Sunday 24 April 2016

There are three Grey Wagtails on the Serpentine, recognisable as the pair that have nested here in previous years and their offspring from last year. The pair were hunting at the Lido and the younger bird, still not in full adult plumage, was using moored pedalos as a station for catching flying insects. Here it is in the air -- not a good picture, but quite interesting.

Its wings are folded. Like many small birds, wagtails use 'bounding flight', where they flap and then close their wings. This reduces drag and is a more efficient way of travelling. It also accounts for the distinctive undulating flight of a wagtail.

The pedalos were also being used by Pied Wagtails, and there were some on the south shore as well, at least ten in all.

There were Long-Tailed Tits in a nearby tree.

The resident Robin at the Lido was singing from his favourite twig in the olive tree.

The Black Swan was not visible, and was probably behind a bush on the island where he is making yet another nest.

The Mute Swans nesting in the reed bed near the Diana fountain have decorated their nest with a collection of plastic bags. To a swan, it's the artistic detail that turns a house into a home.

In contrast, the Great Crested Grebes on the island have gone for a traditional arrangement of fresh leaves.

A pair of Coots on the Round Pond have built their nest in the traditional place under the solar panel on the platform.

The Great Crested Grebe pair are still on the pond.

A Mandarin was preening on a post near Peter Pan.

And a white Feral Pigeon was reclining quite elegantly in the Diana fountain enclosure.

The Green Woodpeckers are still hard at work excavating their nest hole in the plane tree near Physical Energy.

The Tawny Owls were heard last night near their old nest tree -- see Charlie's detailed comment on yesterday's blog post. I went all round the area this morning but still couldn't find them.

But the Little Owl in the oak tree came out reliably in the afternoon.

And the one in the lime tree spent most of the day looking out of the hole, despite the chilly wind.



  1. all that singing everywhere right now brought to mind a reminder of the Basil Bunting poem a friend sent me recently:

    A thrush in the syringa sings.
    'Hunger ruffles my wings, fear,
    lust, familiar things.
    Death thrusts hard. My sons
    by hawk's beak, by stones, by cat and weasel, die.
    From a shaken bush I
    list familiar things,
    fear, hunger, lust.'
    Oh gay thrush!

    1. What a metaphysical bird. I hear 'My tree, my tree, my tree. Go away, go away.'

    2. I'm a sucker for Hopkins:

      'As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
      As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
      Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
      Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
      Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
      Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
      Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
      Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.'

      Raucous skylarks have lost their romance for me I'm afraid. Woodlarks on the other hand I could listen to all day.

  2. On the subject of solar panels as suitable nest sites: do they absorb or reflect light in the infra-red spectrum? Is the shade of a solar panel particularly warm or cool as a result?

    1. Ordinary solar panels use only the visible wavelengths. But they have a reflective layer at the back to make the most of the light, so presumably the infra-red goes straight out again and the back of the panel is more or less at ambient temperature.

  3. What wonderful picture of the Wagtail. He looks like he is levitating.

    Has anyone written a study about bird's sense of decoration, I wonder? Coots and Swans appear to have the interior design gene in full working order.

    Lovely idea, to quote one's favourite bird poems. Here goes mine:

    The Sea and the Skylark (Gerard Manley Hopkins)

    ON ear and ear two noises too old to end
    Trench—right, the tide that ramps against the shore;
    With a flood or a fall, low lull-off or all roar,
    Frequenting there while moon shall wear and wend.

    Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend,
    His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeinèd score
    In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour
    And pelt music, till none ’s to spill nor spend.

    How these two shame this shallow and frail town!
    How ring right out our sordid turbid time,
    Being pure! We, life’s pride and cared-for crown,

    Have lost that cheer and charm of earth’s past prime:
    Our make and making break, are breaking, down
    To man’s last dust, drain fast towards man’s first slime.

    1. Hmm, yes, "pelting" music is about right.

  4. Sorry, text-edit ate half my Comment.

    I’m the friend that sent Ulrike the Basil Bunting ode, which I would otherwise have posted. I’ll fall back on some work by the ornithologist-poet Colin Simms, who has written hundreds of bird poems – I published his “Goshawk Lives”, out of print but awaiting republication in an enlarged format, and there are two other collections of species specific writing – “Hen Harrier Poems”, which got a rave review from Robert Macfarlane in “The Guardian":

    Here's a sample poem:

    No mower seemed the sharper
    – the ring-tail we named “harper”,
    her hunting no random thing
    neatly as the ploughman’s skill
    octaves on her passing-strings
    scoring the sides of the hill
    where the ling-owl is stitching.
    Wind in their wings differing
    to our ears. And from grasses
    subsong. Notes that all belong –
    their harmonies ring hill still
    our humming begins, and passes
    to the mind of each, a song
    wordless, I hear you sing...

    [* with a note citing the Victorian diarist A.J. Munby: “the straightest plough lines seem curved on any hill”]

    – and there's his “Gyrfalcon Poems":

    "I see the bird going away…"

    I see the bird going away
    and a solid thing melted away
    refinement itself refined away
    part of the fetch and the lift and the sway
    not the grey of goshawks, that intricate grey
    cross-bars chequering into the cloud’s way:
    arrowheads into one fletching goose-grey


    1. Thank you so very much for this. I'd be extremely grateful if you'd let us know when Goshawk Lives will be re-published.

  5. Thanks for all your contributions.