Bucks & MK Urban Bird Notes – Edition 1    17 June 2019

Sue Hetherington and Bill Robson ©Sue Hetherington ringing the peregrine chick at Aylesbury in 2012.

Sue Hetherington and Bill Robson ©Sue Hetherington ringing the peregrine chick at Aylesbury in 2012.

I’m Sue Hetherington. I’ve been a member of Bucks Bird Club since 2009 when I decided that it was about time I joined given that I was then living next door to where the club was holding its indoor meetings at the time (we have both moved since then).  I remember my first field trip with Bucks Bird Club (to Wendover Woods) with shame – I didn’t even have a pair of binoculars, let alone a telescope!  Oh yes, I fitted into what Simon Barnes has termed “a bad birdwatcher”.  I’ve always been “into” all natural history but birds seem to have particularly invited themselves in to  my consciousness and have tried to take over.  I like all sorts of birds in all sorts of habitats but I have a particular interest in urban birds.  To see what I mean by the term “urban birds” take a look at David Lindo’s eponymous book.  And yes, David is my friend and hero.

It occurs to me that there may be others who share my interest in urban birds so I thought I’d write some monthly notes to share with like minded groups and organisations. This is edition 1!  I’m sharing this with Bucks Bird Club, Milton Keynes Natural History Society, North Bucks RSPB Local Group and BBOWT.

I love seeing birds in unexpected urban settings, I admire their enterprise in finding homes with us especially when we seem to be constantly shrinking their natural environment. It also makes it easy to birdwatch if it can be combined with a trip to town.  I’ve loved seeing waxwings in Aylesbury in those special winters they grace us with their presence.  I’ve also some seen some amazing starling murmerations there.  Come the summer, what could be better than to see (and hear) those most urban of birds, swifts.  My absolute favourites though are urban peregrines and particularly those from my home county.

I know many others share my Bucks and MK interest in our urban peregrines and would like to know the results from this year.  But first to summarise past years’ outcomes

– peregrines first bred on County Hall Tower Block in Aylesbury in 2011 using a provided nesting platform

Peregrine Platform at Stadium MK ©Sue Hetherington 28 April 219

Peregrine Platform at Stadium MK ©Sue Hetherington 28 April 219

– peregrines first bred in the MK Dons Stadium MK in 2015.  At first they used an old crows’ nest but a nesting platform was provided which they eventually used for the first time in 2018

There is no central news outlet for these peregrines so it was not until Mike Wallen, the County Bird Recorder, placed some notes on the Yahoo discussion board called bucksbirders that this years picture emerged.  This is the news that Mike gave on bucksbirders on 7/6/19

Bucks Peregrines- update

Aylesbury County Hall Tower Block.

Bad news complete breeding failure, no eggs, no chicks and it looks like the female has been lost, either before any eggs, or at some stage after. Whatever was there has been predated. There is a male present.  A webcam which has been available in past years was unfortunately unavailable this year.


Much better news.  The birds went straight to the platform this spring and laid 4 eggs, 3 of which hatched and have done extremely well.

The first one fledged on June 3rd, but something wasn’t quite right and it had to be rescued, fortunately a member of staff there has a partner who is a vet, it was found to be dehydrated. It spent a couple of days with the vet where she (it was sexed) recovered well. This fortunately coincided with Rod Stewart performing so we didn’t have any trouble with Peregrine chicks causing havoc in the crowd. [although several birders who attended the concert reported how much they had enjoyed seeing the peregrines as an added bonus – Sue]

Yesterday (6th) the other two chicks were still on the platform, but exercising vigorously, one nearly came off, but hung on, fledging imminent.

At lunchtime the rescued bird was released at a high point in the stadium and after sitting still for a few minutes it then took off extremely strongly and went straight out of the stadium ! It was expected to return as peregrine fledglings do.  There has never been a webcam on this platform.

I for one have missed being able to follow the fortunes of the Aylesbury project on webcams, as have many others I am sure.  If anyone feels similarly deprived, I recommend the Derby Peregrine Project which has the entry point to almost everything you could wish to know about urban peregrines here  http://derbyperegrines.blogspot.com/ Ordinarily, they too would have a webcam but this too has been jinxed this year (building developments have got in the way of line of sight wireless transmission from the camera on the cathedral to a wireless base station – work is in progress to find a fix)  The Derby website has a list of some of the other peregrine projects that exist around the county (there are lots)

That’s all the Bucks and MK Urban Peregrine news I have.

Turning to another iconic urban bird, swifts, they are back in our towns and villages but many people think they were very late and have arrived in lower numbers than normal. When they made their 6000 mile journey to us from their winter airspace in Africa, it is thought that they hit severe storms in Italy, France and Spain.  It is believed they were badly hit, with many dying through starvation or hypothermia.  We’ve just had a prolonged bad weather spell here which can’t have helped breeding swifts. We hope for the best for these fantastic little birds.  Hopefully we won’t get a problem with grounded swifts (eg fledglings jumping before they are ready) but if you do, there is advice here https://www.swift-conservation.org/SwiftFirstAid.htm

I would add Tiggywinkes Wildlife Hospital, Haddenham to the list of carers, it’s where I would take a swift casualty.  If anyone needs a swift “ambulance driver” I am happy to be contacted on 07972 833 408

I have no news yet on various swift projects around the county, but I can confirm that my swift box (in its second season) has no occupants.  This would seem to bear out the “low numbers” theory as my village normally has a good population of swifts and interest was shown in my box last year.

Good Urban Birding until next month