Thursday 30 April 2015

A Reed Warbler has been singing in the reed bed near the Diana fountain for the past two days. As usual, it is exceptionally hard to see among the dense reed stems, and this is the best picture I could manage in half an hour of trying.

Reed Warblers bred here last year. Let's hope they manage it again and we have some young ones to admire. They are less shy and easier to photograph than adults.

The Mute Swans' island has been taken over by a pair of Canada Geese. This one was seriously engaged in moving the reeds around to make a comfortable nest.

A Grey Heron has discovered that there are lots of fish in the Italian Gardens ponds. The water is too deep for it, so it is standing on one of the boxes in which waterlilies were planted.

It gave up and left while I was there. A minute later a perch swam across the place here iy had been.

I threw a peanut to a Jackdaw beside the Serpentine and a Lesser Black-Backed Gull got to it first. It opened the shell by simply crushing it with its powerful beak.

Jackdaws and other corvids hold peanuts on the ground with one foot and peck them open.

A Carrion Crow was having a bath in the little pool at the top of the waterfall in the Dell, a popular bathing spot for birds of all sizes.

The Hobby was in the same tall plane tree as yesterday, still calling every now and then as it waited for its mate to arrive from Africa.

The male Tawny Owl was also in the same place as yesterday. He was heard hooting this morning.

But no one has yet found the owlets again.

The male Little Owl was looking out of his nest hole.

The female was also seen earlier in this tree, but as usual fled inside as soon as she was spotted.

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Loud cries from the top of a plane tree revealed a Hobby. I only saw one. Was it calling for its mate? Has its mate arrived back safely from Africa?

A Pied Wagtail was gathering insects on the south shore of the Serpentine to feed its young. It is hard to guess where its nest is -- they like old walls with holes and cracks, but there are none near here. However, they are versatile nesters and it may have found a hole in a tree, or a twig sheltered by ivy.

On the other side of the lake a Starling was engaged in exactly the same task. This is one of the Starlings nesting in the two plane trees next to the small boat houses.

The Great Crested Grebes' nest under the willow tree by the bridge has four eggs in it. It was the female's turn to sit on them, and she was turning them over to keep them evenly warmed.

One of the Coot nests at Peter Pan has been stolen by a Grey Heron to use as a fishing station. I don't think it had any eggs in it.

The Coot nest in the small boathouse is a going concern, with two birds in attendance today.

There were two abandoned goose eggs on the reed raft at the east end of the Serpentine, in the same place as the ones which were left there a few weeks ago. I don't know what is going on here.

The male Tawny Owl was in the same place as yesterday, the horse chestnut tree next to the nest tree.

No one has yet found the female and the owlets again.

After the rain stopped the male Little Owl sunned himself outside the pair's new nest hole.

The white Mallard was made to look rather small beside a passing Mute Swan.

It seems that the Scaup that spent so long in our park has now gone to Regent's Park, where he was seen today.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

There is a second Coot nest in the fountains in the Italian Garden. This time the birds have built it on top of the spray head, artfully avoiding getting blasted with the full force of the water, though they are still wet with spray.

Meanwhile, the first nest, under the spray head, has eggs in it. It will be very difficult for the sitting bird to keep them warm in a maelstrom of cold water.

Just under the marble fountain, in the Long Water, the incompetent Egyptian parents were embarking on yet another doomed brood.

They have had about twenty since they came to the park, I think nine years ago -- they were the first Egyptians to arrive. They have bred two or sometimes three times a year, and the only one of their offspring to survive to date is the one that has been adopted by the fami;ly on the Serpentine. I saw these today and all are well; the other brood on the Serpentine is also intact.

The lame Moorhen that sits on the path near the small boathouses is recovering. It is only running with a slight limp now.

In the thicket on the east side of the Long Water, two Willow Warblers were singing at each other.

The male Little Owl was sitting outside his nest hole, and looked at me imperturbably while I capered about trying to get a clear shot through the branches.

The male Tawny Owl was still in the tree next to his nest tree.

Several people have been searching for his family around thy crossing of the bicycle path with the path from the Albert Memorial to the Physical Energy statue. No one has yet found them.

When I was searching there I was besieged by Jackdaws demanding peanuts. You can't say no to these charming birds.

Monday 27 April 2015

A day of interesting reports, but not enough photographic evidence.

First, the female Tawny Owl was seen with three owlets this morning by a regular visitor -- not sure who, as the news was passed on to me by Lida, to whom thanks. They were in a tree near where the Kensington Gardens bicycle path crosses the path from the Albert Memorial to the Physical Energy statue. I spent half an hour this afternoon looking for them here but without success. There are some oak trees on the west side of the crossing which are already quite far into leaf, and these seem the most likely trees as the planes and limes don't have much foliage yet.

Second, Stephen saw a male Bullfinch near the Tawny Owls' nest tree. These are quite rare in the park.

Third, Noel saw what was almost certainly the elusive Water Rail skulking in the brambles where the Cetti's Warbler hangs out.

And fourth, I heard the familiar cry of a Hobby and just managed to see it flying away.

It was in the double line of plane trees that flank the path from Physical Energy to the Speke obelisk. Hobbies come in from Africa with the Swallows, Swifts and House Martins, which they eat on the way.

Back to more ordinary news. The male Tawny Owl was in the tree next to his nest tree, not where he has been in the past few days but high up on the west side.

The female Little Owl showed briefly in her usual hole, which is probably above this year's nest.

There was a fair-sized dead fish, a roach, in the shallow water at the edge of the Serpentine near the Dell restaurant. It was not visibly injured, so probably the Grey Heron had not speared it. It may have died of exhaustion after spawning. The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull was here, but apparently had not noticed this tempting meal, because he was taking bits of bread from a visitor.

A flock of Pied Wagtails was running around on the grass on the south side of the Serpentine. They can only hunt here on weekdays, as there are too many people at weekends.

A Mute Swan was washing himself nearby. I have photographed this many times before but it is always fun to watch this immensely splashy procedure.

A Mandarin preening is also a common sight at Peter Pan, but it is a colourful spectacle.

The fountains in the Italian Garden are not working yet, which has allowed the Coots to do more work on their nest and line it with fresh leaves. Here the male brings the female a bundle which he has gathered from one of the clumps of water plants in the pool.

Update: A Common Sandpiper has been seen on the edge of the Serpentine, according to a report on the London Bird Club Wiki.

Sunday 26 April 2015

The House Martins have arrived in the park. A dozen of them were swooping and twittering high over the Serpentine.

They will nest in the cornices of the French and Kuwaiti embassies in Knightsbridge, just to the east of the east end of the Serpentine. The colony is still recovering from having its nests wrecked by the redecoration of the French embassy, with a dry spring in the following year which made it impossible to gather mud to rebuild their nests. Luckily for them, it looks as if we are back into normal cold, wet English spring weather.

The Great Crested Grebe nest under the willow near the bridge is, against expectations, well established.

There should be no problem in hatching the chicks, but the parents are going to have a hard time finding food for them at this time of year when there are few small fish. There are no crayfish either, since these have had another die-off -- the last was in 2008.

This Moorhen can be seen every day sitting on the path to the west of the small boathouses. It refuses to budge even when you shove a camera in its face. This is its place, and it won't yield it to anyone.

A Gadwall drake on the Serpentine was stretching his wings after preening.

The white Mallard at the east end of the lake was also attending to her shining feathers.

There are Blackcaps all round the Long Water, with the males singing loudly.

The Cetti's Warbler was also singing from time to time. But I haven't heard a Willow Warbler for days, although there were several a couple of weeks ago.

The male Tawny Owl was again on the horse chestnut tree just to the north of his nest tree. And still no one has found his mate or any owlets.

The female Little Owl was out on a branch of her usual chestnut tree, but fled into the hole while I was still a hundred yards away. But she came up and looked out of the hole later.

Saturday 25 April 2015

The Grey Heron at the Dell restaurant staged another daring raid today, stealing a sausage from a plate on an occupied table.

The people were rather shaken by this, and moved to a table farther from the edge.

The Mute Swan on the Long Water has still not got his kidnapped mate back. He was on his island but seems to have realised that the eggs are doomed and has abandoned them. The foolish Egyptian Geese from the Vista, with their one chick (at far right here), were also on the island, and so were a couple of Coots, and the swan left them unmolested, a sign of how dejected he is feeling.

However, the Egyptian chick is not the sole survivor of the brood, because its sibling is now being looked after by one of the pairs on the Serpentine. Here it is; you can see that it is noticeably smaller than the others.

I met one of the girls who had rescued the chick after it had got lost and, not knowing where it was from, had taken it to its fosterparents. The girls had quite rightly not picked it up. They somehow led it, following them willingly, all the way from the Italian Garden along the edge of the lake to the Serpentine near the Diana fountain, where they had just seen an Egyptian family. One of them took a video of the incident on her smartphone and has promised to send it to me, and I will make it available to you when it arrives.

The fountains in the Italian Garden have broken down again, as they often have since the new machinery was installed. This gave the Coots a chance to finish their nest under the spray head of the fountain, where there is just enough room for a Coot sitting down.

Whether this crazy arrangement will succeed remains to be seen. It never has in the past.

Today's strange food given to the Feral Pigeons was a packet of Cheezy Wotsits and some fusilli. The pigeons didn't seem particularly keen on either, trying them briefly and walking away.

An anti-climax: a few days ago I saw a Herring Gull with a plastic ring and reported it to Euring, the central European organisation for ringing records. Here is the same gull seen today, on a post near Peter Pan.

I got a prompt reply and a promise of a map showing the gull's history, which took a couple of days to appear. The bird was ringed on 7 February this year, when it was already in its second year of life. The map showed where it had been ringed, and it was in the Gulf of Guinea. I was excited by news of this far-travelled gull.

And then I looked more closely at the map, and the place was on the Equator, at 0° latitude and 0° longitude. This is what happens when you forget to fill in the coordinates. Since the bird was ringed by the North Thames Gull Group, it had probably only moved a few miles from the place where it was hatched.

The young Great Black-Backed Gull was on the new gravel bank at the Vista. Unfortunately it is impossible to take a decent photograph of any bird on this bank because of the ugly and pointless iron fence on the edge of the shore.

The male Tawny Owl was again in the horse chestnut tree to the north of his nest tree, and again no one could find any others, young or adult.

The female Little Owl was looking out of her nest hole in the chestnut tree when I first went past. When I came back the male had taken her place, and he is shown here.

Friday 24 April 2015

The male Tawny Owl was in his nest tree in the morning, not on his usual perch but high up. Later he switched to the adjacent tree where he was yesterday, and where this picture was taken. He is quite hard to find, even with binoculars, as you have to stand under the nest tree and look through a gap in the leaves.

The female Little Owl was in her usual hole, and we are pretty certain that this new chestnut tree, just up the hill from last year's nest tree, is where she has nested this year. She often turns round and looks into the hole as if there were owlets inside.

We have all been worrying about the female Mute Swan from the Long Water. I have just heard from Marie Gill, who took up the matter with the Wildlife Officer's office. It seems that they took a female swan into care after they discovered a dead swan on the Long Water, and that they thought this was her mate. However, the male swan is very much alive. Today he was sitting sadly on his island, and after a while he went under the bridge on to the Serpentine and cruised around with his wings raised menacingly. Whatever has happened, the pair have lost this year's eggs.

The careless Egyptian Goose parents from the Vista are down to their last chick. The mother was letting it wander around near the Italian Garden without calling it to her, and it just happened to be beside her in this picture.

This is one of the pair of Great Crested Grebes from the east end of the Serpentine making that peculiar shrugging movement that grebes of all kinds do to get comfortable.

There were two Grey Wagtails in the area, so it looks as if we shall have a nest again this year, under the little plank bridge in the Dell where they usually go. This is the young one from last year, and it is not the same as the adult I photographed yesterday.

The pair of Mistle Thrushes near the Serpentine Gallery were hopping around on the grass rattling at each other. They don't seem to have much of a range of calls, unlike Blackbirds, but perhaps there are different rattles for different occasions.

This Goldcrest was in a tree near Peter Pan, on a brief foray out of the yew where it spends most of its time. It is one of a pair.

The Flower Walk is open again after the recent building work. Here is a bumblebee on a wallflower in the border. I think it is a Common Carder bee, Bombus pascuorum.