Monday 4 December 2023

Persistent Chaffinches

The pair of Chaffinches in the Flower Walk followed me all the way to the Round Pond, taking pine nuts thrown up in the air. They clearly enjoy the skill of catching them as well as the food. The female was impatient at being photographed for a few seconds instead of getting fed.

Here the Little Owl was in her usual place in the hole. There may not be a better shot as winter sets in, but it's very pleasing to be able to see a Little Owl so late in the year.

Starlings were bathing on the edge of the pond. A familiar sight, but their enthusiasm is irresistible.

On the way back a Jay appeared in an oak near the Queen's Temple.

One of the pair of Pied Wagtails investigated a puddle on the edge of the Serpentine ...

... and the Grey Wagtail was on the small waterfall in the Dell.

A handsome pale bronze Feral Pigeon stood on a table at the Lido restaurant.

Back in the Flower Walk, a squirrel was feeding in a dogwood bush. There were a few small black berries left, but the squirrel wasn't going for these. It seemed to like the bunches of bare stems where the berries had been pulled off, which must contain some sweet sap.

You only have to stand in front of a bush for a few minutes and it fills up with Great Tits and Blue Tits.

The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull had eaten enough of his latest victim for the time being ...

... and for a change plunged into the feeding mob by the Dell restaurant, where visitors to the Winter Wasteland were throwing bread around. He can hold his own against the much larger Canada Geese.

The nearby sign was occupied by a Common Gull.

The Grey Heron which had been making a nest yesterday perched just above it in the tree. It seems to be establishing possession of the site, though there's no competition at the moment.

The number of Cormorants is well down from its autumn peak, showing that they've eaten most of the fish.

This Great Crested Grebe on the Serpentine is still in summer plumage, and you can see that it is old plumage and not a premature new set, because its crest is worn and frayed.

Photographed just because it's pretty: flowering tobacco in the Dell.

During the war my father, who smoked a pipe, grew his own tobacco to supplement the meagre ration. He said that it was horrible but better than nothing. No doubt the plant needs more sun than you get here.

Sunday 3 December 2023

A bold heron

The female Little Owl at the Round Pond was keeping out of the drizzle.

She started preening, so I filmed her.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker called from a nearby treetop. At least you can see them when the leaves have fallen, but getting a focus on a distant bird through twigs is still difficult and I didn't do well.

The Robin on the edge of the Rose Garden was wringing wet but singing fit to bust.

It was answered by two others in the bushes down the slope.

Unfortunately, visitors to the Winter Wasteland are now feeding the Rose-Ringed Parakeets which are adding their shrieks to the sound of dismal Christmas songs and police sirens from Hyde Park Corner.

A Herring Gull perched disrespectfully on the statue of the goddess Diana. It should remember what happened to Actaeon when he intruded on her. Perhaps she will turn it into a pigeon to be torn apart by the pigeon-eating gull ...

... who was enjoying a late lunch at the Dell restaurant.

Black-Headed Gulls like to perch on the line of plastic buoys at the Lido. A Coot worked its way up the line like a general inspecting his troops.

Both the Grey Wagtail ...

... and the Pied Wagtails were running up the south shore of the Serpentine, keeping a respectful distance apart.

A Grey Heron blocked the path through the shrubbery at the southwest corner of the bridge. It showed no sign of giving way and I had to go round.

It looked as if a heron on the island was starting a nest. If so, that would be very early indeed. Even the early herons in Battersea Park wait another fortnight before they begin.

The youngest Great Crested Grebe was mooching around by itself in the water below.

The five teenage Mute Swans came under the bridge on to the Serpentine. There are now, I think, two other teenagers on the lake, both in danger from the killer father of this lot but so far they are staying at the east end where they're fairly safe.

A pair of Shovellers spun dizzyingly on the Long Water. Incidentally, you're supposed to spell it in the American style, 'Shoveler', now. But that looks just wrong to me.

A few more Gadwalls have arrived, making five in all. We never have many, though once there were 20. All are seasoned park birds fairly unafraid of people, and evidently fly in from St James's Park or Regent's Park when they feel like it.

It's odd that we have lots of Pochards and Shovellers, but other minority ducks such as Teal and Wigeon are very rarely seen.

Saturday 2 December 2023

The parakeet invasion

A Carrion Crow rummaged in fallen leaves in the Dell looking for insects and worms.

Blackbirds are now sadly rare in the park, even when the winter migrants arrive. But there has been a pair in the Dell for years, always so far managing to breed successfully.

Wherever people start feeding the invasive Rose-Ringed Parakeets, these birds eventually drive out the native birds from that area. This has already happened at the leaf yard, where a shrubbery full of four kinds of tit, Robins, Wrens, Chaffinches, Nuthatches, Song Thrushes and Jays became a mono-species desert, and eventually had to be fenced off because the feet of hundreds of parakeet feeders had churned it into a swamp. Now people are feeding these screeching pests in the South Flower Walk, which is the best place for seeing small songbirds in the whole park, and soon the same thing will happen here. There are signs telling people not to feed birds, but no one pays any attention to them, and indeed the more signs are put up the less notice people take of them.

The Robin at the edge of the Rose Garden had given up trying to make itself heard over the din from the Wasteland, and was singing quietly to itself. I'm sure it would have turned the volume up to 11 if it had seen another Robin approaching.

A Blue Tit examined the bark of an oak near the bridge.

A Great Tit came out of a Portuguese Laurel at the bridge, which was flowering at an odd time of year.

Ahmet Amerikali found a Green Woodpecker in the grass on Buck Hill.

The Little Owl at the Round Pond stayed in her hole. But any sight of an owl is welcome.

Every time I photograph one of the Pied Wagtails hunting along the edge of the Serpentine I get at least one shot of a bird picking up a larva. They're remarkably skilled at finding tiny creatures.

The male Peregrine was on the barracks, with no sign of his mate as long as I was there.

Another picture from Ahmet, a fine shot of a Grey Heron doing a zero-zero landing on a post, wings arranged for maximum drag, feet extended. This skill in precise flying is something that Cormorants notably lack, and they have to come down in the water and jump on to a post, or on to a chain and climb up from there.

When a heron stands stock still on the small waterfall in the carefully planned landscape of the Dell, I often hear people wondering whether it's a plastic ornament. Then it moves and they are surprised.

But a lamp post overlooking the bridge would be an odd place to put an ornament.

Nothing happens in this video, but the remarkable thing is that a Lesser Black-Backed Gull was managing to stand on one of the plastic buoys at the Lido as long as it was careful about balancing. It's just smaller and lighter than a Herring Gull. If a Herring Gull were to try this, its extra weight would make the buoy tip up and it would have to jump off.

The second pigeon-eating gull kept an eye on a Feral Pigeon that was walking dangerously close to it. The pigeon realised its error just before it came into grabbing range, and flew off.

A pair of Mallards made a wake under the bridge.

A Gadwall pair came over to dabble in the shallow water at the Vista.

A flock of Pochards rested under a yellow tree on the far side of the lake.

Friday 1 December 2023

Rival songs

The Robin on the edge of the Rose Garden had to shout to make its song heard over the cheesy Christmas songs coming out of the Winter Wasteland. Urban Robins, and songbirds in general, are used to noise and sing louder than their country cousins.

A tree beside the Serpentine had a mixed flock of tits going through it. A Coal Tit caught what looks like an aphid ...

... and a Long-Tailed Tit in the top of the tree had a very small spider.

The Grey Wagtail was hunting along the shore at the Lido.

The female of the local Pied Wagtail pair was farther along than the Grey Wagtail, so there was no clash.

A Jackdaw looked out from a twig with a background of yellow leaves.

A Carrion Crow perched on a branch in the swamp cypress by the Italian Garden. These coniferous trees shed their needles in autumn, first going a bright ginger colour.

A pair of Magpies chased me right down one side of the Long Water.

It was a cold morning and the Little Owl at the Round Pond was staying well down in her hole. When I went back in the afternoon she was still inside.

The Polish Black-Headed Gull White T4UN was in its usual place on the north shore of the Serpentine. I looked up its record. It was ringed as a chick in the Mokre Łąki park at Truskaw on the western outskirts of Warsaw on 14 June 2012, and turned up in Kensington Gardens on 25 January 2013, evidently having flown in with some other gulls from the same place. Since then it's been seen here every winter.

The youngest Great Crested Grebe is still on the Serpentine with its parents. Two frosty nights have still not frozen the lake, and the temperature seems to be rising slightly, so the family shouldn't be trapped. The young one probably can't fly yet, so they all have to remain whatever happens.

The pair from the bridge were up by Peter Pan in a golden reflection.

I don't know where this male in winter plumage is from. I think he flew on to the lake the night before last, maybe having been frozen out of a smaller pond in outer London where it was colder. He was on the Long Water side of the bridge.

Two Gadwall drakes were fighting on the Long Water, slightly surprising to see in such usually peaceful ducks.

Shovellers and Pochards fed quietly, taking no notice of the kerfuffle.

The Mallard pair have been away from the Dell for a while, but today they were back and have promptly ousted the Moorhens from their favourite rock.