Monday 11 December 2017

On a horrible day of sleet and wind, it was a surprise to see the female Little Owl at the Albert Memorial looking out of her hole, though she was practically invisible in the murk.

I think she stands here in foul weather because the top of the branch is cracked, and this is one of the places where she doesn't get rained on. This branch is rotten and will fall soon, and the owls would be well advised to choose a new hole in another oak tree, of which there are plenty in this spot.

The park was almost deserted. Usually the disturbance of people, dogs and vehicles scatters the waterfowl all over the lake and the shore, but today they were mostly in tidy flocks: Canada Geese crossing the Serpentine Road to graze ...

... Egyptians grouped a hundred yards away ...

... and Mallards in a row on the shore.

There are always stragglers, of course. A pair of Egyptians were at their winter game of standing on a dead tree and making a terrible racket.

And the white Mallard and his companions were dozing on a raft at the east end of the Serpentine.

The weather had stopped the two people who usually feed the Grey Herons from coming out, and several ran hopefully towards me. I don't have food for herons. They do very well on fish and rats and the strange scraps that park visitors throw at them.

The heron at the Dell restaurant was preening on a table.

A Cormorant tried fishing in two of the four fountains in the Italian Garden without success, and went to a third one. It took its time crossing the deserted pavement. This video is cut down from an original two and half minutes.

A Moorhen watched it impassively from a clump of dead irises.

A Wren perched on a dripping twig.

Some Long-Tailed Tits flew past.

These very small birds are hard pressed to find insects in freezing weather, and mortality is high.

There was a sad memorial under a plane tree.


  1. That is a strange memorial. In Spain flowers are laid out at the spot where a mortal accident happened. Is it the same in the UK?

    The pictures tell a thousand stories today. The winter cold comes through loud and clear, although there is an almost magic quality of a winter wonderland in them.

    Poor herons, poor Long-tailed tits... and I almost want to say, poor Ralph. You must been almost frozen to death. Thank you so very much for all that you do for this blog.

    1. Yes, normally flowers are put at the place where someone died. But the park seems to be an exception, and you often see flowers there. Maybe they are for people who loved coming to the park, wherever they died.

      It really was pretty nasty yesterday in the wind-driven sleet.

    2. In Stratford-upon-Avon there is a memorial stone dedicated to Vivien Leigh placed underneath a silver birch tree. I think it is a lovely custom.

    3. See also the last page of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. It's typical of J.M. Barrie's morbid imagination that he saw the stones marked W. St. M and P. P. (parish boundary markers for Westminster St Mary and Paddington Parish) as children's gravestones. The baby Peter Pan represents his elder brother, who died just as Barrie was born, and Barrie always felt that his mother thought the wrong brother had died and he was unwanted.

      Flowers are often put on the Peter Pan statue, evidently as memorials. The statue shows the older Peter Pan as he appears in the play, not the baby in this book.