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Wednesday, 9 November 2011

October 29th

Bit of a late posting, but better late than never.
I visited on Saturday morning, usual time at dawn; I am now staking the nestbox out at first light and throughout the morning to see if one of them enters it again. No luck but the real interesting time will come in Feb onwards; they will then start pair bonding and courtship behaviour before finally choosing a nest site.
The pair were both roosting on Victoria Tower on Saturday, the first bird heard though was a juvenile, with the light he came out, it was a male and he had prey with him which he took to the Abbey. I know the adults are not feeding him and are totally ignoring him but the bond is still there. A crow came to close to him on the Abbey and quick as a flash the adult Tiercel was on it and drove it off, Crows and Peregrines are like Cat and Dogs. Crows fear peregrines and will not challenge them in the open sky like they do with Kestrels and Sparrowhawks, on the deck is another matter, if they can mob them safely they will.

Juvenile Male


Juvenile on prey

Again as in the other week both adults just layed up, the adult Falcon is definitely taking a shine to the summit of Big Ben and now seems to use it regularly, the Tiercel still favours the Middle Tower.

Falcon just about visible on the summit of Big Ben

A better view

Laying up

I also had a chat to the chaps at Westminster Abbey, they went to the top the other day and could not believe the amount of prey on their ledges, they are also aware of the pair and sometimes point them out to the tourists.
I had quite a funny situation the other day, I was scoping the Tiercel on Victoria Tower and about 20 Chinese chaps and ladies came over, one who spoke passable English asked if he could have a look. As soon as he saw the male through the scope he went into overdrive and got very excited and started calling everyone over, in the end I had to show them all more or less and they absolutely loved it.One of them even told me the Chinese for peregrine or bird of prey, good to see that along with Parliament they are a tourist attraction!

Big Ben at dawn

Victoria Tower

I expect the juvenile to go soon, he is already way overdue, the fact that the adults are not driving him off shows how plentiful prey is in London, I often wonder where the brood will end up, I know one of 2010’s juveniles has got himself a mate.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Tuesday October 18th

I visited Parliament at dawn on Tuesday, I have been very lucky of late with bright sunny mornings. With the later mornings the Park next door opened its gates just before dawn (7.00am) and I was able to watch from the grass area. I was hoping for some nest box activity but none materialised, it is early days yet, I am hoping, if it was an adult that entered it, for some prey stashing inside.

Nestbox on East wing (click on photos to enlarge)

With a strong westerly wind I located both adults at 7.00am roosting on the eastern face of Victoria Tower, both simultaneously leaving at 7.20 and heading up river. Within 5 minutes they returned and with them was a male juvenile, he is not being fed but like some juveniles he does not feel confident enough to make the transission and leave as yet, he seems to come and go.

Juv and adult male having a spat.

Middle Tower

Juvenile on top of Big Ben

Neither adult showed any inclination to hunt, again possibly due to the presence of the juvenile, occasionally one of the adults would fly over to the Abbey but little else occurred, the Juvenile had a bit of spat with the adult Tiercel but other than this little activity.

Falcon on Victoria Palace

Adult Tiercel

Tiercel resting up

Tiercel on Westminster Abbey

This coming winter I am going to do some afternoon visits, they are very likely hunting in the afternoon so hopefully I can get some footage.
I intend to visit on Sunday, as soon as the last juvenile has gone it is likely they will return to normal hunting behaviour at dawn, also now that I can get in the park I should hopefully get some better photos with the sun behind me.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


September 28th

With the pair now firmly established back on Parliament it is now a lot easier to find them given that they have returned to their favoured roost spots, both adults were quickly located.

The eye at night (click on photos to enlarge)
This particular morning I was due to meet Bertie Gregory and Tom, we were going up on Victoria Palace to hopefully get some photos of the pair. An added bonus was that one of the juveniles was still present, unseen but clearly audible from outside Victoria Gardens, it sounded as if it was on the east facing river side. It soon made itself seen before we went up and looked like a male juvenile with the adult Tiercel who was had also shown from roost.Time was marching on so we went up the Tower with the pair and a juvenile located.

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Juvenile landing on Big Ben

Tiercel above, Falcon below on Westminster Abbey

For once the weather was ideal and we managed to get some half decent photos in a 2 hour stint, these were mainly of the juvenile, both adults were not hunting very likely due to the presence of the juv(they are encouraging it to go by not feeding it) this was despite both having empty crops. The juvenile made quite a few excursions out over the river and was lost to view, each time it returned to the top of Big Ben, in this period of time it was not seen to kill.
It was an absolutely glorious day and the views over London were spectacular, you can never tire of looking at a landscape like this.

Tiercel seeing off a Crow

Juvenile head on

On my previous visit of September 17th I went up with Tom and checked the nest box to see if any visible signs were apparent to see if they have given the box the once over. When I place and lay the substrate I always leave it absolutely flat so that I can see if anything has disturbed it, on opening the door it was quite obvious a peregrine had entered.


Further to this when I looked on the landing ledge there were needle marks dotted everywhere, these had come from there talons as it/ they had landed. Good news but still early days, was it one of the adults or a juvenile that entered? Time will tell, the next step is to photograph one of them on the ledge, if it is an adult using it they may well start stashing prey in it, watch this space!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Injured Juvenile Peregrine

Earlier in the month I placed a post on an injured male juvenile Peregrine, his left leg hanging down and to all appearances broken where it joined his body.
Since that posting I have been keeping an eye on him to see if he will deteriorate in condition and also to see if he goes as the adults were not feeding him.

Juvenile on right with Falcon feeding centre of grill (click on photos to enlarge)

Falcon on prey
I am very happy to say that the little chap is hanging on in there, from Sunday’s visit it looks as if he is surviving on the adult’s leftovers. He is a game little chap as well, on Sunday he waited patiently as the Falcon fed, he was sitting about 3 metres from her occasionally giving the hunger call, she in turn mantled the prey, in this case a feral pigeon. After 25 minutes he again started to call, this time edging closer to her, she made herself look even bigger already dwarfing him being a female, instead of backing away he made a grab for the kill. There followed a free for all and he came away with part of the prey so well done to the plucky little fella, he deserves to make it. I dare say the Falcon, they are dominant over all males be it adults, juveniles or immatures probably did not put up much of a struggle being her offspring.

The juvenile with 'pinched' prey

Watching him fly after this showed the leg to be held closer to the body and even perched, it was not hanging down as much as seen a couple of weeks ago. With the right foot holding part of the prey, the left was drawn up tighter to the body. Additionally when he emerged from roost in the half-light I thought at first it was the adult Tiercel as he was more streamlined as the leg was not on show.

The leg is now being held much better than a few weeeks ago

The question is now though, how long will the adults put up with him, and is he capable of making a kill himself with the leg the way it is? I like to think that he is capable, he did have a couple of half-hearted hunts at an earlier stage and is flying much better, I will have another look at him this weekend.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Parliament September 10th and 17th

Sept 10th

Dawn found me trying to locate any birds on Victoria Tower; mornings are starting to drag out now with light not coming until 6.15am, autumn is here.

Big Ben (click on photos to enlarge)

London Eye
Despite a good search of all their usual favourite roost spots, the only one that gave itself up was the adult Tiercel; he was seen briefly before heading north. Of the Falcon and juvenile female there was no sign. It was not until 6.40am before I saw the juvenile female; she came in from the east across the river and landed on the topmost towers of Victoria Palace. At first I thought she was looking for the Tiercel to return with prey as she scanned the skyline, this thought was quickly cast aside as she proceeded to hunt. Over the course of the next hour and a half she made 7 sorties, unfortunately all failures as she returned every time preyless.

Juvenile hunting from Victoria Tower

Tiercel on the Abbey

Falcon laying up on Middle Tower

Juvenile about to go on another hunt
At 7.40am the adult Falcon came in from the west and landed on the middle Tower, scoping her revealed a full crop.
From these actions it appears the adults have stopped feeding her, this was reinforced when the Tiercel came in around 7.55am, her usual action would be to intercept him, instead she carried on hunting and the Tiercel fed on Westminster Abbey.
Decided to call it a day around 8.30am, I have now got into the habit of checking Victoria Tower Gardens for migrants, especially at this time of year, no rarities but a Chiffchaff was seen and also a pair of Egyptian Geese feeding on the river.

Egyptian Goose

A nice end to the morning, it seems constant westerly’s/south westerly’s at the moment with occasional sunshine, I managed to get a few photos, the pick of them being the juvenile flying past the flag on Victoria Palace.

September 17th

6.30am-with a strong south westerly it was not hard to locate the adults, both were sheltering in roost positions on the northern face of Victoria Palace, of the juvenile there was no sign. By 7.45am both adults had not moved, looking at both of them showed their crops to be slightly bulging but not overly. It was possible that a night time excursion or a dusk meal may have taken place, night time hunting as we now know is becoming a regular occurrence for some pairs.

Juvenile male, note size of crop



A nice surprise was seeing a juvenile coming in and landing on the Tower with the adults, I suspected as it came in that it was one of the males, as I got on it the size was quite apparent, it was indeed a male. A bulging crop showed it had killed and fed.

Bold as brass

Good nick for a ' Townie'

Checking for Dogs
I also came across what was probably one of the tamest Foxes I have seen, walking around bold as brass on the green opposite Parliament in broad daylight, no mange and a good brush, it was healthy, it was obviously used to people. As you can judge by the photos, it just walked straight up to me.
Time was marching on and nest box inspection called so I headed inside.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Young Peregrine

Recently I visited one of my regular sites checking up on a juvenile male peregrine, the resident pair had only produced the one this year, I was following his progress closely to see when he would leave and make his way in the world.
On arrival a very sad sight greeted me, he was still present, flying round as normal but his left leg was broken and hanging down, it was also quite obvious that the injury impaired his flying and his landing ability .It appeared to be broken where it joined the body.

The unfortunate juvenile with the leg held out in front of him
For many other species – pigeon, black headed gull etc., this could possibly be something that they could overcome, to a bird of prey like a peregrine the injury will very likely be the end for him. The leg will hinder him catching prey, he will lose speed and manoeuvrability in the chase, and if he does manage to catch prey it will be very hard to balance, hold the prey, and feed on one leg.
If he does survive Bumble foot could be an issue as Peregrines, as do many birds of prey alternate their leg they are resting on.
Watching him this morning was a sad affair as the adults are starting to hold prey back, this is his message to go, and without prey he will soon lose condition and deteriorate.

What caused it? – he has now been flying for over 2 months so his flight ability is not that of a recently fledged bird, the likely causes could be chasing prey and hitting an obstacle in pursuit of prey or he has wandered into another pairs territory and been attacked by one or both resident birds.

A sad sight
I have let NaturalEngland know but the kindest thing may be to put him out of his misery to stop him suffering. While I am awaiting an answer, if he does leave the natal site and is seen elsewhere in London or Essex I would appreciate a call of his whereabouts, you can contact me on or leave a message at the bottom of this entry.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


One of the perks of visiting many peregrines sites in London is the associated wildlife that lives side by side with the peregrines and also shares the same habitat, albeit at different levels. Of the different species that I encounter Crows and Magpies are without doubt the smartest, they know when they are safe from attacks by Peregrines, they also know how far they can push them.

Large female Peregrine with prey, the Magpie knows it is safe while she is feeding
I have now been monitoring Peregrines for over 10 years, they have opened doors for me that I would have never even dreamed off, I am a lucky man and the rewards in helping and watching them accomplish successful breeding have been worth every minute of it.

As mentioned in earlier blog posts Kestrels feature at 3 sites where Peregrines are territorial and breed, on the whole both species seem to ignore each other, there is occasional mobbing by the Kestrels but they are not seen as a threat like a Carrion Crow is. Abundance of prey (feral pigeon) also means they are rarely targeted in London.

A striking male Black Redstart (click on photos to enlarge)
Black Redstarts are another species sharing the high level habitat with Peregrines, I have seen them foraging within 3 metres of them totally unconcerned, it comes down to reading body behaviour, more often than not the Peregrines are laying up. To a certain extent on 2 or 3 sites in London they actually gain protection by the presence of the Peregrines from Magpies and Carrion Crows.

Juvenile Black Redstart
 Grey Wagtail is another urban breeder, I encounter these on nearly all the sites, sometimes up to 3 pairs on the larger sites, they are vastly under recorded as an urban breeder and no doubt Black Redstart is much the same to a lesser extent.

Female Sparrowhawk
Sparrowhawks are another; they do not seem to be seen as a threat, even from territorial breeding Peregrines, both species just seem to ignore each other on the sites where they occasionally meet. On the other hand I have seen Peregrines react very aggressively to the presence of a Common Buzzard going over, larger birds of prey are usually seen off with great relish. Peregrines seem to have an inbuilt high level of aggression, probably one of the reasons that Falconers value them so highly and the fact that they will tackle larger prey.

I intend to go to Parliament this Saturday now that they are back, I hope to get some video of them to place on the blog, and I have at last decided to join You Tube. Being a bit old fashioned and trying to move forward with the electronic age is hard at my age, I see pitfalls and an ambush around every corner!