Friday, 31 October 2014

A Coal Tit in the leaf yard has been coming closer and closer while the other birds are being fed. At the moment it doesn't quite dare to come forward, even to take seeds off the railings. But a combination of bribery and patience, and the hunger that comes with the chill of approaching winter, should win it over in time.

The Nuthatches have long ago overcome their timidity and are whizzing down to the railings. There were four of them around the leaf yard today.

There are a lot of Cormorants on the Long Water, perched on the posts near Peter Pan and on various fallen trees. Several more had come under the bridge and were fishing in the wire baskets.

At this rate they will soon have eaten most of the suitable-sized fish in the lake, and will return to the Thames which is their home base.

A Grey Heron was sunbathing on a post at the east end of the Serpentine with its wings in that curious inside-out position that only Herons can manage.

The Common Gull resting on one of the buoys around the Lido was slightly too heavy to stand securely. Every time there was a gust of wind the buoy started to tip over, and the gull had to flap to regain its balance.

A Lesser Black-Backed Gull was calling loudly, its voice easily distinguishable from that of a Herring Gull by its lower pitch.

The male Little Owl was on his favourite branch in exactly the same place as his mate had been yesterday. If you compare the two pictures you can see how much more white he has on his face.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Today it was the turn of the female Little Owl to come out on to their nest tree. Her white eyebrows are shorter than those of her mate, and don't reach to the outer corners of her eyes.

Later a flock of Ring-Necked Parakeets descended on the top branches and drove her into shelter in the hollow tree.

The male Tawny Owl came out of his nest hole just as I approached the tree, and allowed me to take a picture of him.

The yew tree near Peter Pan was quieter than of late, with just one Blackbird eating the berries.

On the nearby bench, Kevin the young Carrion Crow was waiting to be fed. He has become quite bumptious, and bit Paul Turner's finger when he didn't get the peanut he was demanding.

Two Moorhens were industriously pulling small grubs out of the plastic mat on the jetty of the Lido bathing area.

On the shore someone was feeding geese, and some Black-Headed Gulls were waiting for their chance to grab some food -- literally hanging around, because these agile birds can hover even in still air.

The two young Great Crested Grebes at the north end of the Long Water have been fishing together for some time. They can catch more in this way by driving the fish towards each other. Here they approach the well stocked area near the Italian Garden in the evening light.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

It was a dark grey rainy day with bad visibility, and you will have to excuse some drab pictures. There were plenty of large birds in the air. A skein of Greylag Geese arrived in Kensington Gardens ...

... just as a party of Mute Swans were flying from the Serpentine to the Round Pond, watched by the rider of the Physical Energy group.

The number of swans on the Round Pond is now back to normal, over 60 on most days.

The little band of Red Crested Pochards have now established a permanent resting place on the Serpentine island. I could see 18 here, and there were probably another four out of sight.

There are still only a few Common Gulls. This is not one of the two I saw first, since they had odd-coloured legs and this one's are the classic Common Gull pale yellow. Although it is noticeably larger than the Black-Headed Gulls next to it, the difference is much less apparent at a distance when a mixed flock is milling about. They can be spotted in flight by their black wingtips with a white 'window'.

The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gulls were in their usual place on the roof of the Dell restaurant, choosing their next meal. The male is on the right, distinguishable by his bright yellow legs.

The male Tawny Owl was inside his nest hole, out of sight from the ground but visible to a bunch of Jays and Magpies that were screeching at him. The male Little Owl was in his usual place on the chestnut tree, despite the rain.

To brighten things up, here is a splendid picture taken yesterday by Andy Sunters, showing a Jay taking a peanut from my hand. This is accomplished in a single swoop, grabbing the nut in full flight.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The crowd of birds eating berries in the yew tree near Peter Pan was joined by a Mistle Thrush. The berries are beginning to run out, except on the side of the tree facing the path, which is too exposed for the birds' comfort when people are passing. But a wet day with no people will see that corrected.

In contrast, the heavily berried rowan trees on Buck Hill were deserted except for a Carrion Crow.

One of these trees has far more berries than the others in the group, but the birds have been visiting it less. Perhaps there is some difference of flavour or ripeness.

A pair of Nuthatches came down to take pine nuts off the fence of the leaf yard.

A large flock of Long-Tailed Tits passed along the side of the Long Water near Peter Pan.

Below them, some Moorhens were having a fight, in which as many as four joined at one time, as well as a Coot. Moorhens and Coots fight in the same way, leaning back and kicking their opponents, and then jumping on to them.

The male Little Owl was out on his usual branch enjoying the warm sunshine.

The male Tawny Owl also came out on his favourite spot on the broken trunk of the nest tree. The flies that had been plaguing him seemed to have gone away.

But no sooner had he settled down than he was harassed by half a dozen Magpies. One of them actually flew over to attack him directly, and the owl quickly retreated into his hole. Here the aggressive Magpie shouts down at him.

It is probably not a good idea to go so close to an angry owl, and I was surprised when the owl retreated, as it could easily have slashed the magpie with its powerful talons.

Monday, 27 October 2014

The male Tawny Owl is still troubled by flies, and was restless on his perch on top of the nest tree. Here he has a good shake ...

... and a scratch to get rid of them.

There are still a lot of insects around, evidently because of the mild weather. The area around the Italian Garden is full of ladybirds, most of them the proper red kind rather than the invading harelequin ladybirds. They used to have a nest in the public convenience behind the Italian Garden, but this was destroyed in the redecoration of the place, so they must have found somewhere else.

The Little Owl was in the chestnut tree next to his nest tree, and there were no flies on him. As an insect-eating bird, he regards them as a snack rather than a pest.

This is a young Wood Piegon eating holly berries. It has not yet developed the white neck ring of an adult, but it does have the typical white wing bars. This one's eyes are mid brown, changing between juvenile dark brown and the rather odd pale grey of an adult. It is easy to mistake a young Wood Pigeon for a Stock Dove until it spreads its wings.

There were two Song Thrushes feeding in the yew bush north of Peter Pan, probably the pair that nests in the leaf yard just the other side of the statue. This one is the female, though I only know this because her mate was singing quietly to himself in the middle of an adjacent holly tree. The birds don't spend long in the yew: they dive in, grab a few berries, and go to perch in another tree.

There was a Blackbird in the yew with a white patch on her neck which made her look rather like a Ring Ouzel. This beautiful picture was taken by Eleanor Cogger.

A few months ago Andy Sunters saw what he thought might have been a Ring Ouzel between the Diana fountain and the bridge, though no one was able to find it again. It might have been the same bird.

The eight young Egyptian Geese at the Round Pond were still in good order, resting on the edge in the warm sunshine.

Several of the plane trees on the path between the Physical Enerby statue and the Speke obelisk are heavily infested with fungus. They are quite old trees and perhaps no longer in the best of health. I think this fungus is Pholiota squarrosa again, though it is less yellow than the one I photographed a few days ago near the Serpentine bridge.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The yew bush to the north of Peter Pan was full of activity, with several Blackbirds and Ring-Necked Parakeets eating its berries, and Blue and Great Tits hopping around looking for insects. These were joined by a Goldcrest.

Goldcrests like yews, which give these tiny birds cover in all seasons, but I had never seen one in this bush before.

Next to the yew, in a hawthorn, a Song Thrush was waiting until things quietened down so that it could have a go at the berries.

The loud rattles of Mistle Thrushes around the beech tree next to the Tawny Owl's nest tree showed that an owl was in sight.

You can see the difference in the patterns of the spots of Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes. Song Thrushes' spots have pointed tops and cluster in rows along the bird's body. Mistle Thrushes' spots are more oval and wider, and are arranged in a more transverse way. This is more reliable than distinguishing the species by size or colour, which you can never be quite certain of, especially in poor light.

The Tawny Owl himself was taking no notice of this chorus of disapproval.

Both Little Owls were on view. The female was near the male's usual perch in the nest tree ...

... and the male was in the adjacent chestnut, mostly obscured by leaves blowing about so I was lucky to get this hasty shot.

There was a different Pied Wagtail on the roof of the small boathouse. This is a first-winter bird, with a grey back and light greyish marks on its face. An adult female would be similar with a white face, and an adult male would be almost entirely black and white.

Recently I claimed that Honey Fungus (Armillaria mellea) was growing in fairy rings in the park and was challenged by Mario, who said that the park's fairy rings consisted of the true Fairy Ring Mushroom (Marasmius oreades). Since then I have been looking for a Honey Fungus ring and have not found one, as all the rings of any variety had been smashed by mowing. But today I found a ring of a different fungus near the Serpentine Gallery.

However, I don't know what it is -- maybe a Lactarius species? It was growing between a horse chestnut and a recently cut down lime tree.

There was also this violet-tinged mushroom in the middle of Buck Hill.

It might be a Field Blewit (Clitocybe saeva, formerly Lepista saeva). However, its thin stem makes it look quite like a Fool's Funnel (Clitocybe rivulosa), a mushroom so poisonous that you shouldn't even touch it, let alone eat it.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

There are at least six Jackdaws in the park, so it seems that they must have bred successfully after their arrival earlier this year. Two of them were near the Tawny Owls' tree, and the other four were in the Diana fountain enclosure picking up grubs and worms in the grass. Here one of them has found an insect larva.

Another welcome return: the Black-Headed Gull with the ring number EY09813 has arrived back on the Long Water. It was perched on its favourite post at the Vista, and flew over straight to me and caught pieces of biscuit thrown up in the air.

This bird was ringed as an adult by Roy Sanderson on 18 January 2012, and has come to Kensington Gardens every winter since.

The Egyptian Geese at the Round still have their eight young. They were on the edge of the water and weekend visitors were giving them bread, which is very bad for them and can cause the growing birds to develop 'angel wing'. The pond has notices telling people not to do this, but they are too small and it is really a lost cause.

Two Great Crested Grebes were fishing over the wire baskets near the Serpentine bridge. They caught several medium-sized perch. Here one of them shoots past the other under water.

A single Mistle Thrush was perched in a rowan tree on Buck Hill. It showed no inclination to pick the berries. Maybe it had already had a lot, and was full.

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits and other tits flew past Peter Pan. When a Long-Tailed Tit looks straight at you its face looks almost like that of a tiny owl, because of its very frontally set eyes.

These must help them in their headlong flight through the twigs, though the birds are so tiny that they can't have much depth perception. Even Little Owls, much larger than tits, have to bob their heads from side to side to get a good impression of depth.

The male Little Owl was in the chestnut tree next to his nest tree.

The male Tawny Owl was in the beech tree next to his own nest tree for most of the day, but moved to the top of the nest tree in the middle of the afternoon.