Sunday 18 August 2019

A Great Crested Grebe on the Serpentine was annoyed when a Cormorant surfaced nearby, and charged at it ...

... but was quickly sent packing by the larger Cormorant.

The young grebe at the island was next to the nest. Its father had just fed it, but the mother's wings are slightly raised and it looks as if the chicks are beginning to hatch and climb up on her back. We hope the parents will go on feeding the larger chick, which is far from old enough to fish for itself.

A Mute Swan in a bad temper flounced past.

Swans are fascinated by the powerful spray of water at the inlet in the Round Pond.

The two hybrid Bar-Headed x Greylag Geese that are often seen on the Serpentine had a pure Bar-Headed grandmother in St James's Park who mated with a Greylag and then with one of her own offspring -- birds have such genetic variability that they can survive considerable inbreeding. They are three-quarters Bar-Headed and a quarter Greylag. One looks exactly like a pure-bred Bar-Head, the other has a slightly speckled head. Both have the very long wings of Bar-Heads which have won this bird the world altitude record of over 25,000 ft in its native Himalayas.

The number of Egyptian Geese on the lake rose to about 110 a few years after the first ones arrived around 2002. It then fell to under 70. Now it has gone up again, and at my last count I found 94 in the park. There were a lot of them on the Long Water today.

Three recent small broods should add to the number.

The Tufted Duck on the Long Water still has five ducklings, but as usual one was wandering off on its own when I saw them.

A single female Mandarin appeared at the Vista. Probably the other three were in the bushes nearby. They spend a lot of time on land.

Moorhens love climbing up plants, and a patch of Great Willowherb, Common Reed and other plants on the little island in the Long Water was impossible to resist. They were probably finding insects to eat there, but they could do that at ground level.

Late a Grey Heron stood in the same place. The plants don't look strong enough to support it, but a heron is surprisingly light for its size, weighing less than 3 lb.

A pair of herons stood on the roof of the small electric launch. This is the pair that nested on the island in the tree immediately to the right, without result.

Several Mistle Thrushes ate fruit in one of the rowan trees on Buck Hill.

They assemble in a nearby maple before flying down to the rowans.

The cooler weather is bringing out more Great Tits coming to take food.

A Speckled Wood butterfly was well camouflaged in leaf litter next to the leaf yard.


  1. Bar-Headed Geese have further adaptations for high flight. It seems widely accepted that the Rüppell's Vulture and Common Crane have beaten the Bar-Headed Goose's record, but the first two may have 'cheated' by soaring. And as always a pleasure to tune in. Jim

    1. To be fair, it must be awfully difficult to find a thermal that will take you up to 25,000 ft.

    2. World glider records have been set at over 50,000 ft but the highest updrafts would likely be associated with mountains. This fits with Common Crane migration but the vulture's reported behaviour over Abidjan does seem a puzzle. Jim

    3. PS. As a Brit I should write "updraughts". Shameful! Also I wonder if a vulture might climb several miles up to shadow multiple vultures beneath it, especially if several tiers of this could occur. Jim

  2. I've read that the highest-flying bird ever was a Ruppell's vulture that unfortunately met with the wrong end of an airplane engine above 11,000 mts in 1973. I wouldn't put it past them to be able to fly, or soar, way higher.

    They are still rare in Europe, but there are several records of them in about 80 kms north from where I live, camouflaged among the usual griffon vultures.

    1. It must have been quite hard to identify the species of the poor vulture after it had been through a jet engine. DNA, I suppose.

    2. Yes, from a few feathers that were found. Sad business.