Wednesday 27 March 2013

A pair of Mute Swans were wandering about just outside the Italian Garden. Here they are under a Victorian Portland stone relief of children playing in the water, which they would not be allowed to do in these safety-mad times.

At first I thought they had been chased up there by the dominant pair on the Long Water, but it turned out that they were the dominant pair, engaged in their long search for a nest site. They soon abandoned this area and waddled back into the water.

Although they now have all the lake north of the bridge to themselves, it is still hard to find a place to nest. The male of the pair lost his mate to a fox attack last year, when their nest was on the east shore of the Long Water, about 50 yards from the Italian Garden. He will not want to go back there with his new young mate. Anyway, as the rabbits return there will be more foxes here and everywhere. In fact there are no really good nest sites anywhere on the Long Water, since all are open to attack and there is no safe island as there is on the Serpentine. Nevertheless, swans have succeeded in raising broods on the Long Water, and these swans are just going to have to choose a place and do their best.

They have penned up the two young swans in the Italian Garden ponds for months. One of them ventured on to the lake a few days ago and was driven off again. Here they are disconsolately eating algae.

Meanwhile, on the Serpentine there is swan anarchy. I counted 49 there yesterday, courting and fighting and begging food from visitors. Soon several pairs will try to nest -- the prime spot is the island, of course -- and will harass the others so much that they have to creep back to the Round Pond with the other low-ranking swans.

On the edge of the Serpentine a pair of Black-headed Gulls were displaying noisily with wings akimbo to make themselves look larger. The one with the dark head was presumably the male, as he was making more noise and holding his head in the low position that is part of the ritual.

Just up the shore, a Lesser Black-Backed Gull thought it was time for a nice lie down.

Several people, including me, did a tour of Tawny Owl territory without finding anything. They are very late this year -- but then everything is late this year. It is not time to start worrying yet.

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