Monday 31 August 2020

The young Hobbies were on show: one in the top of a plane tree ...

... one flying around ...

... and one cheekily perched on the barracks tower where the Peregrines often go -- of course these were away at the time. It wouldn't turn round to show its face, but the variegated feathers on its back are clearly those of a young bird.

Robins have started singing again after their late summer break. Both sexes will continue to sing all winter and spring, as the couples have broken up and each one is defending his or her own territory.

A Long-Tailed Tit perched on a twig near the allotment ...

... and there was a Blue Tit farther down the hill.

Again, both of them had chosen hawthorns, which have some special attraction for tits.

The Feral Pigeons near the Dell restaurant allow the pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull to get quite close to them, as they are confident that they can fly away if he tries to grab them. Usually they're right, as he can only get them when they stop paying attention.

Anyway, he didn't make a catch and had to settle for a crayfish.

A Lesser Black-Back at the Round Pond had somehow got a very large fish. Virginia snatched this hasty picture on her mobile as she was going by.

Coots just can't stop making nests. This one is in a bizarre place even by the standards of Coots, in the drenching spray of one of the fountains in the Italian Garden.

The Black Swan preened its elegant feathers. It has its second set of flight feathers: the first set had black tips, and there are still slight dark traces on the tips of these. When it moults again next year the new feathers should be pure white. Actually this is a most impractical arrangement, as black melanin in feathers stiffens them up and makes them less likely to get frayed. Many pale birds have evolved dark wings to resist wear.

A Common Carder bee hung upside down from a borage flower at the back of the Lido.

The patch of wood chips under the plane trees south of the Physical Energy statue constantly produces a wide variety of mushrooms. At least ten species have appeared here. I thought at first sight that these were Fairy Ring mushrooms, but they don't look quite right for that.

Here is a view of the underside of a cap. The stem splits easily into stringy fibres.

Update: Mario writes, 'The mushrooms on the wood chips are Brittlestem mushrooms (Psathyrella spp). Psathyrella is a fairly large genus of saprobic gilled mushrooms with dark spore prints, "snap-able" stems, and frequently hygrophanous caps (meaning the caps often change colour dramatically as they lose moisture, sometimes resulting in two-toned specimens).'

Here are some ordinary Fairy Ring mushrooms from a circle on Buck Hill.

One should avoid stepping into these circles, as there is not always a friend to pull one out if things get strange.

Engraving from William Wirt Sikes, British Goblins: Welsh Folk-Lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions, 1880, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sunday 30 August 2020

The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull was on his second pigeon of the day and wasn't really hungry any more -- even gulls get full. He let Carrion Crows peck at it without driving them off ...

... and later abandoned it entirely.

The Diana fountain enclosure is one of the Herring Gulls' favourite places to look for worms, all the more so now that it is closed because of the Great Panic. This gull's dancing technique was very effective and brought up two in quick succession.

Two of this year's Black-Headed Gulls on the Long Water. This one is still in completely juvenile plumage ...

... but this one is a little older, and has the grey and brown plumage that it will wear until it moults again next year.

A Grey Heron was after the small fish that cluster in the shallow water off the Dell restaurant terrace.

Another was idly playing with a dead leaf in the dry Diana fountain.

A Great Crested Grebe on the Serpentine felt a bit sleepy ...

... so he had a good flap to wake himself up.

I went to look at the new blonde Egyptian Goose at the Round Pond. She is not as pale as Blondie and has darker flight feathers with a barred pattern. There is a similarly marked Egyptian on the Serpentine.

A pair of Red-Crested Pochards fed together on the Long Water. The drake  drove off a rival.

Ahmet Amerikali found a Nuthatch in the leaf yard, the first that has been seen here for months. It used to be the best place for them, but the mob of Rose-Ringed Parakeets attracted by people feeding them has had a very bad effect on native species.

He also found a female Blackcap in the same place.

Now that autumn has suddenly descended on us, it's the mushroom season. Neil was out photographing some.

This looks like the ordinary Ink Cap, Coprinopsis atramentarius, previously Coprinus comatus.

This looks like a Horse Mushroom, Agaricus arvensis. Instructed by our mushroom expert Mario, I know now that the the real identifier for this species is that it smells slightly of aniseed.

I am fairly confident that this is a Little Japanese Umbrella, Parasola plicatilis, formerly Coprinus plicatilis.

Neil though that this was a Russula, but there are lots of species in the genus. The ordinary test for a Russula is to prod the gills, which should be very brittle and break rather than bend.

Saturday 29 August 2020

The first cold morning of autumn made the small birds much hungrier, and they flocked to the feeder in the Rose Garden which I had just refilled.

Our resident House Martins left some time ago, but today there were a few over the Serpentine, on their way south.

The birds in the park don't like drinking the water in the lake, which comes from a borehole. Whenever rain produces puddles they drink from these, however muddy the water gets. Pigeons are the only birds that can drink continuously with their head down -- other birds have to take a beakful of water and throw their head back to swallow it.

A Long-Tailed Tit investigated a hawthorn twig. They seem to like hawthorn trees, evidently because they harbour a lot of insects.

Another beautiful picture by Julia of the female Kestrel in the Meadow.

A Herring Gull caught a crayfish ...

... but a begging young gull distracted its attention. A Carrion Crow saw an opportunity and carried the crayfish off, pursued by a Magpie.

We quite often see Black-Headed Gulls with one leg. The loss doesn't seem to hamper them much, and there was one gull which came to the Vista year after year.

A Grey Heron stared into a reed bed on the Long Water, hoping for a fish to emerge from between the stems.

One of the youngest Great Crested Grebe chicks from the west end of the island was out on its own. Even when younger than this they are pretty safe from gulls, thanks to their ability to dive instantly.

This is one of the much older ones from the nest near the bridge. They have more or less stopped begging from the parents and are at the stage where they dive with them, learning how to fish by watching the parent.

A young Moorhen, also from a nest near the bridge, rested on a post.

Ahmet Amerikali got this picture of Greylag Geese splashing down.

A pair of Mandarins could be seen at the Vista. The drake was too far away for a worthwhile picture, but you could see that he was coming back into his ridiculously gaudy breeding plumage.

Those of you who thought there was only one Spiderman will be gravely disappointed by this picture taken at the Lido restaurant.

Friday 28 August 2020

The three Mallard ducklings on the Serpentine are large enough to deal with some Feral Pigeons that try to take their food.

The Black Swan was in a belligerent mood and was escorting his rival off the premises.

The dominant male Mute Swan on the Long Water was taking no nonsense from a dog that its irresponsible owner had let into the lake. The dog fled. All swans hate dogs but this one has a particular grudge, as he was badly injured in a dog attack several years ago. There is a big scar on his leg where he was bitten.

A Greylag Goose flapped its mighty wings.

A progress report on the youngest two Great Crested Grebe chicks from the nest at the west end of the island, now quite large. Both had just been fed and were quite quiet for once.

A Cormorant perched on a branch on the island.

A young Herring Gull played with a bit of bark ...

... and another one with a sponge.

This gull was looking sadly tatty. It does sometimes happen to gulls of all species. Maybe their preen glands stop producing oil and they can't smooth their feathers.

A Peregrine appeared on the barracks tower.

But there was no sign of the Hobbies.

The Grey Wagtail was in its usual place at the top of the Dell waterfall ...

... along with a Robin which clearly had the upper hand and sent it away several times.

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits passed through the trees near the allotment.

Tom got a good shot of a male Great Spotted Woodpecker near Peter Pan ...

.. and Julia sent this pleasing picture of a Starling fluffing itself up.

There was a Willow Emerald damselfly at the back of the Lido.

Ahmet Amerikali got a fine picture of the big hornet-mimicking hoverfly Volucella zonaria.

A patch of Toadflax has come up on Buck Hill. A flower was visited by a little fly with very long legs, much smaller than a familiar crane fly.