Thursday 22 November 2018

Warning: this video is pretty gruesome. The pigeon-killing Lesser Black-Backed Gull has just seized a pigeon and dragged it into the lake, and kills it by biting through its spinal column. It takes a while, but is quicker than simply drowning them, which is what he used to do when he started his bloody trade. It think that during the last part of the video the pigeon is already dead, and its movements are just reflexes.

Two hours later, the Lesser Black-Backed Gull with beige feet was finishing off the remains. I have seen this gull trying to catch pigeons for itself, but have not yet seen it succeed. Anyway, it certainly isn't in the same league as the notorious gull, able to kill several times a day.

Common Gulls can have feet of any colour from palest straw yellow to dark grey.

On the marble fountain in the Italian Garden, a Moorhen searched for anything edible in the pool while a Black-Headed Gull enjoyed the footbath at the top. The water comes from a borehole at a steady 10°C, so it's warmer than the air temperature on this chilly day. (And yes, under all the algae and encrustations, the fountain is made out of white marble. They needn't really have bothered.)

A Black-Headed Gull was having a vigorous wash.

So, on a much larger scale, was an Egyptian Goose. Washing removes parasites from a bird's feathers. But there is no doubt that birds actually enjoy having a good splash.

The Black Swan is often followed by a single Coot, which keeps to heel like a faithful dog. Heaven knows what is passing through the Coot's mind. Does it admire this gigantic black bird as a kind of super-Coot? Or, more likely, is it just waiting for someone to feed the swan, so it can rush in and grab something?

The young Grey Heron now spends most of its time waiting for fish to come out from under the suspended wall of the small boathouse.

On the other side of the boathouse, another heron had exactly the same idea ...

... and so did a Cormorant at the other end of the wall. Probably when the Cormorant dives under the wall fish scatter in all directions, and are grabbed by the herons.

A Blackbird under the feeder in the Rose Garden came out to be given some sultanas. It is gradually gaining confidence.

There were half a dozen Blackbirds eating fruit in the rowan tree on Buck Hill ...

... and a Redwing.

There are usually some Blue Tits in this tree. They occasionally eat the fruit, but probably their main interest is in insects feeding on the sweet juice exuded from split fruit.

Long-Tailed tits seldom take any interest in people, but this one stared at the camera for a few seconds.

A flock of Starlings moved steadily over the grass beside the Round Pond, searching for wireworms.

Two spectacular pictures from Tom, who spent yesterday in the Fens photographing Short-Eared Owls.

An owl caught a vole, and was attacked by a Kestrel trying to grab it.


  1. What with the red beak of the Black Swan, Super-Moorhen more like? There is a bit of white I suppose.
    Great double-act of Black-headed Gull and Moorhen; the gull appears to be revolving.

    1. I think the gull is almost waterskiing, which is why it spins so easily.

  2. What a dramatic shot of the aerial combat!

    I rather like the idea of the Black Swan's being a Super-Coot. She certainly is as brave and forward as a Coot, creatures both accustomed to punching above their weight. Thankfully though the Swan is more prudent and wiser, and certainly more friendly, although she may not be as great an architect.

    I cannot bring myself to watch the clip of Pigeon Killer. Thank you for putting up a warning. I really like gulls, but sometimes they are a little too efficient.

    1. Not sure that the Black Swan is all that prudent. I think she may have moved back to the Serpentine after pushing the dominant male Mute Swan on the Long Water too far, so that he really went for her. That was probably the reason for her first departure after her original 11-month stay in 2016-17.

    2. Prudence relative to that of a Coot, I should have add. Imagine what a Coot would get up to if it were as large as the Black Swan...