The sight of birds of prey soaring across the skies really is one of the most exhilarating things to experience when watching wildlife.

The peregrine falcon at full speed (up to 200mph) diving in pursuit of prey. Or the red kite simply drifting across the breeze looking for carrion on the ground. 

The local area is good for raptors (birds of prey). If lucky, a peregrine maybe seen above Wanstead Flats, the park or golf course. 

A smaller bird, the kestrel is another local regular. It's distinctive brown back and curved beak, though, the giveaway usually is to see the kestrel hovering above potential prey in the grassland below.

Buzzards are also a regular around these parts. On one memorable walk on Wanstead Flats a few years ago, there was a buzzard and a red kite soaring above it in the August sun.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Paul Donovan enjoys looking to the skies for raptorsPaul Donovan enjoys looking to the skies for raptors

A personal favourite is the marsh harrier, about the size of a red kite, the multi-coloured bird soars across the air streams, ready to take rabbits or other prey below.

Marsh harriers are rarely seen around here but regularly appear on the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes. Further afield, they are plentiful around Rye in Sussex. These big birds of prey show their agility doing an aerial mating dance.

Love of raptors was brought home in a recent program by wildlife cameraman and Strictly Come Dancing winner Hamza Yunis. The program, called Hamza: Strictly Birds of Prey saw the photographer tracking his favourite birds around the country. The peregrine hunting along the seashore but also in an urban environment.

Hamza's favourite raptor seemed to be the eagles. He filmed some fantastic shots of golden and white tailed eagles.
Hamza's excitements and exhilaration at seeing these birds was palpable.

Owls also featured, with some intimate filming of a tawny owl in a garden.

There are a number of owls around this area, with the tawny owls, seen in Wanstead Park and Bush Wood. Little owls regularly appear on the Flats. Also, a few migrating short eared owls sometimes come across the area. These nocturnal operators though are often difficult to seek out. Exciting, though, if you are lucky enough to see one.

So, when your out and about, always look up in the sky to see what might be drifting above. If your lucky it may be one of the many raptors, seeking to track down prey or just drifting on the thermals.

  • Paul Donovan is Labour councillor for Wanstead Village ward, Redbridge Council and a blogger (