Saturday 28 February 2015

A pair of Egyptian Geese are nesting on one of the floating rafts of reeds at the east end of the Serpentine.

A pair of Mallards were also wandering around in the reeds looking as if they might be thinking of nesting.

In the tiny pool in front of Rima, there are often Mallards at this time of year.

Possibly they nest in the bushes behind the Epstein relief, but if they do it is a terribly long way for them to walk their ducklings down to the lake. Ducks are not noted for their skill at forward planning.

One of the pairs of Gadwall had come in to the edge and were chewing the algae off the concrete: grey ducks on a grey day.

There were two pairs of Mandarins at Peter Pan. These were standing on the submerged plank at the edge of the tray of gravel which makes a shallow area in front of the statue.

There is a new Coots' nest in the dead willow tree near the Italian Garden. It is in a dangerously exposed position and unlikely to succeed.

Of the three Coot nests visible on the Long Water, only one, at the right of the Peter Pan waterfront, offers any shelter from hungry gulls. But there may be others out of sight, and it is these that are the most likely to succeed.

Both Grey Herons' nests are still in business. A heron was sitting in the left one. Here, in the right one, one of the pair reaches to break off yet another twig to add to the huge pile.

A Jay was singing in the leaf yard. It doesn't sound much like a song, more like a formless chattering, but to a Jay it is music.

The male Tawny Owl was in his usual place throughout the day, and was even awake when I passed.

Friday 27 February 2015

A Blackbird was singing near Kensington Palace.

This is one of the many birds that have found a home in the enormous beech hedge enclosing the 'Wiggly Walk', a path of hairpin bends down a steep slope at the uphill end of the building -- a very fit wheelchair user could make it to the top. This precipice is part of the larger slope of the Broad Walk.

A geologist told me that the slope, which you can also see in Kensington Church Street, marks the transition from one flood plain of the Thames to the next one down, as the enormous river carrying away meltwater from the glaciers at the end of the Ice Age gradually shrank. The Thames was bigger than the Amazon and, because sea levels were much lower, turned north around East Anglia and joined the Rhine to meet the ocean in what is now the northern part of the North Sea.

Another Blackbird was singing near Rima, and so was the male of the harem of Wrens that live in the scrub between here and the road. Here one of them is foraging under a lime tree.

The male of the pair Coal Tits here was also singing. But the pair in the leaf yard were too intent on following me to be fed to bother about music.

The familiar Robin outside the ticket office of the Lido had taken up his usual station in the olive tree and was singing fit to bust.

On the Round Pond, Blondie the Egyptian Goose was having a frantic wash.

She is now always seen with her newly acquired mate. We might get some blond babies in due course.

One of the pair of Great Crested Grebes at the top of the Long Water had caught a perch under the willow tree, and was turning it round so that she could swallow it without the spiny dorsal fin catching. No wonder grebes have to eat feathers to protect their insides.

The male Little Owl looked out of his nest hole for a moment.

And the male Tawny Owl was in his usual place enjoying the sunshine.

Thursday 26 February 2015

On a dull rainy day, a Blue Tit near the Italian Garden provided a bit of colour. (No, I haven't intensified the colour in this shot.)

A Long-Tailed Tit perched head downwards waiting its turn on a feeder at Kensington Palace.

Here is another bird that is equally happy upside down: a Nuthatch in the leaf yard, staring at me intently with its black eyes because it wanted me to put some food on the fence for it.

More Robins are pairing up. These were in a bramble patch next to the hazel thicket across the path from the leaf yard.

A month ago it would have been impossible for two Robins to get this close without fighting.

The Cetti's Warbler is still singing in his usual place on the west side of the Long Water. I couldn't see him at all today.

The male Tawny Owl was also invisible, and hadn't come out on his usual perch by the time I passed the place last, at 4.40 pm.

However, the Scaup was on the Serpentine, on the north side this time not far from the bridge, where he was going around with some Tufted Ducks. He came quite close to the edge.

The young Mute Swan is still alone on the pond in the Italian Garden. A few days ago it varied its routine by changing to one of the other ponds, but is now back where it started. Here it is crusing under the fountain.

Both Grey Heron nests on the Serpentine island are still occupied. There was one bird in each, and the other two were on the ground looking at each other suspiciouly.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes were fishing around the wire basket at the south end of the bridge.

When I had crossed to the other side of the lake they started displaying, and it was clear that they were going to dance. I was much too far away to run back in time, and had the wet-weather lens on the camera, which doesn't have the reach of the big lens, so the following picture is a very poor one. But it does show one thing. Grebes have the basic moves of their dance hard-wired into their brains (and incidentally share this with the big American Aechmophorus grebes). But they have to practise it to get it right, and this pair is inexperienced. When they got to the stage where they dive and come up with weed to wave at each other, one of them emerged with nothing. And the other had pulled up a tatty black plastic bag, which is a useful nesting material for grebes but much too big to wave.

Anyway, they will get it right soon.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

The male Little Owl near the leaf yard was surveying the world from the hole in the chestnut tree. You can tell it's the male by his big white eyebrows.

The male Tawny Owl was also in his usual spot, enjoying the mild sunny day.

The Cetti's Warbler was in the same place as yesterday, on the north side of the broken horse chestnut tree. He was singing loud and long but refused to come into view, though there was a brief flash of brown as he flew from one tree to another. While three people were watching through binoculars for a sight of the bird, a Robin came out on a branch in front and mocked us with a rough imitation of his song.

A Goldcrest was leaping about in the trees near the Henry Moore sculpture.

Another Goldcrest was singing in the Dell.

The Scaup was on the Serpentine next to the reed bed in front of the Diana fountain, but when I went past twice he had gone off somewhere else, and I couldn't find him.

But there were five Gadwalls on the Serpentine, two pairs and an unattached female.

The Grey Heron which was sitting in the right-hand nest yesterday was standing up, so it seems that the pair have not yet got around to nesting properly. In the other, smaller nest, the pair looked very fond of each other.

The young heron on the right side of the picture seems to be the female. She stays on the nest while the other flies around gathering twigs and bringing them to her.

At the Round Pond, this Lesser Black-Backed Gull was in a commanding position on the Number One buoy.

The Maned Goose at the Round Pond is getting more aggressive. Virginia Grey sent me some remarkable pictures that she took late yesterday afternoon, in fading light but they are clear enough. A pair of Egyptian Geese were displaying to each other when the Maned Goose muscled in on the act. Then it attacked the female goose, at one point even holding on to her tail while she tried to fly away.

Virginia said that she has also seen the Maned Goose chasing Canada Geese, which flee as this furious little bird rushes at them.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

The larger of the two Grey Heron nests had a bird sitting in it today. As usual with these big nests, all you can see is the top of its head.

It is not yet clear whether the heron is sitting properly and preparing to incubate eggs, or whether it just felt like a rest after gathering twigs.

The Robins are showing signs of pairing up -- at any rate, it is now possible for two of these fierce little birds to sit on the same twig without trying to kill each other. This fine picture was taken by Eleanor Cogger.

This pair of Great Crested Grebes has been in the same place for several days, under a tree on the west side of the Long Water a short distance south of the Henry Moore sculpture. This is a possible nest site and they are reserving it early -- very early, since the grebes on this lake don't get serious about nesting till July.

The pair of Gadwalls came in close to the edge of the Serpentine to scrape around in the algae.

The Scaup is still on the Serpentine. This picture was taken from the terrace of the Lido restaurant.

The Cetti's Warbler remains on the west side of the Long Water near the broken horse chestnut tree. I heard a phrase of its distinctive song, 'Tee-teep, teep, zibizibizibzibzibi', but couldn't see it in the dense brambles. It is a furtive little brown bird that skulks in bushes.

At the Round Pond, a Mute Swan and a Canada Goose were quarrelling over a length of baguette when a Carrion Crow dashed in, grabbed it ...

... got a better grip on this large thing that it could barely hold ...

... and flew away with it.

The male Tawny Owl was in his tree all day, in spite of a strong wind.

Monday 23 February 2015

There was better luck with finding the Scaup today. He was halfway along the reed bed in front of the Diana fountain, allowing a long shot from the landing stage. His appearance has changed noticeably since the last photograph on 14 February: his sides are almost pure white and the patterned area on his back has spread almost to its fullest extent.

When I passed this place again two hours later, he was nowhere to be seen.

I also managed to hear the Cetti's Warbler singing and to get a very brief glimpse of it, not long enough for a picture. On the west side of the Long Water, about 80 yards north of the bridge, there is a very broken horse chestnut tree most of which collapsed a couple of years ago. Just to the north of this is a line of three holly trees. The bird was in the middle one, invisible among the leaves until it dashed into a bramble patch.

The second-winter Great Black-Backed Gull was again on the Long Water near Peter Pan. Here it is in front of a Herring Gull of the same age. Apart from its larger size, its broad flat head, thick neck and very heavy bill make it recognisable.

On the Serpentine a young Lesser Black-Backed Gull was playing with a bit of wood, flying up, dropping it in the water and diving to catch it.

Most of the young gulls of this size in the park are Herring Gulls, because there is a breeding colony of them near Paddington Station. However, young Herring Gulls have pale tips to their inner primaries, and Lesser Black-Backs have dark tips all along.

A Mandarin drake was mooching around near the Vista. I didn't see his mate.

On the grassy bank near the Italian Garden a pair of Mallards were wandering around looking for a nest site. There are plenty of bushes for them to choose, and most of them are so thick with brambles that they might make a fox think twice before trying to raid their nest.

This is the Coal Tit that comes to feed from my hand beside the Rima relief. Usually it hides inside the yew hedge and calls to me when it sees me, then emerges cautiously, takes a pine nut and dives back into the hedge.

In the scrub between here and the road there is a colony of Wrens, which has been there for many years. Usually they flee at my approach, but this one was busy looking for insects and stood its ground.

The male Tawny Owl didn't come out of his tree till four o'clock.