Friday 17 May 2013

A small flock of Goldfinches brightened a dull grey day, moving through the lime trees near the Serpentine Gallery.

The Little Owl was not on view, but under his tree a Jay and a Wood Pigeon were in dispute about some peanuts. To my surprise, the Jay won simply by strolling up to the Wood Pigeon, which retreated. Normally these large fearless pigeons win, and I have seen one scaring a Carrion Crow off a piece of food. Here the Jay enjoys his winnings.

There are two young Cormorants, still with white fronts, who have taken to perching on the tern raft on the Long Water. They seem to be quite fond of each other, though the prospect of Cormorants breeding in Central London seems most unlikely.

They have found an excellent source of fish. One of the iron gratings covering the old semicircular water intake and outlet for the Italian Garden has collapsed, leaving a hole just large enough for a Cormorant to enter. This structure is always full of small fish, for which it provides shelter, except when a Grey Heron manages to grab one through the gaps between the iron gratings. But now it can be invaded by a large and hungry diving bird, and it is no longer a safe haven. Here one of the Cormorants emerges from the hole with a fish. You can see the hole on the right of the picture; the collapsed grating is on the left, and its fall has left enough depth of water for the bird to swim, rather than walk, out.

I have also seen a Cormorant standing on one of the wire baskets near the bridge, which it clearly knew was full of fish. But it couldn't get any out. Grey Herons also fail here. Only the smaller and more agile Great Crested Grebes can get fish out of these baskets.

This splendid picture of a Treecreeper was taken yesterday by Johanna van de Woestijne, who has come over from California and was visiting the park. The bird has amassed a remarkable store of insects, and is taking them to its nest to feed the nestlings.

Evidently Treecreepers have a skill like that of Puffins, of being able to hold on to prey in their beak while hunting for more. This is done by clamping the already caught insects against its beak with its tongue. The nest is in the oak tree at the southwest corner of the leaf yard, but it is too high up and shaded by leaves for anything to be visible.


  1. Wood pigeons: can I suggest, rather than "fearless", "plucky"?! They are usually healthily fearful of people. - Jim, north London.

    1. It depends on where you are, I think. In the park, they are almost as unconcerned by human presence as the feral rock doves that you almost have to kick out of the way when walking among them. In the country it's different. My father, when he saw a tree full of wood pigeons, would demonstrate this by raising his walking stick to his shoulder. The wood pigeons would think it was a shotgun and would tumble out of the far side of the tree in a thrashing mob.