Friday, 11 March 2016

A Red Kite was having a dogfight with a Carrion Crow high above Peter Pan, slightly obscured by the haze of a warm day.

The sunny weather had brought out a Little Owl in each of their three trees. Here is our old friend the owl in the chestnut tree, who had not been seen for some time. We know that he is the male of the pair, and he is distinguished by his big shaggy white eyebrows.

We haven't yet established which of the owls in the oak tree is which, but we know there is a pair because occasionally both look out of the hole.

Nor do we know about the owls in the lime tree near Henry Moore.

But I did establish that there are two here, because after one had retreated into the usual hole, there were muffled calls from inside an adjacent tree. This owl is getting a little more relaxed, and I was able to get quite near without frightening it, by approaching sideways rather than charging straight up the hill.

Update: David Element caught both the first pair of Little Owls side by side in the chestnut tree, and has just sent me this pleasing picture. You can't have too many owls.

The Black Swan was with girlfriend number one, as usual barging the other swans aside to get to someone throwing bread in the water. I'm not sure that his bullying impresses her. She responds much better when he gets close to her and utters affectionate squeaks.

His behaviour may not necessarily be to his advantage. Swiss Bob, proprietor of the Going Postal blog (not about birds, an enjoyably anarchic general discussion) has pointed out a paper showing that with Great Tits in crowded conditions, it is the less bold birds that do better. Anyone who feeds Great Tits will have noticed that there are marked differences in their personalities, some barging to the front of the queue and a few so timid that they will never come to your hand at all.

There was a pair of Herons in the lowest of the nests on the island.

We are used to the on-off courtship of these birds, but it does look as if they might finally be serious about nesting.

The Great Crested Grebes near the bridge were at their nest, but I really don't think this will last, and almost certainly they will wait till midsummer before nesting properly, as the grebes on this lake have learnt to do in order to get enough small fish for their young. The pair at the east end of the Serpentine have stopped building their nest, and no trace of it remains. They were fishing under the wire baskets, and the male caught a large fish which he had considerable difficulty in swallowing.

The pale Mallard drake and his mate near the bridge were free from the usual crowd of drakes trying to get at the female. But everywhere they go, they are followed by their pet (mascot? stalker?) Tufted Duck, which is completely inseparable from them.

The flock of Siskins were eating seeds in an Italian alder near Henry Moore, just above the place where the path divides to go over or under the bridge.

(I only know it's an Italian alder because it has a notice on it.)

The flock of Redwings were in their usual place near the bandstand in Hyde Park. But there was also a solitary Redwing near the Tawny Owls' old tree.

We have been looking for these owls for three days and haven't seen a sign of one, and there are no owl pellets under the trees. Probably this is not their usual day place, which remains to be found.


  1. I hope I am never subject to stalking by a Tufted Duck. I think it would be most unsettling. I do love the humour in your blog Ralph and the way you weave your photos into a narrative of the day's events (well shenanigans, when it comes to the Black Swan).

    1. Thank you. But if you have to be stalked by something, a Tufted Duck is not all that threatening.

  2. Male Chiffchaff singing loudly, friday morning, opposite Gueensborough terrace the path parallel with Bayswater road.
    pictures taken. Siskins also seen in Queensborough terrace.

    1. Thanks. I must try to find the Chiffchaff -- haven't had a picture of one this year.

  3. Very enjoyable picture of the three ducks! Am I alone in thinking that Daffy Duck is a Tufted Duck?
    (You know you are in deep when you start trying to identify a cartoon character's species)

    I concur that there can never be too many owls.

    1. If Daffy Duck actually belongs to a species, I suppose he is an American Black Duck, Anas rubripes. But this is a very ordinary-looking Mallard-like duck, and doesn't have the moulded-in smile of a Tufted Duck.

  4. Something I just remembered - if you ask a falconer here, he'll say that red kites (unlike black kites, which are quite bellicose) are notoriously cowardly and no good for hunting because of their so-called timid nature and their relative weakness. I have seen red kites successfully chased by a single (yet awfully determined) lowly magpie. Yet this is not the first time I see or hear of a red kite behaving differently in the isles. Have red kites a reputation for being corwardly or weak in England as well? Do they behave differently?

    1. I think that part of it is genuine physical weakness. They have great big wings for gliding, but quite a small body. And they are mainly scavengers and seldom tackle anything fiercer than a worm, though I am told they catch mice and voles occasionally.