Sunday 29 April 2012

A curious spectacle on the Long Water: a pair of Moorhens building a nest up a willow tree next to the northwest corner of the bridge. They have been doing this for several years. The tree leans over the water at such an angle that its branches are almost horizontal, and the birds trot along these, eventually reaching a place somewhere near the bridge parapet. But the nest is impossible to see either from the bridge or the ground.

These resourceful birds will nest almost anywhere. On the opposite side of the Long Water they build a nest inside a drain -- this year, they will have to wait for the end of the wet weather to use it. A few years ago a pair nested in the filter beds where the Serpentine flows into the Dell, under the false bridge that carries the footpath across the earth dam that formed the lake.

A pair of Coots had also tried to nest here several times, and all their chicks had been washed away one by one. But the agile moorhen chicks, able to run and jump as soon as they were hatched, survived.

Not much else to see on a cheerless wet day, but the Swifts were dashing about over the Serpentine again, catching insects and raindrops. Since they never land except to build nests, Swifts drink either from rain, or by flying low over the water and scooping it up in their beaks. There is a photograph of this remarkable feat on the London Swifts Homepage.

That's well beyond my powers as a photographer. So here is an ordinary Greylag Goose having a wash.


  1. Many thanks for the link to the London Swifts Homepage. What a caharming collection of photos. The ones of them drinking are extraordinary. Can they sort of 'unhinge' their lower jaw like some snakes can if they want to swollow a very large animal?

  2. I'm sure their jaw hinges are perfectly ordinary, as they don't have to admit anything larger than a medium-sized insect. But, as the pictures show, their beaks do open very wide, both vertically and horizontally to make it easier to catch insects and raindrops in flight. The comparison with a basking shark on the London Swifts page is apt.