Sunday 19 July 2015

The Great Crested Grebe family appeared again at the Serpentine island, in the middle of a large flotilla of Greylag Geese, which didn't seem to disturb them. I could only see three chicks, but it is impossible to be sure when they are being carried on a parent's back.

There are three young Reed Warblers near the bridge, not two as I thought. They appeared simultaneously in different parts of the reed bed.

In the top of a tree near the Speke obelisk, a young Goldfinch, still without the adult's red face, was picking the seeds out of a fruit.

The two Little Owlets were in their usual maple tree. They took a few minutes off from their constant rushing around and sat peacefully side by side.

Their father was some way off on his favourite branch in last year's nest tree.

But these were not the only owls today. There was an open day at Brompton Cemetery (which, oddly, is alo a Royal Park), and there was a small but choice display of owls and raptors brought in by Countrywide Falconry.

There was a charming Barn Owl ...

... and a very pretty little Southern White-Faced Scops Owl from South America ...

... and a majestic Eurasian Eagle Owl, who was feeling the heat in a coat of feathers designed to resist Arctic winters. But the birds were under an awning and had water to drink.

There was a Common Buzzard, who was rather restless. His handler told me that he keeps breaking his feathers, and they keep a stock of last year's moulted ones to mend them with.

The Harris Hawk was much calmer, and perched peacefully on visitors' hands.

They were given a glove, but the falconers, inured to being spiked with needle-sharp claws, let the birds perch on their bare hands.


  1. Ralph - how on earth could you 'mend' a broken feather? I have never heard of such a thing!

    Today we went to the village pond and there were THREE herons this time. One looked slightly smaller. So I guess it could be an adult pair plus their sole offspring? It was quite a sight, as it's a little pond and feels 'full' with 3 herons (the Little Egrets flew overhead, skimming the tree-tops!).

    1. Yes, you can. It's called 'imping' and has been done for centuries. You find a feather whose tip matches the missing portion. It must be the same width. Cut the damaged feather back to an undamaged area, being sure not to cut through the barbs, just the shaft. Cut out a replacement feather tip from the other feather. Glue a strip of wood or plastic into the end of the damaged feather (thy used matchsticks but a bamboo sliver is stronger). Apply glue to the projecting tip of this strip, slide on the replacement feather, adjust its position, and hold carefully till the glue dries.Traditionally hot melt animal glue would be used, which hardens as soon as it cools, but modern quick setting adhesives have made this unnecessary. You have to make a very smooth join or the bird will fray it when preening.

    2. I am completely blown away by that. I love the historical detail and the practical explanation of how it is done! Need to sit down for a bit now to recover....:) Thanks Ralph.

  2. Hello Ralph
    what time of day are you seeing the Little Owlets, or can you see them any time? And where exactly is the tree?
    Thanks v much

    1. The tree is a maple 20 yards from the fence on the south side of the leaf yard, between the two benches but closer to the uphill one. The owlets can be seen at any time of day, with luck.

  3. great, thanks v much Ralph