Friday, 27 November 2020

A Goldeneye appeared on the Serpentine, a rare visitor. It's a first-winter drake, not yet in full breeding plumage and still without the head feathers than give adults an odd profile.

Gadwalls are a familiar sight on the lake but I like photographing their discreet elegance.

A Moorhen examined a half lemon mistrustfully and left it alone. There aren't many things that Moorhens won't eat, but it seems that lemons are among them.

A Black-Headed Gull looked down from a lamp post. The park is lit by gas lamps, but this is at the dangerous corner at the north end of the bridge which needs brighter lighting. Even so, cars often go off the road here.

On the other side of the road Rose-Ringed Parakeets demolished the tiny fruits on a Japanese crab apple tree, as usual wastefully dropping much more than they ate.

At the far end of the bridge a Grey Heron stood on top of a cedar, one of their favourite lookout posts.

Both the Peregrines were on the tower, a bit closer together than usual which made it possible to get a video.

A Pied Wagtail ran up the edge at the Lido.

It looks as if the shortage of Blackbirds might be easing. I saw two today, a male in the Rose Garden and this female under a tree on Buck Hill.

A Magpie looked into a hole in a plane tree in the Dell, hoping to find insects.

A Carrion Crow perched on a stone crown in the Italian Garden.

The female of the pair of Coal Tits at the bridge came to my hand to be fed. The male is shyer and seldom comes, so he got photographed instead.

A Long-Tailed Tit hung upside down from a twig.

There is a permanent flood in the Rose Garden which has made it impossible to plant two of the flower beds. I talked to the people who were pumping it out, and they said that there was a 19th century culvert there. This may be an unknown tributary of the Westbourne. This picture was taken looking across Knightsbridge towards the course of the buried Westbourne where it flows south under Kinnerton Street.

Some jellyfish near the Albert Memorial.


  1. I always found it odd that the Goldeneye is Bucephala clangula whereas the Long-tailed Duck is Clangula hyemalis. With some interesting etymology including that Bucephala means 'bull-headed', referring in particular to the Bufflehead, this name being a corruption of 'buffalo-head'.

    The London Evening Standard has just reported on the Bluebird Boats dispute here. Jim

    1. In a world where Puffinus puffinus means the Manx Shearwater, everything is possible.

      Thanks for the link.

    2. I've been reading that "puffin", with some variants, was originally a word for cured, harvested Manx Shearwater chicks. The Romans would have called shearwaters mergus, a general term for waterbird/seabird. This of course now refers to larger sawbill ducks, with diminutive Mergellus applied to the Smew, in Latin called gavia, now used for divers (loons). Though a diver would probably have been called mergus again.

      Then there is "penguin", originally the name for the Great Auk (Pinguinus). While the generic name for the Black Guillemot Cepphus is a Latinised ancient Greek word for some pale waterbird. Jim

    3. Yes, how bird names move about, both then and now. Charadrius is a genus of plover now, but the Greek χαραδριός probably meant the Stone-Curlew, a bird whose staring yellow eyes were reputed to cure jaundice and possibly other diseases. Medieval bestiaries include the 'Caladrius', with the legend that if a king was ill this bird would be brought to him, and if the bird looked at him he would recover but if it looked away he would die (and then woe betide the keeper of the Caladrius because you don't bring bad news to the king).

  2. Maybe the Pregrines are warming to the idea of beginning courtship? Raptors court much earlier in the year, I think.

    Continuing with the etymology theme, Westbourne must mean "west-brook", right? I recall that in Tolkien's "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" the name of the river Snowbourn was derived from Old English snāwburna ("Snowbourn.Modernised form of Rohan (that is, Old English) snāwburna.Either use Snawburna,or in a language possessing related elements modernise the name to suit it: for instance, Schneebrunnen, Snebrønd, Snöbrunn.")

    Yes, all I know concerning English I learned from Tolkien.

    1. The river now called the Westbourne used to be vaguely called just the Bourne, though there are some place names along its course through Paddington that suggest it was also known as the Brook. It has a tributary called the Kilburn, which means 'stream stream' in Brythonic and Old English -- it's common for features to have synonymous names in the languages of successive invaders -- which has now given its name to a London district. A lower and smaller tributary is the Tyburn Brook (teo means border), which is not the same as the river Tyburn a mile to the east. The old village of Tyburn lay between these two little rivers.

      The modern name Westbourne comes from a 19th century housing development on the west side of the Bourne.

      This article is interesting and links to a very informative annotated Google map. I am told, though, that the source of the river has now been found to be a spring a short distance away from the pond.

  3. Well done on the Goldeneye. They seem less numerous in the London area in the last few winters probably due to milder winters so birds not travelling so far & staying on the continent. Staines Reservoirs must be the best place to see numbers in London .Think there have been 2 fairly recent breeding attempts in outer London but sadly none got to fledge-as you know duckling predation is high!

    Some lovely photos- love the female Gadwall portrait & the iridescence showing on the Magpie tail. Jellyfish quite endearing.

    1. There was an old notice on the Long Water, at least 20 years old and now replaced, showing the water birds you were likely to see, and it included Goldeneye. As far as I know there has never been a captive collection in the park, so it seemed surprising. At the moment we are not even seeing Goldeneye as much as once a year. As I have said before, I think that the Wetland Centre and other recently established reserves along the Thames have drawn off a lot of minority ducks that used to be seen in the park, which is no bad thing from a duck's point of view but disappointing to the watcher.