Sunday, 31 August 2014

The two young Hobbies were perched together high in a plane tree near the Physical Energy statue, while one of their parents circled over the Round Pond.

Their usual food supply is running low, with few dragonflies still remaining and the Swallows, Swifts and House Martins off to Africa, but their new found skill of catching Parakeets will keep them well feduntil they decide to leave.

There was still one dragonfly, a Common Darter, chasing smaller insects over the little pond at the top of the Dell. These had also attracted the young Grey Wagtail.

Its bright yellow feathers are actually a good camouflage in this place, where they echo the colour of the lichen on the rocks. Incidentally, when I started coming to the park there was no lichen, because it can't grow in heavily polluted air. Things didn't improve until the Clean Air Act of 1957, which banned coal fires in London.

The two Great Crested Grebe families at the Serpentine island had got too close to each other, and there was a dispute though it didn't break into an outright fight. The chicks watched, learning how to be adults. This pair of adults have just pushed the invisible territorial frontier a few feet forward, and are congratulating each other.

After the fuss died down, it was back to fishing as usual.

This is one of the two Jays near the leaf yard that will take food from the hands of people they trust. You hold up a peanut in a place where there is a clear flight path, and the Jay glides down smoothly and grabs it in passing.

One of the Grey Herons had annoyed some gulls. A group of them, both Black-Headed and Lesser Black-Backed, chased it the full length of the Long Water. Here they are coming back from the bridge.

And this is one of the many young Robins in the Flower Walk. It is developing its red breast but still has speckled juvenile feathers on its head.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

The male Little Owl reappeared after being out of sight for several days. He was in the same chestnut tree as usual but on the other side of it, and hard to see among the leaves. He may have been using this perch unobserved for a while.

All four Hobbies were visible from time to time. This is one of the two young ones, as you can see from the fact that its underside is pale, without the red area around the legs that marks an adult Hobby. As usual, it was in a plane tree near the Physical Energy statue.

I was told that they had again been seen eating a Ring-Necked Parakeet, but don't have a picture of this.

These two Great Crested Grebe chicks were with their father in a bush opposite Peter Pan.

Their mother was fishing for them on the near side of the lake, near the deserted Coots' nest. Without even diving, she reached into the twigs at the base of the nest and pulled out a large fish. It was too large for the chicks, of course, and even she had to make an effort to swallow it.

The Tufted duckling was still with its Mallard stepmother among the floating baskets at the east end of the Serpentine.

It is looking rather lanky now, but I still think it is a Tufted Duck. This chocolate colour would be most unusual for a Mallard duckling. And its brown eyes are quite normal for a Tufted Duck at this age; they don't turn yellow till later.

A Pochard drake was preening on the Serpentine, displaying a fine bright red eye. Only male Pochards have red eyes, whereas with Tufted Ducks, which are closely related, both sexes have yellow eyes.

This Lesser Black-Backed Gull is the male of the pigeon-eating pair, distinguished by his large size and very bright custard-yellow legs. Some people were feeding pigeons on the edge of the Serpentine when he rushed in and I thought he was going to try to catch a pigeon. But in fact he emerged holding a madeleine.

(If you want a Proust joke here you can make it up yourself.)

Friday, 29 August 2014

This young Carrion Crow is this year's offspring of Charlie and his mate Melissa. He is known as Kevin, though of course he may be a girl crow. Although crows are nervous birds, he has learned from his parents that some humans can be trusted. He is eating dried mealworm pellets out of Paul Turner's hand.

Paul had also seen three of the Hobbies, one of them at the top of a plane tree eating a small bird. By the time I arrived it had finished its meal, but had also come down to a lower branch where it was possible to get a reasonable picture.

This Greylag Goose on the Serpentine was chewing a twig which had fallen into the lake, for no reason that I could discover. It continued to do this for several minutes, sometimes going away and returning.

The young Grey Wagtail was at the east end of the Serpentine, running up and down the shore and around the floating baskets of water plants.

The single Great Crested Grebe chick in the same area was resting while waiting for its parents to bring food. The young birds are strangely flat, and look like floating bath sponges to which the head of an unrelated bird has been attached.

A Grey Heron was preening itself on one of the fence posts around the permanent reed bed near the Lido. There was only room for one foot, but that is no problem for a heron.

For the past few days there has been a large flock of Long-Tailed Tits moving slowly around the bushes at the bottom of Buck Hill, followed by other small birds.

The larger tits in the flock come out for food when I pass, but Long-Tailed Tits have absolutely no interest in humans, and treat them as if they didn't exist. This allows you to get quite close for a photograph.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Mute Swan family with seven cygnets hatched on the Long Water have been gradually extending their territory, first on to the Serpentine beyond the bridge, but now much farther along the lake. Their advance has been at the expense of the family with five cygnets, which has now been driven to the far side of the island. Here the males of the two families are having a face-off near the island, appearing evenly matched for now but the shifting frontier tells another story.

When the dominant swan started his annexation of territory he owned only the north end of the Long Water. But it looks now as if in a couple of years he will have the whole lake, and the seventy-odd other swans will all be confined to the no-man's-land of the Round Pond.

Great Crested Grebes are fiercely territorial too, but at least they stop when they think their fishing ground is large enough. This is the family nesting opposite Peter Pan, and fishing in the northern half of the Long Water.

Near the Serpentine island, the mother of three chicks had been fishing under a pedalo, and was bringing her catch back to the family.

The Grey Herons have to wait for the fish to come to them. Patient as they are, they can't resist looking under water occasionally to see how things are shaping up.

The territory of the Hobby family is the whole park. They flew over to Kensington Gardens from the far end of Hyde Park, were 10 House Martins had stopped for a day on their migration to Africa.

The youngest of the three broods of Moorhens in the Italian Garden are still light enough to run over waterlily leaves, but only as long as they keep going. If one stops, the leaf sinks.

There is at least one even younger Moorhen chick lurking under the south end of the bridge. Maybe it was hatched in the drainpipe on the Long Water side of the bridge, which Moorhens have used before.

There are still some damselflies and dragonflies on the little pond at the top of the Dell waterfall. This is a Common Blue damselfly; there are also some Black-Tailed damselflies. The surviving dragonflies are mostly red Common Darters.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

It was an uneventful day. There was a very distant glimpse of one of the Hobbies hunting over the Diana children's playground; the Swallows that they were chasing yesterday had moved on, though later when I went to Chiswick I found a few over the river. The Little Owl was not on view. So all I can offer is some very ordinary pictures.

The Moorhens in the Italian Garden have four chicks in their newest brood, plus the three from two earlier broods. Two of the youngest chicks were already climbing around the water plants on their enormous feet.

The chick from the second brood, which I had photographed being chased away yesterday, was back in favour and being attended to by a parent.

In the next pond, one of the five young Coots was diving to collect algae from the bottom.

All the Great Crested Grebe chicks could be seen, and also heard incessantly calling for food. This is the single chick at the east end of the Serpentine, waiting behind one of the floaing baskets of water plants for a parent to bring it a fish.

On another floating basket, a Grey Heron was striking a commanding pose.

The father of the seven young Mute Swans was having a vigorous wash and flap on the Serpentine and all the young birds were copying him. None of them has managed to take off yet, at least while I have been watching.

Autumn is definitely here, and this female Blackbird was rummaging in the newly fallen leaves, looking for insects and worms.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

On a grey damp day, half a dozen Swallows were swooping low over the Serpentine to eat their fill of insects before continuing their journey south. The House Martins have already left.

The Hobbies evidently knew about these visitors, because the whole family of four flew between the lake and the Round Pond several times. I didn't see them take any, but this one was looking down with keen interest.

The Moorhens in the Italian Garden, which have already had two broods of chicks, have just produced another, this time on the northeast of the four ponds. I could see three chicks, though there may have been another lurking in their nest in the reeds.

The sole survivor of the second brood, until now favoured with both parents' attention, is now being chased away. It is large enough to look after itself.

The Great Crested Grebes nesting on the east side of the Vista still have two chicks, both of which were visible today. Here their mother brings them a fish too large for them to swallow. After a while she ate it herself and went off to find something more suitable.

There are now nine Great Crested Grebe chicks: four on the Long Water and five on the Serpentine. This is the best total for several years.

There were a lot of Common Pochards on both the Serpentine and the Long Water. They will spend the winter here, along with the few Pochards that are permanent residents.

After a few days' absence the male Little Owl was back in his usual place, sitting out in the drizzle. He doesn't mind being rained on but goes into shelter when it is windy.

Monday, 25 August 2014

On a very wet Bank Holiday Monday there was almost no one in the park, which changes the bird population quite noticeably. There were at least 60 Wood Pigeons on the grass around the west side of the Vista, which would normally have been thronged with people. I saw three Pied Wagtails on the edge of the Serpentine. This one was running around inside the deserted enclosure of the Diana fountain. It is a juvenile, probably the one we have seen in this area before.

The enclosure also contained some Herring Gulls prospecting for worms. Normally when they do this they patter their little feet on the ground to simulate the noise of rain and so attract the worms to the surface. But this time real rain was pelting down and there was no need for fakery.

Three Hobbies flew from Hyde Park into Kensington Gardens and one of them was visible on the usual tree.

There are actually two broods of Great Crested Grebe Chicks on the Long Water, not one that moves around as I had thought before. One parent, from the nest on the east side of the Vista, was keeping its wings tightly clamped down on the chicks but I think there are two of them. The other family, opposite Peter Pan, certainly has two.

The nest is quite invisible but must be somewhere near this bush on the east side of the lake.

During a brief pause in the downpour the three grebe chicks from the island came out from among the moored pedalos, where their parents had been hunting fish sheltering under the boats.

The pair of pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gulls were at their favourite lookout post on the roof of the Dell restaurant, taking a few minutes off from their endless hunt to have a preen.

Three of the seven young Mute Swans from the nest on the Long Water were pecking busily at some submerged delicacy. All I could see there was some tough, inedible plane leaves.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Hobbies were in what has now become their usual tree. Some time after I had photographed this one, Steve told me that he had found the whole family of four together.

The House Martins have left the lake and must be heading south on their migration to Africa, so the Hobbies should be off soon too, following House Martins, Swallows and Swifts and doing their best to eat them on the way.

Apart from these glamorous raptors, it was a day of ordinary birds. The three Great Crested Grebe chicks from the island were out near the boat hire platform squeaking for food. The bare red patch on the top of this one's head, which stimulates its parent to feed it, is now almost completely feathered over and will be gone in a few days.

The young Grey Wagtail was running about inside one of the floating reed beds, finding plenty of insects.

This Mallard was doing the same on the abandoned Coot nest near Peter Pan. The nest was occupied for months while the Coots tried unsuccessfully to raise three broods of chicks, during which time it mus have become heavily infested with bugs.

A Cormorant was looking unusually glossy and elegant in the sunshine on the fallen horse chestnut tree in the Long Water.

On the edge of the Serpentine, a Feral Pigeon was having a bath.

In the little pool at the top of the waterfall in the Dell there were still several late Common Blue damselflies and this elegant red Common Darter dragonfly.

Here is a sign of approaching autumn: a field mushroom in the grass near the Hobbies' tree.

They are quite common in the park but you seldom see them, because enthusiastic mushroom hunters come out at dawn to pick them.