Saturday 11 May 2013

The Great Crested Grebes nesting in the willow tree near the bridge have bounced back strongly after their recent disaster. They have pulled off all the extra stuff that Coots had piled on their nest, and when I saw them they had just chased a Coot some distance away, and were uttering their territorial call (aark-kk, aark-kk). The grebes nesting in the reed bed east of the Lido have taken the fight to the neighbouring Coots, and one of them was sitting on the enemy's nest.

There were more Swifts on the lake, perhaps as many as 200, and some of them were skimming low over the water hunting for hatching insects. This hastily snatched picture shows how slender their wings are when seen edge on.

Swifts also come down to the water to drink, skimming the surface with their beak open. But they would not have needed to do that today, as there were a couple of showers and these incredible flyers can catch falling raindrops.

Another insectivorous bird, one of the two Grey Wagtails, had just found some small creature on the edge of the Serpentine. I don't know whether it's a larva or a worm.

The Nuthatch in the leaf yard has a mate, and the two were calling and flirting among the bushes. Both of them came to the railings for food several times, and I nearly got one of them to land on my hand. Will keep trying.

These Blackbirds were also flirting, with the female chasing the male and uttering little enticing chirps.

I get the impression that female Blackbirds rule the roost. They seem more aggressive than the males, and often shoulder them out of the way to take a piece of food. Of course a female Blackbird has to be sure that her mate will look after her faithfully and bring her food when she is sitting on her eggs.


  1. my god! it's all go on the lake at the moment isn't it?! who knew the lives of these birds was sooo dramatic. i'm rooting for the grebes but that's bird racism isn't it? i've wondered in the last few years whether there has been a war between the coots & the moorhens? i remember the numbers being quite equal then but now there are far fewer moorhens. what do you think?
    as always gripped by your reports ralph. thanks.
    mark W2

    1. I'm rooting for the grebes too. Who wouldn't?

      I think there's a war between the Coots and everyone, including the other Coots. The number of Coots on the lake has been rising steadily, and fluctuates between about 120 and 160. The number of Moorhens is probably less than 40, but their secretive habits make them hard to count.

      To quote from my own blog post for 3 August 2012:
      Coots were deliberately introduced into the London parks in the early 20th century, by putting their eggs into the nests of resident Moorhens in St James's Park. They first bred in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park in 1926, and since then have increased unstoppably. The gardeners will certainly be regretting the decision to bring them in.

  2. I am amazed by your progress with taming the Nuthatches, and so sorry to have missed both you and them today. I think you shoild andd to the annals of bird behaviour, chapter on how to attract birds to eat from you hand, as you were discussing earlier in the week 'and a little Ralph magic'. You have some unique quality, I feel sure.

    1. Sorry to have missed you too. But as for getting birds to eat off your hand, it's really just a matter of having something they like to eat, and lots of patience.

  3. Ralph, I'm visiting from California for this week and next. I'd enjoy a walk with you around Hyde Park, if you are around and wouldn't mind. I'd bring my 400mm lens, I think, although sounds like with all the taming your doing a 50mm would work! I did manage to see the Gray Wagtail on the edge of the Serpentine already, which was a thrill for me. You are certainly blogging a lot of action in the park. My email is I ran into you in the park two years ago and much appreciated your tips then too. Great blog.
    Johanna van de Woestijne