Monday 5 October 2015

Some Cormorants were fishing together in the lake, and Black-Headed Gulls were swooping over them and picking objects up from the water.

At first I thought they were snatching fish from the Cormorants, but that seemed unlikely, as Cormorants swallow fish very fast as they surface, and are too large for a small gull to attack safely. But a closer picture, in this case of a gull dropping one, shows that they are the same mysterious objects that I photographed on 21 July.

David Element told me that they are 'rat-tailed maggots', the larvae of a hoverfly (any of several Eristalis species). The larva hangs down from the surface of the water and the long 'tail' is in fact a siphon through which it breathes. It is a very big larva for an insect that is only the size of a wasp.

The Great Crested Grebe family from the fallen poplar, which had come out on to the Serpentine, really were having trouble with gulls, and the parents were passing fish to the chicks underwater to keep them from getting grabbed.

The Egyptian Geese who had two broods at the Round Pond earlier this year are at it again. The nest is always in the same oak tree on the north side of the pond, which has a large split in its hollow trunk. The nesting bird has blocked up the bottom of the split with dead leaves and twigs, and can be seen indistinctly above them, with her brown eye patch visible as she peers out at me.

The familiar female Pied Wagtail had left the rainy Lido restaurant terrace and was perched on the odd blue plastic landscape of a group of moored pedalos, darting out at passing insects.

The rowan trees on Buck Hill were full of Starlings dashing about and chattering as they ate berries.

There is a yew tree next at the side of the Vista where the Henry Moore sculpture is, and it has a wonderful crop of berries. You would expect it to the full of Blackbirds and Mistle Thrushes, but in fact the only bird present was this Great Tit, interested in insects rather than berries.

In spite of the drizzle, both Little Owls were out. The female was on last year's nest tree, getting quite wet ...

... and the male was sheltering under the canopy of this year's tree.

A Cetti's Warbler was singing from the bushes at the back of the Lido restaurant. A little later I heard one singing from the usual place near the bridge. I really think we do have two males, and it is not just the same one moving about. Also, the pair near the bridge were seen carrying nesting materials, and I saw three Cetti's near the Lido, so we may even have two families. They are residents and don't migrate. It may be possible to see more when the leaves fall.


  1. Dear ralph,

    I was looking for a nice picture of a Robin eating yew berries when I found your blog. Would it be possible to use one of your picture for a research article I am preparing on seed dispersal of Taxus baccata?

    Best regards,

    1. You're welcome to use any of my pictures. A credit would be welcome. However, do Robins actually eat yew berries? I have pictures of a Ring-Necked Parakeet eating unripe yew berries in my blog post for 25 September this year, and one of a Mistle Thrush eating ripe berries on 26 September this year, and on 5 November 2012. There is one of a Song Thrush on 27 October 2012, and of a Blackbird on 1 and 24 October 2014 and 21 November 2013. Also a rat (remarkable, you'd think their digestion would extract the toxins from the stones) on 3 November 2012.

  2. Dear Ralph, that is very nice of you to let me use your pictures. You will definitely received credit for it although I am not sure how I have to do it. Maybe the journal will ask me to fill in a form or something.
    Robins do eat yew berries, but not as frequently as Blackbird or Mistle Thrush. I will use the picture Mistle Trush from your post on 5 november 2012.

    Again, thank you and very impressive pictures.

    Best regards,