Sunday, 22 September 2013

One of the Great Crested Grebes on the Serpentine was twitching his wings up and down in an irritated way. After a successful breeding season their wing feathers are tattered from being used as a nursery for the chicks, and they moult and replace them, so that they are ready to fly again in case the lake freezes and they have to move to the Thames. The process seems to cause itching, and I have often seen birds looking as if they were annoyed by it.

Meanwhile, the business of feeding the chicks went on. Here a female grebe (compare the narrow crest to the one in the first picture), who has brought a very large fish to her chicks, looks on as one is finally able to swallow it after several tries.

The single young Mute Swan on the Long Water was preening, holding out a delicately translucent pink-tinged foot.

It is growing up to be as belligerent as its father, who has driven all intruders off the Long Water ever since the pair started nesting. I have often seen it attacking coots and ducks just for the sake of it, and it is also beginning to have its father's strong objection to dogs swimming in the lake.

The female Mallard that sits serenely inder the fountain in the Italian Garden had been joined by a drake. They really do seem to enjoy sitting in the spray -- and why not, as they are proverbially waterproof?

Several large flocks of Long-Tailed Tits passed overhead while I was in Kensington Gardens, foraging with other species of tit and probably other small birds -- there was at least one Chiffchaff -- as they do especially in winter. You can't photograph them against the sky on a dull day, so here is a picture of one taken two days ago when the sun was shining.

There were about 200 Greylag Geese on the Parade Ground, calmly feeding next door to a game of football. This is another sign of approaching winter, when cold weather brings in large numbers of these geese from smaller parks and gardens to feed on the reliable grass which, on the Parade Ground, is the finest quality that a sports turf supplier can provide.


  1. I visited Hall Place in Bexley today, where they had a display of owls (incl. Tawny and Little- a Tawny sat on my hand! I have the usual mixed feelings about such, or any , birds in captivity; a magic feeling nonetheless).
    One of the owls was in serious moult- the owl-keeper told me that he thinks it causes them great itchiness and makes them grumpy. The owl did look sullen.

  2. I do agree with you about captive birds, but at least the owls have a life and are well looked after, and it must be thrilling to meet one close up. Thanks for the interesting information about the irritating nature of moulting. That grebe looked quite uncomfortable.