Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Some exciting news: three Sparrows have been seen at the far northwest corner of Kensington Gardens, next to the bus park. Paul Turner found them this morning, and this is his photograph.


For readers who don't see why this very common bird should be news, I should explain that Sparrows have been almost completely absent from Central London north of the Thames since 2000, roughly over the area of Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster. Occasionally one strays in briefly, and indeed one was seen at Kensington Palace, not far away from today's sighting, a couyple of months ago. But this group is exceptional and a sign that they may be returning.

The Tawny Owl called twice from his nest tree, high up on the north side. Several experienced owl watchers walked round and round the tree with binoculars and couldn't see him in the new foliage, which is already dense. But we will find him soon.

At least the male Little Owl obligingly perched outside last year's nest hole. He is wonderfully well camouflaged against the bare wood of the old chestnut tree, though in fact his plumage evolved to match the sun-bleached landscape of southern Europe.


The female was on the next chestnut tree up the hill, but rushed into the hole as soon as I came round the tree.

The Great Crested Grebes' nest under the willow near the bridge, built earlier then abandoned, has been reoccupied for four days, though no eggs have been laid yet.


I had been thinking that there were no small fish to feed any young grebes that hatch, but it seems that the parents know better. At the other end of the Long Water, under the marble fountain, a Cormorant was fishing inside the submerged wall. In six dives it caught six fish, some of them substantial roach, others like this one small and barely a snack for a Cormorant, but just right for a baby grebe.


A Starling at the Lido café was after other kinds of food. They are particularly fond of chips, and a diner had stopped eating his, though he was still at the table. The bird repeatedly sidled up to the bowl, in spite of being shooed away each time.


A Grey Heron was sunbathing on the Vista in that curious posture that only herons adopt.


At the Serpentine island, a young Herring Gull was playing with yet another toy a bright green sponge cloth, the kind of thing you use for wiping tables.


The pair of Egyptian Geese that have lived on the Vista for years have had another brood. Here is the female looking after the two chicks.


This is the first pair of Egyptians to come to the park, more than eight years ago. Since then these hopelessly incompetent birds  have not managed to retain a single chick for more than two days, and I fear that these two are the survivors of a larger brood and are equally doomed.

We are getting worried about the Mute Swans on the island on the Long Water. The female has not been seen all day. This morning a dead swan was retrieved from the lake, but someone who saw it says that it was a young one still with some grey feathers. More news tomorrow, perhaps.

14 comments:

  1. The House Sparrow looks as though it has a crooked bill (like a Crossbill) and the head markings are not quite right? It is obviously not a Crossbill but is it a normal House Sparrow?

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    1. The slightly crossed bill seems to be normal. Click here for a picture of a female House Sparrow showing the same feature.

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  2. there are house sparrows inside london zoo in regents park (not captives) have they strayed i wonder?
    mark w2

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    1. Possibly. But there are also completely wild House Sparrows in St Mary's Churchyard, on the west side of Kensal Green Cemetery, and I have also seen them on the fringes of Kensington north of the Westway.

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  3. Pedant's Corner returns. Why do you only to "Sparrows" but to "Grey Heron"? According to the list on the right, two species of sparrow have been recorded in the Park but only one kind of heron. ;-0 Jim n.L.

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    1. Find me a Tree Sparrow and then you can ask that question again.

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  4. Very sad news about the swan :( Despite being bad-tempered, these are magnificent birds.

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    1. I couldn't see any swans at all on the Long Water today. Not saying anything on the main blog till I find out what's going on.

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  5. I was going to ask about the swans, too :-( Let us not lose hope that they might still be well.

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    1. Not very hopeful. See my reply immediately above.

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  6. Very pleased to hear of the sparrows!

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    1. Let's hope they're the first of many.

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  7. Ralph

    Do you have news about the missing swan yet ? I saw yesterday the old male is there but not looking at all happy and that their island nest has been abandoned. So sad as their eggs should have been about to hatch, and like last year, they seemed to have done everything right.

    KDH

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    1. No more news that has been reported in later blog posts. We are still in the dark about what actually happened.

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