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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.



Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Parliament






July 27th


On the off chance I popped in after visiting Battersea Power Station to see if I could catch up with the pair and the juveniles, a previous visit having proved bird less.
I can usually find them; admittedly I have not been covering it as much this year but they are very site faithful once they have come over from their nest site.

Visiting later in the morning means that you have likely missed any hunting activity, it was also warming up considerably so I set about trying to find them; if they were present they were likely resting up.

As luck would have it I found the Tiercel straight away, like anything you get to know their favourite ‘armchairs ‘ and this was the case this morning, I had seen him on this statue before.






History was never my strong point at school, too busy bunking it to go fishing but to me ‘she ‘appears to be an angel holding a shield and wearing a crown.

I suspect that this is a significant historical reference to someone, or is it? there are 4 of them on each face of Victoria Tower all similar.








Whoever she may be her wings provide the perfect place to rest up for the Tiercel, he looked settled so I searched for others.
After a look over the rest of Victoria Tower I failed to locate any more peregrines so searched Middle Tower, sure enough the Falcon was resting up and also looked settled.

Just about viewable on right hand side

Of the juveniles there was no sign, I can’t see them having left already so likely just laying up unseen somewhere.

Next week, weather permitting, I hope to get some photos at a higher level, hopefully the whole family will be present, we will see.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Back where he belongs






Just over a week ago I was made aware of a juvenile peregrine that had unfortunately flown into a glass window on a high rise skyscraper in East London, the bird was in the care of Sue at the South Essex Wildlife Hospital.
I took the opportunity to go down to the Hospital and have a look as, due to where it was found, I knew which brood it had come from, it had to be one of the juveniles from the Flooded out site.

The adults frequent this skyscraper building all the time before breeding and I know that they take the juveniles there after breeding having observed them a number of times.
It is around a mile from their nest site building and having watched them pretty regularly you do get to know which buildings they favour, having said that I also knew that this pair have a large territory and they are a sod to locate sometimes.

With this in mind, and in the back of my head, would I be able to find the family if the juvenile was ok; I headed down to the Hospital.
Unfortunately the juvenile had, from the collision, sustained blood in the eyes; the neck was fine but could not be released back until, and if, the blood cleared.
There was the possibility of a detached Retina so it was just a course of waiting to see the outcome. There was nothing wrong with its appetite as it was eating all put before it, always a good sign.


Nothing wrong with his appetite

Nor his - male Sparrowhawk recovering as well.



Last Sunday Sue texted and gave the welcome news that the eyes had cleared and the Vet said it was ok to go back to the wild.
I undertook a dummy run on Sunday with the intent of finding the family, the adults and 2 juvenile females; true to form due to their large territory I could not find them.

I was now in 2 minds, we were into late July, this bird, although fledged for a good 6 weeks was very likely still reliant on the adults to feed it, so it had to go back with the family. The trouble is if I couldn’t find them I did not want to release it back within their territory as I always make a point of trying to connect them visually with each other on release.

The 2nd option was to release it with a fostering pair, if you recall I did this last year and it worked a treat, this juvenile, as was last years was also from the same adults, the Flooded out pair. The foster pairs territory also adjoins the Flooded out pairs territory so land marks and buildings, even though at distance will be familiar to the released juvenile albeit around 4 miles away. In short if I chose the option of fostering he would recognise distant surroundings, either stay with his new ‘family’ or could make his own way back to re establish contact with his blood parents.

In the end I chose to put him with the foster pair as I knew that the adults+juveniles (there are 4) would be on the nesting site or nearby, it gave him the best chance of success.
The release couldn’t have gone better, I had arranged access to the building on Tuesday, we took him up to the Roof, a single juvenile was already on the wing and I let him out on the roof as the juv flew by.
Doubts over flying ability quickly evaporated, he barely touched the roof and he was gone, straight up interacting with his new sibling.


Freedom

We watched for a while, he flew out a little more and another juvenile or adult came out and they interacted as well, all good stuff.

A successful release and I also checked in on them again on Friday twice, released juvenile still present(the others are ringed and he isn’t) makes life a lot easier identifying them, 2 of the resident juveniles were also on site.

As to how long you could get away with fostering is hard to say, at some point the adults will probably not be so tolerant – say from August onwards as their own juveniles will likely disperse, with earlier breeding comes earlier dispersal in London.

Never less he was accepted, and he now has another chance at the big wide world.



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.