Wednesday 9 November 2016

One of the Little Owls in the oak tree near the Albert Memorial was visible all day in the nest hole.

As with the pair in the chestnut tree, the female is nervous and retreats into the hole when a camera is pointed at her, but this is the male and he just stares back.

 The rowan trees on Buck Hill were well attended, with several Mistle Thrushes ...

... and Blackbirds ...

... and the resident pair of Magpies.

A Black-Headed Gull was having a wash in the Serpentine ...

... and so was a Moorhen.

This young Cormorant at the island is beginning to lose his juvenile pale front and go dark all over like an adult.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes were a little ruffled by a tailwind.

This one was completely unruffled and resting as only a grebe can.

The poet John Skelton remarked on the sleeping ability of grebes in his poem 'Philip Sparrow', in which his pet sparrow, killed by a cat, has a grand funeral at which various birds play different roles. His word for grebe is 'divendop', meaning a diving bird:

            The knot and the ruff;
            The barnacle, the buzzard,
            With the wild mallard;
            The divendop to sleep;
            The water-hen to weep;
            The puffin and the teal
            Money they shall deal
            To poore folk at large,
            That shall be their charge ...

Four kinds of duck were together on the Long Water: a pair of Mallards, a pair of Shoveller, and Pochard and Tufted drakes.

One of the pale Mallards crossed the Vista.

His head is not as bright green as that of a normal Mallard, or as iridescent. But another one, often seen on the Round Pond, is even paler and his head is a flat brown colour.

The inevitable Christmas funfair is going up on the Parade Ground. It has displaced the Pied Wagtails, which are now up near Marble Arch. One of them caught a small bug.

One of the features of the fair is this mechanically operated giant with a sort of Great Spotted Woodpecker on his hand. When the machinery is switched on they nod and twitch ponderously, producing a truly creepy effect.


  1. Thank you for the fascinating snippet about the 'divendop'.

  2. That poem reminds me of Ovid's epitaph/funeral eulogy of Corinna's parrot (with all bird species paying their respects to the dead bird), and to the poignant, sad little series of Hellenistic epigrams conmemorating the deaths of pet birds (mainly killed by foxes and the like). Curious poem. You never cease to surprise your readers!

    1. It seems to be a tiny genre. Catullus, too, with Lesbia's sparrow sadly walking 'along that path of shadows from where nothing may ever return', and the English nursery poem 'Who killed Cock Robin?'

    2. Does 'Who killed Cock Robin?' have anything to do with Balder's death? Some similitudes are uncanny.

    3. Most nursery rhymes seem to have an origin in myth or history. 'Cock Robin' may derive from Balder, but it has also been suggested that it refers to the death of William Rufus (King William II), accidentally shot by one of his retinue while hunting.