Sunday, 25 November 2012

A pair of Egyptian Geese were standing on the broken top of a tree near the Serpentine Gallery, honking noisily.

This is their ritual of selecting a place to nest. They fly to various trees and shout at each other until a consensus is reached. It doesn't matter how tall the tree is, as when their young are tipped out of it, the fluffy little birds will fall slowly to the ground unharmed. It is, of course, a completely inappropriate time for nesting, but Egyptian Geese come from a place where the seasons are different and they have little sense of what time of year it is in northwest Europe.

Nearby and equally out of season, a Mistle Thrush, perhaps misled by the sunshine, was singing at the top of a leafless plane tree.

Their song, though melodious, is repetitive and rather boring. They have neither the silly enthusiasm of the Song Thrush nor the careful musicianship of the Blackbird. But it is very pleasing to hear them, and a reminder that winter won't last for ever.

A slightly uncommon sight on the Serpentine: a second-winter Lesser Black-Backed Gull.

For some reason nearly all the gulls of this species that we see here are either first-year or adult. This bird is at the beginning of its transition from tweedy first-year plumage to the slaty grey back it will have later. These large gulls take four years to get their full adult plumage.

A Great Crested Grebe, in sober winter plumage, was scratching its head with a large foot.


  1. I also heard and saw one of the Egyptian Geese on the tree near the Serpentine Gallery on Friday. It was pecking away at the bit of tree on which the one on the right is sitting. Hollowing it out for nest building?

  2. Odd behaviour. An Egyptian Goose's bill would be no good for hollowing out a tree -- you might as well try to do it with a plastic teaspoon. I wonder if it had found something that seemed edible in a patch of rotten wood, and was trying to get it out. It might have been a plant or a bit of moss that was growing there. Egyptian Geese are supposed to be vegetarians, but I shouldn't think they would refuse to eat the odd bug if it presented itself.

  3. Thanks. Enlighteneing as ever.