Wednesday 4 December 2013

There were a few Mistle Thrushes flying around near the Tawny Owls' tree. This is not a usual place for them, so I hope they are the first of the long delayed winter migrants. Over the past few days I have occasionally heard a brief burst of Mistle Thrush song in several parts of the park, another encouraging sign.

The Tawny Owls themselves were in their usual place in the beech tree, so I took the usual daily photograph as a tribute to these beautiful creatures.

Yesterday Andy Sunters saw a Peregrine in the Bayswater Road on the north edge of Kensington Gardens. It was probably one of the local pair, which I haven't seen for some time. They have been absent from their usual daytime vantage point on the tower of the Metropole Hilton Hotel, where the Marylebone Flyover crosses the Edgware Road, and they left their night roost on the tall block in Eastbourne Terrace next to Paddington Station when the whole area was dug up for the Crossrail project. So it is good to know that they are still around.

There are still only a handful of Shovellers on the lake. This drake had got separated from his companions and had no one to shovel with, so he turned his attention to picking algae and small creatures of the trailing stems of a willow tree.

Here are three more drakes in their best winter feathers: a Mallard, a Pochard and a Tufted Duck.

One of these days I hope to get a Red Crested Pochard in the picture too.

The Blue Tits have also recovered from the scruffiness of their autumn moult and are looking elegant again.

Their yellow fronts are brighter than those of Great Tits, which are often a bit faded-looking, especially in winter when the supply of insects declines. It is the carotenoid pigments in insects that provide the yellow colour of their feathers, and indeed of the yellow colours in many other birds.

I think these two Herring Gulls are the same age: in their second winter. But one has grown plenty of adult pale grey feathers and has developed a pale ring around the base of its beak, while the other has done neither. However, it is too light-coloured to be a first-winter bird.

The ageing of gulls is much studied, and there is an illustrated double-page spread about it in the Collins Bird Guide. However, gulls have not read the book and do pretty much what they like.

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