Friday, 21 June 2013

On a quiet June day with nothing remarkable to see, a survey of some of the amazingly unsuitable places where Coots choose to build their nests. We have already seen this one, at the top of the weir where the water flows out of the Serpentine.

Two chicks survive, and here their mother is collecting some nourishing algae for them. The last time I looked at this nest, a third chick fell down the weir, and it looks as if it never made it back from the pond underneath, under the footway, which is a filter that (I suppose) keeps bits of debris from blocking the narrow pipe in which the buried Westbourne river continues its course to the Thames at Chelsea Bridge.

This nest is built on one of the racing skiffs that are stored in one of the small boathouses on the north side of the Serpentine. The proprietors are going to have a nasty surprise when they next open the doors.

When I first started coming to the park in the early 1950s, the lake was filthy and had little life in it -- really only waterfowl that could come out of the water and eat the grimy but edible grass on the shore. At this time the boathouses contained two small motorboats which were used to spread chlorine around the swimming area at the Lido in an effort to avoid the swimmers being poisoned. This, of course, further contributed to the lifelessness of the lake. The boats were called Doreen and Chloreen. I am not making this up.

And this third nest is the most clueless of all, built on the open shore of the Serpentine near the Triangle car park. There is really nothing to say about this foolish enterprise.

Here is a Moorhen chick from a much more intelligently sited nest, well hidden under the boat hire platform.

You can see its odd little wings, almost devoid of feathers. The projection at the leading edge will be the bird's alula, a little group of feathers at the leading edge of the wing that can be raised in low speed flight to form a slot that smooths the airflow over the wing and allows it to sustain lift at a higher angle of attack. The alula is moved by the digit that corresponds to the human thumb, which is easy to see here, but does not show on a fully feathered wing. Apart from this, birds have two finger bones, index and middle, which are fused together at the tip to make a strong support for the primary flight feathers. The other fingers had no function and were abandoned tens millions of years ago.

1 comment:

  1. Doreen and Chloreen - priceless. Any more tales form the past would be welcome.
    Also enjoying the list of inept nesting choices. (poor chicks though)