Sunday, 26 January 2020

On another grey morning the sun almost came out for a few seconds just as I was photographing a Goldcrest in the leaf yard.

Both the sun and the Goldcrest quickly retreated. A Blackbird looked out from under a bush.

A single Long-Tailed Tit flitted about in an olive tree near the Lido restaurant, calling constantly to try to pick up the rest of the flock.

The hoarding around the Winter Wasteland has been removed, leaving a scene recalling Flanders in the First World War. Two Carrion Crows dug in the mud, and one of them found a small worm.

Starlings washing on the edge of the Serpentine were interrupted by the hybrid Bar-Headed Goose barging into their bathing place, but resumed as soon as it went.

Three Greylag Geese preened in a row on the edge of the Serpentine.

Blondie the Egyptian Goose was in her usual place, and passed the time by having a scratch.

A pair of Canada Geese are showing interest in nesting on the Mute Swans' island in the Long Water. The last time they did this, the swans threw them out and started nesting themselves. But there is always a successful Coot nest on the island, and the swans seem to tolerate it.

A pair of Coots have built a nest between two of the wire baskets surrounding the island.

More nesting activity on the island: there were two Grey Herons in the upper nest on the side facing the shore ...

... and also in the nest on the other side, though one of them flew away as I was photographing them.

A young Herring Gull played with a stone.

There are now just two Shovellers on the Long Water.

Their annual numbers have fallen steeply in the last ten years, from fifty or more to just a handful. Other minority ducks have also declined: no Pintails or Garganeys have been seen here for years, and only an occasional Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye or Scaup. One reason for this may be the greater attraction of recently opened nature reserves along the Thames, such as the Wetland Centre at Barnes.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

There were two Grey Herons in the nest on the south side of the island, displaying to each other.

A Mute Swan toiled up the slope at the back of the Lido to join his mate, and they too had a little display.

Another pair courted near the Dell restaurant, safe from interference by the Serpentine bully ...

... who was throwing his weight about at the other end of the lake.

You can tell a female Gadwall from a female Mallard by the colour of the little white square where its secondary feathers show when its wings are loosely folded. In a Gadwall it's white, in a Mallard it's iridescent dark blue.

A Moorhen ate algae off a post at the Vista.

Also at the Dell restaurant, it looks as if the Coots have started rebuilding their nest under the balcony. This doesn't look like much, but it's the top of a tower of sunken twigs and branches well over 2ft high, and just getting the top level with the water is an achievement.

Probably a certain amount of last year's nest was still in place, as some of the branches were so huge that you could hardly believe a Coot could move them. I waited for a while to see if the Coots would return to carry on the work, which would have made a better picture, but they were away somewhere else.

A Carrion Crow called loudly from an umbrella on the terrace.

A pair of Magpies at the Lido were clearly fond of each other.

One of the Jays near the bridge was waiting for the usual peanut.

Just one Little Owl today, the female near the Henry Moore sculpture.

A Robin sang on a bush in the Rose Garden.

Another stared seriously from a bush beside the Long Water,

Seen in Kensington Gardens: I don't know what you call this, but he's good at it.

Friday, 24 January 2020

In spite of the dull weather two Little Owls were visible today, both female: one near the Albert Memorial ...

... and the other near the Henry Moore sculpture.

Both pairs have become much more active recently, but I don't think they're starting to breed yet. Usually Little Owls wait until spring is well advanced before beginning.

At the Dell restaurant, two Carrion Crows were attracted by a plate with the remains of some chocolate cake on it, but were wary of the plate, walking around it cautiously and eating the crumbs which had fallen on the table.

In his book Mind of the Raven, Bernd Heinrich observes that Ravens are afraid of new food and have to examine it long and carefully before they start eating. This must be a protective reflex. If you're eating carrion, you need to be sure it's really dead and won't turn round and bite you.

At the Lido restaurant, the usual Dunnock was having no hesitation in catching insects.

A Long-Tailed Tit paused for a moment in the corkscrew hazel bush in the Dell.

Two Grey Herons hurried over to where others were being fed.

A Magpie washed in the Serpentine.

One of the Bar-Headed x Greylag Goose hybrids had flown in from St James's Park and was drinking on the edge.

An Egyptian Goose ate algae off the marble fountain in the Italian Garden, which is still out of order.

Feeding the dominant Mute Swan on the Long Water and his single teenager from last year. The seeds sink, giving the diving Tufted Ducks a good chance of getting some in the frenzy.

As the dark grey day went by, more Mute Swans came up to eat the grass on the bank at the back of the Lido swimming area. The grass is good but the swans are at risk from irresponsible dog owners who let their pets loose. Today the dull weather kept most of these out of the park.

The Black Swan on the Round Pond chased a Mute Swan away and forced another on to the bank. It can dominate all the swans on the pond except for one big male. This may lead to a serious final showdown.

Joan Chatterley sent a picture of the young Black Swan in St James's Park.

Its peculiar two-tone neck hasn't changed visibly since the last picture. If it's growing a new set of pure black feathers, it's not doing so quickly. The Black Swan on the Round Pond is only a little older, but much blacker.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

The Redwings were again feeding near the south edge of the Serpentine, but were frightened into a tree when someone blundered past with a dog.

The Robin at the Lido perched in a dogwood bush.

This shy bird is gradually getting tamer, and can be tempted out by throwing a few seeds on the ground. It's also getting used to the camera.

The same applies to the Chaffinches at the bridge. This is the female of the pair lurking under a bush.

A pair of Rose-Ringed Parakeets stood guard over a hole in a plane tree that they have stolen from the Starlings which used to nest here.

The female Little Owl near the Henry Moore sculpture was out on a branch having a scratch.

I heard the Little Owls at the Albert Memorial calling to each other, but all I saw was one of them vanishing into a hole in the oak tree halfway down the hill to Queen's Gate, where I photographed the male a few days ago.

There are never many Lesser Black-Backed Gulls on the Serpentine, where they are vastly outnumbered by Herring Gulls which breed locally. Today four new ones had arrived and were perched on the posts next to the bridge.

A young Herring Gull precariously balancing on a small plastic buoy reached down carefully to have a drink.

This Common Gull has unusual bright mustard-coloured legs. Their legs can be any colour from off-white through yellow and green to dark grey.

A Coot stood under a fountain in the Italian Garden, deliberately getting soaked. Perhaps this a good way to rinse out parasites.

A Carrion Crow bathed at the top of the waterfall in the Dell. They like to have short splashes alternating with shaking themselves dry, which they seem to find effective in washing out the bugs.

Often this place is occupied by a pair of Mallards.

It was inspection time for the angels on the Albert Memorial.

Another curious stucco lion, on a house at the corner of Queen's Gate Terrace and Gloucester Road. Green Men, nature spirits spouting foliage, are a traditional decoration for buildings and are often found on Queen Anne Revival houses of the 1890s, but this is the only Green Lion I have ever seen.

The building dates from the early 1860s, when this area was being built up for the first time. Formerly this spot was the crossing of Hell Lane and Hogmire Lane, but the new development called for grander names.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

It was a dull misty day, the worst conditions for photography. But surprisingly there there three Little Owls to be seen. Near the Henry Moore sculpture, first the male ...

... and then the female owl came out of the hole in the lime tree.

Both these pictures were taken from the same spot. The difference in their sizes is very striking.

The male owl near the Albert Memorial looked out of the hole in the afternoon. He's looking quite large because he's fluffed up against the chill, but the rather flat top to his head and the big eyebrows show him to be male.

The Grey Herons' nest on the south side of the island has been continuously occupied for several days. It's the only nest here that seems to be active at the moment.

A Black-Headed Gull picked up a stick and took it to the line of buoys at the Lido, where the neighbours eyed it enviously.

The pigeon-killing Lesser Black-Backed Gull is now almost completely back to his shining white breeding plumage. He is a very fine figure of a gull, and he knows it.

The Great Crested Grebe pair at the bridge are reserving their nest site under the willow tree.

The marble fountain in the Italian Garden has been out of order for several days. A Moorhen ate algae off the top.

Moorhens will eat almost anything, and that's the secret of their success. But what tiny things, invisible to both the eye and the camera, is the Moorhen eating here? It's certainly getting something, because at one point you can see it chewing.

A pair of Mute Swans are back behind the railings of one of the small boathouses starting another nest. The railings don't make it safe, as a fox can easily wade round the end.

A female Tufted Duck turned upside down in the water to preen her white belly.

A Blue Tit near the bridge added a bit of colour to the day.

A Dunnock picked up split seeds under the feeder in the shrubbery at the Rose Garden. It was so dark in there that you could hardly see it.

Two pictures from yesterday to cheer up today's grey scene: a fine picture of a Little Egret preening south of the river by David Element ...

... and a bright Goldfinch on a teasel at Rainham Marshes by Tom.