Monday 22 December 2014

A submerged branch on the willow tree next to the bridge is constantly occupied by preening ducks. I have seen Tufted Ducks and Pochards using it, and here a Mallard has been attending to her feathers and is having a good stretch.

Birds have their habits. Here is a Black-Headed Gull with the ring number EX63673, which was put on by Roy Sanderson in November 2011.

The bird has returned to the same place on the north shore of the Serpentine every winter since then, and so have other birds ringed at the same time, EX63684, EX63686, EX 63609 and EX63610, all of which I have seen this year. Black-Headed Gulls can live to be over 30, so they may be returning for decades to come.

Great Crested Grebes are also creatures of habit: they like to rest in exactly the same spot. This one has been next to the floating baskets in front of the Dell restaurant for several weeks.

And this one has been beside the bows of the electric catamaran, which is moored for the winter next to the Serpentine Island.

Both places are convenient, offering some shelter from the wind and a chance to fish under the basket or the boat, where fish cluster in the shade.

The male Tawny Owl was also on his usual perch, but this is more than habit because the pair's nest in directly underneath inside the hollow trunk of the tree.

The usual Coal Tit turned up next to the Rima relief and called from a branch, reminding me to give it a pine nut.

There are hanging bird feeders here, and of course there are also squirrels. This feeder has its top secured by a simple clip which a squirrel can undo in a second. The only secure feeders are the ones where the hanging loop prevents the lid from being opened when it is in the upright position.

There were a lot of Shovellers just offshore from Peter Pan. Because Shovellers look slightly like Mallards, one tends to think of them as fairly large ducks, but as you can see from this picture of one next to a Tufted Duck, they are quite small -- about an inch longer than a Pochard and slightly slimmer in build.


  1. it amazes me the birds we see in the same places ARE the same birds we saw last time. they become like 'friends' we maybe cannot speak with?
    thanks Ralph for your amazing blog. so treasured by me.
    Mark W2

    1. Thanks for your kind words. We do see the same birds again and again, but only notice that because some have a numbered ring or odd markings. And the Black-Headed Gull with the ring number EY09813 really is a friend, or at least a valued client, and flies out to be fed every time I go past the Vista.

  2. I love the Grebe photos of course. Are they waiting to put on their breeding plumage? They look quite pale overall, and a bit fluffy at the tail end.

    I should have said earlier that the Grebe photo that heads your blog is the loveliest picture I have seen - two parents and two humbug-like Grebelets, all together. :)

    1. Yes, these grebes are still in winter plumage. They get their fine feathers quite early in the new year, and I shall be keeping an eye on them.

  3. On Hampstead Heath about 25 years ago a drake shoveler was seen to consort with a female mallard at least one year. If a gang of mallard drakes came too close the shoveler would do its upward bill-jerking display and that was sufficient deterrence. Some odd-looking mongrel ducks were seen in the same area for one or two years after. The same pond also had a female mallard hatch out a brood of ducklings in midwinter when it iced over, I don't know if any survived. Jim n.L.

    1. Might be something to do with the enormous size of a Shoveller's bill. Having that vast appendage jerked at you, even by a small duck, would be impressive.