A very encouraging forecast for sunny skies, cumulus cloud and light southerlies - almost ideal for large raptors and soaring birds - inspired high hopes for today; unfortunately it never came to pass, with almost total cloud, a ring of hazy mist around the horizon and brisk winds dominating today's session.
Goodbye Cruella World - a Dalmatian heading north at c1000 ft
So, despite our best efforts, no large raptors to report today (despite conditions improving as our time allowance expired.....); but another show-stopping performance from our local Peregrines, and a migrant fly-by of legendarily epic proportions. On the stroke of midday, what turned out to be the bird of the day was picked up high to the south-east; as it came closer - using the Thames as a flight-path and dropping a little in height - we realised we had an Arctic Tern in our sights.
A fine harbinger, but for much of the day we were all quietly shaking our fists heavenwards, waiting for the wind to drop and for the sun the break through for more than a couple of minutes at a time. Still, the Peregrines were truly breathtaking, with one particularly inquisitive bird circling us many times, making direct eye-contact and generally relishing its overwhelming superiority over a helpless band of ageing bipeds.
Peregrines showing off throughout the day
We were also visited by both Kestrel and Sparrowhawk at eye-level close range, and it's a priviledge indeed to get so close, so high up to our native birds of prey. A limited movement of trans-Saharan migrants was also noted, with totals of 15 Swifts and nine Swallows also recorded today.
Sparrowhawk and Kestrel
So a relatively muted fourth day on the Tower, but the tern was an exceptional addition, and we're only halfway through our spring season.....
P.S. thanks to a delayed train I was lucky enough to watch our breeding pair of Grey Wagtails here at Stoke Newington Rail station this morning, at one point copulating on the track - live fast, die young indeed....
(all photos - Tower 42 28th April 2010 c Mark Pearson)