Saturday, 15 May 2021

Five male Reed Warblers were singing around the lake. I also saw two females.

The unusually visible Green Woodpecker near the Physical Energy statue flew from its nest tree to a branch of the next tall plane in the avenue.

The Coal Tit near the Albert Memorial came down to be fed, and was impatient about being photographed.

One of the Long-Tailed Tits bringing insects to the nest near the Henry Moore sculpture stared gravely at the camera.

A Starling coming to its nest in the Buck Hill shelter was annoyed by a Carrion Crow on the ground, which was minding its own business eating a large worm.

A Magpie pair had a quiet moment in the pink-flowered hawthorn near the Queen's Temple.

Coots often build nests in foolishly exposed places on the edge of the Serpentine, where they are in danger from gulls from above, boats on one side, and humans and dogs on the other. Usually these nests are abandoned in a few days, but this year two pairs of birds have persisted with them and they are quite large and permanently occupied. I don't think either has a hope of success.

One of the blond Egyptian goslings had a good wash and preen. Its flight feathers are coming out and you can see that they are almost as pale as Blondie's but marked with faint darker barring.

Sad news: Hugh Smith, the excellent Royal Parks Wildlife Officer, is moving to a new job in the countryside. We shall miss him a lot. Let's hope his successor is as keen, energetic and knowledgeable.

But there are two good developments in Hyde Park. First, Jabir Belmehdi, some of whose pictures have appeared on this blog, has persuaded the management to plant a new hedge along the Bayswater Road between Victoria Gate (to the east of Lancaster Gate Tube station) and Albion Gate (two thirds of the way to Marble Arch). This will consist of six carefully chosen native species: Holly, Field Maple, Hazel, Hawthorn, Purging Buckthorn and Dog Rose -- and no doubt in time other species will introduce themselves. It should provide a haven for various birds, especially if the management doesn't send in the gardeners to blow out leaf litter under it. And even here there may at last be progress after I have been nagging the management for years: I am getting at least a sympathetic hearing. Don't expect much soon. The first section of the hedge has only just been planted. Here it is.

Second, the Hudson Memorial, which had fallen into a very tatty state, is being restored for the anniversary of W.H. Hudson's death in 2021. The pool in front of the Rima relief has been cleaned up and the little fountain just under the stonework returned to working order -- it provides a bathing and drinking place for birds.

Rima herself needs a good wash, but no doubt she'll get one.

For those unfamiliar with the memorial, Hudson was a notable naturalist, and his records of birds in the park have contributed largely to the list in the right column of this blog. But his day job was as a bestselling novelist, and his most famous book was Green Mansions. Its hero is an English naturalist who visits the South American rainforest and finds an undiscovered tribe. He falls in love with one of their girls, Rima, who dresses in spiders' webs and speaks the language of the birds, but the romance ends in tragedy. It is she who is represented as the lumpy female in Epstein's relief, which was so hated when it was put up that people used to climb the railings and paint it green to camouflage it.

Joan Chatterley sent another picture of the Mute Swan -- Black Swan trio in St James's Park, with the seven cygnets in good order and beginning to grow.

Another view by Tom of the beautiful Short-Eared Owl at Rainham Marshes ...

... and also a Painted Lady butterfly at Wanstead Flats.

But today's most remarkable picture is by Mike Harris, who found a Sparrowhawk on his windowsill a few yards north of Hyde Park. This is likely to be the male of the pair that nest every year near the Old Police House. The distribution of pigeon remains all over the park shows that they occupy a wide territory.


  1. Very sorry to hear that the excellent Hugh Smith will be moving elsewhere. Please do convey our congratulations on his new job, and our regret that the park shall be losing his excellent offices.

    I wonder what the Long-Tailed Tit is thinking of the big shiny eye-like object looking at it. Unfazeable little birds.

    Kestrels are known to nest on windowsills and window boxes here. There used to be a journalist who would document the comings and goings of common kestrels nesting in a window box in her balcony daily for years.

    What a regal beauty, the Short-Eared Owl!

    Congratulations on getting the hedge proposal accepted! Little birds ought to welcome you both throwing a little victory parade.

    1. The 600mm lens of my main camera, like most long lenses, has a deep lens hood which shades the lens so much that it is almost invisible. For birds there is no sensation of being looked at by a big eye. In contrast, the little bridge camera I use for video has a short lens hood and the lens is plainly visible. All kinds of birds find it alarming when the artificial eye is staring at them.

  2. A good number of Reed Warblers for quite a modest reedbed area. You did well to get a photo.

    Some great photos of the magnificent Short-eared Owl by Tom.

    There was quite an influx of Painted Ladies a few days away along the coast as well as some migrant moths (I found a migrant Diamond-back a couple of days ago). With the recent weather I've been lucky to see any butterflies but did manage a female Holly Blue in the garden yesterday afternoon.

    1. The park was almost deserted on a dull morning, and the shy Reed Warbler dared to come out on a stem. They have been one of the recent successes in the park, where we have only had reed beds for a decade, and are now breeding happily.

      I had an Orange Tip butterfly today, Sunday.