Saturday 31 July 2021

Today the female Little Owl was hard to see in a birch tree.

She started calling to her mate, who was several hundred yards away, and you can just hear him answering her.

There was a heavy shower in the early afternoon, which the Carrion Crow family at the Italian Garden endured stoically.

When it stopped, a family of Long-Tailed Tits came out of shelter and flew around near the West Carriage Drive.

Neil sent a pleasing picture of a young Robin in the same place.

During the heaviest rain, one of the young Lesser Black-Backed Gulls played with a reed at the Lido.

Another was pestering a parent ...

... which was annoyed and flew away.

The pigeon-eating gull was in his usual place eyeing a couple of Feral Pigeons, but they were wary of him and stayed out of reach.

The Great Crested Grebe chick from the west end of the island was certainly finding something to eat, maybe Daphnia water fleas. But when its parent surfaced, it rushed over hoping to be given a fish.

Grebe chicks are too light to keep their feet submerged when travelling fast, and make quite a splash.

The grebe whose mate died was still hanging around the platform of Bluebird Boats, looking listless and miserable. All the other adult grebes on the lake are in pairs, so he will have to fly to the river to find a new mate.

The Moorhens at the Serpentine outflow are nesting inside the weir again. One brought a bit of reed.

This Mute cygnet has been alone on the Serpentine for some time, and we have no idea how it got separated from its parents. Today it came under the bridge on to the Long Water and tried to join the dominant swan's four cygnets, which were being fed at the Vista. Surprisingly, their mother didn't mind, and neither did their very aggressive father who arrived shortly afterwards. But one of the resident cygnets didn't want to share, and chased the newcomer away. It kept coming back. Maybe it will manage to get adopted.

There was also a female Mandarin at the Vista, the first I've seen in a while.

This is a test page. I want to see how well handles video. With luck it should be better than the dreadfully compressed videos I'm putting up with YouTube.

Please comment on the blog about how well it worked. I would expect it to take a few seconds to start, but then be quite clear and not pixelated.

However, there may be problems with buffering, causing the video to stop and restart. I'm uploading at the quite low rate of 8Mbps, but even that may be too much.

Friday 30 July 2021

It was a day of rain and wind and I didn't think the Little Owls would be out, but the female came out of the hole between showers. She wasn't in a place for a good picture, though.

The usual Jays followed me round the lake. They were looking a bit bedraggled from the rain.

The Lesser Black-Backed Gulls near the Triangle car park have four young, not just the two I saw earlier. These were chasing their parent begging, playing and looking for food in a puddle, probably snails.

Sad to say, the Great Crested Grebes from the west end of the Serpentine island have lost three of their four chicks -- reasons unknown, but there are a lot of large gulls on the lake and although the chicks can dive very fast they may not be fast enough. The surviving chick was with a parent, both poking around and I think eating small aquatic creatures.

The widowed grebe was resting near the Bluebird Boats platform during a brief sunny spell. Perhaps it will find a new mate when the grebes move to the river in the winter. It is not good for a grebe to be alone.

The Coots in the Italian Garden fountain fed their three chicks. Two followed their parents around, but one preferred to stay in the comfort of the nest.

Caroline Moss was swimming at the Lido when she photographed the Black Swan looking disapprovingly at some Egyptian Geese.

I think this is the old and arthritic Canada x Greylag Goose hybrid. I thought it was long gone. It walked stiffly down to the water to drink.

A Grey Squirrel ate a piece of bread it had found on a table at the Lido restaurant. Some Carrion Crows wanted the bread, but they were afraid to go too near the squirrel, and despite their harassment the squirrel finished the bread.

Duncan Campbell shot this video of a Carrion Crow jumping around pulling seed heads off the grass. I think it's eating the seeds it gets, but it might just be playing.

He also rescued a very wet bumblebee, and here is his story.

'Yesterday we came across a bumblebee that was absolutely soaked -- it must have been caught out in one of the sharp showers we have been having. I was interested because it seemed to be a different shape to any of the bees I had seen.

'It was staggering around on the top of the small compact flowers you can see in the picture -- it was never going to dry out because, as you can see in the picture, large water droplets were on the top of the flowers as well so it was wandering around soaking up as much as it was losing.

'We picked it up with a stick and it was amazing to see how much moisture was coming off as it crawled up the stick but its wings were still plastered to its back. We then took some tissue paper and picked the bee up and sort of blotted it as best we could -- I could feel its wings buzz in the tissue paper -- lots of water came off. I reckon it must have been carrying close to its own bodyweight in water.

'We then put the bee on Annette's shirt so that it could dry out a bit more. It stayed there for about five minutes and you can see the hairs on its thorax drying out but was still pretty soggy when it flew off. We were well pleased we had helped the bee survive another day.

'The different shape of the bee was of course because the hairs were plastered down by the water. Not sure what species it is but thought it might be a male Red-Tailed Bumblebee.'

Tom was at Rainham Marshes, and got good shots of a Reed Warbler ...

... a female Migrant Hawker dragonfly ...

... and a Gatekeeper butterfly in better condition than the tatty one I photographed yesterday.

Thursday 29 July 2021

The Little Owl pair near the Speke monument were out on a branch of the chestnut tree where they have their nest hole. Thanks to Neil for this video.

It's remarkable how Little Owls can change their size and shape. I'm pretty sure this is the male because of his impressive eyebrows, but instead of his usual skinny outline he looked quite big. There was a bit of a chill still in the morning air and he had fluffed himself up to keep warm.

A young Great Tit in the Flower Walk was still hesitant about coming down to my hand for a pine nut.

The handsome bronze pigeon at Peter Pan is so used to being fed that it approaches anyone who stands still and waits for a treat. Sorry, I don't feed pigeons.

One of the young Carrion Crows at the Italian Garden had found the bottom of a cone containing a sweet dribble of melted ice cream, and was happily eating it on an urn.

Another crow had found the remains of a waffle at the Bluebird Boats snack bar, and was dunking it in a puddle.

The two young Lesser Black-Backed Gulls that I filmed a couple of days ago begging from a parent are fine-looking birds, slightly smaller and more delicate than Herring Gulls. Note that their flight feathers are dark all along the trailing edge of the wing. Herring Gulls of this age have paler inner primaries.

The Great Crested Grebe chick from the east end of the island is now quite large.

I haven't seen the family at the other end of the island for several days, and have been told that they are down to one chick. I'll have to check to confirm, as it's very easy to miss small chicks.

The oldest chick on the Long Water was fishing alone as usual. I do hope it's catching enough to keep going as it learns the skill.

A Coot on the Serpentine was delighted to have found a bit of mango.

One of the three Coot chicks in the Italian Garden was alone on the nest while its parents and the other two were milling around in the water.

This is one of the three dark Mallards which are probably brothers. It's in eclipse but these three scarcely change their appearance, unlike normal Mallard drakes.

A Gatekeeper butterfly settled on a leaf on the lakeside path below the Queen's Temple.

Duncan Campbell sent a fine picture of a Green-Veined White.

I think this pale bumblebee with lemon-yellow bands on a barberry flower must be a White-Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), much less common in the park than Buff-Tailed (B. terrestris).

Update: Conehead 54 thinks it might be a Garden Bumblebee (B. hortorum), but needs a picture of its face to be sure. So here is one.

Later: no, it is a White-Tailed Bumblebee.

Wednesday 28 July 2021

Both the Little Owls were in a sweet chestnut tree a few yards to the west of where I thought the nest tree was. They were next to a hole and it seems more likely that this is their nest tree. This is the new map reference ...

... and here is a picture of the probable hole.

A close-up of the male.

When he had finished staring at Neil, Tom and me,  he preened.

The Jay family noticed us and came over. Fortunately they were too keen on getting peanuts to notice the owls, which they would have attacked.

The Carrion Crows in the Italian Garden had temporarily left their demanding young on Buck Hill and were relaxing on an urn.

A Black-Headed Gull and a Wood Pigeon perched uneasily side by side on the dead willow.

A Robin in the leaf yard carried a larva to feed its young.

The Great Crested Grebes on the new nest on the Long Water had a moment together.

There are now three chicks in the Coots' nest in the Italian Garden fountain pool.

There was a heavy shower and the people in the pedalos raced back to the platform -- except for two girls who had prudently brought umbrellas.

Four interesting insect pictures from Duncan Campbell (and a fifth added later). First, a pair of White-Jawed Yellow-Faced Bees mating.

This Common Yellow-Faced Bee was unfortunately trapped by a spider ...

... which I can't identify, though I'm sure Conehead 54 can.

Update: Conehead 54 comments: 'I'm not particularly good on spiders but it does look like one of the forms of Candy-Stripe Spider, Enoplognatha ovata/latimana agg.' I have another picture from Duncan which shows the underside of the spider's abdomen, which might help, and will add it now.

A Small Copper butterfly perched on the edge of Rotten Row. I've also seen one on Buck Hill, but it was too restless to photograph.

Tuesday 27 July 2021

The male Little Owl was in an old chestnut tree a few yards to the west of the place I pinpointed in yesterday's blog.

Neil got a picture of the female near another hole in the next tree. This may be their nest hole rather than the one I photographed yesterday. We can't be sure until we actually see an owl going into the hole.

Two Carrion Crows perched in a nearby lime. I photographed them because they reminded me of Arthur Rackham's illustration to The Twa Corbies (though of course corbies are ravens, not crows).

A crow bathed in an ants' nest. Probably the formic acid released by the angry ants has some effect in killing the bird's parasites. I've put a 10-second lead-in on this video in an effort to stop YouTube's buffering from pixelating the image so much that you can't see the ants.

There was a shower in the morning, making a Magpie look bedraggled. It's perched on the crown on the ornamental chimney of a Royal Parks gas lamp.

A Buzzard passed high over Kensington Gardens.

The very confident bronze Feral Pigeon at Peter Pan sidled up the railing hoping to be fed, but it got photographed instead.

At a time when the small birds are mostly out of sight, it's gratifying even to get a momentary glimpse of a Chiffchaff in the top of a sycamore near Peter Pan.

Neil got a picture of his favourite Coal Tit near the West Carriage Drive. The bird hates being photographed but will endure a few shots if it knows it's going to get a pine nut afterwards.

A Herring Gull had torn a crayfish in half, but only had the front half ...

... because a crow had stolen the meatier back half.

A Lesser Black-Backed Gull regurgitated bits of bread to feed its begging young. There were 27 Lesser Black-Backs in the park today, the most I've ever seen here, and it seems that they have started breeding not far away. There has been a breeding colony of Herring Gulls for some years in Paddington, but no sign of breeding Lesser Black-Backs till recently.

We now have four pigeon-eating gulls in the park, but this is the original Lesser Black-Backed Gull who has been catching pigeons for at least 16 years, on his usual hunting ground near the Dell restaurant. Two hungry Carrion Crows annoyed him, so he took his meal into the lake out of their reach.

There's a new Great Crested Grebe nest on the Long Water opposite Peter Pan. I think these are the parents of the oldest chick, which is now independent. This pair have already tried a second nest in a reed bed but it seems to have failed. They can go on trying for at least a month with reasonable hope of success; the latest successful nest I've seen in the park was started on 1 September.

The Moorhens that nested on the powerboat at Bluebird Boats have sadly lost their two chicks. But there's time for them to try again, preferably in a less silly place. Under the boat platform would be fine.