Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Egyptian Geese at the Henry Moore sculpture are down to their last chick. They seemed to be guarding it closely and making a fuss of it, but we know from sad experience that they they will forget and wander off, so here is a picture of it before the inevitable happens.

While I was taking a picture over the balustrade at the east end of the Serpentine, the Egyptian that hangs around the restaurant landed on it and walked up to me and stared into my face.

It must be getting a lot of food from people on the restaurant terrace.

The Black Swan was nearby, with both girlfriends and another teenage swan. He didn't seem interested in any of them, and swam away and preened his elegant ruffles.

There is a Mute Swan in one of the Italian Garden ponds. Sometimes one or two fly in and stay there for several days. There is plenty of algae for them to eat at the bottom of the pond, which they can reach with their long neck.

It's not clear how they manage to get out, since it's a long walk round the edge of the Long Water to reach the west side of the Vista, the nearest place where they can reach the main lake.   But they always do manage to leave. Mute Swans can take off from land if they have to, but it's a struggle and they avoid it if possible.

Africa Gómez's blog The Rattling Crow has an interesting piece on Mute Swans. It was news to me that they sometimes have white cygnets.

Two Mallard drakes were wrestling at Peter Pan.

The male Great Crested Grebe of the pair under the willow tree was keeping one eye on his nest.

The pair at the east end of the Serpentine were vaguely adding an occasional twig to their incomplete nest attached to the floating raft. But the nest at the east end of the island seems to have sunk, and there were no grebes near it.

There are few Pied Wagtails around, but one of them showed up on the grass near the Triangle car park.

However, there are Robins coming out of every bush, and today eleven of them came to my hand to be fed.

The Song Thrush was beside the Henry Moore again today, looking for worms.

And the white-faced Blackbird was in her usual place near the Italian Garden.


  1. Eleven robins! I would give so much to be able to have them come to my hand...
    That picture of the poor doomed baby is so sad and poignant.

    1. I don't know what your local birds are in Spain. But if you have Great Tits, start with them and the others will follow. Put seeds (for example sunflower hearts) on a wall or window sill and stay nearby. After a few days, when the birds are used to this, try holding out seeds on your hand instead.

    2. I'll try to do that as best I can. The problem with Spain is that in some areas (mine included) people still hunt small birds (it is of course forbidden by law, but Spanish laws are a joke), and passerines are very wary of any human interaction. Studies show that migrating robins from Northern Europe change behaviour after crossing the Pyrinees.

      Nevertheless, Great Tits appear not to give a fig about humans looking at them, even in Spain, so it is worth a try!

  2. Isn't February a funny time to produce a brood anyway, even if it has been mild? Good luck to the gosling..
    I've never seen a blackbird with white on them- is it that kind of albino-ism (the name of which escapes me)? In Springfield Park a lot of the Crows seem to be effected.

    1. Egyptian Geese are native to the edges of Africa, from north to south and on both sides of the equator. They have no idea of the seasons.

      Blackbirds quite often have white patches. It isn't albinism, it's leucism, which affects only feather colour. The genes for feather colour are different for those for the pigments on the rest of the body.

      Crows with white flight feathers, or white bands on these feathers, are first-year birds that have been eating a low-quality diet of human scraps instead of nutritious worms. Because they are growing, they need better-quality nourishment than adults, and if they don't get it their manufacture of eumelanin, the black pigment, is interrupted. They will be all black in their second year and thereafter.

    2. Thank you for the clarification.
      So, some Egyptian Geese are feckless parents by geography, as well as personality, it seems.
      Is this leucism related to the problem of malnutrition causing 'Angel Wing' in the young water fowl, which you mentioned?

    3. Leucism is genetic, and affects many birds. The white patches on young crows' wings are not examples of leucism, but are caused by malnutrition. 'Angel wing' is caused by too much protein in the diet of a growing bird that lives on low-protein food such as grass. There is too much protein in bread, so giving them wholemeal bread is equally bad. It causes bones to grow too fast and remain soft, so that the weight of the developing primary feathers, which are quite heavy, bends the bones in the outer joint of the wings.