Wednesday 31 December 2014

The pair of Mute Swans who have claimed the nest site at the east end of the Serpentine were courting. Every now and then the male would break off his elegant display and chase another swan away, which no doubt the female found equally romantic.

The ice on the Long Water had moved the family of swans on to the Serpentine, and the father was chasing the seven young ones around. Also, they were having a dispute with the next family up the Serpentine with five cygnets, so there was a lot of threatening and charging. These low-ranking adults got caught up in the action and hastily left -- only to find, no doubt, that the mood at the other end of the lake was equally militant.

This Cormorant was fishing around the wire baskets near the bridge, without catching anything while I was there. The white feathers on its head are not unusual. Cormorants get more white feathers when in breeding plumage, but the different between individuals is greater than this slight increase.

Its presence had pushed a Great Crested Grebe to the willow on the far side of the bridge, where it caught a perch amid the tangled roots. I haven't seen a Cormorant in this place; maybe they are too large to negotiate the tangled underwater roots of the tree.

Two black and white Mallards, both female and probably siblings, have appeared on the Long Water. They aren't the ones I have photographed in previous years. This colour variation is quite common in both males and females.

Two Dunnocks were feeding on the grass under a hawthorn tree between Peter Pan and the Italian Garden. It was a surprise to see these furtive little birds out in the open. They were pecking briskly at the ground, probably eating the seeds of fallen hawthorn fruits.

The usual three Green Woodpeckers were feeding on the Archery Field.

Today's picture of the male Tawny Owl is a bit dark. When I passed his tree in the morning, he had just been chased inside by a mob of Magpies and Jays, and he didn't come out again till 2.45, when the light was failing.

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Parts of the Long Water and the Round Pond were covered with ice. Some birds were having difficulty: this Coot could hardly walk and kept falling over.

A Mallard drake was also having difficulty keeping his balance.

The Shovellers were revolving serenely. They don't need a very large area of water for the shovelling and filtering that supply their food.

A Great Crested Grebe was at the edge of the ice next to the bridge, diving and fishing under the ice sheet. They are well aware that fish like sheltering under things, an insufficient protection when there is a hungry bird rushing around with great speed.

The Blackbirds are noticeably hungrier when the ground is frozen, and some quite shy birds allowed me to feed them. But the cold didn't stop a Blackbird from bathing in one of the little pools below the Rima relief ...

... and when it had finished, a Great Tit bathed in the same place.

The Jackdaws at the Round Pond seemed to be finding enough to eat. Being bigger and stronger than Blackbirds, they probably have less trouble extracting worms from the hard soil.

The male Tawny Owl was dozing peacefully in his usual place in the horse chestnut tree. Several photographers had come to admire him, but he is used to that and takes no notice.

Monday 29 December 2014

On a frosty morning the male Tawny Owl was fluffed up to the maximum against the chilly breeze blowing past his exposed position in the nest tree.

The ponds in the Italian Garden had partly frozen, and a first-year Black-Headed Gull was experiencing ice for the first time.

One of the seven young Mute Swans was on the same pond.

It had taken refuge there because its father was charging around the Long Water chasing his offspring away. He has definitely decided that it is chucking-out time, a most unwelcome surprise for these pampered young birds.

There was a very confused Black-Headed Gull in full summer breeding plumage on the Serpentine.

At the east end of the lake there was a brief glimpse of the young Grey Wagtail, which I have not seen for some time.

The place is thronged with people going to the funfair, and I only got time for one hasty picture before it sped away to somewhere quieter.

A single Redwing was under the rowan tree on Buck Hill, still finding a few fallen berries that were not completely rotten.

A chattering noise from across the road showed that it had companions in a tree.

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits was moving along the path at the top of the hill, joined by a few Blue Tits.

A small tree behind the Rima relief is constantly full of Wood Pigeons flapping heavily about, clinging to twigs and occasionally losing their hold and falling out.

The attraction seems to be ivy berries. The birds have finished the earlier and more palatable fruit.

Sunday 28 December 2014

Even before the New Year there are signs of birds claiming territories for nests to come. On Friday I photographed a pair of Mute Swans claiming a site at the east end of the Serpentine. Today the male of the pair was cruising up and down in front of the line of floating reed beds  just offshore, in an exaggerated threat pose, not letting any other swans come near.

The hole in the bottom of the Tawny Owls' nest tree, whose ownership alternates between Starlings and Ring-Necked Parakeets, was being guarded by a Starling, staring up at a pair of parakeets in a branch as few yards away.

Higher up in the tree, the male Tawny Owl was guarding his own nest, but there is no question of his ownership: the pair have had that place for more than a decade.

These Herring Gulls on the tern raft in the Long Water (well, what was supposed to be a tern raft) also seemed to be making some kind of territorial claim. The bird on the raft was arranging a little heap of sticks, watched by the other one in the water. A few seconds later it flew at the other gull and chased it away.

This can't be a serious attempt at nesting, as the local Herring Gull colony is on a roof near Paddington Station. Maybe it was some kind of dominance game.

Another Herring Gull has claimed a handrail in the middle of the Lido bathing area, and is often seen there, defying any other bird that might want this desirable offshore perch.

The smaller gulls perch on the handrail of the jetty or on the line of plastic buoys that marks the edge of the swimming area. The buoys are also on the Pied Wagtails' round of the lake, though they never stay there long as there are no insects on its smooth plastic surface, and in winter none flying past over the water.

There were at least 30 Red Crested Pochards on and around the Serpentine island. It is remarkable how the numbers of this newly established species are increasing.

A Great Crested Grebe was fishing under the willow tree near the bridge, and caught a perch.

The baskets of twigs on the other side of the bridge seem to have been fished out by Cormorants for the time being, and are only occasionally visited by fishing birds without much result.

Saturday 27 December 2014

In the chilly morning wind, a Wood Pigeon had fluffed up its feathers against the cold ...

... and the familiar pair of Egyptian Geese were sheltering in the lee of the Henry Moore sculpture.

The male Tawny Owl was unaffected, and was in his usual place on the nest tree with the wind ruffling his feathers.

The birds' bathing places are probably relatively warm, since they are fed by boreholes from which water emerges at a steady 10°C.  Can that be why there are often Herring Gulls paddling in the shallow water at the upper end of the Diana fountain?

The popular bath in front of the Rima relief had a Blackbird in it.

Across the road at the top of Buck Hill, a Mistle Thrush was wandering around in the grass, looking much like the fallen leaves until it moved.

A female Pied Wagtail was working her way upwind along the shore beside the deserted tables of the Lido restaurant.

When Cormorants stand with their wings outstretched, this is supposed to be because the posture helps them digest the fish they have caught. Sometimes they flap their wings gently and constantly. Does the movement speed up the process?

This is a young Cormorant, still with the off-white front of its juvenile plumage. Apparently Cormorants in Britain have taken to breeding in rocky places inland, and no longer exclusively beside the sea.

Friday 26 December 2014

A pair of Mute Swans at the east end of the lake were getting off to an early start examining a possible nest site at the east end of the lake. Here they are displaying at each other after chasing a third swan off it.

There was a successful nest here last spring which produced two cygnets. These may be the same parents making sure they don't lose their site. Few good places are available.

The pair of pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gulls, which have been seen eating fish several times recently, have gone back to their original diet of pigeon. There are hundreds of these all jammed together on the pavement around the funfair, and catching them should be fairly easy. Here the pair are watched by a hungry young Herring Gull, which they shooed away from time to time.

A pair of Moorhens were searching for humbler food among the leaves on the edge of the Serpentine.

And a Pied Wagtail was looking for insects in the joints in the granite kerb bordering the lake. This is an adult female, with a grey back (males have a black back) and black bib (juveniles have a plain front).

A Tufted Duck was cruising along half submerged in the shallow water at Peter Pan, looking for small creatures on the bottom.

Tufted Ducks are very buoyant and have to paddle hard to stay completely submerged, so this feeding method saves effort.

A Great Tit was bathing in the shallow pool in front of the Roma relief.

The male Tawny Owl was in his usual place on the nest tree, mildly annoyed by a squawking Jay but that was no reason to leave his post.

Underneath, a pair of Egyptian Geese were parading side by side, in step.

In this species the male is slightly larger than the female, so he is the one on the right side of the picture.

Thursday 25 December 2014

A very happy Christmas to all readers.

On a sunny day the park was crowded, so there was not much to see. But a pair of Cormorants at the island were having a rare moment of affection.

One of the young Herring Gulls was trying to walk along the line of buoys at the edge of the Lido swimming area. Every time it stepped on one, the buoy revolved, and it had to jump on to the next one. After it had fallen into the water twice it gave up this frustrating pursuit.

The odd little Greylag Goose with white-flecked feathers was playing with a dead leaf.

A Blackbird near the Rima relief had found a large pile of fallen leaves swept up by the gardeners, and was rummaging briskly in them looking for insects.

Nearby, two Ring-Necked Parakeets were trying unsuccessfully to get into a feeder.

A first-year Grey Heron, still mostly in pale grey plumage, was waiting patiently on the small rock next to the Italian Garden for a fish to swim by.

And a Great Crested Grebe was doing what a grebe does best: resting.

The day wouldn't have been complete without seeing the male Tawny Owl peacefully dozing in his usual place on the nest tree.