Tuesday 31 December 2019

A pair of Mute Swans made a preliminary attempt to nest behind the railings of the small boathouse. But they were soon chased out by dominant male, who regards the whole western end of the Serpentine as his territory.

A welcome return to the Serpentine: Blondie the Egyptian Goose was back from her brief expedition to the Round Pond and was in her favourite place less than a hundred yards from where she was hatched.

This is another very conservative pair in which the male is the light coloured one. They are almost always near the Triangle car park. One year they made an unsuccessful breeding attempt in this exposed spot.

We haven't had a picture of a Great Crested Grebe for a while. Most of them have left, probably fearing being iced in. I think they go to the Thames upstream from Chiswick, where you can often see them. There may be as few as four remaining in the park. One of them was fishing under the dead willow near the Italian Garden.

Another return: the pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull hasn't been in his usual place for some days, driven away by the human crowds thronging around the entrance to the Winter Wasteland. But today he was back enjoying his lunch ...

... while his mate waited on the shore for her turn.

A splendid picture by David Element of another Lesser Black-Back moving on to the dessert course. Many species of bird are inordinately fond of chocolate cake, but luckily they don't get enough to harm them.

A Black-Headed Gull played with a stick.

There were Grey Herons on three nests on the island. It looks as if the season is well under way.

The male Little Owl near the Henry Moore sculpture was out in front of his hole. This pair are not easily deterred by dismal drizzly weather.

But soon after I took the picture, a mob of insolent Rose-Ringed Parakeets settled in the tree and he retreated. You can just see the top of his head above the rightmost parakeet.

A Carrion Crow posed in front of red dogwood stems near the Lido.

The pump working the Dell waterfall has broken yet again, and the water level in the pool has fallen. A Wren took the opportunity to explore the mud.

I can't think of a better way to say goodbye to a dismal year than this video of a gang of Griffon Vultures and Black (or Cinereous) Vultures clearing up the remains of a dead sheep. Some Ravens wait hopefully for a chance to nip in and grab a morsel.

This video, kindly sent to me by Tinúviel, was shot by Jesús Porras on the plains around Trujillo in Extremadura, Spain. He has an interesting channel featuring the local wildlife here.

May the New Year be better for us all, and warmest wishes to all readers.

Monday 30 December 2019

A Goldcrest came out of the yew tree at the top corner of the leaf yard.

So did the very shy Coal Tit, which I am trying to feed but it won't even come down to take food from the railings.

I missed the Nuthatch, but Ahmet Amerikali got a good shot of it yesterday.

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits passed through the trees on the east side of the Long Water.

The male Little Owl near the Albert Memorial came out in the morning sunlight.

The female Peregrine was on the barracks tower.

A Wood Pigeon and a Blackbird enjoyed a dip in the little pool at the top of the Dell waterfall.

A pair of Jackdaws examined a hole at the bottom of the leaf yard next to the path. I know that a pair nests here but am unsure about the location of the hole. This one looks too small.

A Carrion Crow turned over dead leaves to see if there was anything edible lurking underneath.

Two Cormorants on the Long Water dried their wings, perched on the remains of the Mute Swans' nesting island.

The Grey Herons are still attending to their nests on the island. However, this preliminary interest may go on for quite a while before they actually get down to nesting. The season doesn't matter, since they live on fish.

Young Black-Headed Gulls squabbled over a toy. It was only a leaf and the other gull could have found one, but for a gull the pleasure is in stealing.

A fine picture by David Element of a more serious gull chase: a Lesser Black-Back tries to take a crayfish from another one.

Coots fought on the Long Water just for the hell of it.

A pair of Moorhens amicably ate each others' parasites.

A Pochard drake wasn't doing much, but looked fine in the sunlight.

The Black Swan cruised on the Round Pond. I think its eyes are turning redder and will soon be the startlingly bright adult colour.

Sunday 29 December 2019

The male Little Owl in the lime tree near the Henry Moore sculpture was out a branch, looking so charming that he deserves both a still picture and a video.

He flew down to the pair's hole.

Three Grey Heron nests on the island were occupied, and there were five birds here in all.

This nest hasn't been reoccupied since the summer. I'm not sure whether herons return to the nest they used last season. Oddly, the only nest that hasn't been touched so far is the one that was successful in the summer, at the third attempt.

Black-Headed Gulls are very conservative in their choice of perches. I photographed this one with ring number EZ73323 a few days ago on exactly the same post. This is the only time I've ever been able to read a small metal ring with the naked eye simply by walking round the post.

A Moorhen wondered whether it could push a Herring Gull off a post. It decided not to take the risk, and jumped into the water.

A Mute Swan sat outside the Italian Garden, eating some duck food pellets that someone had given it. Once I would have thought that a swan here was in distress, stranded after losing a fight, but seeing the ease with which they can get back into the lake from here I reckoned that it was all right.

Carrion Crows, attracted by the prospect of scraps from the nearby funfair, have massed in the Dell, where they were poking around for worms and larvae. An Egyptian Goose was not pleased.

A Wren perched on a branch in the Dell.

The little shrubbery at the southwest corner of the bridge, normally a very good place for seeing and feeding small birds, has become less interesting because there is now a big feeder that draws them away -- but that's good for the birds if not for the photographer. They can still be lured out by the prospect of a delicious pine nut, and today the usual Robin ...

... and one of the Coal Tits came out to be fed.

I don't usually photograph the invasive Rose-Ringed Parakeets which have become an all too popular tourist attraction, but sometimes one poses just right.

You never know when you may need a snack.

Ahmet Amerikali photographed a Little Grebe on the Long Water, now beginning to get the colours of its breeding plumage.

Tom was at Rainham Marshes, where he got a picture of a Kingfisher on a reed mace head.

Joan Chatterley reports that the young Black Swan in St James's Park is now being given the cold shoulder by its parents, a necessary part of growing up. It's trying to fly, so far without success.

Saturday 28 December 2019

Another very dark day, and it was hard to get even moderately good pictures. Still, the female Little Owl was in the oak tree near the Albert Memorial ...

... and the female Peregrine was back on the barracks tower.

The male had been visible earlier, but by the time I arrived he had either flown away or gone to the back of the ledge.

A young Herring Gull struggled to keep its balance on a buoy at the Lido.

A Common Gull had found a much better buoy on the Round Pond, though shortly after I took this picture it was knocked off by a Herring Gull.

Shovellers have left the Long Water and the Serpentine, but there are still a few on the Round Pond.

The Black Swan stood proudly on the edge, the undisputed ruler of the pond whom none of the larger Mute Swans here dares to challenge.

I used to be puzzled by how the Mute Swans that sometimes flew into the Italian Garden fountains managed to leave. This video shows a swan going down the steps, squeezing through the railings, and jumping first into the lower basin of the marble fountain and then (unfortunately screened by the fountain) dropping from there into the lake.

So far I haven't managed to film a swan getting out of a pool on to the pavement, which involves a headlong rush against an 18 inch high kerb. But with luck I may catch this in the future.

A Pied Wagtail ran along the edge of the Serpentine.

A Dunnock perched in a bush at the back of the Lido.

While I was photographing the Little Owl, the usual Great Tit came over to be fed.

So did a Blue Tit near the bridge.

The number of crayfish in the Serpentine is subject to boom and bust, for unknown reasons. Mateusz at Bluebird Boats keeps an eye on the population by catching them in a net and then releasing them. There are a lot at the moment. They are all Turkish Crayfish. We used to have Signal Crayfish too, but none have been seen since the last big die-off in 2008 caused by accidental contamination of the lake with algicide when the Diana fountain was being cleaned. Both are foreign invasive species -- any native crayfish we had have long since disappeared.

Tom was a Rainham Marshes, where the weather was no brighter but he managed to get two good videos.

Long-Tailed Tits crowded on to a birch trunk. You may wonder why they found it so interesting. The answer is that suet had been pushed into cracks in the bark.

A male Pheasant browsed at the reflection pool.