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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Weekend

Saturday September 29th

This morning I was heading down the M11 to the Cambridgeshire Bird Club Raptor Conference at Cottenham, being close to the heart I was eagerly looking forward to the speakers. I was able to attend the morning session up to 2.00pm but prior engagements meant that I had to leave and miss the afternoon session unfortunately.
Never the less I found the morning conference excellent, a number of speakers included Simon Gilling from the BTO giving a talk on a 40 year overview on raptors, Ed Drewitt whom I send my prey too was also giving a talk on Urban Peregrines.

Amongst other speakers there was a chap from the RSPB called Staffan Roos giving a talk on why our Kestrels are declining; this was very interesting and an eye opener.
It appears that our Kestrel decline is not just nationally, between 1976 and 2008 there was a 40% decline in the UK and Europe, reasons range from a number of issues, the obvious ones and others are listed below.

Habitat loss – loss of set aside and Barley Yield is down – less mice and voles(Voles form 70% of their diet), also principal bird prey is declining – Meadow Pipit and Skylark.

Climate change – wet springs and summers – less productivity

Intraguild Predation – Predators identified which have a direct link to Kestrels numbers are Goshawk, Raven and Common Buzzard.

Nest site competition – Barn Owls in some areas are direct competitors.

Ed’s talk was great on Urban Peregrines, mostly prey related but also the highs and lows of the West Country Peregrines.
Something that I occasionally touch on is Raptor Persecution, listening and looking at the literature and slides paints a grim picture in some areas, mostly Wales, Midlands, North and Scotland. Some of the Shooting Estates are literally getting away with murder, the law such as it is, is totally inadequate.
The latest move by the organizations is Vicarious Liability but even this means nothing if the Courts do not give out sentences to match the Crime.
We are now down to 1 pair of Hen Harriers in England, basically speaking the Government has let it happen.

Sunday September 30th

A dawn visit to a London site, of late this pairing has been giving me the run around over the last month or so, the usual practice is for the Tiercel to hunt and return with the prey for the female.
Unfortunately both have been disappearing but pleased to say on Sunday, both stayed with the Tiercel hunting from the core structure.
Although not great weather I did get brief bursts of hazy sunshine as I watched the Tiercel hunt on a number of occasions, in total 9 hunts with 2 confirmed takes, a Feral Pigeon and a Redwing.
2 methods of hunting were seen, the usual sit on the structure and target a flyby and additionally spot something way up, climb up rapidly in circles closing the gap and when the prey loses its nerve and dives, go for it.

Stunning to watch, above is a couple of photos of the resident Falcon, as you can see, well fed with a large crop.


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