Saturday, 25 April 2015

The Grey Heron at the Dell restaurant staged another daring raid today, stealing a sausage from a plate on an occupied table.

The people were rather shaken by this, and moved to a table farther from the edge.

The Mute Swan on the Long Water has still not got his kidnapped mate back. He was on his island but seems to have realised that the eggs are doomed and has abandoned them. The foolish Egyptian Geese from the Vista, with their one chick (at far right here), were also on the island, and so were a couple of Coots, and the swan left them unmolested, a sign of how dejected he is feeling.

However, the Egyptian chick is not the sole survivor of the brood, because its sibling is now being looked after by one of the pairs on the Serpentine. Here it is; you can see that it is noticeably smaller than the others.

I met one of the girls who had rescued the chick after it had got lost and, not knowing where it was from, had taken it to its fosterparents. The girls had quite rightly not picked it up. They somehow led it, following them willingly, all the way from the Italian Garden along the edge of the lake to the Serpentine near the Diana fountain, where they had just seen an Egyptian family. One of them took a video of the incident on her smartphone and has promised to send it to me, and I will make it available to you when it arrives.

The fountains in the Italian Garden have broken down again, as they often have since the new machinery was installed. This gave the Coots a chance to finish their nest under the spray head of the fountain, where there is just enough room for a Coot sitting down.

Whether this crazy arrangement will succeed remains to be seen. It never has in the past.

Today's strange food given to the Feral Pigeons was a packet of Cheezy Wotsits and some fusilli. The pigeons didn't seem particularly keen on either, trying them briefly and walking away.

An anti-climax: a few days ago I saw a Herring Gull with a plastic ring and reported it to Euring, the central European organisation for ringing records. Here is the same gull seen today, on a post near Peter Pan.

I got a prompt reply and a promise of a map showing the gull's history, which took a couple of days to appear. The bird was ringed on 7 February this year, when it was already in its second year of life. The map showed where it had been ringed, and it was in the Gulf of Guinea. I was excited by news of this far-travelled gull.

And then I looked more closely at the map, and the place was on the Equator, at 0° latitude and 0° longitude. This is what happens when you forget to fill in the coordinates. Since the bird was ringed by the North Thames Gull Group, it had probably only moved a few miles from the place where it was hatched.

The young Great Black-Backed Gull was on the new gravel bank at the Vista. Unfortunately it is impossible to take a decent photograph of any bird on this bank because of the ugly and pointless iron fence on the edge of the shore.

The male Tawny Owl was again in the horse chestnut tree to the north of his nest tree, and again no one could find any others, young or adult.

The female Little Owl was looking out of her nest hole in the chestnut tree when I first went past. When I came back the male had taken her place, and he is shown here.


  1. Ralph, the people who captured the female Mute Swan, can they be contacted and told that this swan needs to be returned to her partner on the Long Water? It is very worrying that they have been needlessly separated. Kind regards Judith

    1. That is exactly what Marie tried to do, and met a wall of official denial. The number of the Wildlife Officer's office, which you ring to report injured birds, is 0207 298 2000. But you never get through directly to Malcolm, the Wildlife Officer, who knows what he is doing.

  2. Re the Egyptian Gosling. In the "Top 50 Misconceptions" list that recently made the news, no. 28 was that handling a baby bird will make its mother reject it. The article claimed that most birds' sense of smell is actually too weak. What do you make of this? Regards, Jim n.L.

    1. Probably that idea should go into the list of misconceptions list too. I have read results of tests that show that most birds' sense of smell is quite good -- and it goes without saying that this means better than ours (New Scientist, 21 July 2013). But I have no idea whether the wrong smell would cause a bird whose principal senses are sight and hearing to reject a chick.

    2. Interesting. I found several other misconceptions in that misconceptions article itself. Jim