Friday 24 May 2013

A cold wet day kept people out of the park, but the birds were not deterred by the weather. A Blackbird was singing in the rain, encouraged by the fact that it brings up worms and makes finding food easier.

This Starling, and plenty of its colleagues beside the Italian Garden, were pulling up worms as fast as they could eat them.

They looked very wet and bedraggled, but it is only their outer feathers that are wet and they still have plenty of insulation; and a well fed bird uses most of its food as fuel to keep warm. In fact these Starlings were so unconcerned by the weather that some of them were bathing in a puddle.

The surface of the lake was alive with hirundines, not just the usual Swifts, but plenty of Swallows ...

... and House Martins.

The rain will provide wet mud for the House Martins to repair their nests and, we hope, build new ones. They are still paying more attention to the Kuwaiti Embassy than the French Embassy, although the French one has a better aspect, facing into the setting sun so that the masonry is warmed and stores heat during the night.

It is now three years since the French Embassy was refurbished and the old nests cleared out of the cornice, and the birds went over to the building opposite. Clearly, from a House Martin's point of view, it is better to reuse an old nest, and save the labour of building one from scratch, than to move to a more favourable site. Also, some of these birds will be returning to the nests that they used last year.

The Great Crested Grebe family are still staying in the shelter of the bushes on the Serpentine island. With large numbers of ravenous gulls, it is too dangerous to venture out with small chicks. The parent who is not holding the babies goes out fishing on the open lake and returns, alternately diving and surfacing to confuse predators about its course, then dives under the wire baskets and comes up behind them to deliver the meal to the chicks. Sadly, they are too far away and the place is too shaded for even a halfway decent photograph, especially on a dark grey day.

The London Bird Club Wiki reports a House Sparrow in the Victoria Tower Gardens next to the Houses of Parliament. They have been very rare in central London for more than a decade, though one was seen here in the park a few months ago. I hope that the Peregrines who nest on the Victoria Tower have enough pigeons and don't bother with this little bird.

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