Thursday, 10 March 2016

The Black Swan and girlfriend number one were on the Long Water today, in the place near the bridge where swans gather until they are chased off by the resident male. But were showing signs of nest-building behaviour, but that is more of a habit than a serious intention.

They and the other swans had been driven away from their usual place at the east end of the Serpentine, because the outflow filter bed has got clogged up again and there was a big operation going on to clear it.

There are still plenty of Redwings on the Parade Ground near the bandstand.

There was also at least one Song Thrush with them, but this one was photographed in a more convenient place beside the Long Water.

There were also a pair of Greenfinches here, hard to see among the twigs. This picture of the female was the least obstructed one I could get.

A pair of Long-Tailed Tits near the Lido were gathering nesting materials, a long job because iof the large and intricate nests they make. This one is gathering lichen, which is used as a filler in the net of spider webs that support the structure. Birds understood about composite materials long before we did.

Speaking of the understanding of birds, you might be interested in this article about the language of Japanese Great Tits (Parus minor -- they're not as big as our Great Tits, P. major). They use word order to modify the meanings of their calls, so their language possesses syntax, which humans had thought was their exclusive ability.

A Nuthatch in the leaf yard came down to take food from the railings.

The Goldcrests in the yew tree near Peter Pan were visible again. This one must be female, because the other one was singing.

A Dunnock was singing in an olive tree at the back of the Lido.

They have had to shift from their usual bushes, as the gardeners have been mauling these about, leaving a patch of stumps.

The Little Owl in the oak tree near the Albert Memorial was also surveying the world from his hole.

This little mushroom, barely an inch across, was growing in the grass just across the path from the prolific patch of wood chips north of the memorial. It seemed to be completely alone.


  1. Thank you so much for the article on the tits' syntax. I have a dim recollection that Gregory Nagy once made the comparison between a rhapsode and a nightingale based on the bird's ability to stitch together pre-existing phrases in such a way as to form new songs. It's something of a poetic syntax of sorts.

    Indeed, birds knew many things before we did.

    1. Ralph, have you seen this? From the Swan Sanctuary facebook page:

    2. No, I don't have Facebook. I do hope the swan recovers. Didn't think you could mend broken wing bones, at least not in a way that would allow the bird to fly. But swan are so huge that maybe there's a bit more room for intervention.

    3. There is a wildlife rehabilitation centre that I know of who are capable of operating on swallows and swifts. They use the tiniest syringes as scalpels.

      I hope the swan will recover, too. Big fine strapping girl, she ought to be fine.

  2. That really is fascinating!
    I wonder how long it is before we will be able to understand the language of birds and what they are saying on to each other. That would be fantastic.
    Imagine 'English' to 'Robin' on Google Translate!

    1. You just have to listen and try to understand. I can make some sense of Great Crested Grebe and Carrion Crow. But it takes a while, and no lessons are available.

  3. Very interesting about the Japanese Great Tit research findings. As a child in Northumberland I once tried to annotate the cheeps of house sparrows in our garden. Needless to say, I soon gave up. (Glad to say that the house sparrows' descendants are still thriving up there),

    1. Sadly, not a cheep for miles around from where I live. I remember when flocks of them followed the milkman's horse.