Monday, 7 April 2014

The Mute Swans nesting near the Italian Garden have seven eggs, a fine clutch if only they can keep them safe from marauding foxes.

While the female swan was looking after her eggs, her mate was up near the bridge stopping other swans from getting on to the Long Water. I hope he spends the night beside her, guarding their dangerously exposed nest.

A pair of Gadwall were swimming around at the Vista, amicably mixing with Mallards and Tufted Ducks. Then a single male Red Crested Pochard arrived, and for some reason they took an instant dislike to this bird, quacking hoarsely at it. The pair rounded on the unfortunate intruder and chased it away. Did these sober coloured ducks find its bright plumage offensive?

The Great Crested Grebes occupying the wire basket near the bridge were swimming up and down the joints in the wire mesh, which have come slightly open and allow a grebe to reach down and grab a fish. They didn't catch anything while I was watching. But one of them dredged up a dirty old plastic bag and offered it to the other.

The present was evidently a success, as it started them displaying and they even did a brief dance. Grebes do use plastic bags in their nests, even preferring them to algae or leaves as they are strong and durable.

The male Tawny Owl was asleep in his usual spot. Then he woke and looked up crossly ...

... because he was being taunted by a Magpie.

No Little Owls were visible, not surprisingly on a drizzly day.

These mushrooms baffled me. They were growing under the railings behind the benches at Peter Pan.

They look just like field mushrooms, though they didn't smell quite right -- slightly acrid. I thought they might be St George's mushrooms (Calocybe gambosa), which grow in April, but when I looked these up I saw that they have white gills rather than the pink ones of the mushrooms here.


  1. Male (?) Little Owl was in the tree again at 19:30 after the rain.

    1. Thanks, it's a good picture. Must be the male -- the female wouldn't sit there staring at you like that.

    2. Your mushroms are not St George's, which as you say have white gills and don't have a ring. They look to me like Agaricus xanthodermus, the Yellow stainer, which is similar to the Horse Mushroom, but turn a very bright yellow on bruising and have a very unpleasant urine-like smell, as well as causing stomach upsets to those who get them confused with the very edible horse mushrooms. I will have a look tomorrow, because I also know that on the roots of the black poplar in front of Peter Pan grows Agrocybe cylindracea, the Poplar Fieldcap.

    3. On second thought, having had a better look at the photo, and in particular at the decurrent gills, I think they are Agrocybe cylindracea. Will confirm tomorrow.

    4. Thanks. They're on the north side of the Peter Pan waterfront. I know about Agaricus xanthodermus, and they weren't that, because the two that I photographed upside down had been roughly knocked over and showed no sign of a yellow stain.

  2. He seemed completely unconcerned about me being there, and then seemed to hear something else and flew off to the leaf yard.

  3. Gadwall discrimination against Red Crested Pochard: avian xenophobia? Anti-feralism?

    Perhaps they fear its bright colours attract predators especially foxes, but then it could dive leaving them in the firing line? Or they associate its eyes or other colours with sharp-beaked grebes, coots or moorhens and also know it dives, hence it unsettles them?

    In Golders Hill Park in the late '70s, Red Crested Pochards were among the few survivors of a lovely pinioned collection devastated apparently by nightly fox raids and for many years to date, the only pinioned waterfowl they have left out in the Lily Pond have been diving ducks. Jim, n. London.