Saturday 21 December 2013

The male Tawny Owl was on the balcony on the nest tree, sleeping serenely in the rain.

The last sighting of the female owl was on the 18th. Maybe she has already retired to the nest for the long haul of laying and incubating eggs and looking after the owlets until they are able to fly -- over two months' work.

This Dunnock at the Buck Hill playground was absolutely saturated, and stood on a post, periodically shaking itself like a wet dog.

I suppose it had been creeping around in the wet bushes.

Several Lesser Black-Backed Gulls were eating crayfish. Here is a sequence of pictures from yesterday, when it was less dark, showing one dismantling a crayfish. These photographs were taken in the course of a few seconds. After pecking at it, in the process tearing off one of the unfortunate creature's legs ...

... it takes a firm grip on its middle ...

... and somehow manages to bite it in half.

Two Song Thrushes were singing loudly at each other in adjacent trees in the Dell.

Yesterday's picture of the Ring-Necked Parakeet on the Henry Moore arch brought a query from 'Jim, North London': 'Reportedly many members of the parrot order practise geophagy, i.e. eating or licking clay ... Perhaps the parakeet was instinctively drawn to the riverbank-like appearance of the travertine and checking it over?' I had been wondering on similar lines whether the stone -- travertine is calcium carbonate -- might be a source of calcium salts necessary for maintenance of bone and building eggshells. Calcium carbonate is soluble in acid rainwater, and it had rained hard the night before. Is the bird actually licking the stone in that picture?

Here is a picture of the same bird a few seconds before, walking around on top of the stone but not bending down to the surface.

This sculpture has become a favourite perch for Grey Herons, and the top is saturated with their copious droppings, which have dribbled down the outside. Possibly the parakeet didn't like this foul surface. The place it flew down to was inside the arch, and so quite clean.

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