Friday 8 November 2013

The two Tawny Owls were in exactly the same place as they have been for the past week.

They get into these habits, and then something disturbs them and they vanish, and are found somewhere else establishing a new habit. The only dependable place  in midwinter and early spring is the notch in the broken trunk of the nest tree, where the male stands guard all day, until it is dark enough for him to fly off and hunt to feed his mate and growing family. He has been using this place for at least ten years, during which at least 40 owlets have been brought up and sent off.

These Egyptian Geese are also long stayers. As far as I know they were the first pair to settle in the park, in 2004; the lack of a brown eye patch on the female's head makes them recognisable. Here they are standing on one of the fountains in the Italian Garden, which have stopped working yet again.

It is this pair of geese that have repeatedly bred, often several times a year, only to lose all their young in a couple of days because they don't look after them properly. Previously they have nested on the east side of the Long Water beside the Vista, but now that the area has been fenced off from the surrounding thickets and planted with that very unsuccessful attempt at a wildflower meadow, they will have to try their luck somewhere else -- and maybe they will even manage to bring up some of their offspring.

The Great Crested Grebe family were under the bridge as usual, feeding their young very efficiently despite being shouldered aside by Cormorants and persecuted by Black-Headed Gulls.

The parents seem to be able to pass fish to the young under water, and the young can eat them under water too, so many catches don't surface before they are swallowed. Probably they can manage not to have to take a large gulp of lake water with each fish. The Black-Necked Grebes (Podiceps nigricollis) which migrate in millions to the very salty Lake Mono in California manage to eat brine shrimp without swallowing any of the undrinkable water. They do this by squeezing each beakful of shrimp between their tongue and the upper mandible of their beak so that the salt water is squeezed out.

This Robin is the jealous owner of a bush on the edge of the leaf yard. Here he stares truculently at the camera while waiting to beat up any other small birds that come to my hand to be fed.

And here are two kinds of pochard: in front a Common Pochard (Aythya ferina) and at the back a Red-Crested Pochard (Netta rufina).

They are not closely related and are of different sizes, and they only share their common name because of a slight resemblance: both drakes have ginger heads and red eyes. In both species the female has brown eyes.


  1. Loving the tawny owls and the story behind their devotion.

  2. I continue to be amazed by how beautifully and consistently sharp all your photos are nowadays. Thank you for giving the time perspective on our longer-term inhabitants. I am sorry that the pair of Egyptian Geese, which I viewed with wonder when I first saw and identifired them, should be the ones that are such rotten parents. Weather not very auspicious for timorrow. I have asked Peter to bring me another of his DVDs round to divert me again. We watched 'Quartet' last week and both enjoyed it.

    1. Yes, it looks like a day for staying indoors, except for those of us who are driven by obsession to get their daily snaps.