Archive for September, 2014

2014 Breeding Season

Thursday, September 25th, 2014
Peregrine chicks at the nest scrape
A brood of five Peregrine Falcon chicks © Tony Duckett

Inner London

At the start of the year the signs were good that the Tate pair, aka Misty and Houdini, would lay eggs for another season, their eleventh consecutive breeding season since 2004.

We are now able to confirm that although a pair reared two young, it was not Misty and Houdini. Given the probable ages of the resident pair (the falcon must have been around fourteen years old), this was bound to happen sooner or later, especially with such a healthy population. Like Misty and Houdini, the new pair has has shown a keen interest in the Tate Modern.

A little further north west, one of London’s other resident inner city pairs were observed copulating on a residential tower where Peregrines have been observed in recent years. Unfortunately despite promising initial signs, both adults were observed together when other pairs were still on eggs – a sure sign that incubation had ended prematurely, most likely due to lack of substrate (nesting material) or disturbance.

Elsewhere, the Parliament pair raised three young after last year’s failed attempt. The building they use is likely to be demolished before next season. Hopefully the pair will find another site in or around Westminster.

The post-fledging period was quite eventful. One of the Tate pair’s young was found dead after colliding with a tall building, an unfortunate but not uncommon cause of mortality in urban Peregrines. Two juvenile Peregrines from different sites were brought to a wildlife sanctuary in Sutton. We were able to return one of these back to its natal site. Another juvenile Peregrine was brought in after being picked up in central London. This bird showed signs of being held in captivity and received a medical assessment by a specialist vet at the Royal Veterinary College. After a few days recuperation in an aviary it was transferred to the Hawk Conservancy Trust in Andover, to be hacked back into the wild by experienced falconers.

Greater London

In an earlier update we mentioned a site which had been flooded during the off-season. We’re pleased to report that this pair made use of a tray which had previously been installed for them on an adjacent building. This pair reared five young, the first brood of five for London since Sutton in 2012.

After last year’s mysterious absence, followers of Sutton’s resident Peregrine pair were over the moon when the falcon (possibly a new bird) was observed laying eggs at their old site. Four young were reared and fledged at Quadrant House.

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon clinging to a wall
One of the juvs from Sutton having a difficult time of it © Phil Wallace

While the population in Inner London has remained relatively stable, other areas in Greater London have seen an increase in Peregrine activity. New pairs were confirmed at two sites which failed. One of these was found to have failed due to a lack of substrate. A tray has been installed and there are good odds of a successful attempt next season.

The Future

There is an abundance of food for opportunistic Peregrines in London. Accidental disturbance and lack of substrate are two big factors limiting breeding success. We are happy to advise individuals or groups who wish to assist their local Peregrine pair(s). The success of the Sutton pair is a good example of how such a partnership can benefit wildlife and the local community.

Controversial Conservation

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Last week we attended the second Controversial Conservation debate hosted by the World Land Trust, on the topic of Killing Other People’s Birds. We heard presentations on various topics from the anthropology of hunters to the slaughter of birds in Malta, but the subject which generated the most passion was the issue of grouse moors and the status of the Hen Harrier in England – an issue still fresh in everyone’s minds following the first Hen Harrier Day in August.

Controversial Conservation debate at the Royal Society, London
Panelists preparing for the debate at the Royal Society. Photo: LPP.

Two of the key figures behind the Hen Harrier Day event at Derwent Dam, Chris Packham and Mark Avery, were among the panel of speakers, and they obviously had a few supporters (ourselves among them) in the audience. Also present were representatives of the shooting fraternity, including writers from the Shooting Times. The Hen Harrier advocates drew accusations of ‘red mist’ and class bias early on in the proceedings, although as the evening progressed it became clear that emotions were running high in both camps.

Controversial Conservation debate at the Royal Society, London
Chris Packham addresses the audience. Photo: LPP.

It was suggested by Andrew Gilruth of the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust that we all want the same thing, i.e. more Hen Harriers. If this is indeed the case we need to see more pressure put on grouse moor owners to develop a greater tolerance of raptors. Both Chris and Mark claimed to be willing to entertain ‘creative’ solutions like the proposed brood management plan, but not without first seeing evidence that the illegal persecution of raptors is being taken seriously, which would be reflected by an increase of Hen Harrier numbers to a more sustainable level.

We will shortly be posting a summary of the 2014 breeding season for the Peregrine sites we monitor in London. As impressive as Peregrine Falcon numbers are in the capital, there are still large areas of grouse moors in England where the breeding success of Peregrines is artificially low because of persecution (watch a short video of Terry Pickford from the North West Raptor Group speaking about the status of Peregrines on grouse moors in 2014). In our view this situation is totally unacceptable, a view we’d hope few would find controversial.

The World Land Trust have made available audio recordings from the debate here.

If you haven’t already done so you may sign Mark Avery’s petition to ban driven grouse shooting.

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