Sunday, 26 July 2009

staying put

I often 'complain' that 'my' Peregrines are masters at doing nothing, staying in the same spot for hours seemingly doing nothing, except for a spot of preening or paint (as a case in point, I spotted them on the same perches all afternoon today, from 14:30 until now), but they are real light weight compared to these 3:

I wonder how long these have been there, as I haven't been able to find anything about them, and how long they'll work.
Searching for them, I notice they cost around £25, and for a microsecond I fancied getting one to get rid of my pigeon problem...

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Growing up

A young Greenfinch on my window feeder a little while earlier:

And a young Herring Gull begging one of its parents earlier near the supermarket when I did the weekly shopping:

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Gulls and the City...

I took the following photos over a month ago and have been thinking of writing this post ever since, but time passed and I never did. Until Frédéric Malher started a Concours de la "Photo la plus ornitho-urbaine" on his blog les oiseaux en ville. I know... it's all in French, but basically it's a competition for the most urban bird photo, which reminded me of them.

I had gone to check if there were Peregrines at the Tate Modern. I saw signs of them but no bird. On the Millennium Bridge, I noticed gulls such as this Lesser Black backed preening itself on a support, so I indulged in some close-up photos (which I might one day get round to put in my gallery).

An obviously well used spot...
Then, on the other side a juvenile (I presume Herring Gull - do tell me if I'm wrong) with buildings in the background:

And another juvenile (or maybe the same one relocated) with an unmistakably urban background, the Gherkin and lots of building cranes:

As I was walking past St Paul's Cathedral, I had noticed Lesser Black Backed perched on statues, which reminded me of Whitby and Captain Cook's head (do they have any respect?...). It's only when I got to the Bridge that I realised why: there was at least one chick there, when an adult went on the ledge to feed it: hat grey blob in the insert and to the left of the adult on the statue in the second photo. Unfortunately the best I could do as, when one gets closer, one loses the view onto the ledge.


While preparing breakfast yesterday morning I noticed unusually high bird activity at the back of the house. What I noticed first was the blackbirds, there were like 8 of them on the big roof, then the tits, the finches, crows, magpies, even the wren I am convinced is nesting somewhere around (sounding the alarm multiple times a day) was joining in. It didn't last very long, soon the tits and finches were on the feeders at the front, but it had me puzzled, that is until I went out at the beginning of the afternoon and saw the path leading to the cemetery covered in ants, including a few winged ones. It was Flying Ants Day!
On a patch of grass where I went to, 2 magpies were busy feasting on ants. However, every few minutes they were flying off to shake them off as ants were crawling all over their body. It was quite hilarious, I thought...
When I came back, most of the ants had disappeared from the path, and everything was pretty quiet.

Monday, 20 July 2009


Last Thursday, the 'promised' rain from 5pm had not materialised, my other half had gone to his more or less monthly dc4420 (aka Defcon London) meetings, so I decided to go to the Wetland Centre, as they open late on Thursdays during the summer.
On the way there, in the Piccadilly tube train about half way between Barons Court and Hammersmith, I noticed a Kestrel hovering around the A4 between the Ark and Linacre Court. Maybe it is one of the ones I saw a while back? No way of knowing, really, and I haven't seen any other since.

It had been quite a while since my last visit, actually my only visit this year when my sister visited in March, and there were a few changes (the recycled sculptures and the Bat house mostly) but on the whole it was pretty much the same. My first port of call was the Observatory and I immediately saw a Common Tern chick fed by one of its parents in one of the rafts on the main lake. A fair few ducks, coots and moorhens, some Cormorants, some Lapwings, including young ones, a family of Swans, the usual at this time of year. What struck me though was that the hirundines did not seem to be quite as numerous as in previous years.
I then made my way to the Peacock Tower, while the Starlings were starting to arrive. Just as I got into one of the hides, I noticed some commotion: a Lesser Black Backed Gull had caught one of the numerous ducklings or moorhen or coot chicks. One second something black was struggling in its beak, the second later it had been swallowed, hence the title of this post. Life and death in action...
At the Peacock Tower. 2 Little Ringed Plovers were spending a lot of energy trying to get a pair of Crows away from one of those wire covers. I'm pretty sure I saw one of them doing the pretending to be injured trick, but those crows were obstinate. Though, the count of LRPs had not changed the next day, so they got away 'empty-handed'.
As the sun set, light was really eerie, the main reason why I like those late opening evenings. I tried to take a few photos, but none of them did any justice to it, but, to be fair, I didn't try that hard :)
The photo above was taken from the Observatory around 8pm. You'll have to take my word for it that the black spot in the middle at the bottom is a Great Crested Grebe with a chick on it back... Difficult to believe from this photo that on my way back about an hour later I would get totally soaked as the heavens opened as I stepped off the bus. Still, I was grinning as I got home, I love summer rain for some reason...

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Normal situation resumed

The Falcons War in the end was rather brief, probably with a bit of (unwitting) help from the humans, as on Wednesday and Thursday there were men on the roof and chimney doing maintenance. I haven't seen the Kestrels since. Surprisingly, the Peregrines were occasionally there at the same time as the men above, which is something I had not seen before.
The Peregrines are now back, and back to their old routine of doing pretty much nothing for hours, in between bouts of preening, and eating. I witnessed the male eating something, probably pigeon, but if you think otherwise from the photos below, let me know... It was quite substantial but I didn't manage to get a proper angle on it.

For more photos of the peregrines, I have now added a selection of the 2009 photos in my album. You can find them there.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Relay, Moorhen style

Today, I had to run an errand and thought I'd make a detour to check on the Moorhens in their tyre. I'd checked on them on Saturday morning and they were still there, patiently incubating their eggs. Tide was very high, the highest I've seen for a while, but the tyre was still above water, indicating that, in this respect at least, their choice is not as loony as it may seems. One was on the nest and the other one was busy collecting extra nesting material. When I arrived, it was blades of grass, but you can see that they can get creative with man-made material:

This was hard work! :)

There was a lot of such man-made material on the river, some of it collecting in the usual spot by Hammersmith Bridge. There, making the most of the flotsam, were a Pied Wagtail with 3 young, and very briefly a Grey Wagtail with one young. Further, by Crabtree Wharf, I could hear the sparrows from quite a distance. I'd only ever seen a max of 3 there, but, this time, there were at least 5 young as well, which was good to see, though it would be better and easier if they were not hiding so much.

On the falcons front, it's been quiet today as far as I have been able to observe. A peregrine present early in the morning and a kestrel later. In fact, there was more activity from the crows and the pigeons...

Monday, 6 July 2009

Falcons war, part 1?

As I thought...
I went to check shortly before lunchtime on my way to the shops and noticed 2 Kestrels on the hospital. On my way back, there were some more and I could see that there were actually 5 of them... At one point, 2 were perched and 3 were flying around. Than one split off and went in the direction of the Tube lines (District and Piccadilly between Hammersmith and Barons Court) which might actually be an explanation as to their presence since that's about 10 seconds away for them.

After lunch, I checked and immediately noticed that a Peregrine was on one of their favourite perches. I quickly grabbed my camera and took this photo:

You'll have to believe me that the blobs are what I say they are...

Once I got a better angle, I could see 3 Kestrels at the top. The wind got so strong that they appeared to lose their footing and one went down to the other below and the other one started flying around. Then I think another one arrived from somewhere and, suddenly, there were 3 of them flying around, being noisy as well, and they started mobbing the male peregrine, who flew away pursued by 2 of them. Unfortunately, trees and buildings prevented me to see any further. But 20 minutes later, I could see it had returned and at least 1 kestrel was on top.

I shall now go and check the situation while it's not raining...

Sunday, 5 July 2009

There may be trouble ahead...

With the easterlies we had the past 2 weeks the peregrines have deserted their favourite perches, as they usually do in these circumstances. It appears that they don't like having the wind blowing in their faces if they can help it... But I still check the hospital to see if they are around.
Friday afternoon, we were coming back from Hammersmith when I noticed a shape on one of the perches. It felt too small to be one of its usual occupants, but I did not have either binoculars or camera with me to make sure. I picked those up and rushed back and took these photos:

I think I have been spotted...

Let's have a stretch...

Now, I could count the number of times I had seen a kestrel around here this year on one hand, actually just 2 fingers... But the second time was the previous day when I had seen a spot emerging from the direction of the Wetland Centre and getting bigger, flying and hovering, and then spending a fair amount of time around the hospital.

At the beginning of this afternoon, I was in Margravine Cemetery (trying without success to locate the crickets/grasshoppers/whatever I could hear in the grass) when my attention got caught by birds flying around the hospital. Some were pigeons, but some were not: 2 Kestrels! Again? and 1 more? When they settled I took a few photos, even though the angles at which I had to take them mean they're not too great:

The same one after it had turned on its spot.

And the second one.

Then the second one flew away and I lost it for a while, but when I found it again, I then noticed another 2 higher up:

Yes, there are 3 on this photo, the 3rd one is hiding behind the aerial pole.

Another angle, and there you can see the third one (but not the first one...)

I had to get to the shop and when I came back the first 2 had moved next to each other:

You can still see the 3rd one above.

Now, lots of ifs I know, but if they intend to stay around and if the peregrines come back, there may be trouble ahead...