Saturday, 16 December 2017

After a frosty night there was ice on both the Long Water and the Serpentine. As usual, Black-Headed Gulls found it an agreeable place to stand. It would be pleasant to be so indifferent to cold.

A Great Crested Grebe had got boxed in by the ice at the north end of the Long Water. It was fishing under the dead willow. It will be all right, because the ice will melt in a day or two. But this is something that Great Crested Grebes normally manage to avoid.

The teenage grebe and its parent were out on the open water in the middle of the Serpentine.

I think this young bird is the only one of the three chicks to survive becoming independent. It's a severe test of fishing ability, and casualties are high.

There was a Little Grebe under the willow tree near the bridge. I've only seen one here, and I think that the other -- which was not its mate -- has flown back to Regent's Park or St James's Park, both of which support a permanent population.

A Cormorant circled endlessly over the wire baskets next to the bridge, but they have fished the place out. There are now almost no fish of a size to interest them, and probably the remaining few birds will leave the lake soon, returning next summer.

Unlike Cormorants, grebes can manage quite well when stocks of medium-sized fish fall low. Smaller and more agile, they can hunt smaller fish in the tangles of submerged roots and branches, and also find invertebrates there.

A young Herring Gull picked up a stick to play with but found it was too large, and discarded it in favour of a bit of yellow plastic.

Greylag and Egyptian Geese bathed together in their favourite place at the top of the rapids in the Diana fountain. The blond Egyptian with the injured foot can be seen being chased in the background, running well but still a bit hesitant when walking.

One of the Greylags stood at the top of the rapids. They enjoy the sensation of water flowing fast over their feet. But if it were to go any lower down the slope it would be swept away by the current and fall ignominiously into the pool underneath -- I've seen this happen.

The other Grey Heron nest on the island has been reoccupied.

This is not the nest that hatched successfully last year. That fell down, sadly killing two young herons though one survived.

A pair of Carrion Crows enjoyed a bath together in the Serpentine.

A Wood Pigeon ate ivy berries at the back of the Lido. A second after I took this picture it lost its footing and tumbled out, flapping to a crash lading on the grass beneath.

A Jackdaw skilfully opened a peanut.

The Robin who owns the bush in the Rose Garden where the feeders hang waited with great impatience for them to be refilled, flitting about from twig to twig.

I have finally discovered the names of the two splendid people who maintain these feeders and replace them when they are stolen, helping many small birds to survive the winter. They are Rani, to whom I talked today, and Belle. Good luck to both of them.

The Little Owl near the Albert Memorial stared out of her hole. She was looking at some Starlings on a branch, but decided they were no threat and settled down to doze in the morning sunlight.

The owl in the lime tree near the Henry Moore sculpture doesn't like having the sun in her eyes, and almost always faces away from it.

Friday, 15 December 2017

The female Little Owl near the Albert Memorial was looking nervous ...

... because she was being scolded by two Mistle Thrushes ...

... a Blackbird ...

... and a pair of Jackdaws, all in her tree.

She stood her ground. If necessary, she could pop back into the hole.

The female owl at the Henry Moore sculpture also has a hole to retreat into, unlike her unfortunate mate whom I photographed the other day while he was being chased around by a Magpie.

A pair of Carrion Crows were affectionately preening each other near the Dell restaurant.

Later, more practical matters prevailed, and they flew down to grab some bread that someone was feeding to the Mute Swans.

A Magpie searched for worms and insects in fallen red maple leaves.

The wet area at the corner of the Dell is an ideal place to find worms, and a pair of Blackbirds is constantly at work there.

The splendid woman (whose name I still haven't discovered) who puts feeders in the Rose Garden which are constantly stolen has defiantly put two new feeders in the bush near the fountain. The pair of Coal Tits has returned, a welcome sight.

A Rose-Ringed Parakeet examined a hole in a plane tree, wondering if it would make a good shelter for cold winter nights.

A Moorhen flew on to a deserted table at the Lido restaurant to see if any food had been left. But it was only a pot of tea, so it went away.

None of the birds, not even the clever crows, have yet realised that the little paper tubes contain sugar and can easily be pecked open. I'm sure they will.

A young Herring Gull found an amusing toy and flew off to drop it into the water and pick it up again.

The plastic buoys at the Lido are endlessly fascinating to gulls. Here a Black-Headed Gull pecks a blue one.

A teenage Great Crested Grebe was fishing under the willow tree near the bridge. This is where the Little Grebes also fish, and the submerged branches are clearly a productive place.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

There was a rare glimpse of a Song Thrush in the Rose Garden. They have become sadly few in the park, largely as a result of habitat destruction by insensitive gardening.

Another bird seldom seen is the male Little Owl of the pair near the Henry Moore sculpture. He is usually in one of several trees to the north of the lime tree where his mate has her nest hole, impossible to find unless he calls. Today there was a furious shriek as he was attacked by a Magpie and flew to another tree. Soon the Magpie followed him and chased him along Buck Hill into the distance.

His mate was in her usual place, undisturbed.

The female owl at the Albert Memorial was peacefully sunbathing in her hole.

The Great Tits ...

... and Blue Tits ...

... coming out to feed in the leaf yard were joined by a Nuthatch.

Until a few weeks ago you seldom saw a Black-Headed Gull in the Dell. It's a bit away from the lake and they had no reason to go there. One day three happened to visit it, and must have seen someone feeding the Feral Pigeons. They saw their chance, and now gulls are all over the place.

The second pigeon-killing Lesser Black-Backed Gull had not caught a Feral Pigeon. When he saw someone feeding Black-Headed Gulls, he waded in, scattering them ...

... and won a bit of cheap sliced bread, a poor substitute for fresh pigeon.

A Moorhen walked along the chain between the posts at the bridge. They are amazingly sure-footed, with their long prehensile toes. They clearly enjoy climbing and balancing.

A Mute Swan started preening while facing downwind, and got rather ruffled.

A male Tufted Duck probed the submerged concrete edge of the Serpentine for food. They are omnivorous, and there are snails and other small invertebrates to find here.

A close-up of a female Shoveller shows the remarkable bristles inside the upper part of her bill. These filter little creatures out of the water as they shovel, which are then wiped off with a large tongue.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A rainy day is perfect for Blackbirds. A female hauled up a worm from a bare flower bed in the Rose Garden ...

... and the male at the corner of the Dell was also lucky.

This Robin in the Rose Garden is now a regular customer, hopping out on to the path to be fed.

So is a Jay beside the Long Water. With practice they can get two peanuts out of the shell in ten seconds.

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits passed the tree on the endles quest for insects.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker was also looking for bugs in the Rose Garden ...

... and so was a Green Woodpecker on the Vista.

The Black Redstart that was at the gate of the Winter Wasteland was been seen at the Lookout this morning -- this is the wooden building surrounded by a shrubbery on the west edge of the Parade Ground. I went round the enclosure several times trying to find it, without success. All I found was a Wren, which was only visible among the dead leaves because it was moving.

The Grey Herons on the island were at their nest again, one on it and the other perched on a precatiously thin birch twig above, which looks too thin to support its weight, but this large bird only weighs about 3lb. It lost its balance and had to flap to avoid falling off.

A Moorhen and a heron preened on the posts under the Serpentine Bridge. The heron cleaned its ferocious bill on the wood.

Young Herring Gulls played with a stone covered with algae and a bit of bark.

The ice is gone from the lake, and the remaining four Great Crested Grebes can move about freely.

 The Little Grebe was again under the willow tree near the bridge.

On a dull day a Shoveller drake provided a bit of colour.

For some reason one of the towers at the Winter Wasteland has an old Douglas Dakota on it. It looked tiny and at first I thought it was a model. One forgets how small aircraft were in the 1940s.

It was sad to see this fine old bird reduced to a fairground attraction. Here it is a few years ago, still flying.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Long Water had partly frozen in the night, and Black-Headed Gulls were standing on the ice.

The Great Crested Grebes had flown away to the Thames, as they always do when the lake begins to freeze. They need 50 yards of open water to take off, and are nervous of being iced in. But the Serpentine was not frozen, and there were still two pairs on it.

Little Grebes can take of with only a short run, and are less bothered by ice. One was on the Long Water, just visible under a bush. The other ventured out on to the open water of the Serpentine.

A Mute Swan lay dead on one of the rafts at the east end of the Serpentine. A Carrion Crow saw its chance. Waste not, want not.

The female Little Owl near the leaf yard was in her usual chestnut tree, but was looking around nervously ...

... because there were a couple of crows on a branch.

Her mate was in the hole in the horse chestnut.

The female owl at the Albert Memorial was sunning herself in her oak tree.

A Pied Wagtail ran about on the sandy horse ride along the edge of the Serpentine.

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits flew through the trees at the edge of the lake.

A Blackbird, unable to dig worms out of the frozen ground, filled up on hawthorn berries near the Italian Garden.

The white-faced Blackbird came out to ask for some sultanas.

The usual Robin who comes out to be fed beside the Long Water was joined by another. They were too hungry to fight and came to my hand alternately.