Friday, 3 February 2023

Signs of spring

There were a few signs of approaching spring. Some yellow crocuses have come out beside the Long Water.

Robins were starting to pair up. Two were flirting tentatively under a bench in the Flower Walk.

Another pair were taking notice of each other beside the leaf yard, though I couldn't get them both into the same picture.

A pair of Coal Tits darted through the corkscrew hazel bush ...

... and a Wren hopped around on the path below.

A Long-Tailed Tit alighted on a twig in the Rose Garden.

A Carrion Crow ripped up a crisp packet to extract the last crumbs.

Redwings hauled up worms on the Parade Ground.

A Starling shone in the sunlight.

So did a Cormorant on a post at Peter Pan.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes at the island displayed and performed their dance with weed.

There was one other grebe by itself resting on the Serpentine.

The Little Grebe in the Italian Garden preened and stretched, then came out to join the Tufted Ducks and Mallards.

Thursday, 2 February 2023

The Parade Ground and the Paperbush

A large flock of Starlings worked across the scrubby grass and bare earth of the Parade Ground. It's hard to see what they were finding, but often you see them pulling up wireworms, which are the small stick-like larvae of click beetles.

A Blackbird found a substantial earthworm.

The Redwings were in the trees when I was there, too distant for a good picture but this one is quite interesting, showing that there is more red on their wings than can be seen when they are on the ground.

There were also a few Pied Wagtails, which are permanent residents of this area when not driven off by funfairs and concerts.

The Paperbush in the Flower Walk is a popular spot with the small birds, which find its open structure a convenient place to perch. Today there were two Coal Tits ...

... three Blue Tits ...

... a crowd of Great Tits ...

... a male Chaffinch ...

... and his mate.

The Gadwalls had left the Italian Garden again, and Mallard drakes were rushing around from pool to pool chasing a couple of females. The Little Grebe took cover in the irises ...

... but when things calmed down it came out and started diving by itself.

There was still one Cormorant fishing under the Italian Garden, and it managed to catch a smallish fish.

Some unfamiliar green shoots were coming up in the southeast fountain pool. I didn't know what they were. PlantNet said it was Brooklime, Veronica beccabunga, but Conehead 54 tells me that it's the young shoots of Great Willowherb growing up from the base of a tall patch of the plant, which started growing in the fountain a couple of years ago, probably from seeds brought in on the feet of birds.

Ian Young photographed this Ross's Goose in St James's Park. Unlike the captive birds in the collection it can fly, and is probably the one we saw on the Serpentine a few days ago.

Wild birds often join their captive fellows, and at present there is a Shelduck in St James's along with the ones in the collection. The same thing happened in Regent's Park several years ago.

To follow the picture of White Storks at Alcalá de Henares, here is a picture sent by Tina Coulcher of them migrating through Banyuls, which is on the Mediterranean coast of France just north of the Spanish border.

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Peregrines back on the tower

The daily trip up the Flower Walk produces more and more hungry birds, and it can take half an hour to cover 200 yards. Here are a Coal Tit ...

... and a Blue Tit in an evergreen bush.

Long-Tailed Tits never take any notice of people. They just get on with their eternal hunt for insects.

A Pied Wagtail on the Parade Ground was similarly engaged.

I got a hasty snap of it with a small larva.

A Redwing pulled up a worm. It's quite a struggle for a small bird.

The Peregrine pair perched on the tower, as usual an unsociable distance apart ...

... but they still called to each other, just audible above the noise of children playing football 300ft below.

Black-Headed Gulls in the Italian Garden were hauling up what I think were 'rat-tailed maggots', hoverfly larvae with long siphons, but it's hard to tell when they're covered with algae.

The Little Grebe was with its friends the Gadwalls ...

... and also fishing by itself under the fountain.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes at the island were displaying in front of a soggy mess that only a grebe would consider a nest.

They spent more time displaying than building. I'm not sure they're serious about nesting.

The dominant Mute Swans had cleared out the intruders from the Long Water and were at the Vista touting for food. The male shooed a Canada Goose.

Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Join the party

Starlings are gregarious birds. When a few start splashing on the edge of the lake the others fly down to join in the fun.

A female Blackbird stared suspiciously from a patch of dead leaves where she was looking for worms.

There was nothing suspicious about the stare of a Coal Tit in the Flower Walk. It wanted a pine nut, now.

The female Chaffinch in the corkscrew hazel flew out several times to catch pine nuts in midair.

Long-Tailed Tits passed through the bushes near Peter Pan.

Joan Chatterley photographed a Wren in a bush near the Dell. They're odd creatures. Some dash into hiding the moment you look at them, others seem completely unconcerned. 

The Grey Herons are back in their nest on the island -- but I'm pretty sure this is another false start and they won't get around to breeding for months.

The other pair of herons have shown no interest in nesting. One was on the moored pedalos, the other keeping a lookout from a boathouse roof, ruffled by the wind.

A row of Common Gulls preened on the buoys at the Lido.

The Little Grebe was diving with the Tufted Ducks in the Italian Garden fountain ...

... when its old friends the Gadwalls flew in, saw it, and instantly swam over to join it.

The dominant Mute Swan pair were in the next pool. They can't see down to the lake from here, and didn't notice that another pair had intruded and come most of the way up the Long Water. But of course they will and the invaders will be sent packing.

This Egyptian Goose has been alone on the lawn between the Dell and the Rose Garden for several days. It seems to be perfectly healthy and is walking around and grazing. Perhaps it just wants to be alone.

A picture from Alcalá de Henares taken by Tinúviel's husband Emilio: White Storks occupy the ruins of the archbishop's palace.

Alcalá was the birthplace of Cervantes. Its university is where the gigantic Complutensian Polyglot Bible was compiled, with Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin texts all on the same page, and published in 1520.

Monday, 30 January 2023

Starling steals a worm

A Redwing pulled up a worm on the Parade Ground and was about to eat it when it was rudely bumped out of the way by a Starling which ate the worm itself.

A Song Thrush sang in a tree by the Speke obelisk. They often sing in winter on a sunny day, or just because they feel like it.

It wouldn't be a proper day without an imperious stare from the Coal Tit in the Flower Walk.

The aggressive Black-Headed Gull was literally at his post on the landing stage at the Diana fountain ...

... which he had cleared of all rivals.

There were no Cormorants on the Long Water, for the first time since they arrived in the autumn. Five remained at the Serpentine island. These too will probably be gone soon, not returning until the young fish hatched in spring have reached a worthwhile size.

The Little Grebe was diving under the fountain, getting heavily splashed. Any disturbance to the water seems to help with finding small edible creatures.

Then the three Tufted Ducks started diving and the Little Grebe joined them.

The Gadwalls that the Little Grebe used to accompany show no sign of wanting to return. There were five on the Long Water opposite Peter Pan, and some more on the Serpentine.

The dominant Mute Swans had completely cleared the Long Water of rivals and returned to the Italian Garden. They like it here because people feed them more than at the Vista or Peter Pan.

Greylag Geese grazed in the Diana fountain enclosure in the late afternoon light. They are often seen here because dogs are not allowed in; also the grass is of good quality and carefully maintained.

A pair of Egyptian Geese preened on the edge of the Serpentine.

The mahonia bush in the Rose Garden still has enough flowers to attract Buff-Tailed Bumblebees. After these flowers have gone the bees should be able to get by on the hellebores in the flower beds, not their first choice but all right at a pinch.

Tom shot this remarkable video of a Bittern fishing at Fishers Green in the Lee Valley Park.

Ahmet Amerikali was at Russia Dock, which sounds a hopeless place but there is now a nature reserve here called the Woodland. Among other birds he saw a Goldcrest landing on a branch ...

... and got a splendid shot of a Kingfisher and its reflection.