Saturday, 5 October 2013

It seems, oddly, that more small young fish have appeared in the wire baskets of twigs submerged in the Serpentine near the bridge. The pair of Great Crested Grebes who nested on the fallen poplar tree on the Long Water have restarted fishing here, cruising slowly over the top of the net and suddenly spiking in to catch something too small to see clearly.

Some of the Pochards were diving offshore from Peter Pan. They are looking particularly splendid in their new feathers.

As far as I can see from watching them this year, Pochard drakes don't go into eclipse in the same way that other male ducks do. They look tatty but remain much the same colour.

There was just one Common Gull sitting on a plastic buoy at the Lido, only the second I have seen this year of these winter arrivals.

It is an adult in winter plumage, with a speckled head and the distinctive ring round its bill which has inexperienced gull watchers like me nervously checking the book in case it might be a rare Ring-Billed Gull, a vagrant from North America -- which this one is absolutely not.

After yesterday's lacklustre photographs you deserve something better, so here are some splendid ones taken by Andy Sunters.

Here is the male Little Owl, pictured yesterday on his usual chestnut tree.

Owls have opposable fourth toes; that is, the toe which on the right foot in this picture is pointing at the camera. They can walk (and in the case of Little Owls hunting insects on the ground, run swiftly) with three toes forward and one back, and they can perch on a branch or seize their prey with two toes forward and two back, for a better grip.

I saw the female Little Owl in this tree today, though she only gave me ten nervous seconds before she retreated to the far side and I didn't get a good picture.

And here is one of the terrapins which have somehow arrived in the Round Pond: a Red-Eared Slider. The stripes on its eyes are surprising.

Andy also made these very interesting remarks about whether the Wood Pigeon whose scattered feathers I saw on Buck Hill yesterday had been taken by a Sparrowhawk of a Peregrine. I'm sure he won't mind me reproducing them.

'I did see a Sparrowhawk by the leaf yard yesterday. Regarding Sparrowhawks and pigeons, the weight of a fully grown Feral Pigeon is about 380g, whilst that of a Wood Pigeon is upto 550g. To be fair I have seen both male and female Sparrowhawks easily lift a Feral Pigeon, a young male Sparrowhawk did grab a Feral Pigeon that was picking up scraps from a feeder in my front garden, and with difficulty it did do a straight vertical lift!

'With Wood Pigeons they tend to eat them where they crash-land, and if they are not disturbed they will eat the viscera quickly on the spot and fly off. If they see you coming from a long distance then they will drag  the bird into a bush.  If you surprise them they will fly off, then they will leave at once and tend not to come back. This is particularly harsh on the Wood Pigeon because Feral Pigeons are usually killed by the impact and the Sparrrowhawk puncturing the thorax with its talons, but Wood Pigeons are usually not killed in this way as they are bigger and fluffier, so they are usually still alive when they are being eaten, especially by the female. Where my wife works there are several pairs of Sparrowhawks and she and many of her colleagues have often surprised females in mid-feed, and they fly off leaving a dying Wood Pigeon which is then dispatched by members of staff who are not squeamish. Males will take Wood Pigeon, but they actually try and kill them as they are more of a handful for the male, who could get hurt in the process.Consequently males tend to try and pull the head off, but quite often if circumstances allow they often drag the struggling bird to a garden pond or lake and drown it, then skulk off into the bushes to eat it.'

He added, commenting on the Hobbies still being present:

'With regards to the Hobbies, some friends of mine have noticed that they can often hang around after dragonflies and hirundines have gone when the weather is warm, and are very adept at taking Goldfinch, tits and Robins especially in the Midlands and the North!'

I saw a dragonfly -- just one -- on the Long Water today.


  1. Very informative but rather stomach-turning remarks from Andy on habits of predators.
    I still did not manage to see either of the Little Owls today, but did enjoy watching the Grebe parents running the gauntlets (?) of the Black Headed Gulls as they produced plentiful and quite large fish from the underwater baskets. Chicks not being either very cooperative (by staying near to their parents) or quick off the mark, in grabbing their meal, so the gulls won every now and again, in spite of amazing ducking and turning movements of parents. However I was a bit concerned to be watching a solitary Mum and three noisy chicks near the boat hire area. She was not making any effort to fish. Perhaps waiting for Father to return.

  2. First comment from me

    1. Sorry to have missed you in the park. But there is no getting away from the fact that it is a place full of creatures eating each other.