Sunday 30 November 2014

Attempts to feed the Coal Tit were frustrated by the local Robin, which came down to the railings and stood over the food. It only ate one nut, but stayed there for at least five minutes ...

... while the Coal Tit had to wait on a twig until I put more food in a different place.

The male Tawny Owl came out to his usual station on the nest tree in mid-afternoon.

Lower down in the tree, a Starling was perched in front of a hole, singing in a determined and aggressive manner. This hole was a Starlings' nest until the Ring-Necked Parakeets took it. Now it looks as if the Starlings are taking it back.

Here is another Starling, this time eating rowan berries on Buck Hill.

There were also plenty of Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes. However, there is no repetition of last year, when large flocks of Starlings descended on the tree and stripped it bare in a few days. There is no shortage of Starlings in the park, but they are mostly staying at the Round Pond.

The young Grey Wagtail was back on the edge of the Serpentine between the Lido restaurant and the swimming area. It was remarkably well camouflaged among the fallen leaves, and only visible because it was running around.

At Peter Pan, one of the young Great Crested Grebes was playing with an autumn leaf. It is its first autumn, an exciting new experience.

As I went home in the gathering dusk, the familiar Black-Headed Gull with the ring number EY09813 came out to catch bits of biscuit in midair.

It always stands in the same place, at the south end of the line of posts at the Vista, year after year. Gulls are creatures of habit -- but not always the same habits. The Black-Headed Gull with the Dutch colour ring E2Rz, which I saw and wrote about on 20 November, was seen in Gloucester in 2010 and in Porthcawl in 2011. However, it spends its summers in Holland in exactly the same place, the Veluwemeer, where it perches on an electricity pylon.

Saturday 29 November 2014

Two young Herring Gulls were quarrelling over the ownership of a toy. There have been plenty of pictures of gulls with toys such as stones and bits of wood, but this one seems to be an actual human toy. I think it is one of those Playmobil figures that fits into a socket in the driving seat of a toy car, held upside down.

There were a few Redwings in the rowan tree on Buck Hill. They were outsized by the Song Thrushes, Mistle Thrushes and Blackbirds in the tree, and only got an occasional chance to take a berry.

You can't clearly see the reddish stripe along its side, but the pale eye stripes show what it is.

For comparison, here is one of the Song Thrushes, with an eye ring rather than a stripe.

There were three Green Woodpeckers on the Archery Field. They warily kept their distance and would not come into the same picture.

Both Little Owls came out at different times. This is the female, who appeared shortly before sunset.

She is showing more off-white eyebrow than usual, and at first I thought she was the shaggy-browed male, but a comparison of their patterns shows that it is her. Although the female is larger than the male, you can't be sure of that when they appear singly, especially as they can fluff their feathers up and increase in size.

The male Tawny Owl also came out of his nest tree as the light faded.

One of the young Great Crested Grebes at Peter Pan was having a stretch when a Coot came up from behind to shoo it away.

Here are the eight young Egyptian Geese and their parents crossing the Round Pond at sunset.

Friday 28 November 2014

Two Moorhens were displaying at each other on the path by Peter Pan, mooning at each other with the white patches on their hindquarters. I don't know whether this was designed to attract a mate or repel a rival, but I think the latter as they went off in opposite directions afterwards.

The female Tawny Owl was on her usual perch in the beech tree, dozing peacefully. After I had taken several rather dull pictures of her, she woke up ...

... because a Magpie had landed on a branch just underneath her and was squawking at her.

She turned her face to the trunk and tried to ignore it, but it was too annoying and she flew into the nest tree. (By the way, I had carefully approached the tree from the Round Pond side so as not to bring Jays and Magpie along with me, but sometimes they turn up anyway.)

A Sparrowhawk passed high over the leaf yard.

After it was safely out of sight, the usual pairs of Nuthatches ...

... and Coal Tits came out to take pine nuts off the railings.

Both are getting more confident, though it will need careful work to get the Coal Tit to come to my hand, and I don't think the Nuthatches ever will.

On Buck Hill, the easily reached rowan berries have been eaten, and this Mistle Thrush was having to stretch out for less accessible ones. It nearly overbalanced, and put out a wing to steady itself.

There are several patches of fungi on the lawn in front of Kensington Palace, just to the south of the southern floral border lining the approach to the door. I have looked on the web to try to identify these, but without success.

One identification site says that there are 15,000 species of fungus in Britain, so perhaps it isn't surprising.

Thursday 27 November 2014

The male Little Owl was in the pair's nest tree, but he had had to move away from his usual spot because he was being eyed by a Carrion Crow straight in front of it.

I went round the side to get a picture of him from a different angle, and his big yellow eyes followed me suspiciously.

The male Tawny Owl was in his usual spot on top of the horse chestnut tree, but I couldn't find his mate.

The two Coal Tits in the leaf yard are definitely interested in being fed, but have not yet dared to come down to my hand.

It is difficult for these very small birds, as they have to keep out of the way of the larger Great and Blue Tits which are coming down in droves. But what they lack in boldness they make up in persistence, and keep coming back to take pine nuts from the railings. They store these in cracks in the bark of trees, hoping that the larger tits don't notice and steal them.

The young Grey Wagtail was running along the shore of the Serpentine.

There are at least two Grey Wagtails in the park, as I have distantly seen them together, but the one that appears always seems to be this young one, less yellow than an adult and lacking the adult's black bib.

A Herring Gull in the enclosure of the Diana fountain was doing the worm dance, pattering its feet on the ground to imitate raindrops and thus bring up worms. It works very well.

The two Egyptian Geese that are so hopeless at parenting have been together near the Henry Moore statue for several days, displaying at each other and probably planning another doomed brood at completely the wrong time of year. They are also the first two Egyptians to have arrived in the park ten years ago. During this time they have not managed to rear a single chick. Other Egyptians have been far more successful, and now you can find them in the most exclusive places.

The wasp nest near the bridge has been broken open, perhaps by a Magpie trying to extract the grubs. The removal of its front shows the storeys of cells inside. It is a most remarkable construction, all made out of papier mâché by the industrious insects.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

The Egyptian Geese have begun their winter ritual of flying on to bare tree branches and displaying noisily to each other.

It is clearly a means of finding a tree to nest in, which is quite difficult for these large birds as it has to provide both easy access from the air and shelter. But the search is so prolonged that there must be a strong element of pair bonding through the fun of flying around and making a terrible racket. The female makes considerably more noise than the male.

The young blonde Egyptian, last seen at the Round Pond, was back on the Serpentine stretching her pale wings -- in a normal Egyptian Goose, the primaries are almost black.

I had always supposed that this bird was female, since all the other pale Egyptians without dark eye patches are female. But she proved it today by making the loud female call.

One of the young Great Crested Grebes near Peter Pan was also stretching, getting into a very odd-looking attitude.

A return to milder temperatures set the two male Song Thrushes near the bridge singing again, and they were having quite a competition. I made a short recording of their song.

The Ring-Necked Parakeets, so well camouflaged in summer, are now becoming conspicuous as the leaves turn brown and fall off.

This is challenge they don't have to face in their native India, where they can find green leaves all the year round. This is a male parakeet; from the front, his neck ring looks like an impressive moustache.

The Wren returned to the Italian Garden. Perfectly camouflaged in one way, it makes itself conspicuous in another with its frequent loud calls.

The female Tawny Owl was in her usual place in the beech tree next to the nest tree.

And the female Little Owl was occupying the branch on the pair's nest tree where the male usually sits.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

The eight young Egyptian Geese at the Round Pond are now half grown and are losing their downy juvenile feathers and growing ginger adult ones.

They were having a peaceful time on a cold drizzly day with few irresponsible dog owners to menace them.

There are plenty of Pochards on the Round Pond, and also Red Crested Pochards. This picture shows the difference between drakes of each species.

Although both are diving ducks with bright chestnut heads and red eyes, their resemblance is superficial. Red Crested Pochards are considerably larger. They are also classed in a different genus, Netta rufina, while the (Common) Pochard is Aythya ferina.

This is a first-year Carrion Crow from the large colony of crows at the northwest corner of Kensington Gardens. Its wing feathers are severely bleached through lack of melanin, the result of bad diet while it was growing up. With the café at the Diana playground and the cheap restaurants of Queensway close at hand, and people dropping snacks all over the area, they have an unhealthy quantity of junk food.

But the crow will look better when it gets its first set of new feathers next year. They are less exposed to this trouble when they have stopped growing.

The male Little Owl came out for a while despite the chilly drizzle.

And the female Tawny Owl also emerged on to her sheltered branch. There were a couple of Magpies around, but not enough to bother her. There have to be at least four Magpies before they can work up the necessary mob hysteria. It was raining quite hard when I took this dim picture, and you can see the water running down the trunk of the beech tree.

In the rowan tree on Buck Hill, a Song Thrush was hanging upside down to reach some berries.

At Peter Pan, one of the two young Great Crested Grebes was staring idly at a couple of Moorhens.

Monday 24 November 2014

The two young Great Crested Grebes were at Peter Pan again, playing among the crowd of mixed waterfowl. Here a Coot looks down curiously as one of them shoots by under water.

The other was pecked at by a Coot and made a short flight to get away. Here it is coming down on the water. Duck, geese and swans slow down by putting down their webbed feet and waterskiing on them, but grebes' feet are set so far back that this would be impossible, so they have to go in full tilt, making a tremendous splash.

An oak tree on the Parade Ground, hard up against the wall of the noisy funfair, had a flock of Goldfinches in it looking for insects and maybe larvae on the leaves.

Several Chaffinches and a Coal Tit had joined the party. The tree also contained Starlings, and a Pied Wagtail perched briefly before going down to is normal place on the ground hunting among the fallen leaves.

This Pied Wagtail was looking for insects in the crevices of the plastic non-slip mat on the Lido jetty.

The berries on the rowan tree on Buck Hill are getting overripe and shrivelled. The birds seem to prefer them in this state, and this Mistle Thrush ...

... and Carrion Crow were picking them out deliberately from among the fresh red berries.

The male Tawny Owl had come out of his nest hole to enjoy the sunshine.

There was no sign of the Little Owls, and they may already have abandoned the increasingly bare chestnut trees and found better cover in the leaf yard.

A beautiful Macaw was being taken for a walk by its owner. This species is boringly called the Blue-and-Yellow Macaw (Ara araurana).

A pair of Hyacinth Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) are also brought into the park sometimes.