breeding terms of the tower, it was decided to place a couple of nest boxes on the East Wall, the idea being to get them off the northern sector which they favoured. Work needed to be started in this sector asap.
In November/December 2005 a couple of boxes were placed along the wall ready for 2006, the pair took to them as much as they used the tower, would they prove successful?

Also used on the East Wall

2006 dawned and as part of the mitigation measures various potential ‘scrapes’ were closed off with ply etc.., the idea being to steer them towards the tower or the East Wall nest boxes, I watched and waited.

Trust me, trying to outsmart peregrines is not easy, anyone involved with them will tell you that they can be totally unpredictable, in the famous man’s words – Dick Treleaven, “Unfortunately peregrines never read the script”.

Unfortunately they again found a location on the northern end of the Power Station but not being ideal the eggs rolled and they failed quite early.
The lure of the Power Station was simply too strong, egg rolling and even having a nest site washed out by weather is all part of the natural process facing rural pairs. Urban pairs are no different and if anything have many more hazards to contend with.

2007 came with a bang, Sod’s law and they laid 3 eggs in the Tower and fledged 3 juveniles, like I said, unpredictable. Everyone let out a sigh of relief, they were off the Power Station and in there penthouse tower, they would now breed in it year after year, like the great man said, they never read the script.


The old female now departed





Friday, 8 August 2014




                Sunday August 10th is the day, if you haven't signed up please do, every signature helps in the fight against persecution.3 breeding pairs in England is a disgrace, Grouse shooting along with the persecution has to stop.