Monday 21 September 2020

 A small falcon perched on a tall tree on Buck Hill. I thought it was our usual female Kestrel, but it turned out to be one of the Hobbies. In this backlit picture you can just see the red tinge around its legs, showing that it's an adult.

As I was approaching the tree for a better picture a Magpie landed on the next branch, scaring it off ...

... and was promptly sent packing by a Carrion Crow.

On a warm afternoon a crow cooled off in the Serpentine ...

... and so did a Magpie ...

... while a Jackdaw preferred to stay in the shade of the Henry Moore sculpture.

Bathing is a social occasion for Feral Pigeons.

Starlings feasted on the fruit of the cabbage palm next to the pool in the Dell.

People often use the word 'murmuration' to describe one of those spectacular mass flights of Starlings. But in fact the word is simply the term for a flock of Starlings, a collective noun like 'a skein of geese' or 'a murder of crows'. And from the way they murmur when there is a group of them in a tree, you can understand why.

A Long-Tailed Tit was comfortably hanging upside down in a hawthorn tree.

A Grey Heron perched high in a wellingtonia.

The common English name for this tree, which is actually an American Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum), comes from a failed patriotic attempt by John Lindley in 1853 to name it after the Duke of Wellington, who had recently died. However, the name 'Wellingtonia' had already been given to another plant. An American, Charles F. Winslow, tried to name it 'Washingtonia' the following year, but this name too had already been used. Eventually the tree was named after the Cherokee chief Sequoyah by Stephan L. Endlicher, an Austrian botanist and linguist who admired the chief and corresponded with him in the Cherokee language, for which Sequoyah had invented a special alphabet.

Update: Mario points out that I got the tree wrong. It's a very tall Himalayan Cedar or Deodar (Cedrus deodara). Oh well, I will leave the story as I wrote it.

A Great Crested Grebe dived in the Long Water, giving a view from the balustrade of the Italian Garden.

This teenage Coot is almost grown up and is developing its adult face. The technical term for the white forehead is a 'cere'.

The Black Swan has moved back to the Round Pond. It may have had trouble with one of the dominant Mute Swans on the Serpentine or Long Water.


  1. Very interesting about the Sequoyah; thank you.

  2. Except that that tree is not an American Giant Redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum),but an Himalayan Cedar (Cedrus deodara)!

    1. Oh dear. It looked too tall for a deodar -- the one in the Dell is quite squat.

  3. Excellent picture sequence of the Hobby-Magpie-Crow evicting each other!

    My favourite collective names are a wisdom of owls and a charm of goldfinches. I have not been able to fit them into ordinary conversation just yet, but it's not for lack of trying.

    Always a treat to have a glimpse of Grebe feet at work from above.

    1. Actually if you use almost any of these fancy nouns of assembly in conversation you look a bit pretentious. They were invented as an in-joke for well-to-do landowners.

    2. Don't tell me I can't say "a flamboyance of Flamingos" in polite company... my day is ruined.

    3. Well, you could try, after adopting a suitably wild poetic look.

  4. I've always liked 'an exaltation of larks' - though we'd be surprised to get one of those in HP

    1. Even in places where there are Skylarks they seem to arrive one at a time.