Wednesday, 2 December 2015

The rowan trees on Buck Hill are still dominated by migrant Mistle Thrushes, though Blackbirds are also flying in for a quick berry or two.

After yesterday, when five kinds of thrush could be found in the park, I was thinking of what varied and picturesque scientific names they have. The Mistle Thrush is Turdus viscivorus; Turdus is the ordinary Latin word for 'thrush', and viscivorus means 'mistletoe-eating'.  The Redwing is T. iliacus, which means 'Trojan', a name given it by Linnaeus presumably because it is found in Asia Minor as well as Europe. The Blackbird is T. merula, simply the Latin for a Blackbird. The Fieldfare is T. pilaris; this is another Latin word for a thrush and apparently means 'spotty', from pila, Latin for 'ball' and by extension 'small lump or spot'. That is slightly inappropriate, because Fieldfares are less spotty than most thrushes. Lastly, the Song Thrush is T. philomela, named after Philomela, a figure in an appalling Greek myth about rape, mutilation, infanticide and and cannibalism, who was saved from being murdered by her brother-in-law with an axe by being miraculously turned into a nightingale (not a Song Thrush, but the ancients were appallingly vague about species). It is also said that philomela is Greek for 'lover of song', which would suit the thrush fine, but that is a false derivation and actually the name means 'lover of fruit' or 'lover of sheep'.

A lot of berries have been knocked off the trees by hungry birds. A Carrion Crow was picking them up.

A large flock of Long-Tailed Tits was foraging for insects along the north shore of the Serpentine.

There was a Treeceeper on the same tree as these two, but it went round the back of the trunk, as Treecreepers do, and I didn't get a picture. I think it just happened to be on this tree, and was not travelling with the flock. There are quite a lot of Treecreepers in the small trees on the west side of the Parade Ground, but these small, quiet, shy and well camouflaged birds are easy to miss.

A Pied Wagtail on the edge of the Round Pond had caught some tiny creature.

There are usually three Grey Herons on the Serpentine island, and two of them are certainly mates. Otherwise they would have started quarrelling as soon as they got within thirty yards of each other.

The injured Mute Swan was sitting on the gravel bank in the Long Water. His left foot is now resting on the ground, and he looks more comfortable. The pair had managed to clear all the other swans off their territory, and it seems that life is returning to normal.

The Black Swan spotted me before I found him, and came over to be given a biscuit. Aftr that he stood on the shore and preened the permed feathers on his back.

A Tufted Duck at Peter Pan was enjoying a good scratch.

I have been looking closely at all the Tufted Ducks, as I was told that there were a couple of Scaup on the lake. But so far all the black and white ducks I have seen are obstinately Tufted.

People say that (for example) insults slide off someone harmlessly 'like water off a duck's back'. This female Mallard washing herself in the Dell shows what an apt analogy it is.


  1. What a lovely picture of the Long Tailed Tit in mid-flight!
    I'm very relieved that the injured Swan seems to be getting better. Thanks for updating.
    The Black Swan's trusty and affectionate nature is such a wonderful surprise. But then, they do have a sixth sense, and know whom to trust.

    1. It's a mystery how the Black Swan came to be so tame. He seems used to park life but doesn't have a ring. My best guess is that his parents, in some park somewhere, managed to build a nest unobserved by the park keepers.

  2. Thanks for your kind words. I see that T. migratorius is another name given by Linnaeus himself; he must have been running low on suitable adjectives by then.

  3. Congratulations on yet another fun informative blog post, including wonderful photos. I enjoyed the Long Tailed Tit photo in flight too.
    That was a very interesting ramble into the Latin origins of the Turdus species names. Enjoyed it. Being Californian, we mostly have no Latin training. But I have always thought our American Robin name, Turdus migratorius, rather amusing. (Had a typo in the two above comment and couldn't edit, so deleted and corrected.) Did enjoy the foray into the Latin origins.

  4. The Hoopoe has one of my favorite scientific names---Upupa epops. It's just fun to say.
    I'm glad to see the Mute Swan's recovering. Pretty speedy recovery, too.
    My dad lived on a farm as a kid. He used to entertain himself by pouring buckets of water on ducks' backs to watch it run off. Pelagic birds are even more impressive in that regard... I volunteered in a study skin collection last summer and it's astounding how much oil leaks out over the years.