Wednesday 12 December 2012

Another night of frost had frozen most of the Long Water and part of the Serpentine -- the Serpentine freezes slower, paradoxically, because it is more exposed and the ripples raised by the wind hinder the formation of ice. A crowd of Black-Headed Gulls was squabbling over a bit of food. There is one Common Gull just to the right of centre, distinguished by its larger size and white wingtip patch.

The female Tawny Owl was in almost the same place as yesterday, but had moved up the branch a little to give a better view of her fine brown plumage. She is more obvious againt the plain grey trunk of a beech tree than on the brown fissured trunk of a horse chestnut, where the streaks on her front merge into the background.

The male owl was in his usual place on the nest tree. In a few weeks he will be the only one visible, as the female will have started nesting, a two-month process. The eggs take just over four weeks to hatch, followed by another four or five weeks while the owlets remain in the nest, emerging only when able to fly at the end of February or the first half of March. During this time the female owl only emerges briefly to drink, while the male owl feeds her and the growing family.

The Ring-Necked Parakeets gave an interesting display of courting behaviour -- at completely the wrong time of year, but they are not natives and haven't settled into our seasons. The female parakeet was perched on a branch eating a peanut I had given her when the male flew over. He will not take food from my hand, and his first act was to try to steal her peanut. She chased him away.

But her returned, and sidled up close to her and stood up very tall, trying to make himself look impressive.

This seemed to work, though she took time to finish her peanut before she took any notice. But soon she succumbed to his virile charm, and there thery were, beaks interlocked and looking very like a human couple kissing.

Well, they will have to wait till the spring before they can go any further. But there are plenty of tree holes for them to nest in, and they will add their contribution to London's rapidly increasing parakeet population.

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