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Friday, 17 October 2014

Nest Site's






October 18th


Nest Sites seem to fall into 2 categories, pairs that are able to breed on a structure/building (core sites) and are territorial all year round, and those that have to move to an alternative nest site as the core site does not offer nesting opportunities.

Some vacated core sites do not offer nesting opportunities, the O2 for one, they are resident on this most of the year but as soon as breeding season arrives, there off to the nest site. From then on, and as soon as the juveniles have fledged and are flying strongly enough, the adults will then, usually with prey enticement lure them back to the O2.

Parliament is another, although a nest box has been placed for them by Brunel University, it is unfortunately a little too low, additionally for all the magnificence of Victoria Tower, it unfortunately does not offer them a ‘ natural scrape’ for breeding.

By mid February they leave Victoria Tower, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben and head off to the nest site, much the same pattern and times as the O2 pair. Breeding and fledging takes place at the nest site and they all then come back to Parliament, usually around July 10th.


Falcon seen hunting recently successfully



Of the 11 pairs that I monitor, 4 pairs are core site ‘vacators’ with the remaining 7 being 365 days a year on territory. The all year round territorial birds not surprisingly have nest boxes or trays.

I am not sure how it works in rural cliff dwelling pairs, do they become nomadic after breeding and follow a solitary winter existence forever searching for prey, do they retain the pair bond out of breeding and away from the nest site? Or do they remain territorial with enough prey available locally to sustain them through the non breeding months?

In London prey has never been a problem, I know where the ‘vacators’ go and the pairing is retained, not surprisingly as Peregrines do mate for life, or at least until one is usurped.

What is a perfect nest site, usually older buildings/structures with a good clear approach all round with large exercise areas for juveniles beit roofs or ledges.
Ideally they should have a number of ledges/knolls below for fledging juveniles, the more the merrier, if they lose height on that 1st flight they will have somewhere relatively safe to land.
From lower ledges/knoll’s they can then hedge hop their way back up, short flights back up to a height where the adults will feed them, if they stay too low unfortunately the adults will not come down.






Nowadays modern buildings, in particular glass built skyscrapers, like the Shard or the Gherkin and many others are totally unsuitable for peregrines or little else, they would be a fledging nightmare for juveniles, that's not forgetting the glass/reflection issue, it kills birds both night and day.

In short these type of buildings are unsuitable for any birds, possibly Swifts but unfortunately nature is simply bypassed. I am not a fan of modern architecture as you have probably guessed, unless they have Brown or Green Roofs or Walls how and where does nature fit in?

Give me an old Building/Structure any old day.









Monday, 6 October 2014

Another Video




Below is another short video of the Parliament pair on Westminster Abbey, it shows the Falcon just finishing feeding with the Tiercel trying to get past.
Quite obvious who is dominant.




video




Tuesday, 30 September 2014

First Video







  1. Below shows a juvenile Peregrine with Ring Necked Parakeet prey taken a while back, the bird looks very pale due to the white it is standing on.The juvenile also had not escaped the attentions of the local Magpies



video




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.