Wednesday, 14 September 2016

This Lesser Black-Backed Gaull hauling a recently killed Feral Pigeon out of the Serpentine is not the usual pigeon-killing gull, who has deep yellow legs. And I don't think it's his mate either, as she has paler but still clear yellow legs. Is pigeon predation finally spreading to other gulls? This needs watching.


A Mandarin drake crossing the Long Water was already growing his fine breeding plumage. His head feathers haven't yet grown to their full length, when they resemble an ancient Egyptian hairstyle, and the 'sails' projecting above his wings are not yet fully developed.


There were 28 Red-Crested Pochards in the shadow of the island, probably having flown in from Regent's Park which is their main headquarters. So far the drakes show no sign of regrowing their breeding plumage.


Nor does this Tufted drake preening on the Serpentine. His sides remain dull grey, though he retains some pure white feathers underneath.


The willow tree near the bridge provided a double-deck resting place for a Mallard drake and a couple of Egyptian Geese.


A flight of Greylags descended on the Lido among the swimmers. Geese and Mute Swans have really taken over this area, and the staff are hard pressed to clean it every morning.


Still no sign of the Black Swan. If he doesn't tun up in a couple of days I shall go to Regent's Park and see if he has shown up there.

A Great Crested Grebe gave a perch to a chick. The long season of feeding the young is coming to an end, and many of the young grebes are now independent.


The young Grey Heron that has been hanging around the Lido restaurant was on one of the reed rafts, looking hopefully for an unattended table with leftovers.


A Jackdaw was looking splendid in the sunshine at the leaf yard.


On the chestnut tree above it, the male Little Owl was sunning himself on his favourite branch.


His mate was in the next tree.


This Oak Processionary moth caterpillar was moving slowly over the path below the Diana fountain. It was by itself, not in the long procession that gives these creatures their name.


The caterpillars damage oak trees, and are also covered in poisonous hairs which can cause severe itching, and sometimes breathing difficulties especially in people with asthma. They should therefore be given a wide berth, especially as the hairs can break off so that you don't need to touch a caterpillar to be affected. There was an infestation of these moths on some oak trees east of this place, and it looks as if they are spreading. I will report the sighting to the park ecologists.

20 comments:

  1. I hope the Black Swan is safe and sound

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  2. Reading your blog from Canada and hoping that the Black Swan has come to no harm. On tenterhooks and looking forward to seeing more news in the next few days. Feels like I'm watching a TV series cliff-hanger. We ALL want a positive outcome to his sudden disappearance.

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    1. We're all hoping to see him again. As I said in Wednesday's blog, if he doesn't turn up soon I'll check Regents' Park.

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    2. Despite the predicted rain, I think I'll take a walk over to Regents Park tomorrow morning. I'll let you know if I see a young black swan, but maybe I could be mixing him up with others. You may have to do a biscuit offering test on any black swans found.

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    3. I went this afternoon and couldn't find his, though this proves nothing. Will try St James's Park when I have time. NB there is a pair of captive Black Swans in Regent's Park and one widowed Black Swan in St James's.

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  3. The baskets near the bridge that have been a rich source of food for the grebe families in recent years seem to have failed this time round. It was the perfect place to watch their impressive skills. I wonder what kept the fish away from the baskets this year?

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    1. It's partly the time of year. Perch hatch here, grow a bit, and leave when they're larger. This was perceptible, and both Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants were visiting earlier. Nevertheless, traffic is down. I think the twigs need renewing.

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    2. Ralph, when you say the Perch leave, how can they leave?

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    3. I meant that they leave the baskets and go into the open lake.

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  4. It is possible that the black swan is by the Dell Cafe, there are reef beds and he used to hide in those before he discovered the other end of the lake. I had a look in the Long Water this morning and no signs of him but not looked by the Dell. It might be worth having a look.

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    1. I always go right round the lake. I might miss him on one day, but not on several successive days.

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  5. Please Black Swan, come back...

    In other news, the pigeon-killing Gull appears to have become a successful teacher of its deadly craft. Is there anything Gulls are no good at?

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  6. was by the DEll restaurant today. had a good look round. no sign of our Black Swan. hope he hasn't been kidnapped??
    Mark W2

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  7. As to the Lesser black-backed gull with the feral pigeon kill, I took a good look at the pigeon as I went by, and it was definitely very freshly killed. My photos too, show the legs as NOT brightly colored, which is characteristic of the usual pigeon killing gull in that area. BUT, do you have any photos of the pigeon killing gull from last year during September? Could the leg color (pale now) be a seasonal thing? Optional theory, this could be a young off-spring gull of the pigeon-killing gull, enjoying the left over benefits...

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    1. I have several pictures taken in autumn, and the gull's legs don't fade. The yellow colour is caused by the carotene pigment astaxanthin, absorbed from the gull's victims, and is not a seasonal thing.

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  8. As to the caterpillar, it looked similar to one that we find sometimes on the Stanford U campus, which we call Tussock moth. It too is extremely irritating in a secondary sense, such as the sand found under the trees. I am guessing it is the bristles or spines too.

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    1. It now turns out to be a Brown-Tail moth, similar to the Oak Processionary moth in both its appearance and the symptoms it causes, though these are not as severe. The Tussock moth seems to have frivolous little tufts in addition to the hairs. I wouldn't let this creature walk on my finger. Too many hairy caterpillars have irritant hairs.

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