Wednesday 13 March 2013

An unsettled day of sunshine, snow and hail. On the south shore of the Serpentine, a flock of Black-Headed Gulls swirls up amid the flakes behind some grazing some Canada and Greylag Geese.

During a sunny spell, a Jay prospects for worms near the Serpentine Gallery.

I had just given it a peanut, which it had prudently put aside in a tree for later while it continued with the search. Jays cache large amounts of food, and have an impressive ability to remember where they put thousands of nuts.

The very dark Great Crested Grebe appeared on the Long Water. Not only is he dark, but he has a particularly enormous crest.

I am sure that this is a very senior bird, and I am surprised not to have seen him on the lake before. Perhaps he has been displaced from some place where he had been for years, growing steadily darker and shaggier. He doesn't seem to have a mate.

Another pair of grebes have been hanging around near the willow tree next to the Serpentine bridge, clearly with the intention of reserving this prime nesting site. And today they started to build their nest.

Construction begins by vaguely throwing bits of twig and algae over a just-submerged forked branch until some of them stick fast and a random heap begins to form. It doesn't get any more organised than that. They will be satisfied when the heap is solid enough to sit on. Since the nest is built without any proper structure, it sags continuously off the branch and has to be topped up with fresh debris every day to keep it above water -- which at least keeps the top surface fresh, in a soggy kind of way. The stuff laid down on previous days slumps down into an underwater tangle whose mass helps to keep the nest stable.

There are now two pairs of Song Thrushes and one pair of Mistle Thrushes in the trees near the Serpentine Gallery and across the road. They are not yet showing any sign of nesting, and will probably not do so until the leaves appear to give them a bit of cover from Magpies and Carrion Crows -- not to mention the female Sparrowhawk who quarters this area every morning.

Still no sign of activity from the Tawny Owls, but we live in hope.


  1. Hi, nice blog!
    I noticed the strange Great-crested Grebe too, on Thursday, you can see an image here: It was beneath the bridge when I saw it and you could easily see the difference between it and a 'normal' one near by. Could it possibly be a semi-erythristic bird?


    1. I'd say this bird was darker all over, not just in the red areas. The picture taken on a very dark day may exaggerate this a bit, but not much. The very heavy crest suggests age, and a few years ago on the lake I noticed one of the regular birds darkening over the five years that I watched him -- this was too long ago for him to have been the same bird as pictured here.