Monday, 11 December 2017

On a horrible day of sleet and wind, it was a surprise to see the female Little Owl at the Albert Memorial looking out of her hole, though she was practically invisible in the murk.

I think she stands here in foul weather because the top of the branch is cracked, and this is one of the places where she doesn't get rained on. This branch is rotten and will fall soon, and the owls would be well advised to choose a new hole in another oak tree, of which there are plenty in this spot.

The park was almost deserted. Usually the disturbance of people, dogs and vehicles scatters the waterfowl all over the lake and the shore, but today they were mostly in tidy flocks: Canada Geese crossing the Serpentine Road to graze ...

... Egyptians grouped a hundred yards away ...

... and Mallards in a row on the shore.

There are always stragglers, of course. A pair of Egyptians were at their winter game of standing on a dead tree and making a terrible racket.

And the white Mallard and his companions were dozing on a raft at the east end of the Serpentine.

The weather had stopped the two people who usually feed the Grey Herons from coming out, and several ran hopefully towards me. I don't have food for herons. They do very well on fish and rats and the strange scraps that park visitors throw at them.

The heron at the Dell restaurant was preening on a table.

A Cormorant tried fishing in two of the four fountains in the Italian Garden without success, and went to a third one. It took its time crossing the deserted pavement. This video is cut down from an original two and half minutes.

A Moorhen watched it impassively from a clump of dead irises.

A Wren perched on a dripping twig.

Some Long-Tailed Tits flew past.

These very small birds are hard pressed to find insects in freezing weather, and mortality is high.

There was a sad memorial under a plane tree.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

It had snowed in the night. The Carrion Crows on Buck Hill came down to demand peanuts.

Freezing weather makes the Great Tits flock down to be fed. Robins usually come for several helpings.

The oldest Egyptian Geese in the park, who have been here for 14 years without ever breeding successfully, were parading at the edge of the Italian Garden, calling noisily.

There had been just enough snow to make a very small snowman on the edge of one of the fountains.

But most of it had melted to slush. A Black-Headed Gull stared at the camera from a muddy puddle.

I also got a sharp look from the pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull, who thought I was too close to his meal.

He tolerated a Carrion Crow as long as it kept at a respectful distance. The crow knew that gull occasionally leaves his meal and flies around for a few minutes, and was waiting for the chance to nip in and eat some of it.

The second pigeon killer was prowling nearby. Although I'm sure he kills pigeons and I have often seen him eating one, I've never caught him in the act. He is less skilled than the original gull, and doesn't get a pigeon every day.

The Grey Heron was standing on last year's nest, with its mate on the ground below.

A Shoveller drake brought a bit of colour to a dim day.

The white Mallard was out with his mate and male companion. I think the white Mallard is the dominant drake in the threesome, since he is often seen with his mate and without the other drake.

Gadwalls are less promiscuous than Mallards, and usually go around in pairs.

It wasn't the kind of day when you'd expect to see a Little Owl, but surprisingly the female near the Albert Memorial was at the back of her hole when I passed on my way home.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

It was a frosty morning. Two Jackdaws were trying unsuccessfully to find worms in the hard ground. I gave them a peanut each.

A Wood Pigeon poked at the ice on the fountain in the Rose Garden.

The wet footprints of early morning bathers at the Lido had frozen to the tarmac.

A cherry tree in the Dell chose a most unsuitable time to blossom.

Several people were looking for the Black Redstart at the Winter Wasteland, without success while I was there. We did get a view of a Treecreeper, though as usual it kept going round the back of the tree.

The feeder in the Dell attracted several Long-Tailed Tits.

A Mistle Thrush was bathing in the little pool at the top of the Dell waterfall, but flew off as soon as I looked over the edge. It perched in a tree to dry and preen.

The Little Grebe was back under the willow tree next to the bridge.

A Moorhen stood on a branch higher up. They nest every year in this tree, in a place that is completely invisible from any vantage point. The leaning and partly collapsed tree allows them to walk up it to the nest hole.

These two dark Mallard drakes are certainly brothers. They have been in the park for several years. Neither seems to have a mate, but the two are always together.

A Common Gull looked out over the Serpentine.

This orange plastic buoy at the Lido is a popular toy with young Herring Gulls. The main attraction is the mooring rope. Gulls love pulling ropes to see what will happen.

The male Little Owl near the leaf yard was in his hole over by the Queen's Temple.

The female owl near the Albert Memorial was in her usual place. It's almost the same picture every time, but who can resist photographing a Little Owl?

Friday, 8 December 2017

More Shovellers have arrived on the Long Water, perhaps because a pond has frozen somewhere else. They were scooping food from the surface in the usual way ...

... except for these two. Not finding enough food to scoop from the surface, they were grazing on the bottom, like Mallards.

Gadwalls prefer to crop algae off the sloping concrete edge of the lake, which is thickly carpeted with them.

The slippery edge has caused many people to slide into the lake when they incautiously trod on it. When the Round Pond was restored recently, the sloping edge was replaced with a flat ledge. The result has been a sharp drop in the number of Mallards on it. Only Tufted Ducks go there in any numbers, because they are diving ducks and feed differently.

When people throw birdseed into the water it sinks, which makes it harder for most water birds to reach, but not the agile Tufted Ducks.

A Cormorant caught a perch under the marble fountain of the Italian Garden.

The fallen tree horse chestnut tree in the Long Water is a convenient place for them to preen.

A Moorhen searched for food among the fallen leaves under the balcony of the Dell restaurant.

A Black-Headed Gull found a hoverfly larva in the Serpentine, and of course was chased by another trying to snatch it.

This one at the Round Pond, with ring OHV, is from Denmark and has been coming to the park every winter for years.

Another played with a willow leaf on the edge. Black-Headed Gulls seem to play at any age, but the larger gulls mostly only play when they are young.

A young Herring Gull played with a stick, dropping it in the water and picking it up again.

For some reason there are always plenty of Common Gulls at the Round Pond in winter, but few on the Serpentine and usually none on the Long Water.

The female Little Owl near the Albert Memorial was dozing in her oak tree, and didn't wake up when I photographed her.

But the male owl near the leaf yard was awake and interested.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

It was a dim morning of drizzle interspersed with longer periods of rain. Shovellers don't mind rain ...

... and Blackbirds are delighted, as it brings up the worms. The pair at the bottom corner of the Dell ...

... were hauling up one every minute.

The Diana fountain was deserted, and a Grey Heron was standing on the edge as if it supposed there were fish in it. I'm pretty sure it was wrong.

Rose-Ringed Parakeets were drinking from a puddle.

A Magpie foraged in fallen leaves ...

... and a Moorhen doing the same found a small brown larva.

The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull was between meals, and scratched his beak thoughtfully.

These two Black-Headed Gulls seemed to be well mated, as they found no need for the full wing-spreading ritual and were content just to call to each other. The male (I think), seen first, had just returned from chasing another gull away.

A Goldcrest came out on a twig near the Henry Moore sculpture.

There was a flock of Long-Tailed Tits in the next bush.

A Great Tit expected to be fed.

The Rose Garden was empty of people, and there were Robins on bushes and benches everywhere.

Later, the sun came out, lighting up the white Mallard drake ...

... and bringing out the female Little Owl near the Albert Memorial.

On the way home I passed the Zambian High Commission, where a Carrion Crow was enjoying a large lump of butter it had found on the pavement.