Friday, 10 April 2015

A pair of pale Red-Crested Pochards was cruising on the Round Pond. The female lacks the black pigment (eumelanin) that helps to form the normal coffee colour, and is low in the red pigment (phaeomelanin) as well, so she has a very bleached look.

The drake is also pale, with a faded look to the black patches fore and aft, and hardly any colour on his back.

Both of them are smaller and thinner than normal, as if the gene that caused abnormal pigmentation had also stunted their growth, and the male didn't have much of the usual bouffant feathering on his head. Both birds were very tame, as if they were used to being in a park, but I have never seen either of them before.

Oddly, there was also a pale duck on the Serpentine, in this case a female Mallard. There is already a pure white female Mallard here. Both of them are of normal size.

The Great Crested Grebes at the east end of the Serpentine were displaying and fussing about inside one of the reed rafts, looking as if they intended building a nest.

There are gaps inside these rafts forming little pools. They would be a good place for a grebe nest, and the birds would have no difficulty getting in or out as they would just swim under the rafts. However, it is most unlikely that any grebes will succeed in nesting yet, because the supply of small fish is still too small. They will need to wait till midsummer at the earliest.

The gorse bushes on the north shore of the Serpentine are attracting bumblebees.

(The last bee I identified as a bumblebee was not one, and I was corrected by the vigilant Africa Gómez. However, I am reasonably sure that this is a Buff-Tailed Bumblebee, Bombus terrestris.)

The Cetti's Warblers were singing loudly on the west side of the Long Water, and also moving from end to end of their enlosure. I still haven't managed to get a picture of one.

But I did get a rather distant shot of a male Blackcap which had been singing in a holly tree near Peter Pan.

A Robin had found a royal worm at Kensington Palace.

The male Little Owl looked out of his tree hole around three o'clock. As before, this is the chestnut just up the hill from last year's nest tree, where the pair seem to have settled permanently.


  1. I saw two Grebes displaying to each other on Virginia Water yesterday. Thanks to your descriptions Ralph, when I saw the pair re-unite in the middle of the lake, I knew what to look out for - some bonding ritual bobbing and shaking of heads. It was delightful to see.

    1. This also gives photographers plenty of time to get their cameras set up for the magic moment.

  2. The Red Crested Pochards are probably inbred. Breeding between relatives will expose harmful mutations and result on stunted growth and albinism and other recessive polymorphisms to be in homozygosis. I guess the ducks will try to breed in a park and will find no other duck but their relatives.

    1. Thanks for the information. Sadly, these birds are probably siblings and likely to try to breed again and make matters worse. But the population of Red-Crested Pochards in the London parks is reasonably large -- I've seen 25 in Hyde Park and more in Regent's Park -- and the problem should become less severe over the next few years as the national population increases.