Saturday 27 December 2014

In the chilly morning wind, a Wood Pigeon had fluffed up its feathers against the cold ...

... and the familiar pair of Egyptian Geese were sheltering in the lee of the Henry Moore sculpture.

The male Tawny Owl was unaffected, and was in his usual place on the nest tree with the wind ruffling his feathers.

The birds' bathing places are probably relatively warm, since they are fed by boreholes from which water emerges at a steady 10°C.  Can that be why there are often Herring Gulls paddling in the shallow water at the upper end of the Diana fountain?

The popular bath in front of the Rima relief had a Blackbird in it.

Across the road at the top of Buck Hill, a Mistle Thrush was wandering around in the grass, looking much like the fallen leaves until it moved.

A female Pied Wagtail was working her way upwind along the shore beside the deserted tables of the Lido restaurant.

When Cormorants stand with their wings outstretched, this is supposed to be because the posture helps them digest the fish they have caught. Sometimes they flap their wings gently and constantly. Does the movement speed up the process?

This is a young Cormorant, still with the off-white front of its juvenile plumage. Apparently Cormorants in Britain have taken to breeding in rocky places inland, and no longer exclusively beside the sea.


  1. I had a long debate about the cormorant issue. There are other theories for the spread-wing posture.

    This is one point of view: "Cormorants apparently use spread-wing postures only for drying their wings and not for thermoregulation. Although cormorant plumage also retains water, only the outer portion of the feathers is wettable, so an insulating layer of air next to the skin is maintained when cormorants swim underwater. This difference in feather structure may explain why cormorants can spend more time foraging in the water than Anhingas, and why cormorants can inhabit cooler climes, while the Anhinga is restricted to tropical and subtropical waters."

    What do you think Ralph?

    1. I really don't know. I used to believe the feather-drying theory implicitly, and then along came another convincing theory, and now I am as confused as anyone.

    2. I like your honesty :) It is a fascinating business, trying to puzzle out bird behaviour.

    3. I'm wondering why cormorants wouldn't always have bred inland. A lack of fish in slow moving water before people created many stocked lakes? Predation, competition with ospreys? Jim n.L.

    4. I regularly see cormorants perched on little islands in the River Thames, at Henley. Are they breeding there, or just flying in for a morsel?

      There is a report here (repeated elsewhere) about the problems of cormorants migrating inland.

    5. Someone on that Guardian page suggests eating Cormorants. Here is the classic recipe. Perhaps worse, these ones seem to be seriously meant.

    6. Oh gosh!!! Yes, I did notice that Ralph, but decided tactfully not to mention it. :)