Sunday 24 February 2019

This video by Neil is not much to look at, since it was shot on a mobile phone, all he had with him.  But it's interesting because it shows that some House Sparrows are clinging on in central London, from where almost all of them had disappeared by 2000. They are around Covent Garden Tube station and in Odhams Walk nearby. You can hear their unmistakable chirping, and see a few flying away at the end of the clip. This area is partly car-free, so probably air pollution is less severe than elsewhere in the centre.

Wrens, tiny as they are, seem to be more resistant to pollution, and are a common sight in quiet streets. I've seen one in a mews 50 yards from the Cromwell Road, which is reckoned to have the second worst air in London (after the Marylebone Road). This one was in the fairly clean area next to the Serpentine bridge, but even that has constant daytime traffic crossing the lake.

Coal Tits are another very small species that does well in London. This one was in the Dell.

Above it, the Mistle Thush fidgeted around in its nest in the plane tree.

Redwings are gregarious birds, but when they are hunting for worms they like to have a bit of space to work in. This one one the Parade Ground saw another bird getting too close, and warned it off with a call.

A Magpie had a face-off with one of the Rose-Ringed Parakeets that throng round the leaf yard.

People make rude remarks about Grey Heron chicks, comparing them to pterodactyls, but I think they are charming. Both are still alive and well in the nest on the island.

One of them flapped its already quite large wings.

Two off-duty adults perched in a cedar on the other side of the lake.

There are still some Cormorants on the lake. This fine picture of one flying up the Long Water is by David Element.

They have pretty much fished out the wire baskets next to the bridge. A Great Crested Grebe gave these the once-over, decided there was nothing to catch, and left.

The Coots' nest at the east end of the Serpentine continues to rise from the lake bed, where the water is at least 3ft deep. After laying a foundation of waterlogged branches, the Coots add a layer of dead leaves before starting to put down another layer of branches.

One of the Coots hauled up a submerged twig. At this stage all the nest materials have to be waterlogged, or else they would float away.

Moorhens are often seen on the moored pedalos. There are insects here for them to catch, and the convoluted plastic deck makes a splendid adventure playground for birds that enjoy climbing.

Several Honeybees were working over gorse blossom at the Lido.

Tom was at the RSPB reserve at Frampton Marsh, and got a distant picture of a Merlin. These little falcons are the size of Mistle Thrushes but just as fierce as their larger cousins, preying on small birds.


  1. Coots are marvels to behold. They oughtn't walk or swim well with those absurd feet, and yet they do, marvellously well. They dive like true champions. They would beat many human architects at their games. They are the honey badgers of the avian world: tCoots don't care.

    Sparrows in central London! Now that is **great** news! I still have hope that they will be back. If given half an inch, they will take it and make the most of it.

    1. Neil said that he hopes the new low-emission laws coming into force in London will help Sparrows to spread again. Although there are a very few maintained colonies in Central London north of the Thames, kept up my artificial feeding, this is the only wild colony I know about.

    2. Give them time enough, and I expect they will bounce back. The Chinese, to their eternal shame, exterminated them to a bird, and yet they are now almost back to their former numbers (thanks to imported Russian sparrows).

    3. Yes, I remember, it was one of Mao's insane ideas. The result was a plague of insects.

  2. Covent Garden Sparrows: music to my ears.

    1. We had one in the park a few weeks ago, so in a while we might just be able to hear that chirp again.