Click on photos to enlarge, please do not copy photos without permission

Thursday, 29 September 2016

All Creatures Great and Small

For most of this month I have been undertaking Reptile relocation on a site down at Coryton, its enjoyable and rewarding work and it has been a learning curve to me having done mostly bird surveys over the past years.

Occasional Reptile surveys have been undertaken before but I only ever encountered Common Lizard, this area of land is producing the goods with Great Crested and Smooth Newt, Common Lizard, Slow Worm, Adder and Grass Snake.

Of them all, Great Crested Newts and Slow Worms I find are quite stunning with their detail and colouring; up close they are even more impressive. Both have been rarely seen in the past let alone in the hand.

Adders are another that are fantastically marked, to date I have caught 2 (with snake gloves on I might add), obviously treating them with a little respect, it’s the first time I have been ‘hissed ‘at.
A good opportunity to see them up close, the intricate markings were superb, never held one before, there usually at the end of my camera.

Below is a selection of photos.

Hope I have this right - Dark Bush Cricket

Wall Brown

Great Green Bush Cricket

Smooth Newts trying to make a break for it with there bigger relatives GCN below

Great Crested Newt

Smooth Newts

Slow Worm - lovely colouring and pattern

Adder - stunning

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Battersea Power Station Peregrines 2016

The 2016 breeding season was always going to be a challenge to the Peregrines, works have now begun in earnest on the Power Station itself and the skyline had dramatically changed with ongoing construction, new buildings, chimney demolition and Luffer Cranes.

With 3 successful seasons behind them due to our new female’s arrival in the winter of 2012/2013, 2016 heralded another new breeding season, the pair as ever took it all in their stride.

Would the works and the ever changing site perhaps send them off looking for pastures new?
It did occur to me many times, but the site faithfulness of the pair again reasserted itself and they laid their first egg on March 15th.

This year Battersea Power Station Development Company had installed CCTV, no less than 4 cameras watching their every move. It gave me a comprehensive insight to study the species even further, along with providing incredible live footage and images.
In total she laid 5 eggs with the last being laid on March 24th, this was also my first clutch of 5 in London. Laying durations between eggs were very consistent, 53 hours between eggs 1 to 4 and 55 hours between eggs 4 to 5.

The 5 eggs did create a problem for the Tiercel, his smaller size occasionally leading to one egg not being covered, sometimes for long periods in relatively cold weather.
This may have been a contributing factor in only 4 of the 5 eggs hatching, the first hatched on April 26th with the 4th hatching on April 30th.

On a diet of meat they quickly grew and all fledged in early June, one however did it the hard way and grounded on his first flight.
A Falcon Recovery Plan was in place particularly for this sort of occurrence; he was thankfully seen and located, placed in a box and then taken to a special safe area high up on the Power Station.

Battersea Power Station Development Company and construction contractor Skanska had set aside this non disturbance area on the Power Station specifically which I knew the adult peregrines used, it worked a treat and he was fed by the Falcon the same day.

Before long he joined his siblings, who also fledged shortly after, gracing the skies in and around the Power Station, by the end of the week all 4 had made it to the summit of the brand new south western chimney.

To have 4 screaming juveniles chasing an adult with prey around the Power Station construction site is truly a remarkable spectacle, obviously it has not gone unnoticed by the 3000+ workforce.

If you know peregrines, you will know how loud juveniles are when they are hungry; on occasions they even drowned out the noise of the site.
Many of the workforce have often stopped me to discuss the birds and get the latest, even on a major construction site there is a place for nature and it is good to see people taking an interest.

3 of the 4 juveniles on the new south west chimney

2 Juveniles in front of the new chimney

Adult Tiercel

Practicing on each other

A male and 2 female juveniles resting up on site

Practice makes perfect

Adult female

To date the 4 juveniles are spending more and more time away from site exploring and presumably hunting the adults territory, similar to teenagers they only return when they are hungry.

Pretty shortly I suspect the male juvenile will leave site, probably in September and then his 3 sisters will do the same, not long after him. Having said that, there is always one young one, as we’ve seen last year and in 2014, who takes a little longer to make their move.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Juvenile Mediterranean Gulls

July 27th 2016

Although still very early in the year I made a visit to Southend in the chance of seeing a juvenile Med Gull, in past years they have turned up quite early, sometimes in numbers.

With a peak high tide around 5.35am, I was down there just after hoping that the tide may have pushed them up on the beach.
Armed with some bread it proved so and worked out quite well, the only downside was the dark skies for photos but nonetheless I still saw 2 juveniles so all good.

Both were loosely associating with each other along with 5 other more mature Med Gulls in a large flock of Black Headed Gulls.

Also had a look along the beach for any Sanderling just in case but suspect it’s still a bit early yet.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Sand Martins

I have been coming across Sand Martins, up to 200 of them in the last week out on Cooling Marshes, Kent.

Good to see a great many juveniles amongst them, as you will see they have taken a shine to the entrance road and adjacent reed beds to rest up. First seen on the 14th, the flock is still present this week.

Unusual to see them on the road in numbers, I suspect it is a good place for resting and dust bathing, it also offers good all round vision against approaching predators.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Little Ringed Plover

Whilst surveying recently, one of the birds that I have come across is breeding Little Ringed Plover.

They do nest in some of the most unlikely positions and habitats that you could imagine, during the surveys nests/territories were marked as they are Schedule 1 to avoid disturbance, exclusion areas were then placed around them.

Below is a section of photos.

This adult was keeping an eye on some large Gulls nearby

Brooding chicks

A bit out of focus, 4 chicks, highly mobile as soon as they have hatched.

Sunday, 3 July 2016


This year so far to date, (fingers crossed) 4 juveniles have come down on fledging from the sites that I monitor and luckily all were spotted and rescued.

The first one, at Battersea Power Station, I think did not fledge but may have been blown off the nest site by those very strong winds and bad weather we had in early June. It was found by site staff and was then caught and returned to an elevated area especially designed for them up on the Power Station itself.

It was a lucky bird as it was not seen until the following morning after checking the cameras, it meant that it likely spent the night at ground level or it managed to get itself to an elevated position off the ground. Foxes obviously are present on site so it was a fortunate bird.

2 of the remaining 3 were located by the public, retrieved by the RSPCA and then taken to the South Essex Wildlife Hospital, I cannot praise them enough for the work that they do.

Both of these juveniles came from sites which  are not disclosed publicly, although I daresay that local people are well aware of them.

The last was a juvenile at Parliament, breeding there for the first time ever; the pair have fledged 3 juveniles of which one had grounded.

When I arrived I found the bird on a post where it had come to the attention of the local Crows and Magpies, I also suspected it may have been down for a couple of days unnoticed as it looked weak and underfed.

Catching it proved relatively easy compared to some, having a closer look confirmed first thoughts; it was weak, little fight or attitude in it at all.

I decided then to take it to the Wildlife Hospital where it was checked over, it was then fed and given a few days to recover.

All 3 of the juveniles, as you will see from the photo, were put in together in an aviary to recover as they all came in around the same time.

As all 3 obviously looked similar, each juvenile was given a coloured cable tie to make sure it went back to their respective site, this was then removed prior to release.

The release back went well and consequent visits to each site including Battersea have shown that the broods are complete, all are back with their parents and siblings.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Busy Bee

This is the first chance I have had to blog of late, surveys, watching briefs and Peregrine related monitoring of the sites I keep an eye on, has kept me very busy over the past few weeks or so.

It is a far cry from the hours I once put in for Steelfixing though, although that work was enjoyable and satisfying at times, it was hard graft; the bird work however is very rewarding and physically far less demanding.

The Falcon at Parliament - pity about the light

The Peregrines that I monitor this year(more on this on the next post) to date are having a good year again, my main monitoring sites all have chicks, one site has only produced a single eyass this year, but for size it is the biggest I have seen on social media.

Checking on Friday (13th) showed a chick over 3 weeks old, perhaps a day or 2 older, they would have to have laid relatively early for it to be this size already.

One of my other main sites, which produced only my 2nd clutch of 5 eggs to date and my first in London, have hatched 4 of the 5 successfully. These are on CCTV (not public) and have proved fascinating to watch, as much as you think you know, there is always something new to learn.

Thursday (19th) is ringing day for 2 of the sites, green rings with white numerals will again be going on as per last year.

In regard to surveys and watching briefs, I have been out on the North Kent Marshes mostly; it’s no secret that I love the wildness of the place and the birds that it attracts.

Highlights have been good numbers of migrants moving through, including 45 summer plumed Grey Plover in a single flock, also summer plumed Bar Tailed Godwit and Dunlin on a number of days. All are cracking looking birds which I rarely see in their breeding finery, usually associating them with the cold of the winter months.

On the Raptor front, female Merlin, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard and Hobby have been the highlights.