Thursday, 24 September 2009

I'm on a roll...

Unfortunately, it was not on my patch, but very nice nevertheless. Thursday, early afternoon, usually only means weekly shopping, and today was no exception. After shopping, I went to check what was on the shore as tide was low, before going to have a look at the sparrows. I had been taking photos of a Herring Gull, its very whitish eye with a black ring (or at least it appeared so in the light, was fascinating me. This bird arrived from the left, I thought wagtail as I often see some there, but it was silent. It landed on a stone/concrete block and modelled some litter. A Wheatear. I'd only seen them at the Wetland Centre until now. Nice. It disappeared towards the Counting Coots patch, but not before I had managed some shots, not brilliant ones but at least my camera was vaguely set right.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

It doesn't rain, it pours!

Within a few minutes of posting the previous entry, I had an email from Frank Majoor, the ringer of 'Red A1'. It had been ringed as a first winter bird in November 2006 in Hilversum, a town in the Netherlands, some 30 km south-east of Amsterdam and 25 km north of Utrecht, according to Wikipedia.

He also updated me on a Common Gull I had spotted at the supermarket on 21st February 2008. I thought I had blogged about it at the time, but it doesn't look like it after all. It was still a juvenile and had been ringed in November 2007 in Amsterdam. It was spotted back in Amsterdam a month later, which goes some way to explain why I didn't see it again then.

This is a photo I had taken at the time, with my crappy camera phone through the binoculars, and the reason why, since, I have taken my proper camera with me when I go and do the weekly shopping.

Much impressed at the speedy reply!

Speedy reply from some londonbirders too after I asked there for confirmation yesterday, and so I can update my patchlist to 59, because this morning I had another tick. It doesn't rain, it pours :) I had been counting the tits in a mixed flock of Long-tailed and Blue as they were passing through the back gardens and heard an unusual call for the area a few minutes later: a Coal Tit on an aerial right in front was making it #59. Can't have everything though, it was gone before I could grab my camera.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Gulls Gulls Gulls

I decided to go have have an early morning look at the Thames this morning, and good decision it was too!
First, on the boat pier, I checked the legs of the black-headed gulls as I usually do on the off-chance that one has a rind, and, for the first time, bingo!

colour-ringed gull

colour-ringed gull

A quick search once home told me that it should have been rung in the Netherlands. I have contacted the ringer/coordinator; hopefully, I'll get more info soon.

Sadly, as I was taking these photos, a dead juvenile Herring or Lesser Black-Backed Gull passed by with the tide.

Further along, by Crabtree Wharf, I'm hoping that this is a Yellow-Legged Gull as this would be a patch tick for me. It was roughly a shade of grey darker than a Herring Gull and way lighter than a Lesser Black-Backed on the same pontoon. Bright yellow legs, pale eyes with red orbital ring, fine markings around the eyes.

yellow legged gull

As it flew off, I managed this blurry flight shot:

I noticed afterwards that the afore-mentioned Lesser Black-Blacked on the same pontoon had a weird beak, I think the tip of the upper part might be broken:

And to continue on the injury theme, nearby, this (I think) Lesser Black-Backed juvenile might have looked OK on its right-hand side:

but something looked wrong with its left eye, and it was limping on its left leg, though I could not see any obvious sign of injury:

[Clicking on most of the photos should give you bigger versions]

Sunday, 20 September 2009

peregrines are back (briefly)

As soon as I stepped outside at 7:20 yesterday morning to do a patch walk I glimpse what looked like a peregrine flying along the north side of the hospital. It was rather unexpected as I had not seen the pair on their usual perches over the past 2 weeks. Not that I really expected them to while we had the easterly winds (which are a blessing as they bring a temporary stop to the planes flying above us on their way to Heathrow, but they also mean no peregrines at the spots I can easily see from home). As soon as I reached Fulham Palace Road, they were unmissable on the parapet of the top floor balcony, above the main entrance.

The male is on the left, and the female on the right tucking in what looked like a pigeon.
I kept on checking on them while on the Thames Path whenever I could get a line of sight, and one hour later the female appeared to have finished her meal and was sitting slightly below the parapet.

On my way back at 10, I noticed the male was eating on the parapet:

and the female looked utterly stuffed:

Last Saturday, I had gone to Westminster in the hope to see the pair there and thought initially that I was going to come back empty handed. After an initial fruitless check, I went to the middle of Westminster Bridge and had a look around. Just gulls, and a kestrel mobbed by magpies and crows by a building near Charing Cross Station, until I picked up a peregrine crossing the river, only to fly into the sun on the other side where I lost it. Didn't see it cross back, but I thought I'd have a last look before leaving, and where before there was none, there was one, having a scratch and a preen:

It went for a quick fly round and settled back on the same spot:

Friday, 18 September 2009

8 for effort, nil for result

I guess it's time I do a final update on the moorhens. My last post was on Wednesday 2nd September. I went to check on them on the following Friday morning, and, for the 30 minutes I was around, one of the parents was on the nest, and not moving. The following day, I detoured before doing my patch check, and, once again, one of the parents was on the nest. It was visibly agitated, and within 5 minutes of me being there got up and went to check on the side of the tyre where I think one chick had fallen down. As it was up, another chick started going down:

and ended up on the mud as it was low tide. It did venture in the bit of water on the left of the photo, but the parent did push it back onto relatively safer ground and cleaned it up.

I could see one dead chick and one egg still in the nest. I stayed watching for a while, and nothing much changed, but I had to go. I checked again the next 2 mornings, but could only ever found 1 of the parents. I glimpsed the other one once from a distance on the raft of rubbish on the other side of the boat, but could not see if it had any chick in tow. Then, on Wednesday, at high tide, I found both birds preening on their favourite spot below the back of the boat. I think it's fairly safe to assume that they've sadly failed again.

At least, not all birds have failed in that area, the pair of swans nesting on the floating platform among the boats had one cygnet.
From this on 10 June:

to this on 27th June:

to this on 30th August:

A mallard also managed to raise 9 young to adult size in the area, which I think is no mean feat.

Having a nap on 3rd August in the swans' nesting platform

Sunday, 13 September 2009

preparing for winter

This morning, after checking on the sparrows at Abbey Gardens, I went for a game of hide and seek with the juvenile woodpigeons in Margravine Cemetery.
Yesterday, on the way back from shopping I counted 10 grazing with a few adults. I had thought that 4 last week or so was a lot, so, 10 at once was rather unbelievable.

Unfortunately, today, they were not in one big easy herd, hiding either among the graves or the trees, but I still found a group of 4 juveniles with 1 adult. No idea why they have done so well this year, but they certainly have... In the middle of all this, I could hear Jays. I saw 3 at once at some point last week in the cemetery after a period of not seeing any. I was taking photos of 1, when, unfortunately, my mobile rang, and the bird flew as I was answering it. I still managed to notice that it was not alone, joining 3 others at least in a tree.  I wonder how long families stay together?

As I was trying to relocate them, I heard a rustle in a holly and saw this squirrel coming out with a branch full of berries and then crossing the path:

One by one, it would pick the berries, check them out:
  and then bury them: 

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

4 peregrines

2 Saturdays ago, I went to check on the Peregrines in Westminster early in the morning again. It was nice and quiet out there until the hordes of tourists started descending...
I did not find them initially, as it happens I was looking at the wrong face at the time. I was looking at a young Woodpigeon feasting on fruit in a small tree when I picked up a bird coming from behind the tower, gaining speed and a little bit of altitude. I saw it make a half-hearted effort at a pigeon, then it finished its circle and disappeared behind the tower again. As it didn't reappear, I went to look on the other side and found this one preening. It obligingly showed me its leg, but no obvious sign of a ring on there.

As this one was sitting there doing nothing much, I tried locating the other one, and managed to find it twice, but only for very fleeting moments. In the meantime, the first one had relocated, on a wing... :
It's only when I got quite far away that the angle allowed me to see both on the same face, and, from their size difference, I'd say that the one above is the female, but I'll have to go and check on them again. Such a shame ;)

I had never until now looked that closely at the sculptures/gargoyles on Westminster Abbey, but I thoroughly recommend using binoculars, however weird it may look, to have a look at them. Here's a lovely doggy for example.

Later that day, I also saw the pair near home on the hospital, as they'd returned a few days previously from one of their 'vacations. They were sat there for most of the afternoon. Which means that I had seen 4 Peregrines that day, which, as far as I can remember, has not happened to me often before, and they were families then. Nice :)

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Hatchlings in a tyre!!!!

I had some errands to run in Hammersmith and went to check on the Moorhens on my way back. The parent on the nest seemed a bit restless, calling occasionally, and I was pretty sure I could hear some light 'pips'. The moorhen moved and, Yes!, 2 chicks, one of which must have hatched fairly recently as it was still wet:

I probably won't be able to check on them tomorrow, but I shall try on Friday morning.