Monday, 7 December 2015

There was a Redwing in the rowan trees on Buck Hill.

It seems strange that in most places Redwings and Fieldfares arrive in flocks, but here we just get them in ones and twos -- at least until the end of January, when the wretched funfair has finally been dismantled and small flocks of Redwings arrive to hunt for worms in the enormous devastation on the Parade Ground.

There were plenty of Blackbirds, all winter migrants and very shy, unlike our small resident population.

And a solitary female Chaffinch was picking berries, chewing off the outside and spitting it out, and eating the seeds.

This is exactly the opposite of what Ring-Necked Parakeets do with yew berries: they only eat the red pulp and discard the stone. But everyone to her own taste.

The Grey Herons on the island have built four new nests. These are not last year's nests, which had almost completely fallen apart.

Last year the herons waited till February before starting to nest, and maybe the recent mild weather has misled them into thinking that winter is ending. Last year, having built their nests and begun to sit in them, they abandoned their task and never took it up again, and there is no reason to suppose that they will be any more successful this year. The herons in the much larger heronry in Regent's Park have also had a bad time, at least partly because Egyptian Geese are taking their nests. The only successful nest site in Central London, as far as I know, has been in Battersea Park.

The Black Swan was his usual stroppy self, chasing a Mute Swan all the way from the bridge to the island.

His girlfriend was at the shore opposite the island, and I think he wanted to encourage her with this spectacle.

The Mute Swan that was injured was back on guard in a place on the west side of the Long Water between the bridge and the Vista.

From here he can look under the bridge and right down the Serpentine to deal with any intruders as soon as they arrive. No one came to challenge him, and he and his mate had full possession of the Long Water.

The speckled Canada-Greylag hybrid goose seemed to be looking brighter and walking better, and was preening its big dark wings, which seem to be in good condition.

Several people took pity on this goose when it was looking sad and lame, and have been feeding it, which may have helped it to recover at least partly from its mysterious illness.

A Tufted Duck was also preening, looking very smart in his fresh plumage, with a long and jaunty tuft. You can see the faint purple and green iridescence on his head.

The Teal was in his usual place near the Italian Garden. He never seems to travel more than a few yards, and when he is invisible I think it's because he is in the nearby reed bed.

But the Scaup who was here for several weeks earlier this year eventually remembered where he had been going when he strayed into the park, and flew away. The Teal is likely to do the same.

A Black-Headed Gull was threatening another gull in the characteristic head-down, forward-tilted posture, with wings slightly spread to make itself look as large as possible.

Having screamed its way into a fury, it flew off and knocked a different gull off a post.


  1. The photo of the Blackheaded Gull threatening another gull shows how smooth the surface of their plumage is and looks almost silk-like. Obviously this is part of their water-proofing? A lovely photo.


    1. Gulls are beautiful and clever, and watching them fly is an education in aerodynamics. People miss that by thinking of them as pests.

  2. How would you tell how old a Black headed Gull is by looking at it, like the one in the picture?

    1. They have adult plumage in their second year, but their legs remain marmalade-coloured and gradually darken to beetroot red over several years. The rate of change is variable, so really you can never do more than guess.

  3. Please keep up the good work I read this every day and once a week when I have time at lunch to come to Hyde Park it helps me know what I might see in my short visit.
    One question about this
    "at least until the end of January, when the wretched funfair has finally been dismantled and small flocks of Redwings arrive to hunt for worms in the enormous devastation on the Parade Ground"
    I thought the funfair ends January 3rd. Does it really take that long for them to remove it? How long do you think the redwings etc will be there looking for worms after it has gone.
    BTW how do Egyptian Geese take over herons nests aren't the heron a bit bigger?

    1. It takes longer and longer to erect and dismantle the funfair every year as the filthy thing grows like a cancer. Expect 3 weeks, and of course the area will be roped off for months.

      I don't know how Egyptian Geese evict Grey Herons, but they do. I've seen their foolish faces sticking out of the heron nests in Regent's Park.

  4. Wow I didn't know it took that long. Thanks for the reply. I will have a look for redwings there in January.
    Any sign of Tawny owls at the moment?

    1. No sign. Of course you'll hear from me when there is.

  5. Is there any sign of the Little Owls either?
    Owls are the only type of bird that no matter how hard I try to see them I can never do so!

    1. They're almost certainly in the leaf yard and out of sight. The chestnut trees are now leafless and they would be too exposed there. Nevertheless, I am still looking every day.