Monday 6 November 2017

A Common Gull was playing with a conker it had found at the edge of the Round Pond. Note the advancing Herring Gull in the background ...

... which chased the Common Gull away and played with the conker for a few seconds.

Then it dropped it and flew off. The park is full of conkers, and gulls can't eat them. But for gulls, there is great pleasure in stealing other birds' toys.

Another Herring Gull had a toy of its own, a large stick which it was dropping into the pond and diving down to retrieve.

The young Herring Gulls in the park often play this game, but you seldom see any that have advanced to the next stage, which is to drop the stick from a height, dive down, and catch it in midair. This is a valuable training for their life of kleptoparasitism -- stealing food from other birds. They try to force their victim to drop the food, and grab it as it falls before another gull can get to it.

A Grey Heron stretched a wing and a leg on the jetty of the Lido swimming area.

The Black Swan reached into the lake to take a drink, revealing how extraordinarily long his neck is.

A skein of Greylags passed a copper beech beside the Serpentine.

A contrast in ducks' feeding habits: a pair of Gadwalls were nibbling algae off the concrete edge of the lake.

A pair of Shovellers at the Vista were revolving together. The wake of one bird brings up  tiny edible creatures for the other to filter out of the water with the bristles in its huge bill.

The pair of Moorhens in the pool in the Sunken Garden were being fed by one of the Kensington Palace gardeners. One of them swam off to have a shower under the fountain.

Both the Little Owls near the leaf yard were out in the sunshine. The male came out on a branch in the horse chestnut tree near the Queen's Temple.

The female was in her current favourite spot in the sweet chestnut, where she has made herself diabolically difficult to photograph, especially in strong sunlight, but we forgive her because she is lovely.

Under the tree, a female Blackbird was rummaging among the fallen leaves.

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits flew through the trees near Peter Pan.

In several of the wilder parts of Kensington Gardens there are little groves of oak saplings of various species -- American oaks, some of them red, and ordinary British oaks -- far from the trees that bore the acorns. These must be the result of Jays burying acorns and then forgetting where they put them.

Admiral Collingwood, who fought beside Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, used to fill his pockets with acorns and poke them into hedgerows wherever he walked, to replace the oaks felled to build the ships of the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars. But Jays actually did more than he did to furnish the navy with ships.


  1. Ralph, it's that thing with the videos again, only showing like this : Or is it just me?
    V. interesting re the Admiral.

    1. Sorry. Fixed now. Actually I don't think it was my fault this time -- the YouTube links got unlinked.

  2. (an early example of ecological responsibility?)

    1. Mixed with an understandable desire to keep his job.

  3. The female Little Owl is saying very clearly "I'm pretty and I know it".

    The Heron is holding quite a good strong yoga pose. Bird yoga at its finest.

    I didn't know that either about Admiral Collingwood (being Spanish, I only know about Trafalgar from the other side, so to speak). It was a lovely gesture.

    1. 'Captain Cuthbert Collingwood, later to become an admiral and Nelson's second in command at Trafalgar, had his home at Morpeth, in Northumberland, and when he was there on half pay or on leave he loved to walk over the hills with his dog Bounce. He always started off with a handful of acorns in his pockets, and as he walked he would press an acorn into the soil whenever he saw a good place for an oak tree to grow. Some of the oaks he planted are probably still growing more than a century and a half later ready to be cut to build ships of the line at a time when nuclear submarines are patrolling the seas, because Collingwood's purpose was to make sure that the Navy would never want for oaks to build the fighting ships upon which the country's safety depended.'
      --- Dudley Pope, Life in Neslon's Navy, 1981