Wednesday 31 January 2018

A Cormorant on the Long Water disentangled a small fish from a packet that had once held chocolate wafers.

This fine picture is by Virginia, who also provided the next four.

A Moorhen stretched its wings on the edge of the Serpentine.

The Little Owl near the Albert Memorial looked down from her hole.

I'm hoping to be on my feet for a short trip to Kensington Gardens on Saturday, and with luck may be looking up to her again.

A Robin sang at full blast in the leaf yard.

And a Blue Tit perched prettily on a twig.

Achmet Amerikali took this picture of a Long-Tailed Tit on a twig, with leaf buds already swelling.

Here's a video by Tom of Long-Tailed Tits feeding on a tree at Warley Place.

I'm not sure what the white patch on the tree is, but it looks like the droppings of a larger bird that have attracted insects to that part of the trunk.

David Element went to Rainham Marshes, and got these striking pictures of a flock of Lapwings mingling with Starlings ...

... and a Reed Bunting taking off from a Common Reed head.

This Great Reed Warbler clinging to a Reedmace stem is not a local bird, and is rare in Britain. It was photographed by Tinúviel at the Talaván reservoir in Extremadura, a protected area rich in birds though she says that it is mismanaged and has deteriorated.

More of her pictures from Spain: a Green Sandpiper at Los Barruecos ...

... and Goldfinches feeding on fallen seeds.

Tuesday 30 January 2018

Two dramatic photographs sent by Michael Frankling. A Cormorant under the parapet of the Italian Garden, with a small roach seeing its last daylight.

Or at least I think it was a roach. I'm not good at fish, but this next one is a puzzle for anyone. This Great Crested Grebe on the Serpentine has caught a fish which a fisherman told Michael was a ruffe, Gymnocephalus cernua, also known as a pope. I hadn't even heard of this fish, let alone of its presence in the Serpentine.

Another picture of a grebe, by David Element. It is laboriously hauling itself into the air after its desperate 50-yard takeoff run.

Virginia reports that the Egyptian Geese at the Henry Moore sculpture have no goslings today. Here is her picture from yesterday, when they still had four.

This is not the familiar hopeless pair of Egyptians that nest around here. Another pair has also nested here in several past years, but they too have never had any surviving young. Although there is plenty of cover in this place, and fewer big gulls than on the open Serpentine, there may be some extra danger here. There are certainly foxes in the shrubbery.

Every winter many Pochards shelter under the bushes on either side of the sculpture. David Element's close-up of a drake shows the brilliant red eye and the fine vermiculations of the plumage on the back.

Another of his close-up shots: a Grey Heron waiting stock still for anything edible to appear, which it will seize in a flash.

And a Common Gull, equally ready to grab.

This Herring Gull, in a picture taken by Virginia, has been successful, stealing a Danish pastry off an outside table at the Lido restaurant, and is quickly taking its prize to a quiet spot to enjoy it.

A Kestrel in Richmond Park, photographed by Fran, has also picked up some lunch, a tasty vole.

Virginia captured this shot of a pair of Feral Pigeons mating on the roof of one of the small boathouses, being barged by a jealous rival.

And a sunny picture from Spain by Tinúviel of two House Sparrows on a patch of ivy.

This is Tom's slow-motion video of a very confident Jay in St James's Park, which will perch on your hand to take food.

The Jays in Kensington Gardens won't do this, but they will grab a whole peanut from your fingers in passing, a nifty bit of precision flying that they clearly enjoy, because the habit is spreading.

The Jackdaws in Kensington Gardens haven't reached this stage, though they will come to take peanuts thrown on the ground, as in this picture by Eleanor. But the bumptious behaviour of the Jackdaws in Richmond Park suggests that they will become bolder.

Monday 29 January 2018

The elusive Kingfisher has reappeared on the Long Water, and Virginia got this picture of it in a bush on the west side of the Long Water, seen from the parapet of the Italian Garden.

She also captured a Shoveller drake flapping, showing off iridescent green secondaries to match his brilliant head.

A Cormorant fishing in the old water filter under the marble fountain at the edge of the Italian Garden shook off some algae that had come up with its latest catch. A dramatic shot by David Element.

Also by him, a Black-Headed Gull washing ...

... and a pair of Magpies, already in the mood for nesting.

Eleanor took this picture of one of the hungry Jays that follow you around expecting to be given peanuts.

Some people have complained to me that they don't see many Jays in the park. If you feed them, it's a different story.

The Rose-Ringed Parakeets, not content with being pampered by countless visitors, have taken matters into their own capable beaks and feet. They can undo the catch on top of a bird feeder in seconds. Picture by Achmet Amerikali.

When these birds first arrived, the gardeners who refill the feeders tried to exclude the parakeets by covering the feeders with wire mesh. The parakeets ripped it to shreds in days.

Virginia sent this general shot of the Dell taken last summer. As well as the inevitable Feral Pigeons, can you find two Grey Herons, Two Mallards, three Moorhens and a rat?

A recent picture by Virginia, from the island where the herons are beginning to nest. The partner not on the nest balanced precariously in a tree.

More herons from farther afield: a Bittern blending perfectly into the reeds at the Barnes Wetland Centre, taken by David Element. When they stand in the typical upright Bittern pose with beak pointing upwards they become completely invisible.

And another from Cali in Colombia by David Holland, a Striated Heron, Butorides striatus.

A view of Los Barruecos in Extremadura, by Tinúviel. These are escaped domestic geese which have gone feral. They are with what looks to be an ordinary wild Greylag. These geese are genetically Greylags anyway, and successive generations will interbreed and revert to the usual grey colour.

A pleasing bit of video by Tom of the solitary Waxwing which appeared at Rainham Marshes a year ago and became quite used to the crowds of visitors who came to look at it.

With luck I should be back on my feet in a few days and able to visit the park again and show you the pictures of the day. But I may be restricted for a while in the distance I can walk. So please keep sending your photographs, which have added a lot of interest to the blog. The email address for pictures is always in the right column .

Sunday 28 January 2018

Virginia reports that a pair of Egyptian Geese have six to eight young at the Henry Moore sculpture. She couldn't get a clear view through the scrub. It's probably the useless pair with the white-headed female, in which case the babies don't have a chance of survival.

She sent some recent pictures from the park. A pair of Coots preened each other affectionately, also getting a small snack from eating the other's fleas and lice.

Two Great Crested Grebes had a territorial dispute. The one on the right is from the island, where a pair are tentatively beginning to nest. The other is from the east end of the Serpentine, where a pair tried to nest last year but never managed to pick a suitable place.

A Greylag Goose dozed on the edge of the Serpentine.

And a Great Tit came out from the leaf yard to be fed.

David Element sent two pictures of Shovellers: a female looking serene in the evening light ...

... and two drakes chasing each other.

Here's his video of Grey Wagtails. The number of these charming birds in the park is small, but seems to be increasing. We may be sharing the population with a colony on the river just downstream of Chelsea Bridge, in the little basin where coal barges used to come in to supply the sewage pumping station. Let's hope we see more of them in in the spring, and that a pair will again nest under the little plank bridge in the Dell.

Cathy took this characteristic picture of a Grey Heron sunbathing in that odd posture with wings half spread and held low.

While we are on the heron family, here's Fran's excellent picture of a Bittern in Norfolk ...

... and another picture from Colombia by David Holland. The bird on the left is a Great Egret, Ardea alba, a species of which there are small numbers in Britain. The other is probably a Bare-Faced Ibis (or Whispering Ibis), Phimosus infuscatus, though it might be the larger Sharp-Tailed Ibis, Cercibis oxycerca.

Some more pictures from Spain by Tinúviel: this is a Red-Knobbed Coot, Fulica cristata, at the nature reserve of La Cañada de los Pájaros near Seville. She says that they are less aggressive than ordinary Coots. (It would be hard to be more aggressive than an ordinary Coot.) Its collar gives it an even more clerical appearance than usual.

This is a Sanderling, a little wader which very occasionally makes it to the park here ...

... and here's a Black-Tailed Godwit which, as far as I know, has never been seen in the park, though there is a single record of a Bar-Tailed Godwit.

Saturday 27 January 2018

Some recent pictures by Virginia: a Coot skitters across the lake.

Some Common Gulls chase another which has a bit of food, while a party of young Herring Gulls come up from below to join in the fun. Note the very distinctive white 'windows' on the Common Gulls' wingtips, an infallible way of recognising them in the air.

And a Robin perches on a fence. We need to have a picture of a Robin from time to time.

Another bird without whom no day is complete: David Element provided this picture of the female Little Owl near the Albert Memorial ...

... and a Stock Dove, one of the owl's rivals for the hole in the oak tree.

The white Mallard was cruising around the east end of the Serpentine with his mate and the spare drake. Thanks to Ian Young for this picture.

The American Horned Lark is still at Staines Reservoir, and David Element got some video footage of it moving around on the mossy edge while many photographers' shutters click in the background.

The bird used to be called a Shorelark, and here it is on the shore. But restless scientists, not content with naming it Eremophila alpestris, 'the desert lover of the mountains', have now wished a pair of horns on to its head, referring to a very modest crest.

Another picture by Tinúviel from the Los Barruecos nature reserve, a wonderful place. A White Stork and a Grey Heron stand on the shore, while a Green Sandpiper and a Snipe wade in the shallows.

David Element sent me several pictures of birds diving, so let's look at their techniques. The first few pictures are mine, followed by his.

No bird dives as neatly as a grebe. They can flatten their feathers down to a very great extent, which makes them less buoyant and more streamlined. When a Great Crested Grebe does this, it sinks a couple of inches so that its shoulders are under water.

Then it puts its head down, gives a quick slash of its turbine blade toes, and it's under with barely a splash and speeding away like a little torpedo.

Little Grebes can do the same, at staggering speed which makes the action almost impossible to photograph. Their generic name Tachybaptus, 'fast diving', is well deserved.

They reduce their size tremendously before diving, changing from a round ball of fluff into a streamlined projectile. But the only way to show this is with a slow motion video, and I don't have one. When I am on my feet again I will see what I can do in St James's Park or Regent's Park, where Little Grebes are plentiful.

Diving ducks are considerably more buoyant, and must paddle hard to stay down. They have to make a little leap before diving to give them the necessary impetus to submerge. All the following pictures are by David Element. Here is a Tufted Duck ...

... and a Pochard.

Perhaps surprisingly Cormorants, despite their great diving performance, need to jump too.

When a grebe needs to dive particularly deep, it may jump to help it go down. Here is a Little Grebe fishing in deep water.

Update: forgot to say that Duncan Campbell has identified yesterday's mystery hummingbird as a Brown Violetear, Colibri delphinae. He has that wonderful series Handbook of Birds of the World, more accurately known as Fork Lift Truck Book of Birds of the World since so far there have been 19 big thick volumes each weighing 8 to 10 lb. An enviable possession for those whose bookshelves can stand the strain.