Tuesday 12 May 2015

A Cuckoo was in the park, the first one I have come across for decades. It was singing in a tree a short way to the east of the Round Pond, just three times between 12.15 and 12.45. I tried to find it, unsuccessfully. They are notoriously hard to see. As Wordsworth wrote,

O Cuckoo! shall I call thee Bird,
Or but a wandering Voice?

to which A.E. Housman added:

State the alternative preferred,
With reasons for your choice.

There is a brand new Canada gosling on the Serpentine. Here it is next to one of the small boathouses, eating a dandelion.

There is also one new Mallard duckling on the Round Pond, no doubt the sole survivor of a large brood.

Although the Round Pond is very exposed, there are fewer big gulls there than on the main lake, so it has a ghost of a chance.

The widowed male Mute Swan is back on the Long Water. He had not brought a new mate with him -- it is probably too soon for him to think of that -- and he was understandably even more foul-tempered than usual, pecking at every bird that crossed his path.

The pair of Great Crested Grebes at the east end of the Serpentine were inside one of the reed rafts, where a square has been left out to make a tiny pond. It would be an excellent place to nest if they wanted to, with access by swimming under the raft -- something that even a very new baby grebe could manage with ease.

On the Long Water, another grebe was catching some very small fish of a suitable size for giving to young birds. I didn't get a picture because it was swallowing them at the moment it surfaced.

A Pied Wagtail was running up and down the shore at the Lido, looking for insects in the debris washed ashore by the wind.

One of the Blue Tits nesting in the lamp post was looking down at its nestlings, protected by literally cast iron security.

There was a  Goldfinch on a tree at the edge of the Diana playground.

Normally these shy birds would stay away from such a noisy place, but the playground is closed for maintenance.

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

I still couldn't see the male Tawny Owl, but I am sure that he was in the horse chestnut just north of the nest tree because some Jays were making a terrible racket there when I passed.


  1. Thanks for the poetry! (esp the Housman conclusion..) Can't say I've ever heard a cuckoo in London, in 35 years.
    I wonder if ,as they seem to have become more common on town, Goldfinches are becoming less shy? Although saying that, the ones eating at my window feeders are still rather skittish when they notice me. A few times recently I've spotted a single Goldfinch singing by the bus stop at the Angel; a lovely and very penetrating sound over all the traffic and people, to my ear; but only one other person paid attention.

    1. I can't say I've noticed them becoming less shy. More numerous, yes, but still very nervous.

  2. I just love hearing the cheery, lovely chatter of goldfinches in the middle of the ugly sounds of the city. It's like getting a miraculous glimpse of some immortal, otherworldly beauty, which we humans try as might (and we do try!) cannot deface.

    Poor widowed swan... I had hoped for a happier conclusion.

    1. They love one of humans' ugliest artefacts, the television aerial. It makes them gratifyingly easy to notice in the city streets.

  3. I am saddened by the demise of the female of the Long Water swan couple. I had been following their adventures through your blog and through my regular walks in Hyde Park for a long time. I do hope her widower finds another mate. It's hard to even think about the Long Water without a dominant swan couple ruling over it.

    1. I'm sure he'll be back with a new mate, and as big and beastly as ever. But he needs time to recover, and it may not be till next year.

  4. It was very nice to meet you yesterday, Ralph, and a special treat to encounter the cuckoo song. I noticed on eBird that another observer heard/saw one in mid April - but that is the only report (other than today!) of a cuckoo in the Park. I really enjoyed watching the Little Owl too!

    1. Good to meet you too. There's one other report of a Cuckoo in London, miles away, on today's London Bird Club Wiki news.

  5. Hello Ralph, Do you think that the presence of reed warblers might have attracted the cuckoo?