Thursday 3 December 2020

 There has been a severe shortage of Blackbirds recently, not only in the park but elsewhere in London, and not just attributable to them moulting. But a very wet day brought out a couple to look for worms brought up by the rain. This one was near the Diana fountain ...

... and there was another, which we have seen before, in the olive tree behind the Lido.

Two Goldfinches twittered in a tree between the Rose Garden and Rotten Row, where they are often seen.

A Blue Tit perched in the big magnolia tree in the Dell, which has been misled by the recent mild spell into budding, and now faces a severe setback as the weather returns to the miserable December norm.

A female Chaffinch poked around under the holly tree bear the bridge. I was worried by the appearance of its bill. It doesn't have the papilloma virus disease that affects Chaffinches' feet and makes them scaly, but it might be affected by the Knemidocoptes mite whose irritation causes scales to develop on both bill and feet. Or it might just have poked into something sticky and not yet wiped it off.

A Carrion Crow checked a paper bag to see if there was anything edible in it.

The male Peregrine was on the rain-lashed barracks tower, looking huddled and miserable. His mate didn't arrive, and he flew off after a while.

The White-Fronted Goose was still in the Diana fountain enclosure, an excellent place for geese with lush grass, running water and railings to keep dogs out. It was a bit surprising that the only other geese there were three Egyptians.

The Grey Heron has been standing on the edge of the fountain for days, not doing anything but herons spend most of their time doing nothing.

The Goldeneye was furiously busy diving as usual. It came closer to the edge, allowing a reasonable picture in spite of the bad light.

A pair of Gadwalls scraped algae off the concrete edge of the lake.

The Red-Crested Pochard drake was in the Italian Garden as usual, his splendid coiffure completely unwetted by the rain.

A Great Crested Grebe did a particularly huge shrug-and-fluff gesture.

A Moorhen trotted along the grassy bank at the back of the Lido.

A young Herring Gull played with a crayfish claw. There was a large bite out of it presumably made by the gull which had then scooped out the contents.


  1. Very glad you could see the two distinguished exotic visitors today. I hope they will be persuaded to stay.

    Great to see two Blackbirds today. Ever since you sounded the alert I have been consciously looking for them, and they appear to have gone into hiding here as well. I see one daily, if at all.

    Is the Grebe trying to appear large and menacing? It only succeeds in looking fluffy and adorable.

    1. The grebe shrug is a comfort movement, I think, to relieve cramp or to settle uncomfortably arranged feathers. It only lasts a fraction of a second, then the bird recovers its normal shape and cruises on. I just happened to catch it at the most fluffed-up moment.

  2. Great shot of the Whitefront again Ralph. When I looked on London Birders Des McKenzie said he couldn't see it but 2 other observers did report it. May give it a go today depending on the weather. Good to see the Goldeneye again & lovely shots of the puffed up Great-crested Grebe & the dandy Red-crested Pochard.

    Yesterday I was responding to a Facebook post re Blackbirds & a lady said a disease had hit Blackbirds in the Netherlands a couple of years back. Doing some research online it appears a virus called Usutu virus, initially discovered in south Africa, which is transmitted by mosquitoes (similar in nature to West Nile Disease) was the cause of this & was recorded in London for the first time this summer. Birds tend to be lethargic & emaciated with this condition.. Blackbirds (& some captive owls seem particularly susceptible to this flavivirus). I suspect this is a major cause of the unprecedented (to me at least) lack of Blackbirds in our parks & gardens. I'm seeing better numbers in some of the wilder places I visit such as near Ten Acre Wood & around Ruislip. In my local municipal park I' heard one this week-my first for several weeks where normally several would be seen just passing through to the the shops!

    1. Thanks. It did seem that the only explanation for the lack of Blackbirds was a disease, and this sadly confirms it. I haven't seen any Blackbirds that look like migrants, i.e. young males in new places.