Monday, 24 February 2014

The first Great Crested Grebes' nest of the year is on the northeast corner of the Serpentine island, behind the floating baskets of water plants. It is rather hard to see from the shore.

It seems a good site, well screened against large gulls by bushes. I am not sure whether one of the Grey Herons can get to it; this depends on whether the side of the island slopes steeply enough into the water to stop them wading along.

A pair of Mandarins was visible on the Long Water near Peter Pan.

There are at least three males here, and probaby the same number of females. Since they are often seen in the bushes directly opposite Peter Pan, it's probable that they are nesting there in tree holes.

Also at Peter Pan, a mob of Mallard drakes was fighting over a solitary female, who was taking the opportunity to get away from them; you can just see her tail disappearing out of the right side of the picture.

There are still plenty of Redwings at the bottom of the Parade Ground near the bandstand. When I went to see them they had been joined by a Green Woodpecker.

This allowed me to get quite close while I had the camera in front of my face, but as soon as I put it down and looked at the bird, it fled. This strengthens my belief that these birds are particularly sensitive to the human gaze because they have light-coloured eyes, as Jackdaws do, which allow them to be easily seen in a nest hole and thus deter others of their species from entering. They see human eyes, with obvious white corneas, as particularly challenging.

The male Tawny Owl was again not visible in the morning, but had come out by the second time I visited the nest tree at 3.15.

Paul Turner suggested to me that he is coming out late because he has been catching mice for his mate and four hungry owlets as well as for himself, and he is tired in the morning. This may well be right.

Here is a Coal Tit eating a pine nut against a background of spring blossom in the Flower Walk.


  1. I like the study of the Blue Tit!

  2. The eye colour theory doesn't work for Columba pigeons: of the 3 British species it's the one with dark eyes that nests in tree holes! My theory is that Green Woodpeckers are especially vulnerable to raptors on the ground as they are not the fastest/most agile fliers, so having a human observing you and blowing your cover (camouflage) is too much for them. Although it is instinctive rather than calculated, hence they have to see your eyes as you say. At one time I had the opposite problem trying to photograph a kestrel with a catadioptric lens, it didn't mind watchers at a certain distance but would flee when I raised that. I read that the 'big eye' appearance of these lenses can frighten wildlife. Jim n. London

  3. Well, it may not work for all species, but it certainly works for Jackdaws. Did you see this study described on 'The Rattling Crow'? I am guessing by extending it to Green Woodpeckers.

    Catadioptric lenses scare me too.

    1. Interesting thanks, but doesn't seem to clinch the matter. It only demonstrates how Jackdaws respond to different flat decoys. Do you find Jackdaws shyer of people than dark-eyed Corvids? It never made Tufted Ducks shy. Also returning to Stock Doves, do you ever see tame examples as with Wood Pigeons in London parks? Jim

    2. Yes, the Jackdaws in the park are intensely sensitive to being stared at, far more than the other corvids -- and that includes Jays, which have light-coloured eyes. You have to sidle up to them deliberately looking away. They are new arrivals, of course. The ones in Richmond Park are quite used to humans looking at them.

      All the Stock Doves in the park remain shy too, in spite of having been here for years.