Saturday 23 March 2013

I went round the park with members of the London Natural History Society (LNHS) on their annual bird walk. No doubt they had chosen the date because it would be a nice spring day with encouraging signs of birds nesting. But it was bitterly cold and snowing, and nature was on hold.

But there were birds to see. Great Tits and Robins and one Blackbird were still singing, and a Nuthatch also gave us a brief burst of song in the leaf yard, where one of the Great Spotted Woodpeckers could be seen climbing around the dead tree they nest in. Nearby, a lone Redwing was foraging with a Song Thrush.

It has been a poor year for Redwing, in and outside the park, and I have not seen any of the flocks in London squares that are a common winter sight in other years.

The pair of Mandarins obligingly turned up near the Peter Pan statue, and one of the two female Pochard-Tufted Duck hybrids, which have not been seen for several weeks, was diving on one of the ponds in the Italian Garden.

The young Great Black-Backed Gull had also returned. Here it is between two Lesser Black-Backs, which give an idea of its impressive size.

And here is a strangely bedraggled first-winter Black-Headed Gull on the edge of the Serpentine.

None of us could understand how it came to look like that. Is it a genetic abnormality? Had it lost the natural oils in its feathers through some accident and been wetted by the snow? After a while it flew off, revealing perfectly normal-looking wings.

The Great Crested Grebes under the willow tree near the bridge, who had neglected their nest for several days, were back on it. But it had sunk badly into the water, and they will have a lot of work building it up again before it is fit to lay eggs in.

Update: Michael Robinson, who was on the LNHS walk, saw a Redshank at the Round Pond as he was going home to Notting Hill.

Further update: I went to the Round Pond at 2.45. The Redshank was in the air, and circled the pond before heading off to the southwest, maybe towards the Wetland Centre at Barnes. No chance of a photograph of a small bird flying 50 yards away in driving snow.

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