Friday 10 May 2013

A Nuthatch in the leaf yard has become uncommonly bold and is coming out to take pine nuts off the fence.

I have seen an American book on how to hand-feed birds, and the cover photograph shows a White-Breasted Nuthatch feeding off the author's hand. Fine as that would be, it is hardly a legitimate expectation. Nor do I think you really need a book to get birds to come to you: you just have to bring food they like, and be very patient for a very long time.

Sorry to say that the Great Crested Grebes' nest under the willow tree has been raided, and the eggs are gone. When I passed, there was a Coot standing on the nest, which one of the pair chased away, but the damage is done. This nest was in water too deep for a Grey Heron, and under branches that sheltered it from big gulls, so I think that the Coots in the adjacent nest must have been the culprits when the grebes carelessly left the nest unprotected for a few minutes. Well, there is plenty of time for them to build another nest, preferably in a better place, and have another brood. But it is very sad to see all that work go to waste.

This is the Great Crested Grebes' nest in the dead reed bed to the east of the Lido -- not much of a picture because it was taken through the net.

Well protected as it is, it is not safe from Coots either, as these are nesting at the other end of the same net. Even by a grebe's sloppy standards this nest is a bit of a swamp, and probably they will pile some more reed stems on it before trying to use it.

These reeds died as soon as they were planted, because the contractors dredged up toxic sludge from the bottom of the lake to plant them in. Theoretically you are supposed to plant reeds in soil dredged from the lake, because it is exhausted of nutrients. Reeds absorb nutrients from the water and don't need fertile soil, and by not adding fertile soil to the lake you avoid encouraging the growth of algae. But evidently that does not apply to a lake into which urban pollution has been falling for almost 300 years. Some reed beds survived from this planting because the contractors ran out of material from the lake bottom -- they didn't want to break through its base of puddled clay -- and started using ordinary soil instead. It was against the rules, but it worked.

The Coots' nest built against the post offshore from Peter Pan now has at least three eggs in it, though the chances of success are low in such an exposed place, with many big gulls perching nearby.

And the Mute Swans' nest under the parapet of the Italian Garden is still in good order.

This is even more exposed, in this case to foxes and humans. But it is not as silly a place as I saw today, walking past the two small boathouses. One of them has an ornamental fence enclosing a tiny area at each of the landward corners, and a swan was solemnly building a nest there.


  1. Dear Ralph

    Although I haven't been visiting as much, I almost got the nuthatch to feed from my hand a week ago- it got to less than a foot away and was just about to make the leap of faith when a pack of dogs came up to me and it flew off. It was, however, taking seeds from the fence, it liked the fat based nibbles and mealworms best!



    1. Remarkable. Will try to encourage this bird.