Thursday 22 November 2012

People often ask me to show them the Tawny Owls' nest tree. With tens of thousands of trees in the park, it can be a little hard to find.

Here is the route from the nearest Tube station, Lancaster Gate on the Central Line. Coming out of the station, cross the Bayswater Road and enter the park by the gate immediately opposite, Marlborough Gate. Once inside the park, turn 90° right and walk along the edge of the park till you get to the next gate (which is confusingly called Lancaster Gate). Here turn 90° left along the path. Soon you will see an obelisk on the left side of the path: it is a memorial to John Hanning Speke the explorer. Ahead of you, you will see the equestrian statue of Physical Energy. Walk along the path till you are equidistant between the obelisk and the statue. On your right -- the west side of the path, towards Kensington Palace -- you will see a bench. The nest tree is about 50 yards directly behind the bench, in the centre of this photograph. Note its distinctive broken trunk with a big branch sticking out to the left.

The male owl's favourite perch is on top of the break in the trunk, where he is easy to see. The female owl's current favourite place is a little harder to find, especially as Tawny Owls are so well camouflaged when seen against tree trunks. She sits a little lower than the male, and on the right side of the trunk, in a place where a branch has broken off leaving a hole that leads into the hollow interior of the tree where there nest is. Here is a fairly long shot that shows this perch, with the owl looking out from it.

It was a windy day, and the male owl had taken shelter inside the tree. The small birds were also mostly staying in the lee of the bushes. But gulls of all sizes were enjoying themselves in the gusts. Here is a Common Gull, with a clear view of the distinctive white 'windows' on its black wing tips. Although Common Gulls have pale yellowish legs, these look dark when they are folded up under the flying bird.

A small flotilla of Tufted Ducks has taken up residence on one of the ponds in the Italian Garden. It seems rather an exposed place with little to recommend it, but they have been here for days, always in the same one of the four ponds.

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