Saturday, 23 September 2017

A Carrion Crow took advantage of the pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull's absence to eat some of its pigeon, but when the gull returned it had to back off quickly. Note how the crow can hold the pigeon with its perching feet for convenient pecking, which the gull can't manage.

The Coots that nested unsuccessfully near the bridge still regard the disused nest as their property, and were not pleased when an Egyptian Goose stood on it.

The Black Swan enjoyed being part of a Mute Swan family, but when the father arrived he was thrown out as usual.

A Great Crested Grebe flew along the Long Water, as usual never gtting more than a few inches above the surface. They can fly perfectly well when they need to, for example in freezing weather when there's a danger of being iced in, and they move to the Thames.

It's quite difficult for a Cormorant to get on to the wooden posts in the lake. It has to make a big vertical leap out of the water, and find its footing at the top, and often it crashes back into the water. This time it succeeded.

The youngest Moorhen chick in the Italian Garden climbed up a clump of plants and stood on top, looking pleased with itself.

A rare sight in the Italian Garden.

A visit to the rowan trees on Buck Hill produced just one Magpie.

There were some Long-Tailed Tits in a tree at the bottom of the hill.

The female Little Owl at the leaf yard was in the chestnut tree.

A Migrant Hawker dragonfly was hunting in the reeds at the east end of the Serpentine.

This group of dark purplish-brown mushrooms was growing next to a fairy ring, composed of ordinary Fairy Ring mushrooms, near the Serpentine Gallery. I don't know what they are.

Friday, 22 September 2017

This Lesser Black-Backed Gull with pale greyish legs and a noticeable dark bar across its bill has been seen with a pigeon on two successive days. It's beginning to seem likely that it has copied the notorious Lesser Black-Back and is actually killing pigeons, rather than scavenging like the other gulls.

It's still taking the young Great Crested Grebes on the Serpentine quite a long time to catch each fish, and I've been waiting for a chance of a picture. But today this one caught two in 30 seconds.

The grebe chicks on the Long Water are still being fed by their tireless and devoted parents. The mother came in from the Serpentine carrying a fish and dodged the chick on the right, which had come out in front to be first.

Then she offered to fish to the other two chicks, but it seemed that they were already full and there were no takers. So she gave it to her mate.

I haven't seen this before. Grebes don't normally feed their mates, as they take it in turns to sit on eggs and look after chicks, and they get plenty of opportunity to feed themselves when not on duty.

The Black Swan was on the Long Water but later left, probably chased off by the resident pair of Mute Swans. Here he is on the Serpentine with a retinue of Coots.

The rowan trees on Buck Hill were full of Mistle Thrushes, as they will be till the birds have eaten the last berry.

The Little Owl at the leaf yard gave me a brief sidelong glance and settled back into her comfortable doze.

A Jackdaw struck a regal pose on the crown on top of one of the park's gas lamps.

This is a very ordinary picture of a Robin in the Rose Garden, but it records a moment. It had come to be fed when someone roared down the South Carriage Drive in a noisy Lamborghini, and it turned round and gave the car a look of disgust.

The Rose Garden feeder had a symmetrical pair of Rose-Ringed Parakeets on it. They must have been mates, as they weren't squabbling.

The tree in which the feeder hangs has produced some bizarre blue berries with red sepals. I have no idea what it is.

Update: Justyna C. tells me it's a Harlequin Glorybower, Clerodendrum trichotomum.

In the adjacent flower bed, a Common Carder bee was at work in a purple flower.

On Buck Hill there was large colony of wasps buzzing round an underground nest, probably an abandoned rabbit burrow.

A strange bloom of orange algae has appeared at the north end of the Long Water. I've never seen this kind in the park before.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

A new film by Johanna van de Woestijne, this time about the notorious pigeon-killing Lesser Black-Backed Gull. She has compiled my video footage and stills taken by both of us over the years, and edited them into a proper nine-minute film.

A gang of Cormorants were fishing together at the east end of the Serpentine. This cooperative fishing is most effective, as a fish scared away by one bird may go towards another and be caught.

The Great Crested Grebes are going into their plain winter plumage.

The Coot family at Bluebird Boats have taken to standing on the propellers of the outboard motors to preen. Sometimes all of the propellers are occupied. It doesn't look a comfortable perch.

Five newly arrived Shovellers were at work on the Serpentine. They revolve in their typical way to scoop up small creatures from the water, filtering them through the bristles inside their bills just as whales filter plankton from seawater. They also dabble in typical duck style.

A Lesser Black-Backed Gull was eating a Feral Pigeon on the gravel bank at the Vista. This picture was taken from across the lake. This is not the notorious pigeon-eating gull -- note the pale greyish legs. It's not scavenging the remains of one of his kills either, for the pigeon looks quite complete. Last year I saw a Lesser Black-Back that looked like this eating a pigeon beside the Serpentine. But pigeons die from other causes, and it's too early to say that this bird has successfully copied the notorious gull's hunting technique.

The first time I looked for the Little Owl near the leaf yard she wasn't visible, and this was not surprising as there were four Magpies on her chestnut tree. Two of them seemed to be very fond of each other.

Later, she came out on the south side of the tree.

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits flew out of the Dell and along the south bank of the Serpentine.

A Wood Pigeon was drinking from a precarious perch in the little pool at the top of the Dell waterfall.

The white-faced Blackbird now calls to me from deep inside the shade of a bush, making her very hard to find. But she always comes down for her treat of sultanas.

After a quick walk round the park, off to Kensal Green Cemetery, more to see the strange and wonderful tombs that to look for birds. There is a flock of House Sparrows in the adjacent St Mary's Catholic Cemetery, perhpas the first proper flock tothe west of central London where there are no sparrows except for a few tiny groups maintained by feeding. The sparrows didn't show up today, but there were plenty of Goldfinches. One perched on the wings of a stone angel.

On the way back along the Grand Union Canal, another partly leucistic Blackbird with white tail feathers was hopping around in the undergrowth. Some sultanas brought him out.

A Coot investigated a floating branch. It's not the nesting season, but branches are irresistible.

There was a jaunty painting of a heron on a wall.

A Red Admiral butterfly perched in a clump of ivy.

Update: Abigail sent me a picture of a Mute Swan stranded behind the railings at Peter Pan. It had clearly been chased off the lake by the dominant Mute Swan, but it's not clear how it got behind the fence. Swans have been stranded in this place before. Paul rescued it by picking it up and dropping it into the lake, which swans don't enjoy, but it doesn't hurt them and it does the job.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

A Sparrowhawk often passes through Kensington Gardens, and Virginia got a picture of it high over Buck Hill.

But it was definitely a Kestrel that I saw from Buck Hill, at a great distance, being chased by a Carrion Crow.

Virginia also sent me this splendid picture of a crow with a fish that is well past its sell-by date.

There were two Black-Headed Gulls with plastic rings. This one, ringed by Paul Roper of the North Thames Gull Group, has probably never been farther away than a rubbish dump in outer London.

But this one was ringed by Adam Olszewski at Truskaw in Poland. It returns every year.

The rowan trees on Buck Hill were busy again, full of Blackbirds ...

... and Mistle Thrushes.

The fruit is beginning to wither, which concentrates the sugar and makes them sweeter, just what the thrushes like.

A Long-Tailed Tit perched against a background of the reddening leaves of an American oak near the Albert Memorial.

A Blue Tit clung to a holly twig among the ripening berries.

The Little Owl at the leaf yard stared down from her usual branch.

When you see a lot of Rose-Ringed Parakeets on the ground, it's almost always because they are eating dandelion leaves, which they are particularly fond of. By now the leaves have become tough and bitter, but they don't mind.

The Black Swan was preening, but looked up when I approached and came over for some birdseed. It's just ordinary wild birdseed for putting in feeders, but he likes it a lot.

An Egyptian Goose on the Serpentine had a thorough wash, scratch and flap.

Canada--Greylag hybrid geese are very variable. This one has turned out a dull brown with pinkish feet, and diluted Canada head markings among the white speckles that most of these hybrids have.

The white Mallard has gone yellow again. This is the time when Mallard drakes are regrowing their breeding plumage, and I think the feathers come out creamy yellow and then fade. The last time he went yellow was when the Mallards are growing their eclipse plumage. But his breeding and eclipse feathers are the same colour, so the only sign of the change is this temporary yellow tinge.

A Cormorant sprawled on a post near the island.

A female Garden spider ate a fly in the middle of her web.

This web, which was near the bridge, looks just like the unoccupied web I photographed in the Dell on 14 September, so probably that was also made by a Garden spider.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Black Swan got too close to the dominant male Mute Swan on the Long Water, and was attacked. He left at once and went on to the Serpentine, where things are a bit more peaceful.

There he had a comforting preening session. When he saw me he came over to be fed.

Blondie the Egyptian Goose was also preening. She is the only Egyptian in the park with these pale grey wings and tail. All the others, including the ones with white heads, have dark brown feathers.

A young Great Crested Grebe was fishing near the island. This picture shows it about to dive, with its feathers clenched down to make it less buoyant, so that its shoulders are under water.

A Grey Heron on a holly tree looked up in annoyance as a noisy police helicopter passed overhead.

A Robin was singing in several places in the Rose Garden. There was another Robin singing nearby, so he felt the need to establish his territory.

Two Little Owls were visible today. This is the female of the pair near the Albert Memorial, looking out of her usual hole in the oak tree.

And here is the female near the leaf yard, on her old favourite branch on the west corner of the chestnut, photographed from under the tree.

A Magpie was eating berries in one of the rowan trees on Buck Hill.

Blackbirds have a different feeding technique from Mistle Thrushes. They go inside the tree and reach out to take the berries. Mistle Thrushes perch on top of the bunches and reach down.

This Mistle Thrush was taking time off eating, and having a preen. It was in exactly the same place as the one I photographed doing the same yesterday, and is quite likely the same bird.

When I was looking over the top of the Dell into the little pool, there was a movement under a purple flower. It was a small rat dragging a mini sausage roll into a secluded spot where it could eat it in peace.

A Greenbottle fly perched on a purple leaf in a herbaceous border in the Dell.