Friday 31 July 2020

It was hotter than yesterday, and many of the birds were clearly feeling the heat. The young Little Owl on Buck Hill was panting ...

... but its mother has seen hotter days and was looking quite comfortable in a nearby tree.

A young Egyptian Goose sprawled on the sun-heated stone edge of the Serpentine.

The dominant female Mute Swan on the Long Water gave up begging at Peter Pan and took the three cygnets back to the nest.

The Coot family in the Italian Garden fountain dashed around frantically in spite of the heat.

The Moorhen which nested in the willow next to the bridge fed two chicks in the shelter of the cool stonework. The calls in the background are not from the Moorhen chicks, which are rather quiet, but of the noisy young Great Crested Grebes on the far side of the tree.

These are now teenagers as large as their parents. But they will still need to be fed for a month or more. The art of fishing takes time to learn.

Now that the newest grebe chicks at the west end of the island are slightly bigger, it's possible to see that there are three of them.

A parent arrived to feed them.

The two chicks from the other end of the island are older. One of them raised a very large foot.

The Bar-Headed x Greylag Goose hybrid has now completely regrown its wing feathers. This is the one with the black-tipped bill. Its sibling with the pale tip hasn't been seen for a while and I think it's finished moulting earlier and flown back to St James's Park.

The pale Greylag, also now airworthy again, had flown up to the Round Pond.

A Grey Heron looked down disdainfully from a dead tree near the bridge.

The small birds were sheltering in the shade of the bushes. Only the Long-Tailed Tits were flying around in their endless pursuit of insects.

Duncan Campbell reports that the Egyptian Goose family on the traffic island at Marble Arch are still there after 98 days. He was worried that they weren't getting enough to eat, as the grass is cropped down and scanty. But they are also eating the plants in the flowerbeds, and getting algae and water fleas from the pool, and I think they're all right. When two of them flew out with their mother they came back after a day.

Tom was at Rainham Marshes and got a picture of a Hobby.

Thursday 30 July 2020

It was a hot day.

The small birds were keeping in cover, and there was only a distant glimpse of a Long-Tailed Tit in a holly tree.

It took three visits to Buck Hill to find the young Little Owl.

Jackdaws have taken over the nest hole once used by the Little Owls near the leaf yard.

A Great Crested Grebe chick kept cool in the shade of the willow near the bridge.

A Moorhen and a Coot had a tense faceoff in the Italian Garden. The Moorhen has a nest with chicks in one of the planters, and the Coot objects to it.

Seen from the bridge, a Mute Swan flew down the Long Water. They either have to haul themselves up to fly over the bridge, or splash down before they reach it and swim underneath. They won't fly under the arches, understandably as they are big and not at all manouevrable in the air.

The Black Swan extended its remarkably long neck to drink from the Serpentine.

A young Egyptian Goose enjoyed a splashy wash.

A shoal of young Common Carp about 3 inches long whisked around in the Italian Garden fountain.

The Small Red-Eyes Damselflies in the next pool had all decided to mate at once, somehow managing to fight at the same time.

An unusual picture by Mark Williams of a pair of butterflies mating. I think they must be Small Whites, but their position hides their markings.

A large hornet-mimicking hoverfly, Volucella zonaria, in the shrubbery at the foot of Buck Hill.

The wildflower patch at the back of the Lido hasn't done at all well this year, but it has managed to produce just one red poppy.

Finally, something really exotic. Martin Sacks sent this picture of a Fischer's Turaco (Tauraco fischeri), an East African bird, which has been living in West Hampstead Cemetery for the past two years. It makes strange froglike calls. It's not an escape from Regent's Park Zoo and no one knows where it has come from.

Wednesday 29 July 2020

The female Little Owl and her young one were in separate trees on Buck Hill.

The young one was bored, and yawned.

They were waiting for the park to close and the people and dogs to go away so she could go hunting.

A Wood Pigeon reached down to a bunch of elderberries. It was about to lose its footing and fall out of the tree.

A Robin beside the Long Water wasn't doing anything, but just being a Robin is a reason for a photograph.

A Grey Heron in the little stream in the Dell was in deep water but could just keep its feet on the bottom. Herons can swim, but not at all well.

Another heron looked uncomfortable at the end of a row of Cormorants.

A Great Crested Grebe flew up the Serpentine.

These are the grebes from the west end of the island. The chicks on their mother's back saw their father arriving with a fish for them and reached out to be the first to grab it.

The chicks from the east end of the island rested side by side.

The Coots' nest at the Dell restaurant is getting more and more enormous. It has eggs in it, but the Coot wouldn't stand up for long enough to let them be counted.

At the east end of the Serpentine what looks like a nasty mess to a human eye is a useful source of food for the Mallard and her four ducklings.

Having fed at the end of the lake, the Mallard and her ducklings hurried back to their usual place near the boat platform. It's amazing that four ducklings have survived this long on an open lake with dozens of Herring Gulls.

Some unfortunate midges were caught in a spider's web in the Dell.

Two interesting pictures from St James's Park by Joan Chatterley. A pair of Little Grebes have four chicks.

The Black Swans are now making their fourth attempt at breeding this year. They lost the eggs from their third nest, on the Pelican Rocks, and are trying again. It's a barren and exposed place and they are unlikely to succeed.

Tuesday 28 July 2020

A female Blackbird in the Rose Garden shrubbery collected sultanas that I gave her and took them to her fledgling, which was loudly calling for food.

A Robin waited for me to fill up the feeder ...

... and then flew boldly in, although there was a hulking great Rose-Ringed Parakeet on the other side.

Until today I'd been unsuccessful in filming Wood Pigeons eating blackberries. The birds had just pecked at them, which seemed odd for such big greedy creatures. But today two Wood Pigeons were balancing precariously in the brambles and fairly hoovering up the berries.

The young Little Owl was in the usual place in the lime tree on Buck Hill despite a gusty wind. I didn't see the mother.

The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull shared his latest kill amicably with his mate. A Carrion Crow tried to butt in, but one look from this fearsome couple sent it off.

This Black-Headed Gull is a regular visitor from Poland.

The Great Crested Grebe family from the east end of the island decided to expand their territory along the shore. The female of the family from the other end of the island saw them coming but she was alone and would lose any confrontation, so she prudently dived. Probably, as in previous years, they will settle for a frontier halfway along the island.

The family from the bridge were also staging an advance, and had parked their two chicks right in the territory of the other pair.

The Moorhens that nest every year under the boat platform seem to have produced only one chick. I gave the mother a peanut for it, but the Moorhen decided that it was too large for the chick and ate it herself.

Later I gave her some sunflower hearts and she decided that these were OK for the chick, so it wasn't disappointed for long.

At Peter Pan, the three Mute Swan cygnets and the Coot family with four chicks were touting for food.

On the Serpentine, the Black Swan gave me an intense red stare.

A pair of Greylags were mating near Bluebird Boats. So far this year no Greylags have managed to breed on the lake, though several teenagers have arrived from elsewhere.

The female was ruffled by this disagreeable experience and had a good wash to calm herself down.

Just along the shore, the Mallard still has four ducklings.

The young carp in the Italian Garden pools are now about 3 inches long.

Now I am going to blow my own trumpet. I've written a book, and it isn't about birds. It's a historical novel about the bear that Lord Byron kept in his rooms when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge -- yes, he really did, but the rest of the book is fictional. It's called A Bear's Diary, and that's exactly what it is.

You can buy it in hardback from the publishers, Troubador Books, here. There are also ebook versions in various formats -- see the links on the page.

The book is illustrated with old engravings.

It's supposed to be available on Amazon, but they have made a mess of setting up sales of the hardback and it may not be available from there for several days. However, if you go to the Amazon page for the Kindle edition and click on the image of the book cover, you will be able to read the first three chapters.