Thursday 23 October 2014

A pair of Gadwalls turned up on the Serpentine. Here is the male, with his restrained but finely detailed plumage.

Gadwalls are erratic visitors. There is a small permanently resident population which I think is based on the lake in Buckingham Palace Gardens, where they have sometimes bred. This is added to by winter migrants. But all of them seem to wander erractically about the central London parks, and you never know when or where you will see one.

A flock of half a dozen Greenfinches flew over the Italian Garden and landed in a nearby tree. These are residents, but are not numerous in the park, and are hard to see at times when the males are not singing, as they prefer the tops of trees.

Three of the seven young Mute Swans were having a practice flight along the Serpentine. They had to come down at the bridge. Swans will not fly under the arches, although there is plenty of clearance for them, and they have not mastered the adult swans' method of hauling themselves up to an altitude where they pass perilously over the top of the bridge just above the roofs of passing cars.

One of the male Ring-Necked Parakeets is now confident enough to take peanuts from my hand. The females have been doing this for years, but for some reason the males seem to be much more nervous.

The male Tawny Owl had moved round to the 'balcony' on the north side of his nest tree. This is a place where a branch has broken off, leaving a hole that gives access to the hollow inside of the tree, and the owls can climb up to their nest and out of the top of the broken trunk.

The owl was quite at peace when I took this photograph, but a few seconds later two Jays and two Magpies arrived a started screaming at him, also joined by an angry Blackbird.

The male Little Owl was on his usual perch in his nest tree. When I went past again during a sunny interval to try to get a better picture he had gone away, so this grey image will have to do.


  1. Dear Ralph,
    I bumped into your website while trying to find more information about birding in Hyde Park. I find it so interesting and informative and, being a tourist birder just for a few days in London, could I ask a few questions?
    - In which area I can try to find the owls?
    - In some posts you mention the "leaf yard". Where is that?
    - Is there any feeding station in the parks?
    Thanks in advance for your attention.

  2. Tawny Owl: find the path that runs between the statue of Physical Energy and the obelisk that is a monument to the explorer Speke. Exactly half way along it is a bench, on the west side of the path. From here, walk west (slightly to the right of right angles to the path) for 50 yards, to a tall horse chestnut tree with its trunk broken off about three quarters of the way up. This is the nest tree. The male Tawny Owl likes to sit in the broken top of the trunk. Either owl or both may be round the far side of the trunk about 10 ft lower, sitting in the scar of a broken-off branch which provides a kind of balcony for them.

    Little Owl: start at the leaf yard, the fenced enclosure with the statue of Peter Pan on its east side. At the southeast corner of this enclosure there is an old battered chestnut tree. Look for the next one, a few yards away to the southwest. Then look for the one after that, at a slightly greater distance and up the hill a bit. It has brambles round its base. This is the Little Owls' nest tree, and the male owl's favourite branch, when viewed from the north side, is at the top left corner of the tree. One or both of the Little Owls may also be high up inside another chestnut tree adjacent to this on the uphill side, and visible from the north or west side of this tree.

    The is no formal feeding station, but particularly the south side of the leaf yard, Great Tits, Blue Tits, and if you are lucky Robins, Chaffinches, Jays and Ring-Necked Parakeets will come out to take food. There are wire mesh bird feeders here, but they are refilled so irregularly that they are not a bird magnet. You may also be importuned by Carrion Crows, skilled in extracting food from humans.