Thursday 31 January 2019

Two Mute Swans made their way through the thin ice on the Long Water to get to the edge, where someone was feeding the birds.

The freezing conditions have made all the Great Crested Grebes fly away to the Thames, except for these two which were poking around a possible nest site under the collapsed willow tree near the bridge. There is still enough clear water for their long takeoff run, so they can fly out tonight if they want to.

Little Grebes are less worried about being iced in, since they can take off from a run of only 3 feet. The pair were under the same tree, calling to each other.

Three Cormorants have remained on the lake, and were fishing under the bridge.

The Grey Herons on the lowest nest were looking into their nest as if they were still interested. Last year a late cold spell forced this pair to abandon their eggs.

The morning sunshine brought out Little Owls in all three of the usual trees: the horse chestnut near the Queen's Temple ...

... the oak near the Albert Memorial ...

... and the lime on the hill above the Henry Moore sculpture.

Tom got this spectacular picture of a Short-Eared Owl at Harefield, near Harrow.

When birds bank steeply they keep their head horizontal, unlike human pilots.

One of the Peregrines, I think the male, was preening in its usual place on the barracks tower.

A Rose-Ringed Parakeet was hanging around the big hole in one of the two plane trees near the boathouses. This is bad news for the Starlings which usually nest there.

A small flock of Redwings twittered gently in a tree on the Parade Ground.

A Pied Wagtail sprinted around the newly turned earth where the area is being returfed. This is a male, with a black back.

Another rummaged in the debris washed up on the shore of the Serpentine. This is a female, with a grey back.

A Long-Tailed Tit was poking round on the ground in the woodland on the east side of the Long Water.

You don't generally see these birds on the ground unless they are collecting feathers for their nests. But there are peanut shells in the foreground where someone has been feeding the squirrels, and the tit may have been looking for leftover bits of nut.

Wednesday 30 January 2019

Another frosty night, and the Black-Headed Gulls were out on the ice on the Long Water. They are quite insensitive to having freezing cold feet.

Another investigated a toffee packet on the edge of the Serpentine, which sadly was empty.

We've seen this pair of Lesser Black-Backed Gulls before, and they've been together for several years, usually near the Lido But their frequent affectionate displays are always interesting. Here they are walking side by side and calling together.

Coots also seem to like being cold and wet, and often stand under the fountains in the Italian Garden getting drenched.

There was a good deal of jostling and chasing among the Mute Swans on the Long Water.

But as soon as the dominant pair start nesting, all other swans will be thrown out and kept out.

The beautiful markings of a Gadwall drake showed well in the sunshine.

The odd couple of a Red-Crested Pochard drake and a female Mallard preened side by side. The drake thought it was time for a little swim around, and pecked her mildly to get her moving.

One of the Little Grebes was fishing under the collapsed willow tree next to the bridge.

The Little Owl in the horse chestnut at the Queen's Temple ...

... and the one in the lime tree near the Henry Moore sculpture enjoyed the sunshine on a cold day.

When Neil passed by the Henry Moore owl he found her quite active, and shot this video of her scratching and moving to another branch.

A Jackdaw found a larva in the woodland on the east side of the Long Water.

There are two Robins here which come out hoping to be fed, but haven't yet taken the plunge of coming to my hand.

A Starling separated from the flock on a tree beside the Serpentine nattered quietly to itself.

There were workmen on the part of the Parade Ground where the Redwings (and with luck Fieldfares) congregate, which had temporarily frightened the birds away. But David Element was in Balham, and got this excellent picture of a Fieldfare.

One rabbit was out on the grass under the Henry Moore, looking lonely.

I wonder whether the population, severely challenged by predators and disease, will ever recover. A few years ago I saw 33 rabbits here.

Tuesday 29 January 2019

Yesterday Neil heard what seemed to be a House Sparrow in a holly tree on the west side of the Long Water between the bridge and the Vista. He couldn't see it in the tree, so he made a sound recording. You can hear it chirping several times against the background of a Robin singing. If this really is a sparrow, it's only the second one to be found in the park since 2000. The first one showed briefly near Kensington Palace.

This is Neil's photograph of the tree. It's just to the south of the broken horse chestnut.

The Long Water had partly frozen in the night. Black-Headed Gulls were standing around on the melting ice, as they like to do.

A Herring Gull was a bit unsteady, but it enjoyed picking up a bit of ice and dropping it to make it smash.

The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull had already had his breakfast and flown away, leaving a few scraps on the carcass for another to pick off.

English Lesser Black-Backed Gulls are considerably paler than Continental ones, but this one is so light coloured that it might be a Herring Gull hybrid.

Fish was also on the menu, though it was none too fresh.

A Moorhen also had a go.

The Red-Crested Pochard and his Mallard mate had left the Italian Garden and were cruising around on the lake below.

A few Redwings have now arrived on the Parade Ground, as they do every year after the Winter Wasteland has gone and the area is fenced off for returfing. There will be more in a few days.

Carrion Crows and Black-Headed Gulls looked for insects and worms in the freshly turned earth, completely unworried by the huge tractors charging around.

A little flock of Starlings foraged in a patch of surviving rough grass.

A Carrion Crow dunked a larva in a puddle to make it more palatable.

The Little Owl near the Henry Moore sculpture was out at the front of her hole.

Both Peregrines were on the barracks tower.

A few Long-Tailed Tits clustered around the feeder in the Dell.

Underneath, a Robin perched in a small sapling that is going to be a mighty cedar when it grows up.

Tom went to Alexandra Palace and found a female Black Redstart on the stonework.

Monday 28 January 2019

The Great Black-Backed Gull was on the Long Water for the third day running. Here it is next to a Cormorant.

It caught a large fish, probably a perch though it's hard to see, and ripped it to pieces. A young Herring Gull waited for the chance of getting a scrap.

Black-Headed Gulls swooped hopefully overhead, waiting for the huge bird to move away.

More Shovellers have arrived on the Long Water. The chief attraction here is the air bubblers that are supposed to oxygenate the water, which bring up a lot of silt and with it the little water creatures that Shovellers eat.

Several Grey Herons squabbled beside the Serpentine.

The Little Owl at the Queen's Temple was enjoying the sunshine ...

... and so was the one near the Henry Moore sculpture ...

... but, sad to say, the squirrel has reclaimed the hole near the Albert Memorial.

There are plenty of other holes in the surrounding oak trees, some of which are better than the one the pair of owls here chose, as they don't let in the rain. But if they move, we shall have the trouble of finding them again.

The bold Wren in the Rose Garden dashed around under my feet.

The equally bold Wren in the Flower Walk was also visible. It's not sure that this is the same Wren as the one last year -- Wrens are short-lived birds -- but it is in the same places and behaves in the same way.

Takaki Nemoto went to Euston to try to find the Waxwing on a day when the light was good ...

... and succeeded splendidly.

Two good pictures from Mike Meilack: a Long-Tailed Tit waited for a turn on the feeder at Kensington Palace ...

... and a fox appeared on the far side of the Archery Field.

I've never seen a fox there before, but London is so full of foxes now that it's not a surprise to see them anywhere.

Sunday 27 January 2019

The Great Black-Backed Gull was still on the posts at Peter Pan. Here it is among Lesser Black-Backed Gulls.

A stiff breeze allowed Black-Headed Gulls to hover motionless while trying to grab a bit of bread that someone was holding up.

This Grey Heron on the Mute Swans' island in the Long Water seems to be on land, but is actually fishing. The swans have torn a great hole in the island with their ceaseless destruction of plants, and only about a third of it is left. If it isn't mended soon it will disappear altogether. I have mentioned this to Tony Duckett.

The young heron in the Dell was fishing between the upper and lower waterfalls.

The pair of Little Grebes appeared under the dead willow near the Italian Garden. They are now in their breeding plumage. Thanks to Ahmet Amerikali for this fine picture.

The wind had whipped up some choppy little waves on the Serpentine, but a Great Crested Grebe rested undisturbed as it was bounced up and down.

The territorial dispute at the island is still going on, and one grebe was guarding the territory.

Tom was at Dungeness, and found a Goldeneye drake. You don't think of them as larger than Great Crested Grebes till you see the two together.

There used to be a small population of Goldeneye on the Long Water, strange because there has never been a captive bird collection here. But in the six years I have been doing this blog I have only seen two.

The Red-Crested Pochard drake dozed peacefully ...

... beside his Mallard mate and another Mallard drake who has now attached himself to the pair. The pair of Gadwalls were busy in the foreground. A Tufted drake surfaced in the middle.

Another good picture from Ahmet Amerikali, a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the leaf yard.

The Little Owl at the Queen's Temple was out in the morning, but retreated as the weather steadily turned nasty, eventually to hail and thunder.

A pair of Starlings in the leaf yard shone in the weak winter sunlight as they nattered to each other.

You can tell the difference between male and female starlings by looking at the base of the bill. In males it has a slightly blue tinge. In females, as here, it's slightly pink.

A Chaffinch under one of the feeders in the Rose Garden sheltered beneath the gate to avoid being knocked over by the Feral Pigeons that were swarming about.

This is the other feeder in the Rose Garden. You usually only see a few Blue Tits in the park, considerably outnumbered by Great Tits. And then a flock comes along and you realise that there are really quite a lot. A Coal Tit also appears at the end of this clip.