Saturday, 31 December 2016

The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull was disturbed by a Carrion Crow trying to grab his lunch.

He chased the intruder off.

But the crow kept coming back, and managed to get quite a lot of meat.

A Cormorant and a Grey Heron stared at each other on the posts near the bridge.

They are not exactly rivals, since they have such different fishing methods and never come into direct conflict. But no doubt each one is envious when it sees the other catch a fish.

A Greylag Goose was enjoying a splashy bath.

One of the speckled Canada--Greylag hybrid geese was on the Serpentine, the first time I have seen one for several months.

They have been here on and off for at least a decade, and originally they were four siblings. One of them got some kind of disorder that made it wobbly and lame, and was killed by a fox. The fate of the other two is unknown.

A flight of Mallards came down on the Serpentine. Two of the drakes have the unusual dark brown coloration that affects several Mallards here. One has a white bib instead of a white neck band, the other no neck band at all.

The female Little Owl in the oak tree near the Albert Memorial was facing away, but turned her head round when I called to her.

The male owl in the lime tree near the Henry Moore sculpture was perched outside his hole.

While I was hopping around trying to find an angle from which he was not masked by twigs, a Robin stared at me curiously.

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits worked its way along the east side of the Long Water.

This is one of the pair of Coal Tits near the bridge, perched in a pink-stemmed ornamental bush. Both of them are extremely tame and come to my hand to be fed.

A kind-hearted visitor to the Dell restaurant put out a piece of leftover cake on a balcony table. It was instantly engulfed by Feral Pigeons, and vanished before the staff could clear away the plate.

A very happy New Year to all readers.

Friday, 30 December 2016

On a day of thick fog it was hard to see anything, let alone photograph it. But at least the frost is gone for the time being, and the hungry Blackbirds can go about their usual business of hunting worms.

The female Little Owl in the oak tree near the Albert Memorial could be seen vaguely from 40 feet away.

The one in the lime near the Henry Moore sculpture, twice as far off, was so hard to see that I wasn't sure I was photographing an owl at all.

But my faithful Pentax K-1 camera with its 450mm zoom lens can see more than the human eye, and ruthless computer processing can rescue some kind of an image from a uniformly dark grey picture.

I didn't see this happening either: a Cormorant was washing in the Long Water, flapping and making short dives. While it was under, it caught a fish and ate it while it continued washing.

There were five Grey Herons in the nests and trees on the island, including two together on the middle nest, which has now been repaired and enlarged. They saw someone on the shore who might have been about to feed them, and all swooped down to ground level together.

The young heron at the east end of the Serpentine, not seen for several weeks, has returned to its usual place on the reed raft that was stripped of plants when the Mute Swans nested there. This is the heron that got a piece of plastic net stuck on its beak, and almost starved to death before it was caught and extricated.

A Moorhen climbed briskly on to a post at Peter Pan.

There were two Greylag Geese near the Dell restaurant with unusually bright deep orange feet. This one was very aggressive, and attacked other geese as well as the Lesser Black-Backed Gull in the background.

Greylags normally have pink or pinkish-orange feet, or a butterscotch colour during the first year. I wonder to what extent foot colour is hereditary, and how much is caused by a diet unusually rich in carotenoid pigments. You would think they got plenty of these from eating ordinary grass.

There was a loud tapping noise at the Lido. It was a Lesser Black-Backed Gull which had found a really stale bit of biscuit or crust, too hard to swallow whole, and was smashing it against the ground to break it.

A young Herring Gull was amusing itself by running around in the rapids at the Diana fountain. It could just keep its footing until it ventured too far down the curved slope, got washed away and had to take off hastily.

One of the Nuthatches came out of the leaf yard to be fed.

I was hoping to entice them down to feed off my hand this winter -- one of them has already come down twice -- but they have got so used to being fed off the fence by various people that they probably won't take the plunge now.

However, the Robin at the east end of the Lido, who used to be very shy, is getting more confident and should be coming along soon.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

After another frosty night the Long Water was partly frozen.

The Jackdaws at the leaf yard, unable to dig worms from the icy ground, trotted up to be given peanuts.

Some Rose-Ringed Parakeets were trying to drink from a frozen puddle. They are not at all suited to these conditions.

The Grey Herons on the island have started gathering twigs to rebuild last year's nests. But there will be months of preliminary activity before they think of nesting.

Otherwise life went on as normal. Some Coots near the island were having a fight.

A Great Crested Grebe stretched a leg and a wing.

A male Tufted Duck turned upside down to preen his shining white underside.

A pair of Gadwalls were dabbling on the edge of the lake near the Lido.

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits passed through the trees overhead.

There was another flock on the other side of the lake. It's impossible to say how many of these swift tiny birds there are in the park.

One of the Nuthatches in the leaf yard appeared in a yew tree.

Both the Little Owls in the lime tree near the Henry Moore sculpture were indistinctly visible. In this place, a short distance along the branch from their nest hole, they can only be seen with the sun directly behind them. But if they stay here, as the days lengthen it will be possible to get better pictures of them in the late afternoon.

There was no such problem with the male Little Owl in the oak tree near the Albert Memorial, whose hole faces into the morning sunlight.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Both the Little Owls in the oak tree near the Albert Memorial came out at different times. This is the female ...

... and this is the male.

You can see how much smaller he is than her, and more angular in shape. The difference in shape is also noticeable with the original pair of owls near the leaf yard, but much less so with the pair in the lime tree near the Henry Moore sculpture. Unless these are side by side I can't be sure of telling them apart.

As during the past few days, it was flying restlessly around the group of trees. Both these owls seem to be quite nervous of photographers, but they are less disturbed by a camera lens than they are by being stared at with the naked eye or, worse, with binoculars, which must look like big owl eyes to them.

Underneath the Henry Moore, the resident pair of Egyptians were making a terrible racket.

Readers of this blog will remember that this is the first pair of Egyptians to arrive in the park, at least twelve years ago now, and that despite nesting up to three times a year they have never managed to raise an offspring, their only living descendant being one that they abandoned and was raised other parents. In spite of their incompetence, they have a tight hold on this patch of grass and any other Egyptians that land here are chased off.

Two rabbits were visible here today. Although the population has been greatly depleted by foxes and disease, I'm sure it will bounce back in the spring. The largest number of rabbits I ever saw here was 37.

Another in our series of Christmas Robins was singing to them from a neighbouring bush.

Since the rowan trees on Buck Hill ran out of berries there hasn't been much sign of Mistle Thrushes here, but today there was one in a tall tree where the flock sometimes perches.

A Blue Tit was looking particularly fine on a bramble near the leaf yard.

And I can't resist photographing Coal Tits. Once these tiny birds start coming to your hand to feed, it's amazing how confident they are.

Some Long-Tailed Tits were flying through the trees at the edge of the Serpentine.

A Cormorant flew to a new fishing place in the lake, not an inch higher than was necessary.

Although Herring Gulls and Common Gulls do the foot-pattering dance to bring up worms, Lesser Black-Backed Gulls don't. Instead, they peck quite violently at the grass. Evidently it works. Blackbirds use the same technique on a smaller scale.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Little Owls in the lime tree near the Henry Moore sculpture have recaptured their hole from the invading Rose-Ringed Parakeet. The female was perched in front of it, but she is a nervous bird and when she saw me she flew into the next tree.

The female Little Owl near the Albert Memorial was basking in the sunlight. It was a cold morning and she was fluffed up to the maximum.

The sunshine started a Goldcrest singing in a tree at the southwest corner of the bridge, and one of the pair appeared for a moment.

There is also a pair of Coal Tits in this shrubbery ...

... and a Robin.

The holiday had brought people to the leaf yard to feed the parakeets. A pair were sharing an apple.

Feral Pigeons were bathing on their favourite duckboard in the Italian Garden ...

... watched by a pair of Gadwalls.

A Moorhen was climbing carefully down the vertical surface of a clump of dead willowherb on one of the reed rafts. It would have been easier to fly down, but Moorhens enjoy a climbing challenge.

One of the Grey Herons at the island flew up to the nest in the birch tree.

A Great Crested Grebe charged down the lake and just about got airborne before giving up the struggle.

This young Herring Gull and Lesser Black-Backed Gull have just reached the age, about 18 months, when adult feathers are coming out on their backs, so that it's possible to confidently tell which is which.