Friday, 27 September 2013

More Shovellers have arrived for the winter, and there were half a dozen at the Serpentine island as well as 20-odd on the Long Water. Some of the males are in full breeding plumage. They are obstinately staying in dark, distant places where you can't get a good picture. There were also three Gadwalls which flew around the Long Water before landing. They arrive and depart randomly throughout the year, and I think they spend some of their time in the garden of Buckingham Palace.

A partly melanistic male Great Tit with black 'trousers' has been visible in the leaf yard for several days.

There was another with this extra dark colouring here a few years ago, so it is not very uncommon. Male Great Tits have more black than females -- a wider stripe down the middle of the breast and more black around the collar, so this one can be thought of as a male who has gone farther than usual.

The Little Owls both appeared this morning, but as usual the female vanished as soon as anyone tried to take a picture of her. The male owl sat unconcernedly on a branch, not bothering to look at the humans below. The only thing that would get his attention was rustling the dead leaves, giving him a momentary impression that a mouse was running through them, so that he peered down for a moment.

Owls' eyesight is acute, but their hearing is super-acute and some species such as the Tawny Owl can catch prey in total darkness.

One of the younger family of Great Crested Grebes was racing towards its father, who was holding out a fish.

At the moment of arrival it slammed on the brakes by holding its large feet out sideways.

I don't think any other water bird has this ability to stop quickly. I have also seen grebes swimming backwards, and this skill is certainly unique to them.

The shrubberies in Kensington Gardens are full of large white mushrooms with shaggy caps, which are a familiar sight every autumn.

But I don't know what they are. At first I thought they were parasol mushrooms (Macrolepiota procera), but they are not tall enough, only about 8 inches against about 12 for a full-sized parasol, and the shape of the cap is too rounded -- parasol mushrooms are shaped like a paper umbrella. Does anyone know what they are?

Update: Mario has kindly identified them: see his comments below.


  1. They are Shaggy Parasols (Macrolepiota rhacodes). They are edible, but certainly not as nice as the proper parasols (Macrolepiota procera), which is also present in Kensington Gardens. Also some people suffer from digestive upset and skin rash.

    1. Many thanks for your information -- and for correcting the out-of-date genus name. Will look for true parasols, but I don't think I have ever seen them. Possibly they get picked as soon as they appear.

    2. I got one today (Macrolepiota procera), when I went to collect some giant puffballs that I was keeping one eye on, only to find that they had been mown down and crashed! In Kensington Gardens there are lots of edible mushrooms, for those in the know!

    3. Well done! I never seem to get there early enough for the best species, though I have collected some good giant puffballs and a few ceps.