Tuesday, 31 March 2015

In the floating reed beds at the east end of the Serpentine, a Carrion Crow was amusing itself by annoying an Egyptian Goose. It kept flying low over the Egyptian's head.

Finally the Egyptian could take no more and flew away, with the crow in close pursuit.

On a very windy day, the Scaup was sheltering in the lee of the reeds.

The Goldeneye was out in the wind, bucketing up and down on the waves. She was diving industriously, only appearing above the surface for a couple of seconds.

This is the pair of Mute Swans that are nesting in the reed bed near the Diana fountain.

It is an unsafe place, open to any fox that happens to notice them. A nest here succeeded in 2012 and failed in 2013 and 2014.

There was a good deal of activity at Peter Pan, with one female Mandarin and three males vying for her attention. She was behaving decorously, staying close by her mate and chasing off the other two when they got too near. She also chased off a Mallard drake.

Two female Ring-Necked Parakeets were sociably preening each other in the hazel thicket next to the leaf yard.

There was a brief glimpse of the female Little Owl in the chestnut tree next to her nest tree.

Monday, 30 March 2015

The young male Mute Swan who was behaving so wildly at the east end of the Serpentine on Saturday has found a mate his own age, and the two were displaying elegantly. It seems that female swans find riotous conduct attractive.

However, the two have a very small chance of finding a nest site. For all his swagger, the young male is very low in status and there are very few nest sites to be found on the lake. Another pair of swans has been looking at a site in the reed bed near the Diana memorial, but they have not definitely claimed it yet and both were away from it when I went by. Meanwhile, the pair on the Long Water, who are definitely at the top of the swan pecking order, are comfortable on their new island apart from a slightly annoying visit from a pair of Coots also looking for a nest site.

The six young Egyptian Geese at the Round Pond are in good order but were feeling cold, and crept one by one under their mother's wings.

Two pairs of Mandarins have moved from the Long Water to the Serpentine. One is on the island, evidently intending to nest in a tree there. The other pair has been hanging around near the Dell restaurant, touting for food from visitors.

Both places have possibilities as nest sites, since wire baskets of water plants provide shelter for the young, but there are a lot of hungry Herring Gulls on the lake.

One of these was playing the drop and catch game a short way up the lake. So far I haven't seen one fly higher and try to catch its toy in midair, a trick that Herring Gulls can pull off but it requires practice.

I couldn't find the Scaup or the Goldeneye today, despite going round the Serpentine looking for them with binoculars.

A Grey Heron was perched on the top of a tall tree beside the Long Water, with its straggly feathers blowing in the wind.

Forty feet lower, a Blue Tit was staring at the camera, waiting impatiently to be fed.

There is a freshly made Green Woodpecker hole in a dead tree near the Tawny Owls' nest tree. This is the topless, branchless trunk that had oyster mushrooms growing all over it, though someone has now knocked them all off.

The tree is completely hollow and very rotten, with many insect holes showing where the bark has come off. It looks as if the lower hole made by the Woodpecker was unsatisfactory because the wood was too thin here, and that the bird has made a new hole higher up. Green Woodpeckers have often been seen in this area.

The Tawny Owls have still not been found again. Paul Turner spent three hours this morning looking for them, and heard the male owl calling a couple of hundred yards west of the nest tree. Perhaps they have put their owlets inside one of the many hollow trees in this area.

Both Little Owls were visible. The male looked out of the nest hole briefly, and later the female appeared in the adjacent chestnut tree peering round the corner of the hole.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

It was a wet and windy day. A Carrion Crow was having difficulty holding on to the edge of a reed raft.

Blondie's mate lost his footing when a wave broke on shore and crashed into her.

The Goldeneye was perfectly happy tossing up and down in the rough water. She was at the east end of the lake as usual.

The Scaup had moved back to the reed bed near the Diana fountain, along with most of the Tufted Ducks. It was a more sheltered place than their usual station on the opposite shore.

On the lee side of a reed raft, the Moorhens nesting there enjoyed taunting a Coot from the safety of the wire cage.

On the posts near Peter Pan a pair of Lesser Black-Backed Gulls were having a disagreement with a Herring Gull, for no reason that I could understand. There was a good deal of screaming in the soprano voice of the Herring Gull and the contralto of the Lesser Black-Backs.

Finally they got so angry that one of the Lesser Black-Backs jumped up and knocked the Herring Gull off its post.

The female Little Owl was in the tree just up the hill from her nest tree. The first time I went past she retreated inside as soon as she saw me. But when I came back later she had emerged and resigned herself to being photographed yet again.

No one has yet found where the Tawny Owls are spending the day.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Today was the annual visit of the London Natural History Society to the park, and I went round with them. It was a grey day and the birds were being awkward. The female Little Owl, of whom I had got a brief and distant glimpse earlier ...

... stayed in her hole. The Goldeneye had also disappeared, and only came into sight later, when I had said goodbye to the party. As usual she was at the east end of the Serpentine.

The Scaup remained invisible. Perhaps he was on the island, where I saw him yesterday.

However, we did see a Red Kite passing high over the Long Water, still a rare sight in Central London though their numbers are increasing.

At the east end of the Serpentine, a young Mute Swan was chasing and attacking an older one. The attacker seems to be male and the victim female, so it may be amorous horseplay.

I think this is one of the young swans from last year's nest on the Long Water. Their father has brought them up to be very aggressive even by the rough standards of swans.

The male pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull was taking time off from his hunting to play with what looked like a small bottle, flying up with it, dropping it, and diving to catch it.

This is just play, but it also hones his pigeon-catching skill.

The larger of the two recently active Grey Heron nests on the island was occupied again, after an interval of several weeks.

It is impossible to tell whether these birds are serious about nesting or not, but they have abandoned their attempts in the two previous years.

The Moorhens at the southwest corner of the bridge do really intend to nest in a large drain on the edge of the water, and were chasing each other to gain possession of it.

They have used this drain every year for as long as I can remember. It seems that it has got disconnected from the drainage system, as their nest has never been washed out even after heavy rain.

On the other side of the Long Water, a Blue Tit was flying in and out of a nestbox.

The metal surround of the 1 inch hole stops another bird from enlarging it and taking the box from the Blue Tit, which is just small enough to squeeze through.

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Moorhen occupying the old Coot nest in the small boathouse is now definitely nesting. Here she is with her mate.

Melissa the Carrion Crow also seems to be planning a nest, as she turned up in the Italian Garden holding a bunch of dog hair in her feet.

This is bad news for their son Kevin, who has been with his parents since he was hatched last year and is now about to be thrown out so that Charlie and Melissa can get on with their new brood. (Actually Kevin may be female. We have no way of knowing.)

The Mute Swans' nest island on the Long Water had a pair of Cormorants on it. This didn't seem to bother the swans; the two species have completely different interests.

The Scaup took a short walk on the island. Being a diving duck with his feet set far back, he is not an elegant walker, making even a Mallard look graceful in comparison. Although he now looks completely adult when swimming, he still has a few juvenile brown feathers on his underside.

Near the Lido, a Great Crested Grebe had been preening and was having a flap to settle its feathers. Grebes have narrow wings for their size, and hence a very high stalling speed, which explains the desperate effort they have to make to get into the air.

At the leaf yard, a male Ring-Necked Parakeet who had been given a peanut was the subject of envious attention from two females.

Nearby, this Treecreeper was running along the underside of a branch of an oak tree next to the chestnut tree where the Little Owls nested when they first came to the park. The chestnut tree has had a Treecreeper nest in it before, and may again.

In the next chestnut tree up the hill, the male Little Owl looked out of his hole for a brief two seconds and went back inside.

The male Tawny Owl has been heard several times this week, and glimpsed at dusk, a couple of hundred yards to the west of his nest tree -- that is, towards the Round Pond. The parents may well have taken their owlets west rather than south. But a daytime search of the area hasn't turned them up so far.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

This Long-Tailed Tit was on the north side of the Serpentine near the Triangle car park. While I was photographing it Paul Turner, who was with me, said that it was running its beak along the twigs. When I got home and looked at the pictures, it was clear that it was scraping cobwebs off them to use in its nest.

When it had gathered a good bunch it flew away.

A Carrion Crow was also gathering nesting material in the Diana memorial enclosure.

It seems to be dog hair, which is slightly odd as no dogs are allowed in the enclosure. It must have blown there. Many people comb woolly dogs in the park, unwittingly providing many kinds of bird with a comfortable nest lining.

A pair of Magpies were getting friendly.

They were just over the road from the allotment. On the near side of this road there are several old Magpie nests in the trees, large messy assemblies of twigs, and probably they will reuse one of them.

Here is a closer view of the white-speckled Blackbird I saw in the Flower Walk on the 22nd.  As usual with these birds, the pattern of white patches is more or less symmetrical side to side.

With the central path of the Flower Walk shut for alterations, the birds are now coming out on the north side when people pass to see if they will be fed. I gave this bird a modelling fee of a bit of digestive biscuit.

A Pied Wagtail was searching for insects between the thick green slates of one of the small boathouses.

The Scaup was at the Serpentine island.

Having missed seeing a Little Owl as I passed their chestnut tree the first time, I came back later just as the sun was coming out. The female owl came out to enjoy the warmth and, to my surprise, did not rush back into the hole. She took no notice of me at all, and soon closed her eyes and dozed off.

No one has seen anything of the Tawny Owls recently, but the male was heard hooting near the Physical Energy statue.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The young Egyptian Geese on the Round Pond were having a hard time getting out. The new kerb has been unevenly laid (laser levelling can't manage something that the ancient Egyptians did accurately with a leather hose full of water) and in this place it was five inches above the water. The stronger ones managed to jump clean out, and the others got up with a bit of a scramble.

But the smallest one was left behind. Luckily it had the good sense to swim to one of the overflow grilles, where it could walk out, and soon rejoined the family.

The Scaup was in his usual place on the north side the Serpentine, but I've published too many pictures of him recently. The Goldeneye was also visible, right at the east end of the Serpentine.

She is not as obliging as the Scaup, and obstinately remained 50 yards from the shore.

Just up the lake, a young Herring Gull was checking a plastic bag to see if it contained anything edible.

The flock of Pied Wagtails was still running around on the south shore. Although they mostly hunt on the ground, they can find insects in trees too.

But here they can't equal the specialists, such as this Treecreeper near the Physical Energy statue ...

... or this Blue Tit. I gave it a pine nut, which it held down on the branch with its strong little feet while it pecked at it.

Melissa the Carrion Crow was having a jacuzzi in the marble fountain in the Italian Garden (you would never know it is marble, as it is thickly encrusted with algae).

When she was completely saturated, she flapped wetly up to a branch and shook herself like a dog.

The Mute Swans on the island in the Long Water were busily throwing around the reeds that had been laid for them. Although at one point both of them stood up, I couldn't see their eggs to count them. There should now be more than the two seen yesterday morning.

The male Little Owl didn't feel like a public appearance today, but occasionally he put his head above the edge of his hole and gave the assembled photographers an intense yellow stare.