Monday 29 February 2016

There was a male Siskin in the leaf yard this morning. Tom Bell found it and took this fine picture.

Although these colourful finches are not rare, they are seldom seen in the park.

A pair of Egyptian Geese at the Lido have a family of six.

Usually the survival rate here is better than on the Round Pond. The Egyptians there were down to three chicks this morning.

Eight Mandarins -- five drakes and three females -- turned up suddenly on the Long Water. I managed to get six of them into the same picture. The one on the far left is an immature drake not yet in his improbable full finery.

Probably they flew in from the Regent's Canal, which has a branch extending to nearby Paddington station. They breed successfully on the canal but seldom succeed here, where there are more big gulls and less cover.

A Moorhen in one of the Italian Gardens ponds swam over to the fountain and vanished. A closer look showed it under the spray head of the fountain, and it may be building a nest here -- its mate was on the same pond.

Coots have tried to nest in these sheltered spaces and failed, probably because there is nothing inside to attach a nest to.

The pair of Great Crested Grebes at the east end of the Long Water have abandoned their first attempt at a nest on the side of a raft because they couldn't hook twigs into the wire mesh. They have started a second nest on the end of a raft where Mute Swans have smashed the fence down.

This site is too exposed, and the nest will be destroyed by the waves raised by the next strong west wind.

The Black Swan was on the next raft, chasing off some Mute Swans, after which he started tearing up grass for a nest.

He is currently with girlfriend number one. Yesterday Jorgen saw her getting on to the raft with him. This seems to be the first time either girlfriend has shown interest in a nest site. But remember that these females are too young to breed.

I accidentally disturbed a Green Woodpecker feeding in the grass in the Cockpit (the hollow in the slope just east of the Triangle car park). They are very easy to miss when on the ground. It flew into a tree.

A Treecreeper was hunting for insects in an old chestnut tree near the leaf yard.

Both of the pair of Dunnocks in the leaf yard were visible. This is the male, who was displaying to his mate by flapping his wings.

With such a dull coloured bird, display has to be done entirely by action.

One of the Little Owls near the Albert Memorial was looking out of the hole in the oak tree.

Earlier there had been a pair of Stock Doves walking about on the branch directly over the hole, and the owl was clearly determined not to let them take it.

Sunday 28 February 2016

There is now a permanent settlement of Mute Swans on the bank near the bridge, just inside the Long Water and so part of the dominant pair's territory. The male occasionally turns up to chase off any that are in the water, but seems unable to cope with the bunch on the bank.

The Black Swan was back with girlfriend number one, giving her just as much attention as he has to number two in the past few days. The girlfriends are still immature and won't start breeding for a year or two, so he may be able to keep up this balancing act for some time. However, they are rapidly turning white, especially number two, which may cause him to lose interest.

Two Canada-Greylag hybrid geese, not seen for some time, were washing at at the outflow of the Serpentine.

It was a windy day and a Black-Headed Gull was looking as it turned downwind to pick up a tiny worm from the shore of the Serpentine.

A Moorhen was standing in the waves breaking at the edge, apparently enjoying the sensation.

Both the Great Crested Grebes were resting beside their nest under the willow.

The newly laid turf on the Parade Ground already has enough insects in it to interest Pied Wagtails, and a few were running around on it. Females have a grey back rather than the male's black back, but this one is unusually light coloured.

The Kingfisher was on his usual post on the west side of the Long Water. This picture was taken from the Italian Garden. I raced round the lake to get closer, but by then it had flown off to somewhere invisible.

This is the pair of Robins next to the bridge on the west side of the Long Water. They are used to us, and come out to be fed.

The Little Owl in the oak tree near the Albert Memorial was having a good scratch.

Saturday 27 February 2016

The Black Swan is now regularly breaking up Mute Swan couples when he sees them displaying to each other. Here he advances in his low threat posture. This posture at first meant nothing to the Mute Swans, but they have learnt to fear it.

He was showing off for the benefit of girlfriend number two, who was a few yards away.

The Mute Swan pair that were displaying on the bank near the bridge yesterday were now pulling up grass for a nest.

The dominant male swan on the Long Water came over to shoo away some swans that were in the water nearby, but he left this pair alone. It was too much effort for him to climb ashore, and he can deal with them later.

Meanwhile, he and his mate are taking little interest in the artificial island that was built for swans, and some Canada Geese seem to be claiming it.

Last year a pair of Canadas nested successfully here, and swans didn't, after a couple of unlucky accidents one of which cost the female of that pair her life.

The Egyptian Geese on the Round Pond lost another chick yesterday evening, and are down to four.

They are doing their best to guard them, but there were three Lesser Black-Backed Gulls waiting hungrily just offshore. Here are two of them.

There were also some Carrion Crows, which are quite capable of carrying off a small chick. But here is a different crow, the one beside the Serpentine that bangs me on the head if I don't feed it, looking at me expectantly.

After I took this picture he made repeated attacks on my fake fur hat, to the amusement of the passers by.

A Blackbird beside the Henry Moore sculpture had found a wireworm.

There have been Dunnocks in the shrubbery around the Sunken Garden for several years.

The Little Owl in the oak tree near the Albert Memorial was guarding his hole from the Stock Doves.

The Little Owl near Henry Moore was also visible from a distance.

Friday 26 February 2016

The Egyptian Geese on the Round Pond still had five young when I went by this morning.

The parents are looking after them carefully, and chivvied them into the water when a dog approached. although it was on a lead. But only a few yards away a Lesser Black-Backed Gull was looking at them with hungry interest.

There were a lot of Common Gulls, at least 50 at the Round Pond and at least 20 on the Serpentine. They don't suddenly arrive like the Black-Headed Gulls do, but trickle in grdually during the winter. These two were amusing themselves by walking along the slippery, rocking buoys at the Lido.

Four Red-Crested Pochards have arrived on the Serpentine, presumably from Regent's Park where there is a fair-sized population. Here are a pair between two Gadwall drakes on the island.

The Black Swan's behaviour continues baffling. Today he was following an adult Mute Swan around and calling to her.

There were more Mute Swans beside the willow tree near the bridge, eight at one time. This pair were clearly in love. The idyll didn't last, as the dominant male of the Long Water came over to break up the party.

Under the willow, one of the Great Crested Grebes guarding the nest was having a preen.

However, when I went by later there was a Coot standing on the nest, and more twigs had been added to it. It really doesn't matter if the Coots steal this nest, as the grebes don't have a chance of breeding successfully with the fish stocks in the lake so low. There were no Cormorants today, a sign that they have depleted the fish population severely in their usual way.

Some people feeding the Ring-Necked Parakeets on the Vista attracted two Grey Herons. Then a third one arrived.

The Little Owl near the Henry Moore sculpture was looking out of the hole in the tall lime tree.

There were four baby rabbits on the grass nearby. It was lucky for them that all the herons were on the other side of the lake begging for food from humans.

Thursday 25 February 2016

Better news from the Round Pond: the Egyptian Geese still have five of their young, and have lost only one in the past few days.

Virginia, who watches the Egyptians carefully, was sure that the pair I saw with just one chick yesterday was a different family, and so it was. But I could find no sign of these today, and they may have lost the sole survivor already.

Another Egyptian was examining the hole in the old Tawny Owl tree where the branch broke off.

This is probably not a suitable nest hole. The tree is completely hollow from top to bottom and it's unlikely that there's a ledge inside for a nest. However, the Stock Doves still have their hole lower down in the remains of the tree, and the small hole near the bottom is good for whichever species, Rose-Ringed Parakeets or Starlings, eventually wins it.

Just when you though the Black Swan had settled down with girlfriend number one, he was off with another teenager.

I wondered whether that this was girlfriend number two having grown more white feathers, but eventually decided it wasn't. However, Jorgen Schiott, who has been watching these swans attentively, assures me that it is. She was enjoying the attention, and cruised around happily beside him.

He tried to impress her by climbing on to a raft and chasing off a Canada Goose.

On the other side of the raft, the resident pair of Great Crested Grebes were displaying next to their incomplete nest.

They showed signs of wanting to resume building it, but it is a very awkward place and they will need plenty of twigs to attach the nest to the side of the basket.

The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gulls were on the roof of the Dell restaurant. The male of the pair seemed bored.

Soon afterwards, he flew down to the shore and chased a few pigeons without catching any.

The bank under the trees  on the east side of the Long Water near the bridge is a favourite gathering place for Mute Swans.

But now that the dominant pair have claimed the whole Long Water as their territory, other swans never get time to relax there, because the male swan sees them and charges over to chase them back under the bridge.

One of the Little Owls was guarding the hole in the oak tree, keeping well inside on a chilly morning.

The white-faced Blackbird was foraging on the edge of the bramble patch near the Italian Garden.

Tom Bell took this fine picture of Wood Pigeons mating on a tree in the leaf yard.