Saturday 15 December 2012

The youngest Great Crested Grebe was fishing busily along the edge of the Serpentine. If I stand still on the shore it soon stops noticing me, and I can take pictures of it from only a few feet away. Here it is swimming under water, with the peculiar sideways slashing motion of its feet raising vortices on the surface ...

... and surfacing, its head still covered with a film of water that will drop off its plumage and leave it completely dry. Note how its feathers are completely flattened when it is in diving trim.

A few of the Black-Headed Gulls are beginning to develop the dark heads that give them their name, but are normally only seen as the breeding season approaches -- which is not for several months, so the change is a bit premature.

'Black-Headed' is a misnomer, because when the dark feathers have grown out fully their heads are actually chocolate brown. In a recent quirk of taxonomy, they have been taken out of the main gull genus Larus. Their full name used to be Larus ridibundus, the gull that laughs a lot. Now it is the almost unpronounceable Chroicocepahalus ridibundus; the new Greek-derived name means 'leather-headed', a reference to the dark brown colour. Curiously the Mediterranean Gull, a closely similar bird, remains Larus melanocephalus -- which, to add to the confusion, means 'black-headed gull'.

There were no fewer than 54 Egyptian Geese on the north side of the Serpentine, most of them grazing beside the huge irregular rock that is the Norwegian war memorial. Every time I pass this area there are more of them.

The mild day had brought out both the Tawny Owls, who were in their accustomed places on the nest tree. I can't resist showing yet another picture of the beautiful female owl looking over her balcony.

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