Monday, 30 November 2009

The Love Birds

It is not often that I get to take photos of the Peregrines at that angle, but with this morning's strong North Easterlies they had elected to perch on the South facing face. I had actually been rather surprised to see the female plucking a prey around 8 this morning as I don't often get to see them in these conditions, but pleasantly so. After a while, the male also came to eat and then joined her on the next perch.

I took this photo on my way to the shop as they were gazing at each other, the male on the left, the female on the right. He then did a bit of preening. I find it amazing how far back he sits and how much of a finely tuned equilibrium exercise it looks like.

And to finish, a fine example of what I call her double-D breast, makes me think of a Victorian matron, especially with that peregrine haughty air ;)

Breakfast was good!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Cormorant update

Yesterday, I spotted the cormorant entangled in netting for the first time since my post about it on 18 October. I was starting to wonder if something had happened to it, but it appeared in excellent shape, preening at Crabtree Wharf.

Charlie, part 2

The following photos I took on Sunday morning show better what I mean about her colouring.
All neat and majestic, before she started preening:


and after, getting all fluffed up:

I just love these headless shots, but, also, look at those claws...

For more photos, click on any of the above photos (which will also give you a slightly bigger version) or here to go my photo album.

Watching her yesterday, I was thinking that honey would be a good way to describe her chest and throat colouring. Maybe because I had just used honey for cooking, who knows...

Note also, how she sits sort of sideways on her perch, the male prefers to sit right back with its back to the wall. Talking of the male, I haven't yet figured out a name for him. I call him Mr Charlie or Charlie's mate, but he surely deserves a name of his own (I know my other half has taken my surname, but that is not for everybody). I have been thinking lately of William or Morris because of the local William Morris connection, but it somehow doesn't fit. If you have any suggestion, please feel free...

Finally, while I am here talking about peregrines, let me plug the London Peregrine Partnership' website. Their objective is to ensure the protection and breeding success of Peregrine Falcons nesting within the London area. Well worth a visit if you want to learn more about peregrines.

Saturday, 14 November 2009


With the gale force winds and torrential rain predicted for this morning, I wasn't actually really expecting to see the peregrines on the hospital this morning. But at 8:30 there they were. I knew that someone who moved a few months ago to the area was very keen to see them, but so far it had been like a curse: if they were around, he wasn't... Finally though there were chances he'd be around this morning so I texted him and we arranged to meet in the cemetery. As I was getting there the male flew off... Then, as I was waiting, the female had a stretch, had a poo, and I thought the curse would still be as this is often the precursor to her leaving, but she repositioned herself, did some preening, and was still there when he arrived. Just as I was taking this photo:

She's gorgeous, isn't she?...

The curse had been lifted :) We had wonderful views of her perched, then she left for about 10 minutes and we had good views of her flying. The cherry on the cake: just as we were leaving, I turned round one last time and the male had just arrived.

Charlie is the name I have given her, it's a lot shorter in every day life to say than the peregrine on the hospital. Why Charlie? Well, at first I wasn't entirely sure she was a female, though that was my first impression, so I needed a name that could be used for both sexes. Then I tried to find a name that reflected the building she was on, Charing Cross Hospital, and based her name on the first 4 letters. As it happens, I am not the only one, if I remember correctly the rescued injured youngster from Derby was named Cathy after Cathedral this summer. As it also happens, Charlie appears to be a popular name for peregrines, I know of another 2, a male in France and a female in Worcester. Lastly, another reason why I like that name is Charlie Brown, since she was a youngster at the time and looked very brown, and still does in a way. Brown is not quite the right word anymore, but someone described her as tawny last week which I find very fitting. It is not that obvious on the photo but her chest is very rosy whereas the male's is almost pure white. This makes them easy to identify at a distance.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Gulls shenanigans and variations

About 2 weeks ago (it was 10 days when I started this post), as we were arriving in Whitby, North Yorkshire (I shall hopefully post a few photos of that weekend one day soon), someone posted on the Londonbirders wiki that there had been a Caspian Gull just south of my patch. I'll pass on the fact that it was reported in Hammersmith, it's a weird thing that even though we are in Fulham around here our postcode is Hammersmith, and that the pub's name was slightly wrong. As a matter of fact, Hammersmith has a fair few river-side pubs, I think Fulham has only one (though it has a restaurant with the River Café). The problem is that so many Caspian Gulls were reported there at some point that all reports are viewed with much incredulity. Still, I'll give the person the benefit of the doubt, not least because I'd love to have one on my patch, and if it means I work harder at it, all the better for it. In fact it gave me a patch tick on Saturday when I saw a Little Grebe on the Thames, when, feeling slightly under the weather with sinusitis, I may not have gone out that morning. Considering only a few years ago a gull was either 'une mouette' or 'un goéland', and the need to avoid tripping on false friends such as a French Laughing Gull (Mouette Rieuse) is not an English Laughing Gull (I think people might look at me funny if I said I've seen 200 Laughing Gulls on the Thames...), I am on a steep learning curve. One of the things I have learned so far is that they're very variable even within a species, which sure doesn't help.

I went to check on the river on Wednesday afternoon on my way back from running errands, tide was very high and I don't think I saw any big gulls that day, just lots of Black-headed. I went to check again on Friday morning and the situation was fairly different as the tide was going down and had already uncovered part of the foreshore.

Just south of Crabtree Wharf, up to about 30 Cormorants were fishing in a line, until one of those rowing coach motor boats passed a bit too close too quickly. But in the meantime they looked quite comical in a lots of mini-Nessies kind of way:

Light wasn't too good, so the following photos are not the best.

At first comparing the bird on the left to the one on the right, it appeared to have a much paler head:

On closer inspection though, the bird appears paler overall and I don't think its beak could be called parallel...:

Still, from a distance, it does look rather different.

Then there is this other one at the bottom of the photo. Its most striking feature is its very black-looking eye, like it's got make-up (very goth looking), which makes me wonder about Yellow-Legged Gull.

Quite pretty at a distance in a Common Gull kind of way

In the end, probably just a question of variations.

For example: 3 Herring Gulls, 3 different levels of streaking:

Finally, on a lighter note:
Take one pair of Herring Gulls:

Take a fairly standard looking Lesser Black-Backed Gull:

Add one of the Herring Gulls from the above pair::

"Can we make some sweet music?"

"Hey you! I've seen you!"

Not something I remember witnessing on my patch before. By and large these 2 species tend to keep to themselves. But what chance do I have if even they can't make out who's who...?