Tuesday 29 May 2012

The prolific but incompetent pair of Egyptian Geese from the east side of the Vista have hatched yet another brood, their third this year, and immediately lost all of them but one to marauding gulls. What a contrast with the pair who have jealously guarded their brood of eight for so long. You would think that with this kind of evolutionary pressure, waterfowl would become supremely competent parents in a few generations. Well, it has happened with swans and with real geese, but ducks (and Egyptian Geese are ducks) don't seem to have heard of Darwin. I saw this pair on the Long Water; they have been driven off the Vista by the building of the huge hoarding erected to stop us seeing the Henry Moore thing being installed.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes were building a nest in the overhanging willow tree next to the bridge. It is a good spot and has succeeded before, but unfortunately there is a Coots' nest far too near, and there were already sounds of dispute. Although a Great Crested Grebe can drive off a Coot in a straight fight, the Coot will always win in the end through sheer persistence.

At the Coots' nest in the Italian Garden, the sitting bird obligingly stood up for just long enough to allow me to photograph seven eggs.

Sad to say, a young Tawny Owl was found dead behind the Albert Memorial. It's impossible to say whether it was one of the five hatched by our regular owls. There are certainly other Tawny Owls in the park, though their whereabouts and habits remain mysterious.

A Starling was carrying nesting material into a hole in one of the plane trees near the small boathouses. At least two nests in these trees have already produced young Starlings, who are now chasing their parents all round the park, so this is a very late effort, perhaps a repeat after a brood failed.

The American Signal Crayfish are now back in large numbers. Peter Scott, who runs the boat hire on the Serpentine, reports that he was using a net to clean some debris out of the lake, and accidentally trapped hundreds of these creatures. They predate young fish, and may have already had some influence in causing the fall in the number of fish in the lake.

I know I have already published a picture of a young Robin, but can't resist putting up a picture of another, found wandering rather gormlessly under a bench on the edge of the Serpentine. I gave it some pine nuts and it became quite friendly.


  1. What a sad day! Will we ever know what the cause of death of the owl was? Who found it? I think we ought to send one female EG on a parenting course. I think she needs an approach a bit nearer to Albert's mother who remarked, on being told by the zoo keeper that she would be compensated for the loss of her son who was now inside a lion: "What spend all my life bearing children / To feed bloody lions, not me!" Not quite on a level with your classical references.

  2. I don't know who found the dead owl. The park is constantly visited by people who care about owls, and news is spread by bush telegraph. Nor is the cause of death known: by the time the body is found it has generally been mauled about. Those who don't recognise the quotation from Stanley Holloway's immortal monologue 'Albert and the Lion' can find it here

  3. So glad that you knew about Albert and the Lion! I had wondered whether it was a bit too low brow for your lofty education. I love the historical ones, too eg from the Magna Carta: 'The nobles all sat round and gnashed their teeth, / And them with no teeth gnashed their gums'.