Monday, 13 January 2020

A Carrion Crow chased a young Herring Gull around the Serpentine, just for the hell of it. The gull got bored and splashed down, ending the chase.

Another young Herring Gull played with a seed. The best gull toys are the ones that roll.

It was the day for the monthly count of water birds on the lakes and the Round Pond for the BTO. Counting Black-Headed Gulls is very difficult, and you have to do it very quickly by estimated tens to get an approximate result.

The number of Tufted Ducks has been steadily going up, and today there were 148 in the park. This picture shows the very skewed sex ratio of black and white drakes to brown females, largely due to females being predated while nesting.

In contrast, numbers of male and female Gadwalls are nearly equal, as they have a safe breeding place in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

Adult Greylag Geese usually have pink feet but this one, which has been on the lake for several years, has feet of a strong orange, much brighter than the butterscotch colour of young geese.

The colour is due to a carotene pigment, astaxanthin, but geese get lots of carotene from the grass they eat so this is not the cause. (But the very deep yellow of the pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull's feet probably does have a dietary cause from the amount of fresh meat he eats.)

This blonde Egyptian was in the place where Blondie usually stands, and for a moment I thought it was her. But in fact it's a bird with barred markings on the primaries -- Blondie's are plain ash grey -- who is usually on the other side of the lake.

Two Grey Herons stood quite close to each other, and it looked as if they were mates. But in fact they were separated by a wire fence, so they could get close without a fight breaking out.

The female Peregrine looked down from the barracks tower.

A Pied Wagtail hunted along the edge of the terrace of the Lido restaurant, a favourite place because spilt food attracts insects.

A Wood Pigeon stood on a very small stick in the water at Peter Pan.

It was a fairly sunny morning, and Mark Williams got a good picture of a Long-Tailed Tit in St James's Park.

But it got darker and darker, and by an hour before sunset it was Stygian. Then some mysterious lights came on beside the Long Water. It was a film crew who had prudently armed themselves against the weather.


  1. What time does the sun set this time of the year over there? Here by 18:30 PM it is dark enough to turn up the lights.

    They are having real fun, those two, one chasing, the other evading. True masters of their craft. But then again I'd glory in my wings, if I were one of them.

    More prosaically: I shudder to think to what purposes a larger gull would put rolling things.

    1. Here, at 51°N, the sun set at 16:17 GMT yesterday. That's 25 minutes later than in the pit of winter, but the days are still short.

    2. Had to look it up to see what were are w.r.t. GMT and we are +1, so that means sunset is 17:30 GMT. We are roughly on the same meridian as Dublin.

    3. The EU's forcing of Spain (and for that matter France) to use a time zone more appropriate for the Czech Republic is a shameful abuse of reality. Sometimes in summer western Spain is 2½ hours adrift from the real time. The sensible Portuguese have resisted it and use GMT.

  2. There has been conjecture in the literature about female Tufted Ducks tending to winter further south as with Common Pochard, but an overall sex disparity is clear in both species, with invasive American Mink and (Far Eastern) Raccoon Dogs in northern Europe a likely growing influence in the case of Tufteds. Jim

    1. Far Eastern Raccoon Dogs in northern Europe? The charming tanuki of Pom Poko? That's news to me.

  3. Do you do the WeBS counts in the park Ralph? I do mine on the Thames + an LNR in Barnes. Black-headed Gulls are certainly the trickiest species to count as they can be so mobile. worst thing is when somebody appears with bread + they all go up from different directions, some of which have been counted (behind me) + those yet to be counted (ahead of me). In my last 2 counts numbers of large gulls seem to have dropped. Unusually I didn't get a single Great Blackback when I did my count on Saturday.

    1. Yes, I do, but by agreement always on Monday because of the disturbance caused by weekend crowds, or on Tuesday after a bank holiday.