Wednesday 30 September 2020

An unexpected visitor to the Round Pond.

It's not the first time a Ringed Plover has been spotted in the park, but waders of any kind are seldom seen. When they do appear, it's generally at the Round Pond rather than on the larger lake. The pond is in an open place on high ground and can be seen from miles away, and I have an idea that it may be on a flyway where the tall golden spire of the Albert Memorial serves as a way marker.

I had gone to the Round Pond because the Black Swan was missing from the Serpentine. It had indeed returned for the second time.

The Black Swan seems restless and lonely. It's young and doesn't know its way around London, and is unaware that there is a group of Black Swans nearby in St James's Park.

A Grey Heron stood in front of a line of Cormorants on the posts at one end of the island.

At the other end a Cormorant balanced precariously on a chain to preen. It could perfectly well have climbed up to the post where it would have been much more comfortable, but it chose not to and was having to clutch the chain tightly with its not very grippy webbed feet.

Another heron waited on a branch of the dead willow near the Italian Garden until a fish came within reach.

It also caught a Migrant Hawker dragonfly.

A Moorhen in the stream in the Dell pushed down some reed stems to make a convenient place to stand.

Tom sent a fine picture of a Jack Snipe hiding in the reeds in Richmond Park.

One of the Grey Wagtails was back at the Lido restaurant.

A Blue Tit looked out from a bunch of holly berries at the bridge.

One of the usual pair of Coal Tits was in the same tree ...

...and Ahmet Amerikali got a picture of a Long-Tailed Tit here a couple of days ago.

On a dull and slightly drizzly day there were fewer insects in the ivy at the back of the Lido, but the numerous Common Wasps were still flying around and there was one European Hornet.

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Moorhens are generally more peaceful than Coots but fight in the same way, kicking and jumping on each other. They also try to seize their opponent's head. This battle went on for at least five minutes. This is the last two and a half minutes at the end of which a Coot, eager to join in the fight, rushed in and accidentally broke it up.

One of the Great Crested Grebes from the east end of the island, at last free from the duties of child care, fished under the small electric boat.

The edge of the Serpentine is thick with nasty-looking and rather smelly green algae. But to a Mallard they're a treat, and she was shovelling them down with gusto.

Disturbed by a dog, Canada Geese flew to the safety of the lake.

The one and only pair of Gadwalls are still on the Long Water.

The overnight rain had brought up plenty of worms, and various gulls, Carrion Crows and Egyptian Geese were massed on the Parade Ground looking for them.

Two Magpies enjoyed a splash in a puddle.

Near the Henry Moore sculpture, a Rose-Ringed Parakeet chewed a yew berry to extract the sweet juice before spitting it out. The ground underneath the tree was littered with sticky berries and broken twigs.

While I was filming this, one of the regular Blue Tits came out to be fed.

This Robin is usually on the railings here, but keeps to itself.

The Grey Wagtail appeared for a moment in the Dell pool, giving time for just one hasty shot.

I was baffled by this conflict involving a European Hornet, but David Element has explained what was going on. The picture below shows the hornet (brown and yellow) predating a social wasp (black and yellow -- probably Vespula vulgaris but impossible to tell without seeing the facial markings there are several similar species). The sting was being employed in a failed attempt at self-defence and a drop of venom has collected at the end. Hornets often catch and subsequently dismember smaller social wasps or Honeybees and they can easily collect them from ivy flowers at this time of the year. They also feed on the ivy flowers and they are comparatively easy to photograph in autumn, either on ivy or at sap-runs. I [DE] have seen a Common Wasp taking a freshly emerged Common Darter Dragonfly as prey.

The ivy was full of insects. I was looking for an Ivy Bee and didn't see one, but there were plenty of Honeybees.

I wasn't sure about this hoverfly, but Conehead 54 reckons it's Eristalis pertinax. It wouldn't turn round to show its face.

But this is certainly our old friend Myathropa florea with the Batman symbol on its thorax.

There are still lots of Greenbottle flies on the ivy flowers.

A Holly Blue butterfly perched on a leaf on the ground below.

Monday 28 September 2020

A flock of Long-Tailed Tits in a hawthorn tree ...

... carried along with it Great Tits ...

... Blue Tits ...

... and a Coal Tit, arriving late on the next tree and about to fly into the ever popular hawthorn.

The Grey Wagtail was back at the Dell restaurant.

A Wren in the Dell, photographed by Ahmet Amerikali.

A Lesser Black-Backed Gull kept the Carrion Crows away from the pigeon it was eating, one of the pigeon killer's leftovers. This gull with pale legs is constantly around the area and seems to be tolerated by the pigeon killer and his mate.

The crows had a pigeon of their own, possibly dead of natural causes. They were eating it in the middle of the Serpentine Road.

The Cormorants are now numerous enough to fish in mobs, an efficient method as one bird sactters the fish towards another. Thanks again to Ahmet for this picture. He said that there were ten in this group. You can never get them all on the surface together.

A Cormorant at the Serpentine island splashed about and leapt on to a post to dry.

A Moorhen in the Italian Garden had climbed as high as possible in a patch of purple loosestrife and was eating the seeds.

A couple of stale bagels defeated the best efforts of Mute Swans, Canada Geese and Coots to eat them.

A sunny day brought out the insects again, which were attracted to a clump of plumbago in the Rose Garden. There were a Honeybee ...

... a Common Carder bee ...

... and a tattered Small White butterfly ...

... while a dead leaf in the clump made a perch for a lustrous Greenbottle fly.

Neil found a small god about two feet tall under a tree near the Serpentine Gallery. I've occasionally seen Hindu gods in the park, but nothing like this.

Neither of us knows how to place it. The protruding tongue and style of painting suggest India, but the form is more like that of a Hawaiian tiki god or a figure on a North American totem pole.

Sunday 27 September 2020

 A Carrion Crow excavated fallen leaves from a hole in the concrete edge of the Serpentine, looking for insects. All it found was a feather.

A Grey Wagtail and a Dunnock foraged together on the edge of the lake at the Dell restaurant. A line of large planters on the edge of the terrace shields them from the chattering diners.

Goldcrests flitted about in the holly tree next to the bridge. The will have to work their hardest to stay alive when winter comes and the supply of insects diminishes. They've been lucky in having several consecutive mild winters, and the population is large now, but only a few survive a prolonged frosty spell.

One of the resident Mistle Thrushes rattled at a Magpie near the Dell. The migrant thrushes haven't arrived yet.

A family of Magpies squawked and bustled about in a catalpa tree.

Rose-Ringed Parakeets chewed bits off the soft travertine marble of the Henry Moore sculpture at the Vista. They can get grit off the paths, but that is granite chips and doesn't supply them with the calcium they need.

A chilly autumn day didn't stop Starlings from enjoying a splash at the edge of the lake ...

... nor Feral Pigeons from flirting.

A Black-Headed Gull waited by one of the air bubblers in the Long Water, hoping that it would bring up something edible.

There are now a lot of Cormorants on both lakes. It has been a good year for fish, and the Cormorants know it.

A Great Crested Grebe fished under the willow tree near the bridge, a place that Cormorants can't reach because they are too big to swim between the submerged branches.

There are ten teenage cygnets on the two lakes, from four broods. Eight of them came together when someone started feeding the birds near the bridge. It was a fairly peaceful scene ...

... though one of them raised its wings in annoyance at the squabbling Coots.

A pair of Shovellers came up near the Italian Garden. I think there are still only four on the lake.

A small insect trotted briskly across the balustrade at the top of the Dell. From its shape and long antennae I thought it might be a species of lacewing, but its wings seem too opaque.

Update: Jim has identified it as a species of Caddis fly -- an order, Trichoptera, related to the Lepidoptera, butterflies and moths.

Saturday 26 September 2020

A band of Long-Tailed Tits worked through a hawthorn tree, a favourite species of theirs.

Several Blue Tits accompanied them.

This charming video of Long-Tailed Tits bathing in a rock pool was sent by Jesús Porras, a birdwatcher and guide in Extremadura in western Spain. He has a blog at

Robin posed prettily beside the Long Water.

The Grey Wagtail in the Dell picked tiny creatures out of the pool, maybe Daphnia water fleas.

Duncan Campbell sent two pleasing pictures: a Feral Pigeon eating cardoon seeds in the Rose Garden ...

... and a Wood Pigeon bathing in a puddle.

The ground under the Henry Moore sculpture on the Vista has just been rotavated before being returfed. The turned-up soil is full of insects and worms, attracting a band of Jackdaws.

Carrion Crows socialised at a muddy hole in the Dell which is usually full of water.

A crow shouted insults at a Grey Heron on the roof of the Lido restaurant.

A young Herring Gull played with a lighter ...

... and another one had fished up a bit of broken bottle.

A Black-Headed Gull attacked a Red-Crested Pochard on the Long Water.

A pair of Gadwalls returned after several months' absence.

This Shoveller drake is getting his breeding plumage back, and already has a dark green head.

This one is still completely in eclipse, and looks like a female except for his yellow eyes -- females have brown eyes.

The three latest Moorhen chicks in the Italian Garden are now teenagers.

Although it was a chilly day, a rather tattered Common Carder bee was out in the wildflower patch at the back of the Lido.