Friday, 25 September 2020

It was a windy day, and the long stems of the weeping willows thrashed around furiously.

A young great Crested Grebe and its father bounced up and down on the waves.

A Coot carried a fallen leaf around for no discernible reason.

The Black Swan dozed unconcernedly on the path at the edge of the Serpentine. Swans expect people to get out of their way, which luckily people do as they are afraid of swans.

One of the three dark Mallard drakes trotted across the Italian Garden. It is now in its peculiar breeding plumage, with a white bib instead of the usual white neck ring.

A Grey Heron probed a puddle, and surprisingly found some small edible creature in it.

The heron in the Dell is now making a habit of watching from the top of the standing stone, as can be seen from the mess it has made.

The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull was looking at the lunch menu.

A Carrion Crow dug for insects in a flower pot. It was probably finding vine weevil grubs which eat the roots of plants, so it was helping the gardeners.

A crow looked down from the Henry Moore sculpture.

You can see in the bottom left corner of this picture that a square has been cut out of the stone and carefully replaced. Originally the 'Arch' was made of three pieces of stone with the top balanced on two uprights. But it didn't have adequate foundations and began to sink into the London clay, and the joints came apart and it was in danger of collapse. It was quickly taken down and not replaced for some years. Then the stonework was hollowed out and steel reinforcements inserted, and the whole thing was bolted to a massive foundation of girders sunk into the ground. The cutout you can see is for access to bolts holding the steelwork together.

Magpies can always find something to eat on the edge of the Serpentine.

A crowd of Rose-Ringed Parakeets were in a yew tree eating the fruit -- or more exactly chewing it to squeeze out some of the sticky juice and then spitting it out.

A Goldcrest flitted around in another yew in the leaf yard, looking for insects. 

A Pied Wagtail, also hunting insects, ran around in the Diana fountain enclosure.

A Robin heard another bird giving an alarm call and looked around nervously.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Two teenage Great Crested Grebes on the Serpentine inspected the shore, a place of no great interest to grebes but young birds are always curious.

Then they went fishing along the edge. One caught a small crayfish, only to have it grabbed by a Black-Headed Gull.

Relieved of the need to feed them, their mother preened.

Someone had given this Black-Headed Gull a Hula Hoop. The gull enjoyed rolling it around before finally eating it.

This Herring Gull was following me around looking hungry. All I had for it was a peanut, which it could easily crush with its powerful beak. But it seemed unfamiliar with peanuts, and fiddled with it for some time before calling out in a frustrated way. It will learn.

Three of the four teenage Mute Swans on the Serpentine have just grown their flight feathers, and were preening them. I haven't seen them trying to fly yet.

The fourth had wandered away, but was doing the same.

The Black Swan has returned from its trip to the Round Pond, and was following a male Mute Swan around in a slightly obsessive way. I don't think it was looking for a mate, since it has also followed female swans. It just seems to be lonely and wanting a bit of companionship.

An Egyptian Goose flew on to a tree stump and looked down at the others with a superior air.

The Grey Wagtail was on its favourite rock at the bottom of the Dell waterfall. It's an excellent hunting platform that allows it to shoot off over the stream when it sees an insect.

At the top of the Dell the sun shone through the peeling bark of a Paper Bark Maple with a Garden Spider's web. A pity the spider wasn't there to complete the view.

A Coal Tit in a holly tree near the bridge came to my hand to be fed ...

... and a Goldcrest hopped around in the branches.

Ahmet Amerikali sent this remarkable shot of a European Hornet eating a fly.

Joan Chatterley found a Privet Hawk-Moth caterpillar at Two Tree Island near Leigh on Sea. They are enormous, sometimes over 3½ inches long.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

 A much cooler day with a bit of rain. The usual Grey Wagtail was back in its favourite place at the top of the Dell waterfall. As autumn sets in the number of insects is falling, and it's having to look around for prey.

Feral Pigeons sheltered from a shower under the cornice of the bridge.

This Robin at the back of the Lido came out to be fed, not something it usually does. Hungry times are coming.

A Wren looked out from a rose bush in the Rose Garden.

A sunny picture from the last of the summer by Mark Williams: a Blue Tit feeds on his hand.

A Rose-Ringed Parakeet tore off a yew twig just to get at the one berry on it. The ground underneath was littered with twigs pulled off by these destructive birds, which just nibble the berries to get a bit of juice and spit them out.

A Carrion Crow explored a crisp packet.

Another crow was having a dogfight with a Black-Headed Gull over the Serpentine.

A Grey Heron stood on the weeping beech in the Dell.

One of the eldest brood of Great Crested Grebes now has a fine black crest, and only a trace of juvenile stripes. It was fishing, and therefore the centre of attention for various gulls hoping to grab its catch.

A pair of Moorhens washed and shook themselves dry on the chain which stops boats from going under the bridge. Behind the chain, the Long Water is kept as a quiet area for water birds.

Another Moorhen was caught in a tailwind and had a Marilyn Monroe moment.

A Red Crested Pochard drake is beginning to come out of eclipse, and has the first white feathers of his bright breeding plumage.

A Myathropa florea hoverfly worked over an ivy flower at the back of the Lido.

It's sometimes called the Death Head Hoverfly because the markings on its thorax are supposed to have a faint resemblance to a skull. Another name is the Batman Hoverfly, and one of the marks on its thorax does really look quite like the Batman emblem.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

The pigeon-killing Lesser Black-Backed Gull kills more than he and his mate can eat, so -- strangely for a gull -- he is actually a provider of food for other birds. Here a young Herring Gull and another Lesser Black-Back, not his mate, finish off his leftover breakfast.

At the time I filmed this he was already stalking his lunch.

The main item on the menu today was crayfish, which was being eaten by a young Herring Gull ...

... a Coot ...

... and a Great Crested Grebe.

Pike was also popular with another grebe ...

... and a Cormorant.

Thanks to Ahmet Amerikali for the last four pictures.

A Moorhen balanced on a chain looked down at its mate in the water.

A pair of Greylag Geese enjoyed a splashy wash together.

A preening Egyptian showed off its iridescent green secondary feathers.

There was a female Pintail at the Vista, which it first I mistook for a male Gadwall.

It's years since I saw a Pintail on the lake. The opening of the Wetland Centre and other reserves along the river has much reduced the number of minority ducks seen in the park, as they now have better places to go.

A Hobby was hunting over the Long Water. It was fairly high when it passed over me, but Ahmet, who was on the other side of the lake, caught it in a low pass.

Its feet were down because it was holding a dragonfly it had caught.

A Carrion Crow snatched an apple from the people feeding the Rose-Ringed Parakeets and took it away to where it could eat in peace.

A Goldcrest in the leaf yard came out on a twig for a moment ...

... and a Long-Tailed Tit stayed still even more briefly, allowing just one shot.

A unicorn in a tutu passed down Rotten Row, as they do.

Monday, 21 September 2020

 A small falcon perched on a tall tree on Buck Hill. I thought it was our usual female Kestrel, but it turned out to be one of the Hobbies. In this backlit picture you can just see the red tinge around its legs, showing that it's an adult.

As I was approaching the tree for a better picture a Magpie landed on the next branch, scaring it off ...

... and was promptly sent packing by a Carrion Crow.

On a warm afternoon a crow cooled off in the Serpentine ...

... and so did a Magpie ...

... while a Jackdaw preferred to stay in the shade of the Henry Moore sculpture.

Bathing is a social occasion for Feral Pigeons.

Starlings feasted on the fruit of the cabbage palm next to the pool in the Dell.


People often use the word 'murmuration' to describe one of those spectacular mass flights of Starlings. But in fact the word is simply the term for a flock of Starlings, a collective noun like 'a skein of geese' or 'a murder of crows'. And from the way they murmur when there is a group of them in a tree, you can understand why.

A Long-Tailed Tit was comfortably hanging upside down in a hawthorn tree.

A Grey Heron perched high in a wellingtonia.

The common English name for this tree, which is actually an American Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum), comes from a failed patriotic attempt by John Lindley in 1853 to name it after the Duke of Wellington, who had recently died. However, the name 'Wellingtonia' had already been given to another plant. An American, Charles F. Winslow, tried to name it 'Washingtonia' the following year, but this name too had already been used. Eventually the tree was named after the Cherokee chief Sequoyah by Stephan L. Endlicher, an Austrian botanist and linguist who admired the chief and corresponded with him in the Cherokee language, for which Sequoyah had invented a special alphabet.

Update: Mario points out that I got the tree wrong. It's a very tall Himalayan Cedar or Deodar (Cedrus deodara). Oh well, I will leave the story as I wrote it.

A Great Crested Grebe dived in the Long Water, giving a view from the balustrade of the Italian Garden.

This teenage Coot is almost grown up and is developing its adult face. The technical term for the white forehead is a 'cere'.

The Black Swan has moved back to the Round Pond. It may have had trouble with one of the dominant Mute Swans on the Serpentine or Long Water.