Thursday 10 May 2018

A quick visit to the park before going to Rainham Marshes.

A Mute Swan came along the path beside the Peter Pan statue, apparently having walked from a pond in the Italian Garden. I could have lifted it over the railings to put it back in the water, but the dominant male swan was there and would have beaten it up. So I escorted it it to the next place where it could get on to the lake, at the Vista. As soon as it could walk on grass rather than the path, it did so -- I think its feet were sore after walking 400 yards on tarmac. It waddled gratefully into the water, ignored a hostile display, and sailed off.

The hopeless Egyptian Goose mother whose goslings never survive may not have nested again -- or else she has nested already and lost all her young in a couple of days. After several weeks' absence she reappeared on an urn in the Italian Garden.

The Great Crested Grebes at the island are hanging on to their three chicks.

A Great Tit perched in a pink-flowered hawthorn bush near the leaf yard, carrying what looked like a small bee to give to its nestlings.

The female Little Owl was taking a break from nest duty, and came out on a branch of the chestnut tree.

Some Carrion Crows hauled a bag out of a bin beside the Serpentine, finding a pot of cottage cheese that went down well.

At Rainham, two Shelducks were having a wrestling match. A Tufted Duck tried to shoo them away, probably because it had a mate nesting nearby. The fight lasted at least five minutes before they gave up without declaring a winner.

Wading birds included several Lapwings ...

... and a single Redshank.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes were hanging around a half-completed nest in the reeds, not making much effort to build it up and occasionally displaying to each other.

Up to six Hobbies were flying overhead. Their favourite prey, dragonflies, are beginning to appear.

A Sedge Warbler sang, moving around the bushes.

A Reed Bunting clung to a reed stem whipping around in the brisk breeze.

This Wren was beside a path, with ants crawling over it, and it took no notice of us at all. I am not sure whether it was 'anting' -- bathing in ants to remove parasites -- and had gone into a daze and was not its usual wary self, or whether it was unwell and the ants just happened to be there.

Other creatures included an enormous Marsh Frog ...

... a Common Lizard ...

... and a terrapin -- a Red-Eared Slider.

Probably a foolish pet owner dumped this when it got too big. So far there is only one, so this carnivorous creature is not a serious threat. But there are now five in Kensington Gardens and, although they are not supposed to be able to breed in a temperate climate, they seem to be doing so.

Update: Marie reports that the Mute Swans on the little island on the Long Water have started hatching their cygnets. She saw four -- there should be more to come. The Coots nesting on the same island also have five new chicks.


  1. Great pictures from Rainham Marshes (love, love the Reed Bunting)! They are always a welcome addition. That Wren looks too listless, even for anting. Poor thing.

    Thank God you helped out that poor Swan. It looked to be in a lot of pain from walking on the tarmac. They are so large and heavy getting airborne to cover the distance is out of the question. Did it allow itself to be carried without fuss? I am sure it knew you were a friend.

    Great Tits are deceivingly cute, with their vivid colours, their funny calls, their brawly behaviour, and their cheek and sass. What they truly are, though? So many cute killers.

    1. Tom and I were worried about that Wren. But there's not much you can do.

      Feeding your babies bees seems a bit odd. I'm pretty sure it was a bee and not a hoverfly, as the original photograph clearly showed bee-type antennae.

  2. Some months ago I saw a Mute Swan in one of the ponds in the Italian Garden; I really thought it might be stuck- the ledge seemed quite steep, no duck board, pond not long enough for swan lift-off. It was late afternoon, I even tried to call the park office, but too late (they go home punctually at 5 p.m.?), and I could not lift a swan. When we came by a little later, it had gotten out of the water and was blithely popping into the next pond. So much for my worrying. (Can't remember if I told this tale already; if so, please delete)

    1. I've never seen one getting out of one those ponds, but have often seen that they have moved from one to another. I think the duckboards are two narrow for their ponderous waddle anyway.

      Often swans in the Italian Garden are caught by the Wildlife Officer, strapped into a straitjacket, and carted off to the main lake. But, it seems, not always. Hope that they are one by one learning that landing in one of those pools, too short for a takeoff run, will cost them a long and painful hike or ignominious capture.

    2. One of my lifelong aspirations is to one day be able to do this!

  3. A couple of weeks ago some Australian tourists helped me guide a mute swan out of the Diana fountain enclosure – it had been pacing to and fro along the railings seeing the lake but unable to find a way through. I wonder if it’s the same one going on adventures? Most baffling is how it managed to land on a tiny area of grass in the adjacent enclosed patch where it had first been located.

    1. I'd guess it was chased in on foot by an attack from the local dominant male swan near the landing stage.