Monday, 5 December 2016

Another frosty night had brought ice to the Long Water, and some Black-Headed Gulls were standing around nonchalantly on it.

The Serpentine, though more exposed, is less prone to freezing because the wind makes waves on it. Some Cormorants were busy fishing near the bridge, but not catching much because they have eaten most of the fish.

It was a three-owl day, a rare thing in midwinter. The female Little Owl in the chestnut tree by the leaf yard was out on a branch, idly stretching a wing.

The male owl near the Albert Memorial was looking out of the hole in the oak tree.

And the male in the lime tree on Buck Hill was in his usual place just outside the pair's new hole.

The fruit is now almost completely gone from the rowan trees on Buck Hill, though a Goldfinch had found a solitary berry.

Mistle Thrushes were picking up fallen fruit from the ground.

A Redwing was looking down from a nearby tree. It may have been frightened by the Mistle Thrushes, but I think it was waiting for me to go away before it came down and started foraging.

This Song Thrush was to the west of the Parade Ground.

There used to be a colony of Song Thrushes on the Parade Ground before it was turned into a more or less permanent building site. Some of them retreated to the south end of the central reservation of Park Lane, which is noisy and polluted but inaccessible to humans.

A Robin was looking remarkably inconspicuous among fallen leaves.

Many bright coloured birds are well camouflaged. The important thing is the colour scheme should be disruptive, hiding the shape of the bird.

One of the 'Polish' Mute Swans was stepping carefully down the slippery edge of the Serpentine. You can see its pale legs and pinkish bill.

Most swans with this colour mutation are female, because it is sex-linked. In birds it is females that usually have sex-linked characteristics, because their sex chromosomes are the reverse of those of mammals. Male birds have two Z chromosomes and females have a Z and a W. Thus in females, any defective gene in the Z chromosome is expressed, while in males the other Z usually covers the deficiency and the bird is normal.

A female Egyptian Goose was standing on an urn in the Italian Garden making a tremendous racket and flapping. It can't be thinking that this is a possible nest site. They just like standing on things and displaying.

A pair of Gadwalls in the neighbouring pond were quietly getting on with things. You hardly ever hear them quacking, unlike noisy Mallards.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

There was fierce competition for the remaining fruit on the rowan tree on Buck Hill, and the scene was dominated by Mistle Thrushes, which are bigger than the other thrushes and more aggressive.

An occasional Rose-Ringed Parakeet came in, but mostly they were over at the leaf yard being fed by the Sunday visitors.

Parakeets have an advantage in dealing with the last few berries on a bunch, as they can use their dextrous feet to pull a stem up into easy reach.

The Blackbirds from the neighbouring hawthorns were doing well when they got a chance ...

... but a Redwing had to wait on another tree ...

... and so did a Song Thrush ...

... which eventually gave up and went to look for fallen berries on the ground.

The Chaffinches had abandoned the tree altogether, and the male was rooting around for insects in a patch of fallen leaves, almost invisible among them.

Another Blackbird had moved to a holly tree laden with ripe berries ...

... which a Wood Pigeon was shovelling down several at a time.

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits passed by at the bottom of the hill.

At the south end of the hill, the male Little Owl in the lime tree was impossible to photograph without a branch in the way.

But the pair have chosen their new hole well, because the tangle in front of it helps to keep them from harassment by Magpies.

The male Little Owl near the Albert Memorial was looking out of the hole in the oak tree. You can see how much smaller he is than his mate by comparing yesterday's picture of her in the same hole.

The young Grey Heron at the Dell restaurant was on the reed raft, keeping an eye on the diners on the terrace in case any food became available. He had a good stretch.

A solitary female Gadwall was dabbling about on the edge of the Serpentine.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Little Owls near the Henry Moore sculpture seem to have moved house. They are still in the group of four tall lime trees, but now in the left front one as you look up the hill from the path.

You can't get a closer view than this because of the angle, and also because these owls are shy and don't like being stared at.

The female of the pair near the Albert Memorial was looking out of the usual hole in the oak tree. The almost white background is caused by the sun shining into another hole in the top of the branch.

There was a Redwing in the rowan tree on Buck Hill ...

... as well as a Song Thrush ...

... and plenty of Mistle Thrushes making the most of the remaining fruit.

A Coal Tit stared at the camera from a twig in the leaf yard.

There were a few people on the terrace of the Dell restaurant, but the resident Grey Heron had given up trying to get food from them and was staring intently at the edge of one of the reed rafts, waiting for a careless fish to come out from shelter.

A Carrion Crow had done better and won a piece of bread, and was dunking it at the top of the Dell waterfall.

The white Mallard and his male friend cruised up to see if anyone was going to feed them.

His mate was taking a break from their company.

A Shoveller was lit by the low sun on the Round Pond. This picture was taken at 3 pm, which is almost evening at this time of year.

The pair of Gadwalls were back in the Italian Garden pond.

A Cormorant at the island is already back in breeding plumage, with a white patch on its side and bristly white feathers on its head. These odd-looking ornaments seem to be irresistible to Cormorants of the opposite sex.

Many of the big gulls have fixed stations around the lake, and regard them as their territory and will chase off invaders. This Herring Gull owns the handrail halfway along the Lido swimming area. It's a slippery perch, and the bird often loses its footing and has to flap to keep its balance.

Friday, 2 December 2016

There are still quite a few Cormorants on the lake, though the number is falling as fish become scarcer. They were fishing near the bridge. This one made a tremendous leap out of the water on to a post, falling off once and trying again successfully.

Some Mute Swans came hastily under the bridge from the Long Water, as the dominant male cruised up behind with wings raised in threat.

A small group of Red-Crested Pochards were dozing next to the island.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes were alternately fishing and saluting each other on the Serpentine.

One of them caught a fish.

A Moorhen climbed to the top of a reed raft at the east end of the lake.

Whatever these shaggy plants are, they are quite stiff. A Grey Heron, which weighs about 3 lb, can stand on them too.

The usual Lesser Black-Backed Gull was enjoying a early lunch of a late pigeon.

A Black-Headed Gull was struggling with a less appetising meal, a piece of sliced bread that was so stale that it was completely rigid.

A Wood Pigeon was bathing in the little pool at the top of the Dell waterfall.

A Song Thrush visited the rowan tree on Buck Hill ...

... joining the more usual Mistle Thrushes ...

... and a solitary Ring-Necked Parakeet.

The female Little Owl at the Albert Memorial had come out on to a branch of the oak tree.