Sunday 28 December 2014

Even before the New Year there are signs of birds claiming territories for nests to come. On Friday I photographed a pair of Mute Swans claiming a site at the east end of the Serpentine. Today the male of the pair was cruising up and down in front of the line of floating reed beds  just offshore, in an exaggerated threat pose, not letting any other swans come near.

The hole in the bottom of the Tawny Owls' nest tree, whose ownership alternates between Starlings and Ring-Necked Parakeets, was being guarded by a Starling, staring up at a pair of parakeets in a branch as few yards away.

Higher up in the tree, the male Tawny Owl was guarding his own nest, but there is no question of his ownership: the pair have had that place for more than a decade.

These Herring Gulls on the tern raft in the Long Water (well, what was supposed to be a tern raft) also seemed to be making some kind of territorial claim. The bird on the raft was arranging a little heap of sticks, watched by the other one in the water. A few seconds later it flew at the other gull and chased it away.

This can't be a serious attempt at nesting, as the local Herring Gull colony is on a roof near Paddington Station. Maybe it was some kind of dominance game.

Another Herring Gull has claimed a handrail in the middle of the Lido bathing area, and is often seen there, defying any other bird that might want this desirable offshore perch.

The smaller gulls perch on the handrail of the jetty or on the line of plastic buoys that marks the edge of the swimming area. The buoys are also on the Pied Wagtails' round of the lake, though they never stay there long as there are no insects on its smooth plastic surface, and in winter none flying past over the water.

There were at least 30 Red Crested Pochards on and around the Serpentine island. It is remarkable how the numbers of this newly established species are increasing.

A Great Crested Grebe was fishing under the willow tree near the bridge, and caught a perch.

The baskets of twigs on the other side of the bridge seem to have been fished out by Cormorants for the time being, and are only occasionally visited by fishing birds without much result.


  1. The red crested pochards are delightful. We saw a beautiful grey heron standing immobile on a frozen pond today. Presumably their feet do not feel the cold! On the walk home, a red kite passed very low overhead, so a bit of a red letter day for bird-watching.

    1. Some birds have a sort of heat exchanger in the blood vessels at the tops of their legs, so that they can run their feet at a lower temperature than the rest of them.

    2. Astonishing. The more I find out about birds, the more they amaze me with their complexity! Thank you.