Friday, 4 May 2012
Only two Greylag goslings left today, and only three Red Crested Pochard ducklings. The toll of young water birds has been growing as the Lesser Black-Backed and Herring Gulls become more numerous and better informed about where to find their prey. It is nine years since I saw a Tufted duckling on the lake.
Now they don't even bother to try to breed here. Their numbers are holding up, so evidently they have found somewhere safer. The Mandarins have been doing well on the Regent's Canal in past years, but have not got a single duckling through in the park.
The hard core of the culprits is this little group of Lesser Black-Backed Gulls that congregates on the Long Water near the bridge, calling noisily. Here they are, glimpsed today through the reeds.
Both the Long Water and the Serpentine were thronged with Swifts, at least 80 of them, with perhaps half a dozen Swallows mixed in. I didn't see any House Martins either here or at the French embassy. If you want the full Swift experience, walk along the north shore of the Serpentine and you will see these amazing birds whizzing past within inches of you.
One of the younger brood of three Egyptian Geese on the Serpentine has angel wing. The older three, who are now half-grown, are free of it. So, counting the brood at the Round Pond, three of nine young ones are suffering from this sad deformity. It is not certain whether it is caused by bad diet -- for example, being given bread by visitors -- or whether it is hereditary and exacerbated by inbreeding. However, it is certainly a bad idea to give bread to birds, especially growing ones. It is empty calories when they need proper nutrition.
No sign of any owls today. While I was at the Tawny Owls' tree, the female Chaffinch appeared and took food from my hand, and was followed by her mate for the first time. So there are now three Chaffinches who are brave enough to trust the suspect offerings of dodgy humans.