Monday 30 June 2014

The Great Crested Grebes' nest on the east end of the island is going ahead. It is hard to see from the shore, but Mateusz at Bluebird Boats very kindly took me out in a boat and we managed to find the one place from which you can get a reasonable view.

The Coots at Peter Pan now have four chicks, but it remains to be seen whether any of them will survive the circling gulls.

If you think that was a silly place to build a nest, look at this picture.

A pair of Coots have in the middle of the lake, in front of the Henry Moore sculpture whose reflection you can see here. I think the nest is just drifting freely, and who knows where it will end up.

The Coots nesting in the reeds in the Italian Garden have four chicks too, though I only managed to see two of them. But enough pictures of Coots -- here are two new Mallard ducklings in the Italian Garden, also in danger and their number certainly much reduced from the original brood.

The Moorhens in the Italian Garden seem to have lost all their chicks, and were nesting again. Here the male walks nimbly along the top of the wire netting to bring his mate a reed stem.

This is a less good place than their last nest, far too open. The last one was invisible, which is how a Moorhen's nest should be.

More young birds: this Nuthatch fledgeling was chasing its parent along the branch of an oak tree near the leaf yard.

And a Carrion Crow has a brief moment of quiet with its half-grown youngster before the clamour for food starts up again.

We couldn't find the Tawny Owlets, but at least the Little Owl was in his usual tree.

Sunday 29 June 2014

The unstoppable Coots nesting on the post at Peter Pan have hatched a third brood. Two chicks were intermittently visible. Here the father brings food for one of them.

This nest has got very tall with incessant building over three months. A chick came down to the bottom, and had no difficulty climbing up again. During this time it was at severe risk of being eaten by one of the large gulls which accounted for the two previous two broods, but the number of these has fallen and they spend most of their time on the other side of the bridge.

The Tawny owlets had moved from yesterday's tree to another chestnut tree a few yards off. They were very difficult to see and this poor picture of one of them was the best I could manage.

There were plenty of Meadow Brown butterflies in the long grass nearby.

They insisted on folding their wings while they rested on the stems.

Near the Italian Garden, a Magpie was in a hawthorn tree enthusiastically eating the green berries.

It seemed odd, as the berries are still rock-hard and seemed completely indigestible.

This Great Crested Grebe was preening, and when a feather came loose the bird ate it.

Grebes consume large amounts of feathers, their own and others that they find floating in the water, to wrap up sharp fishbones which might otherwise injure their insides.

The little pool at the top of the waterfall in the Dell is clear again, after being stagnant and smelly when the water filter at the Serpentine outflow became clogged. Here a Blackbird enjoys a bathe in it.

Saturday 28 June 2014

The three Tawny owlets had arranged themselves artistically in a chestnut tree.

Here is a closer view of the topmost one of the three.

This tree is a few yards north of the parish boundary stone that you pass on your way from the leaf yard to the owls' nest tree.

When I passed the Little Owls' tree it was raining heavily and the male owl had gone inside. But when the rain stopped and there was a brief spell of sunshine, he emerged on to his usual branch.

This picture gives a good view of his right foot, with the owl's opposable fourth toe pointing backwards. It can be moved round to align with the two forward facing toes when the bird is on the ground, but when it is gripping a branch, or its prey, two toes point each way.

If this Moorhen looks dejected in a heavy shower, that is not because it is getting wet -- its feathers are admirably waterproof. But the water streaming over the pavement (which you can hardly distinguish from the lake behind) makes it impossible to forage for the small invertebrates and other minor things that are its food.

Surprisingly, the rain had not washed away either of the new Great Crested Grebe nests on the Long Water. But both had suffered because a lot of weed had washed out of them, and the birds were busily rebuilding them.

There is a new brood of two Greylag Geese on the Long Water.

Their nest in the bushes was completely invisible and had not been found by the park keepers, or by the equally fatal foxes.

There have not been many sightings of Pied Wagtails around the lake recently, so it was good to see one on the south side of the Serpentine. It took a break from running along the edge of the water to hunt for insects in the bark of a tree.

There was also a Grey Wagtail moving around in front of the reed bed where the Reed Warblers are nesting, but it was hidden by the flower bed in front of the reeds and I couldn't get a picture.

Friday 27 June 2014

There are two new Great Crested Grebes' nests on the Long Water: one on the east side of the Vista ...

... and the other opposite Peter Pan.

However, the nest in the willow tree has disappeared. I think this is because it was poorly made, largely of water weed without enough twigs, and when it rained in the night the nest simply dissolved. Grebes are careless nest builders, unlike the diligent Coots. The two new nests don't look any stronger. This is one of the few times one wishes there were more plastic bags in the lake, as the grebes use these as nesting material and they much improve the strength of the structure.

The pair who had lost their nest were consoling themselves by having a vigorous wash.

These pictures are all a bit distant, as they were taken from the other side of the lake.

There is another new nest at the far end of the Serpentine. A pair of Moorhens have nested under the weir at the lake outflow. Here one of them is bringing a bit of bread to the chicks, passing a chunk of wood, a beer bottle and a child's mug that have washed up against the weir.

Moorhens can nest successfully in this strange place because they are superb climbers, and so are their chicks, so they will not get stuck at the bottom of the weir. Coots have tried nesting on the edge, but when their chicks are washed over the weir they can't climb back.

Three young Magpies were loudly pestering a parent in the willow tree next to the bridge.

And here is another family, of Starlings at the feeder in the Dell -- which is intended for smaller birds, but they can reach in anyway. The young birds are still in their juvenile light brown plumage, but will be growing adult feathers soon.

One of the Tawny Owlets was visible in a chestnut tree near the southwest corner of the leaf yard, now quite adult in appearance.

And the Little Owl was out on his usual branch.

Thursday 26 June 2014

There is certainly one family of Reed Warblers, and probably two, in the reed bed near the Diana fountain. Two males are singing ...

... and at least one female can be seen flying frequently into the reeds with insects for the nestlings. However, she rushes in so quickly in unpredictable places that I couldn't get a decent picture of her, and this one will have to do.

The Black-Headed Gulls are beginning to come back to the Long Water from their breeding grounds.

'Black-Headed' is a curiously inaccurate name, since their heads are obviously brown.

The Little Owl was in his usual chestnut tree, staring irritably up at a pigeon that was sitting on his branch.

I don't knew whether a Little Owl would attack a pigeon, which is slightly larger. But the even smaller Saw-Whet Owl of North America is known to hunt and kill pigeons. Anyway, the pigeon felt uncomfortable and left, and the owl settled down and went to sleep shortly after I took this picture.

The Mandarin family were at the Vista. The young ones' wingtips are just beginning to cross over their tail like those of an adult.

Soon they will look exactly like adult females. If either of them is male it will explode into gaudy breeding plumage this winter.

The family of Mute Swans with five cygnets on the Serpentine are not tolerating the incursion of the other swan family into their territory. They staged a bit of counter-insurgency on to the Long Water until they were noticed by the big male who has made this lake his own. When they saw him cruising up with menacingly raised wings they retreated hastily under the bridge.

This Red Admiral butterfly was resting calmly in the middle of the path near Peter Pan.

It only moved when a runner blundered by and nearly trod on it.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Blue Tits nesting in the top of the park's gas lamp posts are a familiar sight, but Great Tits are too large to get into the holes here. However, this one has found an ideal nest box in the base of a lamp, where there is an access hatch with a round ventilation hole just the right size to let it in.

Fledgelings could be heard cheeping inside.

A large shoal of big carp under the parapet at the Serpentine outflow were surrounded by small fish about an inch and a half long, which they were probably eating because carp will eat anything.

The little fish are exactly the right size for Great Crested Grebes to feed to their chicks, which explains why the grebes have begun nesting. This one is one of a pair with a territory under the bushes at the east end of the island.

They had already begun and abandoned a nest in the spring, when there is less for them to eat. But this time they are probably serious about it.

The Moorhen chicks in the Italian Garden pond were lined up at the edge, eating algae off the stonework.

This Feral Pigeon was sunbathing casually in the middle of the Flower Walk, as people and pushchairs passed within inches.

Evidently it found the sun-warmed surface a pleasant place to sit.

A male Tufted Duck was preening himself near Peter Pan, somehow managing to scratch his belly with a foot while remaining upside down.

The male Little Owl was on his usual branch.

There has been no sign of the two owlets or their mother for some time, and ince they can now fly she may be keeping them in another tree.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

The Grey Heron fishing under the Italian Garden fountain caught a roach.

When you look over the parapet into the semicircular wall of the old water intake for the fountain, you can see that it is teeming with medium-sized fish, sheltering under the iron grating that covers this odd Victorian device. But there are gaps in the grating, and the heron knows where they are.

Yesterday I photographed a Blackbird catching worms in a patch of leafmould. Today he was back in exactly the same place -- and no wonder, considering the quantity of worms he catches.

But this time I saw how he was doing it: he patters his feet on the ground, in exactly the same way as a Herring Gull does -- see my post of 26 February.

This is supposed to imitate the sound of rain, which stimulates the worms to come to the surface. But who knows what goes through a worm's little mind when it feels the vibration?

The Little Owl was on his usual branch, stoically ignoring the tremendous din of two large mowers cutting the grass underneath the tree.

I couldn't see any of the Tawny Owls, hardly surprisingly as they are now ranging over a large area and the only way to find them is to listen -- for the owlets calling or the sound of other birds mobbing them.

The moulting Greylag Geese are regrowing their wing feathers.

The teenage Moorhen on the edge of the Serpentine is now developing its adult red bill and yellow feet, though they are still rather shadowy.

It usually stands under an iron post holding a floating ring for people who fall into the lake. This shelters it from the feet of unobservant pedestrians who walk at birds as if they didn't exist.

The two youngest Mute Swan cygnets are now a bit larger, but still enchantingly fluffy.

As people go past, they tell their children the peculiarly stupid story of The Ugly Duckling. I am amazed that Hans Christian Andersen, and the parents, didn't notice how beautiful cygnets are.