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Sunday, 21 October 2012

Parliament - Viz Miging

October 20th

As I headed down the Embankment for Parliament to check on the peregrines at 6.30am, in slightly murky conditions it has to be said, it came over the radio, a TUC Rally taking in Parliament, all roads around Parliament closed by 7.00am.
First thoughts were I’ve made a cock up and my usual crap timing, never less I carried on regardless and parked up round a back street just before they closed the roads.

In the semi darkness I located the Tiercel at 6.50am at roost and at around 7.20am he flew west, no sign of the Falcon so I settled down to wait in Victoria Tower Gardens Park.
As it turned out I never saw either bird again but was very fortunate to observe a lot of visual migration throughout the rest of the morning up until 9.30am, the majority all going west.

Tiercel in the murk

The highlight was undoubtedly a Short Eared Owl high south west at 7.43am, see photos below, bad light and height just made for record shots.

Record shots of SEO

It was mostly small groups other than the Starlings with the main flow of birds and larger flocks coming through from 9.00am to 9.30am.I recorded birds that were relatively low and could id but there was quite a lot more very high that I could not id so it looked to be a massive movement.
Starlings came through in numbers, one flock at 8.35 going west probably totalled around 600 birds, the flock was endless and they just kept coming, in total 830 were recorded throughout the morning. From what I understand elsewhere, Saturday has seen a massive movement through London with large numbers of Redwing moving through.

Jackdaw - a bit of an Inner London rarity

My totals at Parliament are probably a bit modest compared to other areas in London but in the absence of both peregrines I can’t complain, who would have expected a Short Eared Owl over Victoria Tower.

My totals were

Starling – 830
Chaffinch – 71
Siskin – 12 a single flock
Redwing – 35
Meadow Pipit – 110
Jackdaw – 4
Grey Wagtail – 1
Ring Necked Parakeet – 4

Additionally I also had Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest and a Song Thrush in Victoria Tower Park.
I would have liked to have stayed longer but the crowds were building, the Police presence enormous and a McDonalds Hot Chocolate was calling me.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Casualty of the Chase - Confirmation

I have just received the results back from the Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme, they do an absolutely marvellous job and many thanks go to them.
As suspected they confirmed that it was a Tiercel and had been in a collision, most certainly with the chain link fence it was found next to, sadly an unfortunate end.
The diagnosis was “Severe haemorrhage throughout body cavity and in skull, also broken bone in upper neck” thankfully the Tiercel would have died instantly.

It now remains as to how long the Falcon will be on her own, boosted by this year’s juveniles/immatures, I would say it would not be too long, perhaps even a migrant Tiercel.
Since the death of the Tiercel on September 7th I have been looking, as have others for the Falcon, in short she seemed to have disappeared and was not showing at her usual rest/lay up points.
On Sunday she reappeared I am glad to say, given her location I would expect her to become bonded with a Tiercel by Christmas, and hopefully well before the breeding season kicks in.
If she does bond I think it unlikely that they would be successful 1st time round, more likely in 2014/15 especially if it is an immature male.
Having said that, they never do anything straightforward and will most likely prove me wrong, hopefully so.

The Falcon on Sunday-hopefully it will not be too long before she attracts a new Tiercel

On a pretty recent post “Prey and Nest boxes” I blogged a selection of feathers taken from one particular site, I am only ever able to collect 50% of prey and feathers on this site as much of the structure is inaccessible and much disappears through the elements.
A photo of the feathers was sent off for analysis, I had a rough idea what most were, Peregrine Primary and Tail and Green Woodpecker feathers tend to stand out.

However one feather was identified as a Bittern, I am struggling to believe that a peregrine would willingly take on something of this size no doubt at night when they arrive as migrants to winter in local areas. The fact that I only came across one feather may point towards a possible territorial defence, they do this with Grey Herons but this would mean that it possibly happened in the winter. In this case they would not be so territorial so why risk going for/attacking something of this size which is also very dangerous?

The feather was found on the roof of the structure along with the others and has been in my garage since last winter in a batch I collected at the same time in January if I remember correctly.
A bit of a mystery but I just can’t see it happening, peregrines as we know are very aggressive, not as intelligent as Corvids but intelligent enough not to risk potential injury for no reason.
Another possibility is that it was flying over, possibly in moult and the feather came out naturally and drifted down to the roof.

Who knows, certainly a strange one.

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.