Friday, 1 January 2016

One of the pair of Herring Gulls that hang out in the Diana fountain enclosure was dancing to attract worms to the surface. This works remarkably well, and it pulled up four in the same spot within a minute.

The pair always hunt within a small area the size of a singles tennis court. It is not clear whether this is an unusually wormy patch or whether it is simply the gulls' habit to go there.

There is no doubt that the north end of the Long Water near the Italian Garden is full of fish. One of these was seeing its last daylight as it was swallowed by a Cormorant ...

... and a Great Crested Grebe was also finding plenty under the dead willow tree.

The family of Moorhens in the Italian Garden are still together and may often be seen foraging in the grass strips down either side of the garden. They are probably looking for small grubs, but a Moorhen will eat almost anything -- the secret of their success.

A Blackbird behind the Lido ate an ivy berry. Like many berries these are poisonous to mammals but nutritious to birds, which later deposit the seeds undigested and help the plant to spread.

On the terrace underneath, the odd couple were wandering around together. They have been mates for years but have never produced any goslings. It is very likely that the Canada-Greylag hybrid is sterile.

The Grey Heron nest on the Serpentine island was occupied again. But the birds don't seem to be serious about nesting, and only occasionally add twigs to the big heap.

The twig held by this Black-Headed Gull is just a toy. They migrate away in spring to breed, some of them going to northern Europe and some to local landfill sites, a rich supply of food if you aren't fussy.

Robins are singing all over the park. This one was in the Dell.

The name 'Robin' is a remnant of the medieval habit of giving familiar birds personal names: Robin Redbreast, Jenny Wren, Philip Sparrow, Jack Daw. In this case the first part of the name has survived into modern usage; with the Wren it is the other way round.


  1. Ralph, What is the rarest birds that have been in seen in the park over the last few decades?
    Just curious!

    1. Difficult to distinguish birds that are genuinely rare from those that are simply rare in Central London -- such as common House Sparrows. Probably the rarest visitor was the White-Winged Black Tern that spent several days on the Serpentine a few years ago.

  2. Interesting about the medieval names, didn't know that.

  3. Here's another one I've found. Magpie from "Maggoty-pie" or "Maggot the pie" being versions originally of Magot pie, Magot being a pet version of Marguerite. Assuming it's coincidental or subsidiary that the Irish for the same bird is Meaige.

    As a bird name, pie also gave rise to the adjectives pied and piebald, and possibly pie as a preparation, originally one which several ingredients may be gathered, like a magpie collects items. Pie as a bird name derives from Old French/the latin name pica.

    As regards the typographical terms pica, Oxforddictionaries states: "Late 16th century: from Anglo-Latin pica (literally 'magpie'), commonly identified with a 15th-century book of rules about Church feasts, but no edition of such a pica printed in ‘pica’ type is known."

    Also the malaise pica, meaning consumption of/craving to eat unusual things, may again refer to magpies' collecting reputation, but that is not the only theory. Happy new year to all from Jim n.L. (still in festive time-lag!)

  4. Funnily enough, that happens in Spanish too. A folk name for the magpie in certain regions in Spain is "marica", which is an affectionate name for María (Mary).

    1. How interesting. I suppose it isn't considered a bird of ill omen in Spain as it is here.