Saturday 31 October 2015

The young Great Crested Grebes from the nest on the island haven't been easily visible for some time, and I don't know whether all three survived. But here at least are two of them playing at the adult greeting ritual.

They are almost indistinguishable from adults in winter plumage, but still have faint traces of vertical stripes. An adult would have a faint horizontal smudge here.

The young grebes from the nest on the fallen poplar were again under the bridge begging for food from their parents. Swimming half submerged is part of their begging behaviour, as if to say 'Look how small I am, I need feeding.'

The strange romance of the Black Swan and the Mute cygnet continues. The Black Swan raised its head and gave a series of quiet cries which are presumably part of its courtship ritual. But these meant nothing to the other swan. Mute Swans are not quite silent -- they snort and hiss -- but they certainly don't have a courtship call.

On the Long Water a pair of Shovellers approached, shovelling furiously.

A Moorhen was perched on the fallen poplar branch at Peter Pan. It wasn't doing anything, but it looked pretty and you can't have drama in every shot.

A Pied Wagtail was hunting flies on the roof of the Serpentine Gallery.

There are still plenty of flies. Here is a beautiful Greenbottle on the edge of the leaf yard. The red eyes make an elegant addition to the ensemble.

The male Little Owl was out on his branch in the morning.

Later he went in and the female owl came out in the other tree to bask in the afternoon sunlight.

A second after I took this picture the Red Arrows flew overhead with a deafening roar, and she whipped her head round to see where the noise was coming from. Unfortunately she turned away from me, so it didn't provide an interesting photograph.

Friday 30 October 2015

The Black Swan was cruising along the south shore of the Serpentine in a determined manner. It was looking for the young Mute Swan that it has taken a fancy to -- that is, the first one it found, not the older one it was stalking yesterday. It found the young swan onshore near the Lido, being given bits of bread. It gave a short call, rather like a quiet Herring Gull call, and the young swan immediately came over to greet it.  The two went off happily side by side to beat up some other swans.

The Black Swan is quite vocal in a quiet way. It also has a melodious two-toned hoot.

One of the parents of the Great Crested Grebe family was having a wash near the bridge, and didn't want to be bothered by the appeals of one of its chicks, now hulking teenagers that ought to be doing their own fishing.

A Lesser Black-Backed Gull on the Serpentine was having a good scratch.

A Herring Gull was drinking the carefully filtered water of the Diana fountain.

A Blackbird was eating yew berries in a tree near the Henry Moore sculpture.

Several Mistle Thrushes collected in an adjacent tree before diving into the yew, where they went round the back so I couldn't photograph them.

But it was good to see them. There is a severe shortage of thrushes of any kind in the park.

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits flew through the olive trees next to the Lido restaurant, annoying the local Robin, which claims the trees as its territory.

A flight of Goldfinches passed through the treetops on the east side of the Long Water.

The male Little Owl was on his favourite branch, enjoying a brief sunny spell.

His mate was in one of her accustomed places in the next tree.

Thursday 29 October 2015

The Black Swan had abandoned the young Mute Swan it was with yesterday, and was following another one -- the single older one, already beginning to turn white -- which it had herded out from a group of swans at the edge of the water.  The young swan didn't like this attention and swam up and down the Serpentine at a brisk pace, but the Black Swan kept up with it.

The Egyptian Geese at the Round Pond have lost all their young, as was sadly expected. They were preening themselves unconcernedly on the edge of the pond.

The young Great Crested Grebes at the bridge had stopped pestering their parents for once, and were doing absolutely nothing, which grebes are very good at.

The place on the south shore of the Serpentine where the young Herring Gull can usually be found playing with various objects was today occupied by a young Lesser Black-Backed Gull, also playing with a dead leaf.

A pair of Shovellers were revolving under the parapet of the Italian Garden.

The Little Owls were in their usual places, the male in the downhill tree ...

... and the female in the uphill one. It is still quite mild, and these southern European birds can stay outside without discomfort.

This Grey Squirrel was eating yew berries in a tree near the Henry Moore statue.

The red flesh of the berry is quite sweet, but the seed inside is deadly poisonous. This doesn't matter to birds, because their quick digestive system passes the seed through unchanged, and in fact that is how the yew distributes its seeds. But the more thorough digestive system of a mammal would attack the seed and poison the animal. I could see that the squirrel was chewing the outside of the fruit off the seed and discarding the seed. I wonder how they learned to do this, especially as they have been in this country for less than 150 years. Of course any squirrels that ate yew seeds would have died.

This delicate little violet mushroom was growing near the Little Owls' trees. There was another one a few yards away, and just one more on Buck Hill. It isn't an Amethyst Deceiver, which has a much brighter colour. I think it is Inocybe geophylla var. lilacina, a species that has no English name.

Update: Mario has come to the rescue again and says it's Parasola plicatilis, Pleated Inkcap, also called Little Japanese Umbrella. Both English names are vividly descriptive.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

The Black Swan has found a friend -- one of the two young Mute Swans. (There is a third, older than  these two and not related.) They are now going around everywhere side by side.

The difficult bird only likes one of the two young swans. When the other one approached to be with its sibling, the Black Swan chased it away, and it went to sit on the shore at the Lido, looking miserable.

The young Great Crested Grebes from the fallen poplar tree are growing up fast, and are as big as their parents. Here is one of them seen against a reflection of bright yellow autumn leaves.

It went to fish under the bridge, and was pecked at by a Coot. It dived and pecked the Coot's ankles, as you can see here, and chased it for quite a distance.

The Grey Heron from the Dell restaurant was standing at the bottom of the waterfall in a vigilant posture. It's hard to know what it could be trying to catch in the rapids, certainly not the carp which are in the little stretch of open stream.

A Ring-Necked Parakeet dropped a yew berry it was eating. These fruits are very viscous, and quite hard to Parakeets to eat since they chew them up rather than swallow them hole as a Blackbird would.

In fact the fruit is not really a berry, as you can see from the way it has a hole in the end, exposing the seed which is the true fruit. The red outer part is technically an aril. A well known aril is the spice mace, which is the outer covering of a nutmeg.

A Wood Pigeon was hanging perilously upside down in a holly tree to reach a bunch of berries. It had its wings spread, which was a wise precaution because a second later it lost its grip and fell out of the tree.

The male Little Owl was on his usual branch, preening himself.

His mate was in the other tree, nut not in a good place for a picture.

The ivy hedge at the back of the Lido bathing area was full of bees and wasps feeding on the ivy fruits, and there were also some big European Hornets (Vespa crabro), which were eating both the fruits and the wasps.

These hornets are fairly docile -- unlike the equally large Asian hornets (Vespa velutina) that are now arriving in Britain. But if you do annoy one enough to make it sting you, you will be in real agony for some time.

The patch of wood chippings under the plane trees near the Physical Energy statue has produced a fourth species of fungus.

I think it's Inocybe cookei, which has no English name. But if it isn't, I'm sure that the vigilant Mario will correct me.

Update: Mario says that they are large Brittlestems (Psathyrella), a difficult group to identify, and he can't be sure of the species -- and if he says it's difficult, you can be sure it's really difficult.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

A yew bush near the Henry Moore sculpture had a Wren ...

... and a Song Thrush in it.

Although there are Wrens all over the park, easy to spot by the tremendous racket they make, there are sadly few Song Thrushes, and their numbers don't seem to have been boosted yet by the arrival of winter migrants. Numbers of Blackbirds and Mistle Thrushes also appear to be down.

An almost dead horse chestnut tree behind them had this elegant fungus on it.

I suppose it's a Chicken of the Woods, though it's browner than the usual bright yellow of this species. It slightly resembles the roof of Zaha Hadid's extension to the Magazine, which faces it across the path,  but the natural growth is far more beautiful than the slack curves of the building.

Update: Mario says it's a Dryad's Saddle (Polyporus squamosus).

The solitary young Egyptian Goose at the Round Pond is clinging to life. It was attended by both parents -- or at least they were hanging around in the same area.

Several hundred Starlings were whirling in formation over the pond on their evening manoeuvres. Here the low sunlight catches their undersides as they turn in unison. Although their numbers seem to be increasing, there are still too few for an impressive display. But it's a beautiful sight.

While the Black Swan is being extremely aggressive to the white Mute Swans, it is leaving the grey young ones in peace. Black Swans also have grey cygnets, so they tolerate juvenile birds of that colour.

A young Herring Gull was playing with a stone on the north shore of the Serpentine.

This may be the playful gull usually seen on the other side, since its usual area has been cleared by the fierce adult I photographed yesterday, which was still strutting up and down its bit of shoreline today.

The male Little Owl was on his favourite branch.

The female was in the other tree, but more visible than she usually is, and also calmer about having a camera pointed at her.

Monday 26 October 2015

The Great Crested Grebe family from the fallen poplar were beside the bridge as usual, but the parents are now thinking that the young ones ought to do their own fishing, and only feeding them occasionally. This one was preening and showing no sign of responding to appeals for food.

Eventually it lost patience and chased the young one away.

There was also a Cormorant at the bridge, extracting a lot of small fish from the wire basket.

The Black Swan was at the Dell restaurant giving the Mute Swans a hard time.  They seem to be quite frightened of it and never fight back.

A large and fierce adult Herring Gull considers that it owns a stretch of the south shore of the Serpentine. A young one wandered into its territory and started playing with a stone which was probably the adult's own toy. It got chased off.

The young Egyptian Geese at the Round Pond are now down to one. Both parents seemed to be looking after it attentively, but a moment's distraction might have caused them to wander off.

Virginia Grey, who watches these birds closely, thinks that their inattentiveness to their young is caused by there being more Egyptian Geese at the Round Pond, so that the pair are having to work harder to claim territory, and while they are doing this they forget their brood.

The sunshine had brought people on to the terrace of the Lido restaurant, and a Starling was waiting on one of the umbrellas for someone to leave a table, so that it could swoop down and grab the leftovers.

The restaurant staff are well aware of this and clear the tables very quickly, but Starlings are quicker.

A Wood Pigeon was eating berries in a variegated holly bush near Peter Pan.

The male Little Owl was on his favourite branch.

His mate was in the next tree, but tucked up high in the top with a leaf in front of her face, so there was no chance of a good picture.