Friday 31 July 2015

The Great Crested Grebes' nest on the east side of the Long Water opposite the fallen horse chestnut tree seems to be hatching out. You can see that the sitting bird's wings are slightly raised, which means that there are chicks on its back.

The grebe family on the Serpentine are still at the east end of the island. They remain at least 50 yards from the shore, and this close-up shot comes thanks to the kindness of the people at Bluebird Boats, who treated me to a trip round the island.

The Coots' nest mysteriously sited in the middle of the Long Water has been occupied for a while now, and ought to be hatching.

The first nest attached to this underwater object, perhaps a fallen tree, was blown away by the wind, but this one seems much more securely fastened and has withstood several stormy days.

One of the Moorhen pair with chicks in the Italian Garden was climbing around in a patch of purple loosestrife.

The botanical name of this plant is Lythrum salicaria. However, its English name is a version of the name of another genus, Lysimachia, which means 'loose strife' or 'disperse the conflict' in Greek, and the two genera were not separated until quite recently. It is named in honour of Lysimachus, a king of ancient Sicily, who is said to have calmed a mad ox by feeding it with loosestrife. But clearly two derivations have become conflated here, as tends to happen in all languages.

Three Canada-Greylag hybrid geese have turned up on the Serpentine again. Over the past few years they have flown in from time to time, stayed a few weeks, and left again. There were four of them at their last visit; I haven't seen the fourth this time.

The geese on the lake are quite mobile, and often fly down to the river or up to Regent's Park. The last time I counted them there were 317 Canadas and 216 Greylags, considerably more than usual at this time of year.

The Reed Warbler family were flying all over the reed bed near the bridge.

On the ground underneath, a Blackbird was looking fine in the sunlight as he poked around under dead leaves.

The Little Owls were moving around restlessly. Here is the male adult at the top of last year's nest tree ...

... and here is one of the young ones, in the same tree.

The other owlet could be heard calling from this year's nest tree, which is reassuring as I hadn't seen more than one for some time.

Thursday 30 July 2015

The Great Crested Grebe family were at the Serpentine island again today, and the three chicks were playing around, diving and chasing each other while waiting for their parents to bring them food. They posed in a neat group for a moment.

A Herring Gull on a nearby post showed no interest in them. Perhaps it knows that they can submerge with lightning speed when threatened.

The five Coot chicks in the Italian Garden pond are still in good order ...

... and so are the four Moorhen chicks, with the two sets of parents still eyeing each other warily.

The two Mute Swan cygnets on the Serpentine were putting on a display of synchronised eating.

All the park waterfowl are hopelessly addicted to the bread that people throw them. Most seem to survive this unhealthy diet unharmed, except for the Egyptian Geese, which can develop 'angel wing' because of the excessive protein they are eating.

The undersized young Egyptian Goose on the Serpentine is still clinging to life, and was swimming around briskly eating the alage on the concrete edge of the Serpentine. Its leg injury seems to be healing, and it can swim well and has only a slight limp on land.

The four Mallard chicks on the Round Pond are also alive and well. Their mother was trying to keep an Egyptian Goose from sharing their platform, but it went round to the back and climbed up there.

A Wood Pigeon was sitting under one of the fountains in the Sunken Garden, apparently enjoying the shower.

The Reed Warblers are still showing well in their reed bed near the bridge.

All the family are now flying around for quite a distance, and I saw two young ones chasing each other more than 50 yards from their nest.

A large family group of Long-Tailed Tits was working its way through the trees along the Flower Walk.

There was still no sign of any Little Owls when I last went past their area at 4.15.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull seems to have a family, seen here in the pair's favourite place on the roof of the Dell restaurant. At first I found this hard to believe, as he hasn't been absent from his usual places for more than a couple of days at a time. But we haven't seen his mate recently, so it is perfectly possible. The deep yellow legs of the male are unmistakable.

I wonder where they nested. It might even have been the roof of the restaurant, since Lesser Black-Backs and Herring Gulls, which are ground nesters in the wild, have adapted easily to roofs.

The Great Crested Grebe family on the Serpentine have returned to the island where there nest was. They were doing quite well, catching three little fish in five minutes, one for each chick.

A pair of Coal Tits often seen near the bridge may have a nest in one of the yew bushes. They were picking up food at a great rate and always carrying it to the same place.

On the other side of the path, a Song Thrush came out during a bright spell to sunbathe.

In the nearby reed bed, a Reed Warbler was doing the same in its own fashion. They are really only comfortable when holding on to reed stems, so this is as near as a Reed Warbler gets to a relaxed pose.

The numerous young Starlings at the Round Pond are growing spotted iridescent adult feathers to replace their juvenile brown.

One of the pair of Green Woodpeckers from the Vista was on a birch tree near the leaf yard.

I think it's always the same pair that we see anywhere between the Queen's Temple and the Tawny Owls' tree.

The male Little Owl disliked the windy morning and didn't come out on to his favourite branch till 4 pm.

Charlie and Melissa the Carrion Crows' two offspring have started taking peanuts, rather than waiting for their parents to feed them. They are still having trouble opening the shell, something an adult crow can do with half a dozen swift pecks.

Tuesday 28 July 2015

The rowan trees on Buck Hill are already attracting birds to their berries. Here a Magpie is enjoying them.

Some late-hatched young Great Tits are still calling for their parents to feed them.

It was rather windy, and the male Little Owl waited till late afternoon before coming out on to his usual branch in the maple tree.

A Cormorant was fishing in the Long Water under the marble fountain of the Italian Garden. It caught several small perch. Here predator and prey exchange glances before one of them meets its end.

Shortly afterwards the Cormorant caught an enormous fish. It dragged its victim around the lake and I thought it was never going to swallow it. But somehow it did, and swam off. Perhaps even Cormorants feel full sometimes.

The Great Crested Grebe family from the Serpentine island were in the same hard-to-see place off the reed bed to the east of the Lido.

Meanwhile, the two nests on the Long Water are still going. This one, in a reed bed opposite the fallen horse chestnut tree, should be hatching soon.

The one under the bridge is not so far advanced, and it may be a week or ten days before anything happens here.

The two grebes that were off their nests came too close to each other and there was a brisk chase up the lake. This picture shows a grebe's takeoff run, in which it is largely propelled by its feet before its small wings reach flying speed.

The park has always seemed to be seriously lacking in amphibians. But today I was talking to one of the gardeners, Big Dave, who has been working here for a long time. He said that when they dredged up weed on the Long Water, they often found newts in it, and also that there were frogs in the reed beds on the east side of the lake and on the bank above it. There were also frogs in a pond in Kensington Palace gardens, though it's unsure whether there still are. I would expect there to be some in the little pond in the Ranger's Lodge garden, but I have never seen any amphibian in the park myself.

Monday 27 July 2015

The Great Crested Grebe family from the island hadn't been seen for several days. But they showed up today near the Lido, in an awkward spot that required a photograph from a hundred yards away. They are probably staying near the reed bed east of the Lido, where there are more small fish than around the island, where the supply was pretty thin.

At the Lido restaurant, one of the young Pied Wagtails was fearlessly running around under people's feet. Here it is on the back of a chair, at a table where people were having lunch.

The Moorhen family in the Italian Garden are still uneasily sharing a pond with the Coot family I photographed yesterday. The four chicks are well protected behind the wire netting around a clump of purple loosestrife.

The Mute Swans had brought their single cygnet to Peter Pan, knowing that its charm would win them all food. I'm not sure what it has picked up here, but it didn't like the offering and spat it out.

Seeing food, the Mallard family rushed in at top speed. The two ducklings are almost large enough to be out of danger from the big gulls.

In a recent comment, Cathy remarked that horror stories about gull attacks are all over the press, like this one. Well, it's the silly season, and we all know that gulls are opportunists and will grab anything edible. But let's not forget our own celebrated killer gull, the Lesser Black-Back at the Dell restaurant. When I found him today he had made a couple of unsuccessful rushes at pigeons on the ground, clearing a wide area around him, and was strutting around with a determined look in his pale eye.

There are a lot of young Dunnocks around the Long Water. This one on the other side of the path by the leaf yard, is a little older than the one I photographed the day before yesterday, and has lost the pink tinge at the base of its bill.

The young Reed Warblers are still highly visible in the reeds near the bridge.

The male Little Owl was in the maple tree, enjoying a sunny spell. We couldn't find the owlets, which are probably in the leaf yard.

Sunday 26 July 2015

On a cold dark grey drizzly day it was a surprise to find both the male Little Owl, out on his favourite branch ...

and one of the owlets, though this was sensibly sheltering in dense leaves in the maple tree.

The young Jay who hangs around this area now realises that peanuts are available, and perches on a branch in front of me with an appealing look.

Uncollected rubbish bags soon attract Magpies and Carrion Crows, which rip holes in them to extract food. This is a young Magpie whose tail still has to grow to its full length.

A Song Thrush on a branch near the bridge looked at me warily.

There was a single Pied Wagtail sprinting around on the grass between Kensington Palace and the Round Pond.

The five new Coot chicks in the Italian Garden pond were being busily fed by both parents.

There was also a Moorhen family with four chicks on the same pond. The two families sensibly kept one of the clumps of plants between them to avoid conflict, though occasionally one of the parents would look round the corner to make sure the others were not creeping up on them.

Another pair of Moorhens with four chicks were feeding near Peter Pan when a Grey Heron started stalking towards them. The chicks were hastily herded into a bush and one of the adult Moorhens stood guard, chipping angrily. The heron, finding its intentions foiled, picked up a swan's feather and gnashed at it. A psychologist would call this a displacement activity.

Two Great Crested Grebes, not a pair, were fishing along the edge of the Serpentine. They accidentally met each other under water, and suddenly broke surface in an explosion of spray and one chased the other into the distance.