Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The wire baskets near the bridge, which have provided so many fish for the diving birds this year, were the scene of a long and furious dispute. The Great Crested Grebes who nested on the fallen poplar in the Long Water believe that they own the basket at the south end of the bridge, although it is on the other side of the bridge from their nest. The next pair of grebes to the east, on the Serpentine, also think it's theirs. All autumn there have been raids on the basket from both sides and sudden underwater chases. But hostilities have been kept quite subdued by the Cormorants, who monoplise the baskets for long periods and restrict the grebes to brief submerged forays.

Today there was only one Cormorant on the scene, and it was fishing in the other basket. So both lots of grebes cruised in on the surface, and there were threat displays and yelling and displays of militant affection between each pair, and finally things got out of hand and it was war, while the teenage chicks watched.

As usual in these skirmishes, no one was hurt and both pairs retreated to a safe distance from each other and congratulated themselves on their prowess.

Meanwhile, the Cormorant was snorkelling over the other basket looking for fish.

When one is spotted, there is a sudden violent plunge and a lot of splashing and the Cormorant emerges in the act of swallowing the fish, so that the attendant gulls don't get a chance to grab it.

In the middle of the bridge, the pair of Mute Swans who have taken over the whole of the Long Water had noticed, probably from an aerial reconnaisance, that almost all the swans on the Serpentine were crowded at the far end, demanding food from visitors to the funfair. So they sallied forth to take more territory, with wings raised in threat and their teenager in the rearguard.

It is quite possible that they will take over part of the Serpentine, maybe all of it. For many years both lakes were dominated by just one pair of swans, and any others bold enough to venture down from the Round Pond got royally beaten up. The Long Water swans are large and fierce, and have shown brutal energy in defending their own patch.

The Tawny Owls were on their usual branch, still well sheltered by golden beech leaves.

They are in an ideal spot for cover: beech leaves stay on the tree in winter, and the horse chestnut that holds their nest is the first species of large tree to come into leaf in spring.

The Starlings on Buck Hill descended on one of the rowan trees.

It is a very organised operation: arrive in a dense flock, grab one berry and leave immediately to eat it in another tree.

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