Sunday 27 January 2013

The return of mild weather has started the Song Thrushes singing again.

But the Mistle Thrushes and Great Tits, having once started, never stopped at the depth of the cold spell.

Shovellers have also returned to the Long Water after they were forced on to the Serpentine by the ice. But most of them remain in the exact centre of the Serpentine, near the boat hire jetty, where they form an endlessly gyrating circle.

The Bearded Tits were in their usual place near the Diana fountain. The warm sunny day gave a perfect light for photographing them, but the brisk gusty wind made it extremely difficult even to get them into the frame as the reeds thrashed around. I was lucky to get one shot unobstructed by reed stems.

On of the pair of Moorhens on the willow tree near the bridge was eating moss and lichen off the tree trunk.

It is remarkable what Moorhens will eat: pretty much anything of animal or vegetable origin, included the most unattractive fare such as gull droppings. The secret of the success of these modest birds is their adaptability. Their diet is anything they can find, and their living quarters more or less anywhere. I have seen a pair of Moorhens nesting in the ornamental structure at the corner of the Edgware Road and Sussex Gardens, which resembles a fountain but actually has no water, just a bed of sharp chippings of blue glass. Apparently they were going to a lily pond in a nearby block of flats to get something to drink, because I saw them there once. And they would have been eating the discarded snacks of the Edgware Road pedestrians; better than moss anyway.

No sign of the male Tawny Owl, despite the sunshine that might have brought him out of the hollow tree housing the pair's nest. I am sure that he will be out fairly soon, sitting in the notch in the broken top of the tree which guards the entrance to their nest.

Update: in a comment on my post of Friday 25th, which mentioned a Lesser Black-Backed Gull playing with a ball, Joseph writes:
I saw this gull seriously worrying the ball on Wednesday 23 January at the side of the Serpentine near the triangle car park. It was pecking purposefully at it as though it expected to find something inside. Could its activity two days down the line be the triumph of hope over experience?

This is seriously strange. I can't imagine why the gull would keep a ball for two days, as if it were a private toy, or return to it where it had left it. By the 25th, the gull had made a large rip in the ball, so it would have been clear that there was nothing inside. Has anyone else seen similar behaviour?

Later: have just found a YouTube clip of a Northwestern Crow and a Glaucous-Winged Gull playing with a ball on the ice. In this case the crow was the instigator of the game, and it is something you might expect from one of these playful birds.


  1. Just to confirm that when I saw the gull the ball was intact and the bird immediately pounced on it each time it fell from its beak or scooted away from its pecking, seemingly regarding the ball as an animate object that was trying to get away. Contrary to what I suggested, your interpretation of what it was doing two days down the line seems to fit better. Having opened up the ball and bashed it about for two days - and your observation that it was no longer paying it the close attention I'd witnessed - suggests you were right to see it as something other than a food item.
    I haven't seen any sign of the ball since.

    1. I suppose that when the ice melted the ball sank, and that was that. I really don't think the gull thought of it as animate and was playing with it like a cat plays with a mouse. It might have originally supposed the ball to be edible, maybe some kind of fruit. But who knows what goes on in a gull's mind?