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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Battersea Power Station - early days

Following on from my last post regarding the Power Station, little was I to know that locating the breeding peregrines nest site in 2001 was to basically change my birding life. This may sound a little dramatic and over the top but from then on it was all peregrines, from this I was then very kindly given access by the owners at the time – Parkview International. Then came lots of help from Peter Massini from NaturalEngland, Dusty Gedge (Living and Valerie Selby from Wandsworth Council.

To this day Valerie is still involved at the Power Station but Peter has moved on to different climes. Dusty undertakes a lot of Green and Brown Roof work and has given me a lot of help and work in relation to Black Redstarts over the years.

Like many people, even before this, I was always a Bird of Prey nut, peregrines in those days was a rare bird in London with perhaps 3- 4 pairs in the whole of London(LNHS Boundary), to this day and virtually seeing them every day,I still get a buzz every time I see one.

As mentioned in the last post I located the nest in the side of the Power Station at the northern end nearest to the river, over the years I came to realize that this was always going to be the favoured end. The nest site in common with many nowadays was facing east and throughout 2001 I covered and monitored them as much as I could, there was much to learn.
Books were bought and I slowly gained the knowledge through watching and reading – Derek Ratcliffe’s book – ‘The Peregrine Falcon” was the bible and still is, I have not read anything that surpasses it for information.

Most of my visits in 2001 when they fledged 3 juveniles were undertaken on a Sunday, in those days I worked 6 days a week, I didn't have a DSLR so I dabbled in Digi – Scoping to record activity. I also applied for a Schedule 1 licence from Natural England.

Moving on to 2002 I now knew what to expect in regard to the peregrines breeding, plans were also afoot for the Power Station’s Redevelopment, with another Schedule 1 species breeding on site as well I monitored both species throughout the year.
Black Redstarts are annual breeders at the Power Station and in some years, 2 pairs have graced the site, as with the Peregrines I suspect that they were breeding long before I came along.

After 2 years of successful breeding with 3 juveniles to show per year, 2003 dawned, this was when I was introduced to grounded peregrines, unfortunately rather sadly.

With 3 juveniles ready to fly the nest I remember leaving on the Sunday already looking forward to the following weekend, all 3 would no doubt be on the wing, they only looked a day or 2 from fledging.
Sunday dawned and I arrived but could only locate the adults and 1 juvenile which was food/hunger calling, why weren't the others calling and where were they?

I remember looking all around the Power Station for hours until I found one, it was on the ground and had been eaten by a Fox, very little remained but the legs and talons were unmistakable.

The other remaining juvenile according to my diary was located 3 weekends later, this was in a remote corner, little was left that was recognizable but there was no confusing the shape and plumage. Again this had also fallen prey to a Fox, both birds had no doubt grounded, stress called to the adults but this had no doubt unfortunately alerted the Foxes.
Over the years now I have lost a number of juveniles to Urban Foxes, it’s always going to happen on derelict sites but such is the density of Foxes in London now it can happen just about anywhere.

Still one made it and it was another success for the pair, very sadly 2 were lost but that is nature, as much as I would like too, you can’t save them all.

2004 was to mark the introduction of a purpose built Tower, this will be related in the next post, as the youngsters say – radical.

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