Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Mute Swans nesting next to the Diana landing stage now have three eggs. The female left the nest to have a feed. Usually when swans do this they carefully cover the eggs with nesting material, but she didn't bother. A Coot arrived, turned over the eggs as if they were its own, and sat on them. I have never seen this before.

A few minutes later the swan came back, and the Coot abandoned its dream and left hastily.

(Sorry, in my haste I accidentally swapped the first two pictures. Fixed now.)

Elsewhere Coots are nesting in the usual silly places. This is the line of posts across the Long Water at Peter Pan, much used by Herring Gulls which regard Coot chicks as a delicious snack.

This Coot found a bright orange buoy at the Lido irresistible, and started building on the rope.

Coots have nested in both these places before, and of course all their chicks were instantly eaten. There are many suitable nest sites sheltered under bushes, but Coots don't really plan in advance.

Nevertheless, the population of Coots continues to rise, and there are over 200 in the park. Egyptian Geese nest safely in tree holes and usually look after their young quite well, and their numbers, after an initial steep rise to about 110 since they arrived in the park twelve years ago, have fallen to perhaps 70.

The family at the Lido were staying safe near the concrete jetty, which the goslings can hide under when a gull approaches.

Blondie's family have become hyperactive, charging back and forth along the shore, and she had to constantly trot after them.

The family at the Round Pond came out of the water after being scared in by an idiot's dog.

A Great Crested Grebe objected to a young Herring Gull flying too close.

The pair at the east end of the Serpentine have been obsessively trying to build a nest in a ridiculous place on the edge of one of the rafts. Their very modest nest building skill is not enough to stop it from coming unstuck and floating away.

The pair of Mistle Thrushes between the Dell and the Rose Garden are certainly nesting. This one had caught worms in various places and dropped them in a heap for later collection. When it had gathered them up it flew to a tall plane tree on the edge of Rotten Row.

A pair of Mandarins perched on a plane tree next to the Little Owls' tree near the Albert Memorial. They nested in a hole in this tree last year, and led their ducklings to the Round Pond, where they didn't survive long on the open water. When they hatch this year, perhaps someone will find them and herd them to the Long Water, where they have a better chance.

The owl looked down from the usual hole.

A Blue Tit delicately picked pieces out of a pine nut.

Rose-Ringed Parakeets were eating laurel flowers, which I would have thought were as poisonous as the rest of the tree. I have also seen them eating yew leaves, which are certainly toxic. They must have a remarkable resistance to plant poisons, evolved in their original home in India.

Goldcrests were singing all over the park, but none would come into view to be photographed. Eventually I got one in Craven Hill Gardens, a hundred yards north of Kensington Gardens.


  1. That Coot's behaviour is astonishing. I think not even hens or mother ducks will sit on another bird's eggs if they aren't in the hen's nest.

    Some other blog I follow mentioned that perhaps Coots' penchant for fighting might be a courtship display, since they attack in tandem, male and female. Other birds pirouette, sing, swim in tandem or dance, Coots beat the hell out of other Coots.

    1. Interesting. Greylag, Canada and Egyptian ganders attack other ganders to impress their mates, and this explanation of Coot behaviour would only be one step beyond that.

    2. Something lovelier than thoughts on Coot's bellicose foreplay: have you ever seen a Robin doing this?

      The story is quite sad, but at the same time beautiful. A woman is visiting her young son's tomb in his death anniversary. A Robin appears among the tombs and perches on her hand and on her foot. I cannot see that the Robin is taking food from her hand. Why would it perch on her hand so calmly and confidently?

      I'd like to think the bird could sense her distress and tried to soothe her. I truly would like to think that.

    3. The Robin is traditionally a psychopomp, or guide of souls. See this article by Robert Fletcher (1889), 'Myths of the Robin Redbreast in Early English Poetry', American Anthropologist, Vol 2 No 2 pp 97-118.

  2. Wow, thank you so much for the article. It's wonderful! I didn't know that English folklore had Robins perform some sort of burial rites for the unburied dead. The story of this British lady and the Robin who comforted her fit very well within the myths as described in the article, even down to the benevolent or caring attitude towards humans.

    Funnily enough, what is said about the Robin's helping Christ on the way to Calvary is said in Spain about the Swallow. I suspect it's the red colour.