Wednesday 30 April 2014

The Tawny Owl's frequent calling has attracted the attention of another owl, but it's not a mate for him. It's another male, wondering what all the noise is about. He was calling from one of the line of four horse chestnut trees between the path and the main tree, but couldn't be seen in the thick foliage. This picture is of the original owl in his usual place.

We are sure it is him, because Paul Turner photographed him earlier when he was sitting higher in the tree and the distinctive white patch on his chest was visible. The owl was understandably restless in the presence of a rival, moving from branch to branch.

The male Little Owl also came out to enjoy the sunshine.

A pair of Blue Tits have started nesting in the usual gas lamp post at the back of the Lido swimming area. The entrance to the nest is at the bottom of the gas pipe, where there is a hole leading into the cast iron post.

Presumably the nest itself is inside the ornamental bulge in the post just below this hole.

A Dunnock was alternately singing and preening himself on a tree near the Queen's Temple. Here he is trying to do both at once.

We have had rather a lot of pictures of the Robin family near Queen Caroline's memorial, but they are irresistible. The young birds were flying from one side of the path to the other, loudly pestering their parents for food, and taking absolutely no notice of the people walking by.

The bright yellow gape of young birds stimulates their parents to feed them. So does the rapid vibration of their wings, which you can see here.

The pair of pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gulls were sharing their latest kill near the Dell restaurant (where pigeon is not on the menu).

Tuesday 29 April 2014

The female Little Owl wanted to come out of her hole to sunbathe. She looked out, saw me, and ducked back in again.

No doubt she emerged when I had gone away.

The Tawny Owl was in his usual tree, but on the north side and mostly masked by leaves.

He had been calling earlier.

The young Grey Heron is now so bold as to be positively bumptious. He went down the side of the Serpentine begging for food from everyone who looked a likely prospect, before settling on the roof ridge of one of the small boathouses. Just as I was raising my camera to take a picture, he was knocked off by an angry crow, a shot I regretted missing. But then something more remarkable happened. He flew into the Dell restaurant and stood on a table next to one where a girl was having lunch. When she didn't give him any food, he took off straight over her head, brushing her as he passed and giving her a severe fright.

Here are two young Robins from the nest in the holly tree next to the Queen Caroline memorial. Their parent has just given one a piece of bread taken from a plate in the Dell restaurant. Naturally the other one wants some food too.

Song Thrushes bathe with great vigour. This one plunged head first into a puddle in the Flower Walk, surrounded by fallen azalea petals.

Over the last few years pike have occasionally been seen in the Serpentine and Long Water. Mateusz Kociński, who works at Bluebird Boats, photographed a dead one floating near the island ...

... and a live one lurking beside the boat hire platform.

This is bad news for the Moorhens nesting here. Just as they made themselves safe from the gulls overhead, a new predator appeared below.

Monday 28 April 2014

There is a family of Robins in a holly tree near the Queen Caroline memorial at the east end of the Serpentine. I saw two young birds but there may have been more, as cheeping sounds could be heard coming out of the tree.

Glad to say that the two Mallard ducklings belonging to the sepia-coloured drake and his mate have survived so far -- I didn't see them yesterday and thought the gulls had got them. Here is the light-coloured one that takes after its father.

Two Grey Herons on the Serpentine near the bridge seemed to be on friendly terms, which is unusual with these aggressively territorial birds. After the abortive nesting season earlier this year, could they be thinking of having another try? The one is front is still mostly plain grey, showing that it is one of last year's birds, probably hatched in Regent's Park as we had no successful nests last year. But maybe it's not too young to breed.

The two pairs of Nuthatches in the leaf yard are easy to see. All you have to do is put a few pine nuts on the fence, and they will come within inches of you. At least one pair now has young to feed.

Two Long-Tailed Tits were flitting around the bushes next to the Lido restaurant. There should be some young ones soon -- they are much easier to see and photograph than their parents, as they sit on twigs waiting to be fed with insects.

These birds share the care of their young, which is unusual in birds. Canada Geese do the same.

The Tawny Owl was in his usual tree today, in a much more visible position than yesterday.

The male Little Owl sat out in his chestnut tree for some time, unfortunately after I had failed to find him once and before I came back and failed again. All I saw was the shy female rushing into her hole at my approach.

Sunday 27 April 2014

The numerous young Herring Gulls are all over both lakes snatching anything they can find, from ice cream to ducklings. Here a group of them sees someone feeding the swans near the Dell and they rush off to grab the food.

They have taken two of the ten baby Egyptian Geese, and are masscring the young Mallards. I heard of four new ducklings on the Long Water, but by the time I saw them there were three. The sepia-coloured drake and his mate have lost their remaining two. Here they are resting sadly on a Coot nest, sending the Coot packing when it tried to reclaim its property.

The three young Coots in the small boathouse are protected from such raids. Here one of them wanders out of the nest to explore the wooden platform.

There were a Grey Wagtail and two Pied Wagtails hunting insects on the nets near the Lido. One of the Pied pair took a rest on a post and stared curiously at my camera.

I don't know why the Grey Wagtails bother to come here, so far from their home in the Dell, as the little stream near their nest is alive with small insects.

A Great Crested Grebe was looking for fish around the wire basket at the north end of the bridge and saw one emerge from the top. It charged over at lightning speed, zigzagging as the fish tried to dodge it, and surfaced triumphantly holding its catch.

The Tawny Owl was just visible in the nest tree, sitting high up on the north side. It took a long time to find him among the leaves, and this obstructed picture is the best I was able to take.

Saturday 26 April 2014

The Coots' nest in the small boathouse has three very recent chicks in it, possibly with more yet to hatch.

This is a surprise, because it is only a couple of weeks since the nest inside the boat, which had eggs in it, was removed when the boats were taken away. Perhaps the people managed to take out the nest intact and transfer it to the platform inside the building. Normally that would cause a sitting bird to desert its nest and never go back, but Coots are tough and persistent creatures and they might have returned and continued to sit on their eggs.

Speaking of nests, the hole in the oak tree on the bicycle path, where Little Owls were seen recently, now has twigs and leaves inside it, and some other bird is clearly nesting there.

Owls don't line their nests in this way. A pair of Stock Doves has been hanging around the tree for some time; perhaps it is their nest. There has also been a pair of Ring-Necked Parakeets, but these use much smaller holes for their nests.

One of the Nuthatches nesting in the old chestnut tree in the leaf yard was carrying a load of insects to feed its young.

The male Nuthatch from the other nest just across the path was singing loudly. Their nest is high up and now shielded by leaves, so it will be hard to see what is going on there.

Here is the peculiar sepia-coloured Mallard drake with his mate and their two surviving ducklings. One of these is the pale one that might perhaps grow up to resemble its father.

The Egyptian Geese on the Serpentine with ten young have managed to keep them all so far, by herding them extremely close and shielded from the marauding gulls. The other Egyptian brood still numbers five, as it did yesterday. Here is one of them feeding at the side of the lake, several feet from the safety of its mother.

The large carp in the little stream in the Dell are very fond of digestive biscuits, and if you throw one into the water there will be quite a lively competition for the prize.

There are also some smaller carp here, which is why there is often a Grey Heron on the edge of the water.

The Tawny Owl was out of sight today. The female Little Owl appeared briefly early this morning.

Friday 25 April 2014

On a drizzly day with few people in the park there was plenty of spring activity to be seen. The Nuthatches in the old chestnut tree in the southwest corner of the leaf yard have at least one fledgeling, which was parked on a branch while its parents fetched insects for it.

There was a young Robin under some bushes near the Lido.

Robins' speckled juvenile feathers are so beautiful that it is almost a pity when they change into their adult red-breasted finery.

There was just one Coot chick with its mother next to one of the small boathouses, looking as pathetic and ridiculous as only a Coot chick can.

Probably its siblings have been taken by the numerous Herring Gulls.

Inside the same boathouse, the pair of Coots that were evicted when the boats were removed have built another nest on the wooden platform. While I was taking a rather dull picture of the nesting Coot, she sat up in alarm as a fighting Canada goose chased another inside, yelling furiously.

They rushed out as quickly as they had come and continued their quarrel outside.

A pair of Mallards on the Long Water have four ducklings, subject to the attentions of the gulls. The father is the sepia-coloured drake I photographed for yesterday's blog post. One of the ducklings is rather light-coloured, but this often happens and is no guarantee that it will look like its father.

The Egyptian Geese on the Serpentine which I photographed two days ago with eight young are now down to five. They are not looking after them well, allowing them to wander off by themselves, and some Herring Gulls sitting on moored pedalos were eyeing the chicks hungrily.

However, this new brood of ten near the Lido was being guarded very well indeed, with their mother constantly calling them and their father chivvying any stragglers to keep up with the others.

In the Flower Walk, a Song Thrush was collecting mud from a puddle to make a nest.

The Tawny Owl was in his usual place, more visible than yesterday but also made indistinct by the dim misty conditions.

House Martins are beginning to arrive on the Serpentine. I got a very brief glimpse of one flying over the Kuwaiti embassy, where they build their nests in the cornice.

Thursday 24 April 2014

The male Little Owl was out on his usual chestnut tree near the leaf yard.

This is certainly the male, as he stayed quite calm when being photographed. The female would have rushed into their hole as soon as I looked up at her.

The Tawny Owl was also in his usual tree, high up and mostly hidden by leaves and branches. It took two visits to the tree to get this half-obscured shot of him.

One of the Pied Wagtails from the nest in the Dell is ranging along the full length of the lake searching for insects. It flew around the Italian Gardens; this picture was taken near the Serpentine bridge.

The Coots' nest in the Long Water just below the Italian Gardens has seven eggs in it. Here the female carefully turns them over to ensure even warming.

In the background is the inevitable crisp packet which Coots consider a necessary part of their home decoration. The Coot played with this for a while before attending to the eggs.

Nearby was this interestingly coloured Mallard drake, looking like a sepia photograph.

As far as I can see this is an example of the 'brown' colour abnormality, where the feathers have only red-brown phaeomelanin pigment and not black eumelanin -- but if so, the very dark colour of its front is remarkable. Its head is brown without any trace of the usual green-purple iridescence, and so are the parts of its secondary wing feathers that would normally be iridescent blue, which you can see under its raised wings. Feather iridescence is not caused by pigment: it is an interference effect. But here the abnormality has interfered with the interference. Its bill and feet are normally coloured; their colours are controlled by different genes from those that regulate the feathers.

Another surprising sight on the broken horse chestnut tree near the bridge: a squirrel carrying one of its young.

The baby seemed rigid and immobile and at first sight seemed to be dead, but someone with me saw it breathing while I was taking this picture. Probably baby squirrels automatically become immobile when picked up, as with picking up a kitten by the scruff of its neck.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

A pair of Egyptian Geese at the Serpentine island have eight young.

It is quite a good place, as there is reasonable cover to protect them from the ravenous gulls. Looking over the bridge  on to the Long Water I also saw a Mallard with two ducklings, no doubt the survivors of a much larger brood, but by the time I got round to the edge of the lake to photograph them both ducklings had been seized. There are lots of young Herring Gulls on the Long Water and it will be remarkable if any ducklings survive at all.

One of the Grey Wagtails in the Dell was whizzing around over the water catching insects in the air and taking them back to the nest under the little plank bridge. Getting a photograph of the small bird zigzagging about at high speed 50 yards away would tax the most skilled photographer with superb equipment and a whole day to spare, so you will have to be content with this bad picture, which at least shows that the bird was there.

A pair of Starlings were also nesting in the bushes to the west of the Diana fountain. Here is one of them in a flower bed trying to pick up two Mute Swan feathers at once and take them away to line their nest.

It did actually manage to fly away, somehow seeing where it was going.

A Robin in the Dell had pulled up an inconveniently large worm.

It eventually swallowed its victim, with some difficulty.

The gap under the concrete edge of the lake provides shelter for crayfish. The Great Crested Grebes know this, and hunt along the shore.

They are so intent on their task that they take no notice of people on the shore, and you can get within a couple of feet of them.

The male Tawny Owl was in the same place as yesterday, high up in the horse chestnut tree.

We all earnestly hope that he will find a new mate.