Thursday, 21 September 2017

A gang of Cormorants were fishing together at the east end of the Serpentine. This cooperative fishing is most effective, as a fish scared away by one bird may go towards another and be caught.

The Great Crested Grebes are going into their plain winter plumage.

The Coot family at Bluebird Boats have taken to standing on the propellers of the outboard motors to preen. Sometimes all of the propellers are occupied. It doesn't look a comfortable perch.

Five newly arrived Shovellers were at work on the Serpentine. They revolve in their typical way to scoop up small creatures from the water, filtering them through the bristles inside their bills just as whales filter plankton from seawater. They also dabble in typical duck style.

A Lesser Black-Backed Gull was eating a Feral Pigeon on the gravel bank at the Vista. This picture was taken from across the lake. This is not the notorious pigeon-eating gull -- note the pale greyish legs. It's not scavenging the remains of one of his kills either, for the pigeon looks quite complete. Last year I saw a Lesser Black-Back that looked like this eating a pigeon beside the Serpentine. But pigeons die from other causes, and it's too early to say that this bird has successfully copied the notorious gull's hunting technique.

The first time I looked for the Little Owl near the leaf yard she wasn't visible, and this was not surprising as there were four Magpies on her chestnut tree. Two of them seemed to be very fond of each other.

Later, she came out on the south side of the tree.

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits flew out of the Dell and along the south bank of the Serpentine.

A Wood Pigeon was drinking from a precarious perch in the little pool at the top of the Dell waterfall.

The white-faced Blackbird now calls to me from deep inside the shade of a bush, making her very hard to find. But she always comes down for her treat of sultanas.

After a quick walk round the park, off to Kensal Green Cemetery, more to see the strange and wonderful tombs that to look for birds. There is a flock of House Sparrows in the adjacent St Mary's Catholic Cemetery, perhpas the first proper flock tothe west of central London where there are no sparrows except for a few tiny groups maintained by feeding. The sparrows didn't show up today, but there were plenty of Goldfinches. One perched on the wings of a stone angel.

On the way back along the Grand Union Canal, another partly leucistic Blackbird with white tail feathers was hopping around in the undergrowth. Some sultanas brought him out.

A Coot investigated a floating branch. It's not the nesting season, but branches are irresistible.

There was a jaunty painting of a heron on a wall.

A Red Admiral butterfly perched in a clump of ivy.

Update: Abigail sent me a picture of a Mute Swan stranded behind the railings at Peter Pan. It had clearly been chased off the lake by the dominant Mute Swan, but it's not clear how it got behind the fence. Swans have been stranded in this place before. Paul rescued it by picking it up and dropping it into the lake, which swans don't enjoy, but it doesn't hurt them and it does the job.


  1. It's very helpful to have the film clips of birds "in action". When trying to identify distant brown ducks on a lake, for example, it helps me as a relatively novice birder to know how they move, and feed, as well as what their plumage is like. So, thanks for that.

    1. Shovellers are very conspicuous by their behaviour, as well as their enormous bills.

  2. I love visiting cemeteries, more so if they are historical or old enough. I love the peace and quiet, and the beauty of the tombs and statues.

    I wish a Blackbird would call to me like that! I would die happy. Ralph, perhaps we should begin to call you the Blackbird whisperer.

    1. The secret is to give them sultanas. Even a Blackbird that doesn't know you and has never seen a sultana before will come out to get them, lured by the delicious smell.

  3. Very pleased to hear about the sparrows!

    1. But there's an awfully big hole in central London. If you go east from this graveyard you won't see another sparrow till you get to Tower Hill. The north and south limits are the Westway and the river.

  4. Until very recently there was a decent-sized flock in Whitfield Gardens, near Goodge Street/Tottenham Court Road. To my amazement I had a small gaggle in the back garden (in a not-very-leafy bit of Clapham, definitely glottal Ba'ersea, not Buhterseah) a couple of weeks ago, yelling their heads off in once very familiar fashion.