Friday 20 December 2013

The Great Black-Backed Gull was on the Serpentine island eating a crayfish when a Carrion Crow had the temerity to dart in and snatch it.

The gull leapt over a roll of netting and went for the crow ...

... and returned victorious with the crayfish in its beak.

Crows often succeed in stealing food from Lesser Black-Backs, which they are about on a par with when it comes to a fight. But I don't think this crow will mess with a Great Black-Back again.

There was another strange sight at the Henry Moore arch: a Ring-Necked Parakeet mountaineering its way up the overhang, hanging on with its sharp claws and, it seems from this picture, with its beak too, which parakeets often use as a 'third foot' when climbing along branches.

The sculpture is made of travertine, a kind of cut-price marble that is full of small holes. It was these that provided footholds for the bird. But it still fell off shortly after I had taken this picture. I have no idea why it was climbing on the stone -- possibly just to see if it could.

The male Tawny Owl was peacefully asleep on his balcony when a squirrel dashed past him and he woke up in a hurry and looked around angrily to see what had disturbed him.

I was reminded of Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, in which the squirrel is caught by Old Mr Brown the owl and escapes with the loss of his tail. But Nutkin was a red squirrel, and smaller than the American grey kind we have now. Incidentally, Beatrix Potter spent much of her girlhood a mile away from the park at 2 Bolton Gardens, and was taken for walks in Brompton Cemetery where she would have seen the name Nutkins on a tombstone beside the central path, and it is supposed that this is the source of the squirrel's name.

The rowan trees are still full of Starlings eating the berries.

There were also at least four Mistle Thrushes, which disobligingly ate the berries on the far side of the tree where I couldn't get a picture of them.

The Great Crested Grebes at the Serpentine bridge are still disputing their territory.

Yesterday Andy Sunters reported seeing what might have been a leucistic Blackbird or, much more excitingly, a Ring Ouzel, in the shrubbery between the bridge and the Diana memorial. I went around the area at sunset and found a blackbird with a few white feathers ...

... but it didn't look a bit like a Ring Ouzel, so the jury is still out on that.


  1. Reportedly many members of the parrot order practise geophagy i.e. eating or licking clay, not only macaws. Perhaps the parakeet was instinctively drawn to the riverbank-like appearance of the travertine and checking it over? Jim, north London

  2. I was wondering on similar lines whether the loose-surfaced stone -- it's calcium carbonate, soluble in acid rainwater -- might be a source of calcium salts necessary for maintenance of bone and building eggshells, so that the sculpture is a kind of salt lick. Is the bird actually licking the stone in that picture?