Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Swifts have left the lake and are on their way south, but the House Martins remain, and were hunting insects low over the surface of the lake.

The seven young Mute Swans from the Long Water are now over three months old and have grown almost to full size. But they still can't fly. Here, in the family's new territory on the Serpentine, one of them flexes its developing wings in preparation for the magic moment.

It is just as well that they can't fly earlier. These huge birds are exceptionally unmanoeuvrable in the air, and keeping them grounded lessens the risk of them crashing into things. Their early efforts will ne in a straight line down the middle of the lake, so that if they lose control -- as they often do -- they splash down harmlessly.

This swan took a strong line with a dog whose stupid owner threw a ball into the lake for it to retrieve.

The youngest Moorhen in the Italian Garden hadn't been seen for several days and we feared it might have been lost. But no, here it is taking its ease in a clump of plants with its older siblings.

This splendid picture of a young Great Crested Grebe stretching its huge feet was taken by Virginia Grey.

Adults have even bigger feet, and this picture of one scratching his ear gives a close view of a grebe's unique toes, each one separately fringed to allow them to act like turbine blades when the bird is swimming. This adaptation gives them their very high swimming speed.

There seem to be some grebe chicks in an invisible nest on the west side of the Long Water between Peter Pan and the Vista. I saw a parent carrying a fish in that direction.

On a windy day, the male Little Owl was sheltering under the thick canopy of the chestnut tree next to his nest tree. It took some time to find him in the shadows.


  1. Thanks for the insight into the Grebe's swimming mechanism (and the many other nuggets you supply). Fascinating and much appreciated. You're probably aware of this but just in case .... late this afternoon I spotted a group of seven thrushes foraging beside the approach to the Albert Memorial - not far from your thrush observations near the Gallery. I am assuming two adults and five young.
    On the Grebe's, I haven't noticed any activity around the baskets near the bridge. Are there no fish there this year?

    1. I've seen a Song Thrush family in the Flower Walk recently. There has been a territory here for a few years, but this year they seem to have done better than usual. The pair near the Serpentine Gallery are Mistle Thrushes.

      Today I saw a grebe fishing around the usual basket, the first time I've seen one there for a couple of months. It all depends on what the fish are doing among those twigs, I suppose.

  2. Hi Ralph,
    thanks for describing the way to the owls chestnut trees a few weeks ago. I was surprised how fast you replied. Thank you. The description was awesome. I found the trees very quickly. Although after visiting the trees three times now I wasn't able to find the little owl. But I will keep triing until I find it.
    Thanks again for this great homepage.

    Best regards,