Friday 28 October 2016

While we were feeding Nuthatches ...

... and Coal Tits ...

... at the leaf yard, the female Little Owl called from the big oak tree, and we got a few seconds' glimpse of her before she flew down into an invisible place. There was no time to find an angle where there wasn't a twig in front of her.

She is getting harder to see now, but at least she hasn't yet disappeared into the leaf yard.

At least the Mistle Thrushes on Buck Hill remain reliably visible, and there are still plenty of rowan berries to tempt them.

There were more picking up worms on the grass.

A Robin in the Flower Walk called to me and shuffled around impatiently while I took a few pictures. Then it flew on to my hand and perched there for a minute, stuffing itself with pine nuts and sunflower hearts.

Robins are not usually as bold as this, but a lot of people feed them in the Flower Walk and they have become quite confident.

The gardeners have put in a lot or new ornamental plants in the Dell, and one of the Moorhens was exploring them to see whether there were any worms in the freshly dug soil.

There were a lot of Cormorants around the island, occupying most of the wooden posts and dotted around the shore.

I haven't seen one catching a fish for some time, and think they are close to exhausting the supply, and will soon give up and return to the river.

A pair of Lesser Black-Backed Gulls hanging around the Lido look very like the pigeon killer and his mate.

The male, shown here, is quite large and his legs are almost as deep a yellow as those of the notorious bird. But you can tell them apart because this one's eyes are a uniform yellow-green, and the pigeon killer's eyes have a ring of  black spots on the iris.

The subject came up recently of how faithful returning Black-Headed Gulls are to their favourite spots. This gull, EX63684, has been coming back to exactly the same place on the edge of the Serpentine, to within ten feet, for seven years since it was ringed by Roy Sanderson.

It has a companion, EX63686, ringed on the same day, which also comes back to this place. When I reported a different gull with a Dutch ring to its ringer, he said that during its summers in Holland it always perched on on the same electricity pylon.

A skein of Greylags blasted down the hill from the Parade Ground to the Serpentine.

The dominant Mute Swan on the Long Water was in a foul mood, and busked around looking for a fight. The other swans have learnt their lesson, and kept to a safe distance.

The white Mallard was having a flap, revealing that his wings are still white although the rest of him has gone an odd pale yellow.


  1. Perhaps this explanation (tannins in the water) accounts for the tinge of yellow in the Mute Swan's plumage. Do you think this is the case for the swan or the Mallard?
    Justyna C.

    1. Unsure about this, because the duck is evenly coloured apart from the flight feathers, and this would not be the case if it were stained by the water

  2. Ralph, you mentioned yesterday that any information about gulls’ pigeon hunting is welcome. On Thursday last week I was passing the Round Pond in the early afternoon and saw a Lesser Black Backed catch a pigeon, stab it several times over a minute or so till it showed no more signs of life and then fly off on to the pond. I hung around for about ten minutes expecting it to return to feed but it returned only once (on foot!) to within a cricket square’s length and then left again. There were two other noteworthy points: The ease with which it caught the victim – just one quick sortie into the group and it had one – supports your theory that the pigeons here, unlike the ones at the Dell, have not yet learned to be wary of the gull, and, although a couple of other gulls approached as it was despatching the pigeon, they too left and didn’t return to feed. My first impression was that it had killed for the sake of it, but would it be more likely that it felt insecure in that open area and maybe aware of my interest? And now, having seen your post yesterday, it strikes me that the other two interested gulls fit the description of the Dell gull’s mate and offspring.

    1. Thanks for these useful observations, which I will bear in mind while watching how things develop. The original pigeon-killing gull often leaves his kill for a while, maybe waiting for the latest crop-full of meat to go down. Then it returns, and woe betide any bird stealing a quick snack.