Sunday, 12 May 2013
There are at least six Starling nests under the eaves of the bandstand at the bottom of Buck Hill, where the path along the Long Water skirts the shrubbery.
There used to be more, but the open eaves were blocked up with boards in an effort to banish the birds. However, they have found their way in, as clever and persistent birds will. There are jagged holes at the corners of the boards, and it looks as if they have been pecked open. When you are near the bandstand you can hear several lots of nestlings squeaking for food.
The Great Crested Grebes under the willow tree near the bridge have definitely returned to their nest site, and one of them was sitting on it when I arrived. It will take them a few days to lay more eggs and start the long process over again. Virginia tells me that it wasn't the Coots that destroyed their nest. It was thrown around by the waves created by a strong east wind coming under the bridge. She saw the sitting grebe desperately clinging on, but it was no use: the eggs rolled off and were lost. Luckily strong east winds are uncommon in London, where foul weather comes from the west, and the nest is well sheltered in this direction by the trees around the Long water which keep the surface reasonably calm.
Some of the young perch in the baskets of twigs on the other side of the bridge are now quite large.
We hope there are still some smaller fish suitable for feeding to chicks. All the fish are late spawning this year because of the long cold spell in what ought to have been spring. However, there is a great mass of large carp in the Long Water near the Italian Garden, and evidently something is happening at last.
For those grebes who have been chased away from the baskets by the territory holders, there is the consolation prize of a crayfish -- rather hard to swallow, but nutritious.
These creatures like to shelter in the gap under the concrete edge of the Serpentine. The grebes regularly patrol the edge, poking their beaks into any hollows where a crayfish might be lurking.
As in recent days, there was a big crowd of Swifts swooping and screaming over the lake. The resident House Martins were mostly in a group by themselves at the east end of the Serpentine, near the embassies where they nest. They are not as fast as Swifts, and probably lose a lot of insects by competing with them in the same airspace.