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Sunday, 30 June 2013

A very busy week.

As much as I look forward to fledging time, it’s a double sided coin, at the same time I dread it, over the years I have managed to get many juveniles back up but lost just as many to disappearance, Foxes and the urban jungle.
Last week will definitely go down as a fledging time that didn’t go to plan, but ultimately turned out hugely satisfying by helping and placing 3 separate juveniles back with their respective adults or foster adults as was the case.

It all started with a member of the public, finding a grounded juvenile on an east London site, thankfully he got the bird to Sue at the South Essex Wildlife Hospital, they do an incredible job and rely on donations so if you want to help wildlife have a look at their website .I went to see the bird as it was from a brood of 3 that I have been watching on webcam and monitoring externally, for readers of the blog this was the site that failed last year due to Pirate Radio. Apart from a slightly damaged foot the bird was ok so after speaking to Sue a plan was formed to get it back to the adults asap as the foot was now getting better.

No 1
Unfortunately the 2 other juveniles had fledged and were flying well; additionally they had also along with the adults departed the nest building. Many pairs in London hold territory all year round on their nest structure/building, returning juveniles back up is not a problem, this pair do not, the adults breed on this building but as soon as the juveniles are able they all move to other favoured sites. Along with this I could not find them, I was also checking the web cam continuously and I knew they were not returning, my worry was that if I returned the juvenile they would not find it and it would grow weak and starve.

The next day while I was thinking off a solution and watching on another site where they have 4 juveniles, another mishap occurred.
While they were all aloft and practicing on each other one clipped a Power Line, fortunately a worker had seen it and gave me a call.
On arrival my worst fears looked confirmed as it appeared the juvenile had a broken wing so I approached him to get him in a box, he also looked wet. Rather surprisingly he flew low but I eventually cornered him and got him in the box, this was early morning. Arriving at the Hospital it thankfully showed that the wing was not broken but bruised; being a male he was lively and full of the usual attitude. I returned home as a plan was forming.

Only bruised but looks worse - No 2

That afternoon I received another call from yet another site, another juvenile was grounded and was being hounded by Magpies, the adults will protect them higher up but not usually on the ground unless it is an open area, this was definitely not. The juvenile was eventually retrieved and was taken again to South Essex Wildlife Hospital as it appeared weak; it was likely that this juvenile had been down for 2 days. This bird perked up at the Hospital after a feed and we discussed getting them back with the adults, the plan after some research and discussion was as follows.

No 3 

Put no 1 juvenile in with no 2 juvenile on the release so no 1 would have foster adults, this increased the brood size to 5 and there was less chance of the adults noticing with a large brood.
Put no 3 juvenile back with her adults as they hold territory to this building and I knew they would be there.
Before the release Sue at the Hospital put no 1 and no 2 together to get them used to each other and no 3 was kept on her own.

No's 1 and 2 together prior to release

You always have doubts in your head; will the adults accept the foster juvenile? Can it fly ok? Will they feed it? 

On the morning that I was to pick up the 3 juveniles I received yet another call, another peregrine was down, I knew where it was and in relation to local pairs I suspected that it could possibly be a Kestrel. As suspected it turned out to be a young Kestrel, unfortunately there was little chance to get it back to the nest so it had to come with me to the Hospital.

Young Kestrel

The release

Did it work? Better than I could have imagined, both no 1 and no 2 were released together onto a roof, both adults were present and flew round circling so they had visual contact with the juveniles. Since then I have seen the adult Tiercel feeding the foster juvenile, (foster juvenile is unringed) so a brilliant result not only for me but for all who were involved in this venture.

Little male - always feisty just about to be released

No 3 juvenile was another success story, I always like to release them when an adult is in visual range, as soon as I walked out on the roof the adult female saw me and consequently her juvenile, a quick release and I withdrew.

No 3 just about to be released

As I am just posting this I have come from both sites, all 3 juveniles are fully fledged and flying strongly, it is good to know that others and myself have made a difference.

A lot of people made all this possible and a big thanks go to Brian Peterson, Derry Kirrane and Abul Kalam.South Essex Wildlife Hospital were simply marvellous.

As I have said before in an ideal world I could name the sites, one day hopefully.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Weekend June 15th/16th

Thankfully there were no “grounders” over the weekend; I managed to get round 5 of the sites that I monitor including the site where the same male grounded in consecutive days last week.

On this particular site it looks like the premature flight last week was very likely down to over eagerness on the little males part, all 4 juveniles were on show for over 2 hours and none were flying despite the best efforts of the adult female trying to coax them out.

From here I moved on to another site and these were well and truly on the wing, the light was pretty good but the wind was quite strong, they handled the wind admirably but the landings……they will learn.

Juvenile flying well...

But the landings....

There is one site in particular come fledging that will always be a bit of worry, I am watching this site on CCTV at the moment, from earlier posts this was the site that failed last year due to pirate radio being installed on the roof.

The building in regard to fledging juveniles is not ideal but the adults will not move, I have also explored over the years various other buildings/structures but very few are ‘peregrine friendly’and will offer security and safe fledging. There are 3 juveniles this year but one fledged late evening yesterday, looking at conditions today there is little wind, not ideal, I am hoping that they will both fledge later in the week in windier weather.

Adult Falcon

You can’t safeguard them all and there will always be casualties, a prime example is Nathalie’s pair that she monitors at Charring X, it simply just disappeared. It is unfortunate and it will certainly not be the last one that ‘disappears’, urban fledging is fraught with danger. I have said it before and will say it again each individual site needs a person(s)/group to monitor them during the breeding period. This however takes a lot of commitment and a lot of time, you have to be pretty dedicated but I have to say the rewards at the end when they fledge are worth every hour standing there watching over them.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Catching up...again.

As mentioned in other posts, surveying work at the moment is a bit hectic working away and not getting the chance to blog, as the post say’s catching up when I can, mostly at weekends so I will start with last weekend, June 8-9th.

Last weekend I at last got good views of the Scaffold pair nest box and am very pleased to say there are 3 juveniles present. They look good for 2 males and a female, as you will see from the photos “she” is markedly bigger, they looked around the 3 ½ weeks old mark. I daresay it will not be long before they go exploring further than the balcony provided for them, a whole roof top awaits them as soon as they are mature enough to fly up.

Looks good for 2 males and a bigger female

If all goes to plan, and it has so far with acceptance of the nest box, the pair will be on webcam next year; plans are currently afoot for 2014 for CCTV in the box and outside.

This pair has given me a lot of satisfaction the way they took to the nest box very early; it’s not usually that easy. To see everyone’s hard work come to be realised involved in the project is very rewarding, especially as they were flooded out and failed in 2012.The satisfaction comes from knowing you have made a difference.

I also got news during the week from the “ Down South Pair,” the 2 juveniles have now been ringed and recorded.Glad to say all went well, and hopefully as it looks a good exercise and fledging area to practice on, there will be no grounding when the big day comes.

In regard to grounding, also this week, another site decided it was time to fledge on Tuesday, as usual a male, he thought the time was right and consequently came straight down from 14 floors up.

This site hosts London’s new colour - Green so a photo was taken off him on the deck which shows the letters AL, a big thank you goes to the owners of the site for catching and boxing him up, and then returning him back up to a higher level where he will be fed. For obvious reasons I can’t name the site, in an ideal world I could but unfortunately that day is a long way off in regard to Wildlife Crimes in this Country.

Unbelievably what looks like the same male came down again on Wednesday but instead of landing on site he made it next door, again he was caught, boxed and returned. This little chap would have likely not made it but for the intervention of the site owners, I understand his landing position was not ideal, in a very small cul-de sac. At this age and not yet having the wing strength and confidence to get out of a tight corner, it is unlikely he would have survived.

Given another chance

So, a big thanks from me and I am sure the little male is grateful for a 3rd crack at this flying lark, he belongs in open skies.

Friday, 7 June 2013

First ones out successful

Out at the crack of dawn in what is becoming catch up time over the weekend, my biggest worry at this time of year is that 2 or 3 sites will all fledge at the same time, you simply can’t be in 2 places at once. Grounding will always be an issue.
I checked on one pairing and glad to say that the 2 juveniles had not only fledged safely but both were flying around very strongly, these have been on the wing I would say since the early part of the week, May 27th on wards. As mentioned in earlier posts, this is the very early pair, which along with a couple of other pairs seem to be rewriting the manual in regard to peregrine laying and fledging times.

Female Peregrine flying the flag

Tiercel's, they love a Crane


I watched these for a good hour, managed to get a few photos, nothing to write home about but ok, getting a new lens soon so hopefully they will improve. I have a Sigma 120 to 400mm, it’s a good lens when the suns out but at dawn in low light and cloud, trying to track and get a lock on a fast moving peregrine is a big challenge, sometimes a turn the air blue challenge when you know you have missed a good shot. I once missed a female peregrine hitting and grabbing a Crow near her nest site, it was close and one of those shots that you wait years for. I know what I want, an F4 400mm prime lens but like a lot of things it comes at a price, am now exploring the second-hand market.

One of the juveniles, flying strongly already

Adult Falcon

Previous to this site I was at Parliament, having failed at their nest site I expected them to be back to their usual haunts, they were not,hopefully I have likely just missed them so will try again this weekend.

I also visited the scaffold nest box site (see Monday 15th April) and at first I could not see nothing in the box, I can’t see right into it, it’s about 14 floors up but I knew she had hatched young after seeing 3 little white dots a little while back being fed by an adult.Both adults were present but were at least 60 metres from the nest site on another building, both could no doubt respond to the threat of Crows but they always, especially the Falcon sit closer.
It’s very easy to jump the gun seeing and knowing the threats that they face but I was a very relieved man when 2 fair sized chicks suddenly showed themselves about 45 minutes later. No doubt they were pancaking, of the 3rd possibly still laying down or may have succumbed; as they progress I will know.

With Nathalie’s Charring X juveniles well under way with fledging, all 3 have now made the leap of faith, hopefully all will be ok. This weekend may also see another pairing taking the leap, hopefully the weather will be kind with some decent wind to aid them.