Wednesday 7 December 2016

There was still a good deal of activity around the rowan trees on Buck Hill. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the top of a neighbouring tree ...

... and so was the male of the resident pair of Chaffinches.

A Mistle Thrush was picking up fallen rowan fruit from the grass.

A Goldfinch had found a single withered fruit and was extracting the seeds.

A Magpie had found more fruit on the little remnant of the fourth tree which was cut down.

Near the Lido, another Magpie had been bathing and was preening its soaking wet feathers.

Two Nuthatches were visible in the leaf yard.

A Coal Tit struck a heroic pose more suitable for an eagle.

The original pigeon-eating pair of Lesser Black-Backed Gulls had moved up the Serpentine to the Triangle car park, and were sharing a pigeon.

Near the Dell restaurant, a young Herring Gull was finishing off the last scraps from one of their previous kills. But there was something more interesting on the shore ...

... a tennis ball, with which it had a long and enjoyable game.

This Cormorant is now almost always on the broken fence of the reed raft where the Mute Swans' nest was. It is an insecure perch, but the bird is now used to balancing on it, and can preen without falling off.

The female Little Owl was looking out of the oak tree near the Albert Memorial.


  1. Tiny little Coal Tit believing himself to be an eagle. There is something so endearing about that picture.

    What did the Gull do with the tennis ball? Any recognizable pattern to the game?

    1. It picked it up and dropped it and rolled it around on the shore, and then rolled it into the water and did more picking up and dropping. It could only just get its beak around the tennis ball, and also tried to pick up the ball by its few remaining bits of fluff.

    2. That gull/ball photo is wonderful. It looks so pleased with itself.

  2. The young Gull looks so happy!

    1. I think it really was. It was bouncing about.

    2. I don't think it will be long before someone picks up on how intelligent, fascinating and human-like Gulls are. I don't know of any famous book devoted to them, but they sure deserve to have one.

      If trees have been found to care for their own and to share information and pool resources (I learned about what they call the Wood Wide Web the other day and couldn't pick my jaw off the floor,, what will Gulls be capable of?

    3. Especially as they are unimpeded by lawyers, politicians and priests.

    4. A couple of quotes about the Royal Navy, U-boats and gulls:

      " Inglefield’s other brain child was to
      attempt to train seagulls to defecate on periscopes, and for a short while a remote
      corner of Poole harbour in Dorset was littered with dummy periscopes and hopefully
      incontinent seagulls."

      "The Admiralty and the BIR had received suggestions to train gulls to detect
      periscopes in 1915 but the matter was not taken further until raised again and referred
      to Rear Admiral A.L. Duff, Director of the Anti-Submarine Division, in late 1916. It
      was proposed that merchant ships should tow a dummy periscope ‘from which at
      intervals food would be discharged like sausage-meat from a machine’ to teach the
      birds to associate periscopes near ships with food, leading them to swoop on the
      periscopes of real submarines."

      (Both quotes are taken from this pdf. )

    5. Wonderful. Those gulls should join the ranks of other avian war heroes such as Cher Ami, the heroic pigeon that saved the lives of a whole infantry devision during WWI.

    6. It wouldn't have worked. The submarine would be moving forward, and most of the time the periscope would be facing forward. Gulls, like most birds, always stand facing the wind to avoid their feathers getting disordered, so a gull on the periscope would have its head above the lens.

      A periscope can be rotated of course but, if it were, the motion would disturb the gull and it would fly off.

      Admiral Duff should have sought the advice of Admiral the Honourable Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, KCB, DSO, JP, DL, who lived near Poole and would have had plenty of time to observe the behaviour of gulls, and would have pointed out that it was a duff idea.

      But hurrah for Cher Ami.

    7. Was the intention to obscure the periscope's view or to highlight the sub's position?

      Sadly Drax's modern day descendant is more inclined to shoot first and make observations later. He disgraced himself in the recent parliamentary hen harrier debate.

      Hurrah for messenger pigeons, but what a terrible cost the coastal peregrine population paid to ensure their safe passage.

    8. I don't think the gull would have made the periscope much more noticeable. There are lots of gulls and not many periscopes.

  3. Humana ante oculos foede cum vita iaceret
    in terris oppressa gravi sub religione...

    – but there is the verb "to gull"; so there are bird confidence-tricksters, perhaps?

    1. "To gull" is related to "gullible", right?

    2. A tasty morsel of Lucretius -- thanks. Apparently the verb 'gull', meaning to cheat, has nothing to do with the word for the bird, and is an obsolete term for 'to swallow' -- cf. French gueule, throat.