Thursday, 21 February 2013

There were 11 Mute Swans on the Long Water this morning, far more than would fit on this quite large area of water without causing a scene. The first priority was to chase the low-ranking youngsters away before the adults could get down to fighting for precedence.

One couple have been trying to find a nest site near the bridge for a few days, but have still not found an ideal spot. Later they were chased off in the general rumpus.

This disorderly scene is very different from what you could see on the lake a few years ago, when one dominant couple owned both the Long Water and the Serpentine, and 'the lower orders knew their place' -- which was on the Round Pond.

However, all this ill-natured jostling is strictly between swans, and other birds are not affected. Here a young swan passes within inches of the Great Crested Grebes' nest in the reeds at the east end of the Serpentine, and all is calm.

But when people are throwing bread to a large gathering of water birds, it is every bird for itself, with swans, gulls, ducks and geese all jostling for position and pecking each other out of the way. There are some permanent antagonisms. Great Crested Grebes don't like Grey Herons at all, especially when the latter are near their nest, threatening their eggs and chicks. They dive and dart in under water to peck the heron's ankles, scooting away again before the heron can deploy its dagger beak against them. And no one likes Coots much -- not even other Coots, so they live in perpetual conflict.

The two Grey Heron nests on the Serpentine island remain occupied despite the colder weather. It looks as if the breeding season has started in earnest.

The pair of Egyptian Geese on the Vista still have two of their brood of three. I don't think any of their young have survived for three days before. Can they finally have got it right after years of utter failure?

The ornithologist Martin Garner, whom I showed around the park on 6 February and was severely bitten by a Ring-Necked Parakeet, has put a record of his visit on his blog, which you can see here.

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