Wednesday, 22 August 2012

There has been a sudden, very late outburst of Mallard ducklings on the Round Pond: one brood of eight and two of two each. They were all out in the open; indeed, there is precious little cover on this pond with its paved edge. But luckily for them, all the Lesser Black-Backed Gulls and Herring Gulls were on the Serpentine.

The duckling that was bullying its smaller sibling yesterday was behaving perfectly today. I wondered whether its mother had disciplined it, but decided that that was an anthropomorphic view. It was probably just feeling relaxed in the warm sunshine with plenty of algae to eat.

The Round Pond hosts a large flock of Starlings. As soon as anybody stands on the edge with a plastic bag and looks as if about to feed the ducks, these sharp-eyed birds rise into the air as one and race to the spot, landing with that peculiar sideways twist that Starlings use to lose air speed. Here they wait for the magic moment. The deckchair attendant was giving them a sour look, as if they ought to have paid him £1.50 each for the use of his chairs.

The young Great Crested Grebes at the Serpentine island were fishing together. Here one of them dives, to be followed an instant later by the other. I waited for a while to see whether they would catch something, but they didn't.

One the other side of the lake, an adult was doing much better.

Two years ago, there was a family of Great Crested Grebes on the Long Water who lost all their chicks except one and, in the unisentimental way of birds, nested again and cast their two-month-old offspring adrift. It had to learn to fish in a hurry. I watched it once hunting for small fish in the shallow water by the Peter Pan statue, and it was doing quite well, catching one about every ten minutes. Then its mother cruised over and, with practised ease, caught ten in thirty seconds.

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