Sunday, 30 August 2009

Nesting in a tyre [part 4 I think]

For those of you still following the moorhens nesting in a tyre saga.
I went to check on them this afternoon and one of them was on the nest. As you can see, they have build it up so much now that there is barely any room for the incubating bird. Exchanges must be interesting...

You can also see how worn out the feathers are, exhausting job this reproducing lark...

It looks like the mud/silt between the barge and the wall has also been building up. One of the birds has been leaving tracks like these, and they're light little things, I dread to think how deep we would sink ;)

By my reckoning, the eggs should be hatching at some point this week, if they do. I'll try and have a look if I find a minute.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Patch walk

On Saturday morning I went for a 2h15 walk around my patch as it would be almost low tide.
But, first, I'll give an update on the moorhens. Well, one of them was on the nest, but the nest is now so built up that there is barely any room left for the incubating bird. They were now on day 12 to 14, so there should be 7-10 days left.
It was a nice morning, if a bit chilly at first.
In Frank Banfield Park, which is one of the 'parks' in the borough that have received the Green Flag Award, for the second week in a row I heard a wagtail and found 1 adult Pied Wagtail with 4 juveniles:

I also hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling, the first time ever there. I guess all this is a sign that last year's redevelopment was not such a bad thing, but I would be a lot happier if I could see and hear more Sparrows there. I wonder if the new ones I have been finding lately on the Thames Path are migrants from that group.

By Hammersmith Bridge, once again, there were lots of Startlings, they were flying between the bridge and the shore, some were bathing, other were feeding. Further along, I stood for a while observing a little group 'playing turnstone' and picking up small shellfish (I initially thought these might be baby mussels, but after finding those clams by Putney Bridge, I am not so sure anymore). It was amazing how they were opening their beak in order to overturn the stones, so I thought I'd try and film them. Unfortunately, they took fright when they heard me. I managed however to take this photo of a group that had similarly been spooked by something (but not me, honest) by Crabtree Wharf. It is nice to see them in good numbers.

I counted over 200 Black Headed Gulls, 52 Mallards, 43 Canada Geese (including one of the regular ones, white UVY), 1 Egyptian Goose, 16 Cormorants, 1 Grey Heron, Crows, Ring Necked Parakeets.
I also had the first Teals of the summer, with 3 females, a sure sign it is coming to an and, and 1 lonely female Tufted Duck.

Big gull wise, I saw 1 Great Black Backed fly over, a few Herring Gulls, at least 4 adults and 1 sub adult, and Lesser Black Backed, again at least 4 adults, 1 first summer and one juvenile. That juvenile was begging from one of its parents

and begging again, and again, and again...

Lots of young gulls of various ages, but I am still rather baffled by them so I won't venture too categorically, Still, I think this is a second summer Lesser Black Backed, which I somehow find quite attractive:

Finally, I found House Sparrows in 2 spots, both groups with a few youngsters. It is unfortunately difficult to count them precisely, but there were at least a dozen in the second group. I was trying to take photos of them which was easier said than done as they were hiding in a bush:

when I noticed this gorgeous long haired cat. Either they know it and know they have nothing to fear, or they hadn't seen it, since none were alarm calling, not even the robin also in the same bush.

Sunday, 23 August 2009


'My' peregrines having deserted me again at the moment and being in need of a fix, last Saturday morning (15th) I headed for Westminster to try and locate at least one from the pair there. Seriously, tide was high that morning and I did not see much point in doing my usual patch walk, so I thought I'd go and check on the House of Parliament birds. I was told a few weeks ago that one of them had a ring and I had been twice already to see if I could locate them. It had not taken me very long to find where most (all?) their favourite perches were, but, so far I had not seen any.
It was to be 3rd time lucky, one of them was on one of those spots:

I think I have been spotted:

It could give a run for their money to my usual pair, it barely moved for the whole hour and a bit I stayed there, except for a small spot of preening, which exposed a nice bit of heart-shaped spot on one of its cheeks, not very dissimilar in fact to the female I have photographed lots (such as on this photo:

I think I have been spotted again, yet I thought I was quite hidden by a tree (but, obviously, by symmetry, if I have line of sight to it, it should also have to me):

Yesterday, I went to the RSPB London peregrines at the Tate. I had been meaning to go since it started but I had not managed to find time to go during the week until now, and I couldn't be sure I would in the next 3 weeks.
So having a 2 1/2 hours gap in the afternoon, I hopped on a Tube train to Mansion House and fought my way through the hordes of tourists on the Millennium Bridge to get there. And I was not disappointed. Not only did I have a fantastic conversation with one of the volunteers where I learned plenty more, but one of the birds was present. I spotted one as I was getting near the watch point through my binoculars, with difficulties as it was near the edge and the sun was right in my eyes, but by the time I got to the scopes it had gone. Only to reappear a little while later, heralded by all the other birds flying all over the place all of a sudden. It then gained some altitude over the river, tried its luck with probably a pigeon, missed, and then gained so much more altitude that we lost it. I was considering going when it came back and landed in a spot much more suitable for photos, though, as luck had it, it was presenting its back to the scopes. You can just about guess its head as it is preening in the first photo, the other one being another one of those headless shots...

After a few more glances through the scopes, I said my goodbyes and left.

Friday, 21 August 2009


I'm knackered... 2 cleanups with Thames21 in as many days, plus the walk there and back today have done me in!
Yesterday was by Bishops Park from Putney Bridge towards Fulham Football Club and about 100 people turned up for it. I didn't find anything exciting, just endless cotton buds, plastic bottle caps, fabric and sanitary towels, and one syringe with needle, after a chat with someone who'd remarked he'd not found one of those on the foreshore around there for years, he'd jinxed it! What amazed me was the number of clams (or suchlike), I'd never seen those in such numbers on the foreshore before, and shrimps. It would have been more enjoyable without the twat on a yacht on the other side of the river blasting music... Still, there was one funny moment when 4 birds came up with the tide following each other, at first I thought 4 mallards, but the first one looked odd for a mallard, and rightly so, it was a great crested grebe. It dived, the mallards continued and picked up behind when it reappeared...
Today was still in Fulham, from the corner of Hurlingham Park towards Wandsworth Bridge, Below is a photo of the first portion.

As often, there were big cages like the one in the middle of the photo in which to put the bags with the small stuff and the bulkier stuff. They are then picked up by the Port of London Authority at hide tide. This portion did not have much in big items, the one you can see on the left hand side was a wheelchair, and there was also a full upright hoover complete with accessories, a desk, a shopping trolley. I didn't go any further than that first cage, there was enough there to keep me busy, again cotton buds and bottle caps, but also straws and bar wrappers. I also found 2 more syringes, and I wasn't the only one, this was apparently exceptional for the Thames foreshore, these are more often found on canals and rivers such as the Wandle which might be the reason why. I heard a gun was found further on, it's the second one found at clean-ups I have been to.

Setting up

the Health and Safety talk

Monday, 17 August 2009

Flash mob the foreshore

I was looking forward to Thames21's announcement last week of the locations for their Flash mob the foreshore event this week, and was not disappointed: 2 of the clean-ups are happening in Fulham. On Thursday, it will be by Bishops Park, on Friday by Hurlingham Park, for more details such as time, location, click on the link above.
I should be there with my bucket for both, and thoroughly recommends it, as it's great fun, an excellent excuse to be out and get muddy, and it's good for the environment and the birds in particular.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Nesting in a tyre...[part 3]

Since my last update on the moorhens nesting in a tyre, I have continued to keep an eye on them whenever I could. Before going to Normandy, I increased my visits as I thought they were due since incubation is meant to be about 3 weeks but, up to the 28th, they were still sitting on their nest. I witnessed a nest exchange and am pretty sure I saw 5 eggs.
I went to check on them almost after coming back and, finally, there was no one on the nest, but there were 2 eggs, and I could only see 1 adult around. On a further visit, I could still only find 1 adult and there was now 1 egg in the nest. Last Sunday morning, I finally saw both adults and no young, so they had definitely failed. There was 1 egg in the nest.
I passed by today at lunchtime and, guess what? They're back at it! Attempt #3 (at least), we'll see how this one goes...

Monday, 10 August 2009


My apologies for the radio silence of late... About 10 days ago I went to spend a few days at my parents in Normandy. Afternoon ferry from Portsmouth to Ouistreham. I killed the first 2 hours by inputting the peregrines' diary in my pda; doing it in small batches while watching TV usually, I didn't realise it was this time consuming, but it was a really useful way to kill 2 hours. It was quite windy and I was rather surprised that the decks were even open, but I managed to find myself a sunny and fairly sheltered spot and watched the clouds pass by while scanning for gannets. My patience was rewarded with 3 individuals, including a juvenile, but a some distance. After going back in for a cup of tea, I discovered that the wind must have increased enough for them to close access to the upper decks, and I understood why when trying to get to the front of the boat, the wind was indeed very strong. But it was well worth it, as, right above my head, was a gannet, riding the wind... I grabbed my camera as quickly as I could and took a few photos, with great difficulties. I can't unfortunately show you any of them, and I may never know if it was all worth it, as I managed to misplace the card while at my parents in my efforts to try and read it. Kicking myself! Especially as later on I filmed another one flying above the waves and diving, presumably to fish...
Arrival was at high tide. Somehow, I think all my previous arrivals lately were at low tide, and I wasn't quite expecting the hordes of gulls, mostly black headed gulls, with a few herring gulls, to descend on the water was we were turning round, especially as I couldn't really see many as we were approaching. With the sunset upon a leaden sky and water the colour of emerald, it was magical.
Then it rained. Welcome home!!!

On the first day, we went to theParc Naturel Regional des Marais du Cotentin et du Bessin (created 1991) to try and find Storks. When I was a kid, we used to travel the width of France to Alsace to see storks, now they're almost on my parents' doorstep. It was not the best of time to go and see them, as most will be leaving on their migration soon, to Spain apparently [though some are now staying all year round], but one was having a nap on the first nest we looked at:

This is the same nest featured in these photos I took in May 2004. The other nest we looked at was empty, but a little further away, we were looking a some young Cormorants, Grey Herons, Little Egrets and Lapwings when this individual arrived:

and landed in a field with cows [you cannot do much more Normandy than that ;) ]

At my parents', it was really nice to hear sounds I haven't been hearing much in London the past years. Up to 2 years ago, I would stand on the balcony in the evenings and watch the Housemartins hunt insects with the Swifts above. Not so this year, and I haven't seen much activity at the last remaining nest I know of on my patch since I saw it being repaired. So it was really heart warming to hear some for a few days. One thing my parents have been really happy about this year is that Swallows have finally nested again in their outbuilidings for the first time in years. As we would be eating dinner I could see them preening on the wires outside the house:

In my parents' LPO l'Oiseau magazine there was an article about the Bessin, following Obama's visit to the area for D-Day celebrations, making the point that it is due to the D-Day landing that this part of the Normandy coastline is fairly unspoiled, which does make sense. It mentioned several Peregrine pairs nesting on the cliffs, so I thought I'd go and check one where I used to go fossil hunting as a teenager. It was fun going down memory lane, and the cliff, and I saw lots of gulls, wagtails, and some very pretty wild orchids, but no peregrine.

Finally, if someone could help me identify this moth on a glass panel of my parents' conservatorym I have drawn a blank so far. I think it must have been newly emerged, so bright are the colours and undamaged it appears:
Update 12 Aug.: thanks to fst0pped it has been id's as Guernsey Underwing (Polyphaenis sericata).