Saturday 9 January 2016

A pair of Robins were being unusually friendly with each other in the leaf yard.

Usually pairs only get together in the spring. In winter they maintain separate territories, and both male and female sing to defend them. It seems that the mild weather has misled these Robins into thinking it's spring. I saw another pair together on the other side of the Long Water.

But they are very hungry with the winter shortage of insects, and almost all of them will now come to people's hands to be fed.

A Song Thrush had just caught a worm in the bushes near the bridge, and was pausing to digest it.

A Wren was poking around for edible creatures in the reeds below the Italian Garden.

A Jackdaw did a little shuffle of triumph after extracting a peanut from its shell.

The Black Swan, his girlfriend and her brother are now definitely a gang of three. Here they are at the east end of the Serpentine menacing an unfortunate Mute Swan which they have boxed in.

(We may have to modify the bit about 'girlfriend' and 'brother'. Their behaviour is now puzzling. But we shan't know what sex the two young Mute Swans are till later in the year. The 'girlfriend' is already an enormous bird the size of a typical male, and very aggressive. But the Black Swan's behaviour towards her seems to be that of a male towards a female.)

The Black Swan doesn't always get his own way. Crossing the lake, he was challenged by a large male Mute Swan. But it didn't end in a chase.

The dominant swans on the Long Water were in the reeds on the east side, and seemed to be thinking of a nest here. They don't know that this is the place where previous dominant pair were attacked by a fox several years ago, and the female was killed and her eggs eaten. They have a good safe island to nest on when the time comes. But you wouldn't think it was January from the behaviour of the birds.

The Grey Herons' nest on the island has also been almost continuously occupied for several days.

A pair of Egyptian Geese flying recklessly low over the Serpentine forced a Greylag to duck.


  1. I think we need a swan psychologist to untangle the three-some going on with the Black Swan and two Mute Swan siblings. I might have to lie down for a while. I think I feel rather faint.

    1. Or a Professor of Conflict Studies.

    2. Maybe swans of all kinds got thoroughly confused after a cheeky BBC2 logo started approaching them on ponds. ;-D Jim n.L.

    3. If that logo goes on to the Long Water, it will by sunk by the dreadnought pair.

  2. Found something that might be relevant...unfortunately I don't have access to the paper to be sure. I was able to see snippets that mention trios by trying various searches on Google Scholar.
    Braithewaite, LW, 1981, Ecological Studies of the Black Swan III. Behaviour and Social Organisation, Australian Wildlife Research 8(1) 135-146
    Snippet 1: "The trio would all join in precopulatory display, but only one male would mate with the female and maintain close attendance at the nest."
    Snippet 2: "The areas patrolled were smallest (c. 5-20 m2) for the more subordinate associations (heterosexual pairs) at any time or for trios or homosexual male pairs during times of sexual
    Nothing like that showing up for Mute Swans, though.

    1. Many thanks for looking that up. It seems quite possible that the two young Mute Swans have been seduced by the Black Swan's decadent Australian ways. We shall only find out which of them, if either, is homosexual next year. It is possible that at this stage they don't know if they are boys or girls: geese and grebes often make mistakes about this.