Sunday, 31 December 2017

After two days without a sight of a Little Owl, it was splendid to see the female in the lime tree near the Henry Moore sculpture.

The Peregrine was back on the tower of the Household Cavalry barracks.

All the Great Crested Grebes left the Long Water when it froze, but now they are coming back. This one was fishing under the willow tree near the bridge.

A Cormorant wandered from pool to pool in the Italian Garden, but all of them have been fished out by previous Cormorants and there was nothing to catch.

This very small Egyptian Goose is, I think, one that we watched grow up in exactly this place near the Lido restaurant. It was far smaller than its siblings and seemed unlikely to survive, but it now seems healthy if undersized, and was fending off larger geese in the rush to grab bread.

Both Grey Heron nests on the island remain occupied. It's hard to see the bird in the upper nest, which is masked by twigs.

The plastic buoys marking the edge of the Lido swimming area are too small for Herring Gulls to balance on, but they enjoy trying.

A Moorhen in the Dell gave up up looking for bugs in the grass and ate the grass instead. There's plenty, so why bother to stand up?

Two Grey Wagtails were chasing each other over the rafts at the east end of the Serpentine. One paused briefly on the fence.

A Magpie seemed to be finding plenty of small creatures to eat among the dead leaves.

The white-faced Blackbird wasn't there, but her mate came out. He is still nervous but is also getting a taste for sultanas.

They nested last year but I never saw any young. Probably the nest was predated.

In the Rose Garden, Rani was filling the feeders while a Blue Tit stared down impatiently from a branch.

As soon as she finished the first feeder, it streaked down and started pecking at nuts, inches away from her as she filled the other feeder. Birds know who they can trust.

A very happy New Year to all readers.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Although we are not even into the New Year, the Lesser Black-Backed Gulls are beginning to get the pure white head of their summer plumage.

The Common Gulls, a closely related species but smaller, are also changing.

Black-Headed Gulls change the other way and get dark heads, actually deep brown rather than black.

The taxonomists, as busy as ever, have thrown them out of the genus Larus, to which Herring, Black-Backed and Common Gulls belong, and they are now lumbered with the dreadful generic name Chroicocephalus, which means 'leather-headed'. However, the Mediterranean Gull, which also gets a dark head in summer, remains within Larus.

Update: Have just heard the sad news that the Mediterranean Gull has been kicked out of Larus and put into a new and idiotically named genus, Ichthyaetus, which means 'fish eagle'. See comments below.

A young Herring Gull came ashore with a large stone overgrown with algae, which it had got by diving headlong into the lake and pulling up from the bottom. These green stones are absolutely the gulls' favourite toy, perhaps because they are quite difficult to get, and they are dotted all along the south shore of the Serpentine.

The number one buoy on the Round Pond is also a favourite of Herring Gulls. The number doesn't refer to its prime position, of course -- it's one of the buoys used as markers for model yacht races.

Pairs of Black-Headed Gulls perform this bonding display all year round, not just in the breeding season. The same display, done at a greater distance, is used to assert dominance over rivals.

The Round Pond was remade a few years ago with a horizontal underwater ledge all round the edge, to stop people from sliding down when they fell in. Most of it is too deep for Starlings to bathe, but luckily it was unevenly laid and there are a few shallow spots where they can enjoy one of their splashy communal baths. Another consequence of the work is that there is nowhere comfortable for Mallards to stand, and their numbers on the pond have greatly declined.

Another consequence of the modern obsession with health and safety has had better results. When a tree falls into the Long Water it can't be removed, because the regulations require a floating crane which is impossibly expensive. So the trees are let, and provide convenient spots for birds to perch and preen.

The blond male Egyptian Goose was trying to preen on the edge of the Serpentine, but the wing blew his feathers the wrong way. He has pale flight feathers, almost as light as those of Blondie. Being male, he has to inherit the sex-lined blond gene from both parents. Females don't need two genes to have pale heads, but the ultra-pale Blondie must have two copies.

A Goldcrest appeared in the yew tree next to the Henry Moore statue. Luckily for them, the recent cold spell was not too severe. They are numerous at the moment because of several successive mild winters.

The mild day encouraged a Great Tit to sing inside a bush near the bridge.

A Blue Tit perched on a neighbouring branch was silent, but I have heard them singing on recent mornings.

No owls again today, but at least the reliable white-faced Blackbird arrived for her daily treat of sultanas.

Friday, 29 December 2017

A pair of Wood Pigeons courted in a tree in the Dell, with bowing and tail fanning. Twice the male's attentions got too pressing for the female, who flew to another branch.

A sunny spell started a Mistle Thrush singing its dull repetitive song in the Rose Garden. As a singer it is far outclassed by its near relatives the Song Thrush and the Blackbird.

A male Blackbird foraged under a bush near the Queen's Temple ...

... finding wireworms.

These are not worms, but the long thin larvae of various species of click beetle. They are a staple food of many birds that forage in grassland, and are common enough to make it worth searching for these very small creatures.

The white-faced Blackbird near the Italian Garden was also foraging, but was expecting me to give her some sultanas, and stared impatiently when I took a moment to film her.

The place at the leaf yard where people feed the Rose-Ringed Parakeets is also home to at least ten Jackdaws ...

... and half a dozen Jays ...

... which are ignored by visitors, but come out when they see me going by.

There are also many Great Tits here, the commonest of the small birds in the park and very easy to feed off your hand.

By concentrating on the bright noisy parakeets, people are missing a lot.

At the Dell restaurant, someone had picked out the black olives from their pizza. A Feral Pigeon investigated them and didn't like them either.

A Moorhen at the Italian Garden had found some twigs and instinctively arranged them into a nest shape. Whatever the time of year, they just can't stop this behaviour. Coots, of course, are even more obsessive.

There are a lot of Tufted Ducks, about 70, and the drakes are looking their best at this time.

The incompetent Egyptian Geese were cropping the carefully maintained turf along the edge of the Italian Garden. They have been in this area and under the Henry Moore sculpture for 14 years without raising a single gosling, while later arrivals have bred up to almost 100 birds.

The chilly day didn't stop a Buff-Tailed Bumblebee from visiting flowers near the bridge.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

On a sunny day the park was bursting with visitors, but there was a peaceful oasis in the Rose Garden, with Great Tits ...

... Blue Tits ...

... and Coal Tits coming down to the feeders near the fountain.

A few Goldfinches twittered in the tops of the tall plane trees at the edge of the enclosure ...

... and a Dunnock hopped unobtrusively around in the flower beds.

The winter displays have been carefully protected by arrangements of posts and strings reminiscent of the defences installed by Rommel in northern France in 1944, and equally ineffective.

A Robin sang in a late flowering camellia bush.

Another was singing in the bushes at the back of the Lido as the short winter afternoon drew to an end.

The buoys surrounding the Lido swimming area were lined with Black-Headed Gulls.

A flock of Shovellers flew up the Long Water.

The female Little Owl near the Albert Memorial was out basking in the sunlight ...

... and the one near the Henry Moore sculpture had her back to it as usual.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

In a wet, windy and almost deserted Hyde Park, a flock of Canada Geese trundled across the empty road to someone who looked as if she might have some bread for them.

Greylags came in from the other side of the lake.

A sudden gust in the Italian Garden whipped the fountain and made a Grey Heron lose its footing.

The water in the Diana fountain has turned red.

I hope this is not an awful portent.

A Great Crested Grebe, undisturbed, preened placidly.

Young Herring Gulls often dredge up stones covered with algae, and seem to enjoy picking the growth off. I don't think they are finding anything to eat here.

Several Jays followed me along the edge of the Long Water touting for peanuts.

With no one else to feed them, the Robins were extra hungry. This is one of my regular customers at the leaf yard ...

... and another on the east side of the Long Water ...

... but this one in a twisty bush in the Flower Walk is a newcomer, and I was surprised when it came to my hand.

There was just one Little Owl on view, the female near the Albert Memorial.