Monday 14 January 2019

Two Little Owls were visible today, at the Queen's Temple ...

... and near the Albert Memorial.

I was worried about the second pair of owls, because yesterday when I passed the hole I saw a squirrel in it.

But the owl seems to have got rid of the intruder. Little Owls may be tiny, but they have terrible claws and are ready to use them. In all recent pictures of owls in holes, it has been the female on show. They are bigger and stronger than males, and definitely the owners of the nest holes where they incubate and raise their eggs.

There was nothing exciting to see in the lowest Grey Heron nest on the island, just the head of one bird sitting on the eggs. So here is a view of the other two nests on the shore side of the island.

They always have one bird standing in them, which seems to be a sign that they are not yet incubating, but sometimes you see them poking in the nests as if eggs had been laid. The eggs will stay alive for a while without being incubated, so that eggs laid on different days can all develop more or less at the same time once the bird warms them by sitting. But if the promised frosty weather comes, their attempt will fail and they will have to try again later.

There are about 45 Common Gulls at the Round Pond, and only a few on the main lake.

It's like this every winter, and I wonder what the Common Gulls find attractive in this bare, windswept place. It may simply be that there are never many of the larger gulls here, so they don't get bullied much.

We only ever have a few Lesser Black-Backed Gulls, and they tend to prefer the Long Water to the Serpentine. There were six at Peter Pan today, including these four in a row.

Again, perhaps, they keep off the Serpentine to avoid the numerous Herring Gulls, of which there are sometimes over 100. The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Back on the Serpentine, an unusually large gull who jealously guards his patch, may also have something to do with it.

A Cormorant caught a fair-sized perch in the old water filter under the marble fountain of the Italian Gardens.

The semicircular stone wall around the filter provides shelter for the fish, and they spawn there. But the Cormorants are hoovering them up at such a rate that there will be few left in the spring.

The Great Crested Grebes at the west end of the island were making a vague attempt to attach a nest to the back of the wire basket -- you can see the weed draped over it. They don't have the skill to poke twigs through the mesh in a way that will make them stick, so they won't succeed here. Last year this pair nested successfully in the same place by waiting for a Coot to build a nest, and then stealing it.

The grebes at the bridge were mooching around under the willow tree.

A Moorhen stepped delicately off a stone block at the Lido. Their huge feet are fascinating. They can swim quite briskly in spite of having no webs, by using a sort of underwater bicycling action.

Two pairs of Gadwalls were dabbling and upending at the Lido. The first method is used to get food off the bottom in shallow water -- mostly algae and water plants. The second is used farther out where the water is deeper.

The Bar-Headed--Greylag Goose hybrid was touring the Serpentine calling plaintively in its rather quiet voice. Perhaps it is missing its relatives and will return to them in St James's Park.

Two Wood Pigeons ate pansies in the Rose Garden.

There is always a large gang of Feral Pigeons on the top of the holly tree at the southwest corner of the bridge. As I passed, there was an explosive clattering of wings as they fled in panic. Looking up, I saw that a pair of Carrion Crows had knocked them off the branch, just for fun. They cawed to each other, looking pleased with themselves.

The woman with the painted pigeons was at the top of the Dell, where she had set three of the four down on the parapet. They are all painted -- you can see an unnatural gloss on one of the black and white ones.

She was holding the fourth, which is the gaudiest of them all, but I didn't photgraph it because she is running an operation (I won't say a racket) where you have to pay £5 to photograph her birds. This is illegal in the park, of course, though hardly a major crime. I discovered that she is Bulgarian, and the fancy white pigeons are bred by her father. They can all fly, though probably not all that well with those ridiculous feathers, but are accustomed to her and never fly away. She travels around with them in a perforated suitcase, probably earning a reasonable living. Is this cruel? Not really, I'd say, as long as she uses non-toxic colours. The pigeons seem content enough.


  1. Pigeon woman shouldn't charge you for the free advertising. Jim

    1. I didn't pay her. A 450mm lens gives you a free pass.

  2. I'm conflicted about the pigeons. They appear to be well fed and cared for, and the fact that they don't leave means that they are attached to their owner. But on the other hand to ask for money to take pictures of the pigeons is at best morally suspicious.

    When I was little one of the things I always looked forward to when we visited a neighbouring town was purchasing days-old chickens painted very different colours from the market. They kept dying on me, though, all except one painted pink which grew up to be a freakishly large if crazily aggressive white rooster. To retrieve the eggs daily, my father had to enter the coop armed with a large stick and still the bird would lauch itself at him like a madman, er, madbird. I chalk that up to the chicken's childhood trauma at being pink.

    1. Not just a problem for males. Perhaps the confused state of girls today is due to their parents having dressed them in that compulsory and horrible colour. These is a particularly common shade of grubby pink that I think of as Die böse Farbe.