Friday 31 December 2021

There was a good attendance of thrushes around the rowan trees on Buck Hill, with several Mistle Thrushes ...

... a Song Thrush ...

... a flock of Redwings ...

... and the local family of Blackbirds that live in a nearby hawthorn.

Only a Fieldfare was missing. We may have to wait for the Winter Wasteland to be dismantled to get a chance of seeing one, as they often come to pick up worms from the ruined grassland.

A Blackbird clucked uneasily because there were Magpies and Jays in the nearby tree, but it wasn't in full-scale fury or panic.

A surprise was to see a Blue Tit eating rowan fruit. I had thought they only visited these trees to look for insects, but I was wrong.

It took three visits to see as much as one eye of the well hidden Little Owl.

A Robin looked out from a rose bush in the Rose Garden.

A Carrion Crow drank on the edge of the Serpentine.

Two Grey Herons were in a nest on the island, with three more nearby.

One landed delicately on a very thin branch which sagged three feet under its weight, but herons have such perfect control of slow flight and balance that it was not troubled by this tricky touchdown.

The Black-Headed Gull at the Diana fountain landing stage, prematurely in full breeding plumage, warned other gulls not to dare to enter its territory.

Both the rabbits were at the Henry Moore sculpture.

Snowdrops are coming out near the Dell.

And now for something completely different. When drains get blocked in the park, a firm called Hydro Cleansing is called in. They have a fleet of beautifully decorated vehicles, and this is one of their latest acquisitions, a vacuum tanker depicting the Wrath of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. The driver told me that it took the artist two months to execute this wonderful set of paintings with an airbush.

They also have a tanker with pictures of the Hydra, the fearsome many-headed sea monster which grows ten new heads for every one that a hero cuts off. I look forward to seeing it. How this art cheers up a mundane and smelly task.

A very happy New Year to all readers, and thank you for faithfully reading the blog during a dull season without much to report.

Thursday 30 December 2021

For several days I've been hearing a Green Woodpecker calling, on both sides of the Long Water but it's probably the same bird as they move around a lot. Here it is on Buck Hill.

The female Little Owl was in the usual tree but even harder to see than usual. If you want to get a better view I'd advise going as it begins to get dark and they emerge to start hunting when the people and dogs are gone.

A Redwing waited in the top of a rowan tree to go down and pick fruit from the lower branches, where there is still some left after several days of serious feeding.

The resident Mistle Thrush waited in an adjacent tree. It seems to leave Redwings in peace, but if a Jay or a Magpie landed in the tree the thrush would attack it furiously.

There is often a Pied Wagtail on the Serpentine Gallery, attracted by the slate roof in whose crevices insects lurk.

It's the same story at the small boathouse with a roof of heavy green slates.

A Robin sang in the Rose Garden, raising its voice to be heard over the din of the funfair.

A Long-Tailed Tit was part of a mixed flock looking for insects in brambles near the Queen's Temple.

The Coal Tit in the Flower Walk followed me the whole way along. It seems to be storing the pine nuts it gets in the cedar tree at the back of the Albert Memorial.

This Black-Headed Gull, conspicuous by having gone into full breeding plumage very early, is always on or near the landing stage by the Diana fountain. When you notice a gull as an individual you see that it stays mostly in exactly the same spot. Their system of territories is mostly unnoticed by humans.

There is usually a Great Crested Grebe guarding the nest on the Long Water to stop Coots from claiming it. Judging by the nest's quite solid construction with plenty of twigs, it was built by Coots.

A procession of Coots moved up the edge of the Serpentine. At the last count there were 331 of them in the park, and numbers continue to rise.

The Moorhen family in the Dell poked around in a patch of dead leaves.

An Egyptian Goose on the Serpentine had a vigorous wash and a flap to settle its wings.

There were five species on the swan island in the Long Water: Cormorant, Herring Gull, Egyptian, Moorhen and Coot.

I keep hoping we'll see more rabbits in Kensington Gardens, but for months there have been only two. Today they were feeding together in their usual place beside the Henry Moore sculpture.

Wednesday 29 December 2021

A spell of mild weather has encouraged Robins to start pairing up with their mates. It's a gradual process with these intensely territorial birds, but at least in the Flower Walk there were two pairs getting quite close without trying to murder each other.

There was also a Goldcrest that was dashing around in the treetops singing constantly. But they still have most of the winter to get through.

Two Long-Tailed Tits were together in a tree beside the Long Water. With these gregarious birds you can't easily tell whether they are mates or just two members of a family flock that happen to have got separated from the others.

It was quite a windy day, and the male Little Owl was keeping well down in his shelter.

After seeing yesterday's picture of the two owls close together, Tinúviel asked me whether they were usually so companionable. This reminded me of a picture I took in 2014 of the pair near the leaf yard being very affectionate indeed.

How different from the standoffish Peregrines. The female was on the hotel again today, by herself as usual.

A Redwing ate rowan fruit on Buck Hill.

Several of the Blackbirds that come to these trees are young ones. The males still have dark bills rather than the yellow of full adults. This is usually a sign that they are migrants, as there are few young Blackbirds in the small permanent population.

An alder tree beside the Long Water had both last year's fruit and the new season's catkins.

These trees are very attractive to seed-eating birds such as finches. Here is an earlier picture of a Goldfinch in the same trees.

This is one of the pair of Pied Wagtails that are often seen hunting near the small boathouses. They have become quite used to the passing humans.

The wind was making the two pairs of Grey Herons uncomfortable in their nests, and three of them came down to stand on the moored boats in the lee of the island.

A Cormorant drying its wings had to hold them horizontal to avoid being blown off its perch.

This pair of Great Crested Grebes, which bred successfully last summer, have made several nests during the autumn and winter, though they don't seem to be serious about breeding. They will have to wait till next summer anyway to ensure a supply of small fish for their young.

A Moorhen amused itself by climbing around in dead iris leaves in a planter in the Italian Garden.

A sad casualty of the Winter Wasteland funfair seen at the outflow of the Serpentine.

Tuesday 28 December 2021

The female Little Owl could be seen in the lime tree on Buck Hill, though the tree trunk on the right blocked a full view.

I went back later hoping for a better shot and found both of them side by side in the squirrel drey, though not showing at all well. The female is on the right.

The Peregrine was back on the Royal Lancaster Hotel. She chooses the downwind side, unlike the Peregrines on the Knightsbridge Barracks who always seem to perch on the side facing the park.

A Carrion Crow looked out from a patch of dogwood near the Lido.

A Magpie looked for insects and worms under fallen leaves.

A Blackbird ate rowan fruit.

Despite milder weather the tits in the Flower Walk were hungrier than ever and followed me all the way along. This is the bold Coal Tit in the corkscrew hazel bush.

One of the pair of Pied Wagtails at the boathouse paused for a moment on the path.

Pochards and Tufted Ducks mingled under a tree beside the Vista.

The Mute Swan pair in the Italian Garden had a mad moment.

A brisk wind whipped up waves on the Serpentine but didn't disturb the serenity of a procession of Greylag Geese.

It encouraged three Mute Swans to fly. A strong headwind saves a lot of energy in taking off.

Even the Grey Herons seemed to be enjoying the wind. One left its nest and flew round the island several times.

Its partner displayed as it passed over.

A shaft of evening sunlight caught an airliner going to land at Heathrow.