Tuesday 15 January 2019

There was only time for a quick walk round the park this morning, but two Little Owls were visible again at the Queen's Temple ...

... and in the oak tree near the Albert Memorial.

A Long-Tailed Tit paused on a branch near the leaf yard.

A Cormorant in full breeding plumage is no doubt attractive to the opposite sex, but looks odd to us.

The male Egyptian at the Henry Moore sculpture has spent the last week waiting by himself while his mate is on her nest in a nearby tree. She only emerges briefly to eat and drink before returning to her eggs.

When two Coots start fighting, other Coots join in just for the fun of it.

The Great Crested Grebes from the west end of the island displayed as a gesture of solidarity while trying to extend their territory to the other end of the island.

People drop food on the terrace of the Dell restaurant, which attracts insects even in winter, and in turn that attracts Pied Wagtails which run around under the tables.

For the rest of today's blog, here's something I've been thinking of compiling for some time, a collection of pictures of gulls playing with toys. Mostly these are first- and second-year Herring Gulls, but the small Black-Headed Gulls also play, and there is even an adult Lesser Black-Backed Gull in one picture.

The most popular toy is a mossy stone dredged out of the lake, which can be dropped back in ...

... and retrieved until the gull gets bored.

Sticks are also favoured ...

... and they can be carried up, dropped and retrieved in midair, a skill which takes a young gull some time to learn but is very useful when trying to steal food from other gulls.

A chicken bone serves as well as a stick.

Anything can be dropped and retrieved, and this gull played for a long time on a frosty day with a burst tennis ball.

Other toys have included leaves ...

... bits of reed ...

... conkers, particularly enjoyable because they can be rolled around ...

... and plane seeds.

Odd bits of plastic are also liked, especially if they are brightly coloured ...

... or can be splashed around in a puddle ...

... or make an interesting noise when pecked.

Bits of broken bottle make an interesting tinkling sound when dropped on the tarmac.

Also seen, a green plastic sponge ...

... a wrist strap ...

... a baby's dummy ...

... and a small dinosaur.

The plastic buoys at the Lido can be walked along, with a big Herring Gull struggling to keep its balance ...

... or pushed around ...

... and pulling ropes is a favourite game.

Perhaps the oddest toy I've seen is a sample of carpet which got into the lake somehow.


  1. Great compilation. Clever gulls! And amusing to us.
    Also, I'm wondering if there's the odd coot that doesn't like fighting, and what that must be like - the pacifist amongst the Klingons.

    1. It seems that ordinary (Eurasian) Coots are much more aggressive than the other Coot species, Red-Knobbed and American.

    2. Semi-tangentially, there is a very popular Spanish poem about the world upside down that begins "Érase una vez un lobito bueno / al que maltrataban todos los corderos" (once upon a time there was a good little wolf who was bullied by all the lambs). Perhaps a pacifist Coot is like the good little wolf.

    3. Thank you. Found it on YouTube here. A good song.

  2. What a wonderful study of gull toys! It ought to be published in any reputable ornithology journal. Thank you so much for this.

    Glad to see you got to see the two Little Owls yesterday. Nulla dies sine noctua.

    1. The two female Little Owls both seem to be in permanent residence now, though sometimes you can only see a spotted corner as they huddle down in the bottom of their holes. I do hope they don't start breeding too soon.