Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Yet another Great Crested Grebes' nest has hatched out, bringing the total of chicks on the lake to at least 10 -- more if there is more than one chick in the new nest. It is one of the three closely spaced nests behind the baskets at the northeast corner of the Serpentine island. The nest is in deep shade, and you can only get a remote diagonal view of it. All I could see was the parent's wing feathers constantly being moved about by an invisible but very active chick on its back. After a while the parent found this annoying, and had a good stretch.

The rowan trees at the top of Buck Hill have a pair of permanently resident Magpies which emerge from time to time to eat the berries.

I don't think this deters the visiting Song Thrushes, as there are four trees and only two Magpies. Also, Both Song and Mistle Thrushes are very good at chasing Magpies away, which they do by flying over them repeatedly and hitting them on the head.

This year's young Starlings are growing up. This teenage bird still has the brown head of a juvenile, but the rest of it is in the magnificent iridescent brocade plumage of an adult.

The Starlings had taken advantage of the sunny day bringing people to the terrace of the Lido restaurant, and were raiding the tables for chips and bits of cake.

This young Moorhen seems to be swimming, but when you look closer you can see that its enormous feet are firmly planted on the bottom.

When Moorhens swim, they use much the same leg motion as when running. Despite their feet being unwebbed, it seems very effective and they have a fair turn of speed on the water.

I talked with Peter Scott, the owner of the Bluebird boat hire place on the Serpentine, who told me two stories of how the park wildlife is adapting to the presence of humans -- in both cases to his disadvantage.

One is that bees are going into the waste bins and crawling to the bottom to drink spilt Coca-Cola, which they regard as a sort of nectar. There are a lot of bins next to the Bluebird snack bar, and despite the best efforts of the staff in hosing out the bins, six customers have been stung by bees recently.

The other is that the Egyptian Geese, whose numbers are increasing at 50% a year, have discovered that the moored pedalos are a good place to spend the night, so that in the morning the boats are full of droppings and have to be cleaned. It is difficult to know what to do about this. The park staff manage to keep the numbers of Greylag and Canada Geese down by finding their nests and pricking their eggs. But Egyptians nest up tall trees.

We wondered whether a cat living at the boathouse could be induced to wander around the pedalos and scare the Egyptians away. It would obviously not be a good idea to have a dog that thought that birds were fair game, as there is already a lot of trouble with irresponsible dog owners letting their pets rampage along the lake shore attacking the waterfowl. But a cat would stick to its own territory -- or so one might hope.

There is also the man with the Harris Hawk who goes around Trafalgar Square and other places to scare the pigeons. But would an occasional visit from a very small hawk frighten an Egyptian Goose? Mr Scott is seeking the advice of Malcolm, the Royal Parks Wildlife Officer.


  1. I'd suggest a simple tarpaulin type cover is put over the pedalos - its the usual covering for boats in parks.

    After all the geese are only laying claim to a safe place to roost.


    1. Yes, he thought of that. But it would take over two hours to get all the covers off in the morning and on in the evening.