Saturday 1 December 2018

Only a few bunches of fruit are left on the lower branches of the rowan tree at the top of Buck Hill, so these may be the final pictures of the visiting birds eating them. There were the usual Blackbirds ...

... a couple of Mistle Thrushes ...

... and just one Redwing, which must have got detached from a flock by accident, as they are gregarious birds. It will have a chance to get back next month, when the Winter Wasteland in Hyde Park is closed and Redwings flock in to hunt worms on the huge plain of mud left by the fair.

This is the Blackbird in the Rose Garden which I am trying to make friends with, by feeding her sultanas which Blackbirds love. She is a bit agitated by something, but it wasn't me filming her, as she started calling before I arrived.

A Blue Tit waiting impatiently to be fed put up its little crest.

This is the nut feeder in the Dell, whose surrounding cage is supposed to keep out birds larger than tits. But Rose-Ringed Parakeets will force their way into everything. I don't think it was getting much food, as its large bill doesn't fit into the wire mesh holding the nuts.

A Grey Heron was leaping around on the net that is supposed to keep birds off the raft on the Long Water. Visits by herons and Cormorants have partly detached the net, and evidently it's now too loose to walk over in the normal way.

A Lesser Black-Backed Gull on the edge of the Serpentine was calling loudly over the remains of a Feral Pigeon. It had almost certainly not caught the pigeon itself -- from the location, it seemed to be one of the notorious gull's leftovers.

On the other side of the lake a Herring Gull was brandishing a leaf and moaning amorously at another, which was not taking the least notice of it.

The Black Swan turned up at the Vista as usual. She knows how to look appealing.

The young Mute Swan which keeps visiting the fountain pools in the Italian Garden had hauled itself out -- quite a job over a 1ft high stone kerb and was reclining on the lawn, having an occasional preening session.

Moving back from this shot shows the lawn and the small pavilion which is grandly called the Loggia.

It's actually the pump house for the fountains, and originally there was a steam engine behind that window to drive the pumps.

The ornamental tower on top has pilasters, entablature, cornice with modillions, trompe-l'oeil alcoves, a base with inverted consoles, and a complicated wrought iron thingamajig on top set with large glass 'jewels', now too dirty to shine (the Albert Memorial has similar 'jewels'). Actually this ornate structure is the chimney for the steam engine, and until this was replaced with an electric motor there would have been black smoke belching out of the top. This would not have seemed odd to Victorians, who were used to black smoke everywhere.

The wall of knapped flint behind the loggia doesn't fit in with the design, and is misaligned with it. It's an older structure dating from the early days of the lake, when the river Westbourne used to flow into it through three arches, which still exist.

Here is a mid-19th century print showing what it looked like before the Italian Garden was built in 1860.

At this time the Westbourne was a smelly little river and the lake was foul -- the swans in the print may be a figment of the artist's imagination. Prince Albert had the Italian Garden built not just for ornament, but to abate the nuisance. The river was routed round the north side of the park in a pipe, and the lake is now fed with clean water from a borehole.


  1. I always enjoy reading about the history of the park. Ralph makes everything sound interesting.

    The young Swan is the perfect lawn ornament. It complemetes the lovely view so well.

    Perhaps the blackbird was just being silly. I suspect that a couple of them them that usually live in the bushes underneath my window alarm each other just because they can.

    1. Yes, even in the peaceful park Blackbirds seem to spend their time in a permanent state of alarm.