Sunday, 2 January 2022

I was looking for the Peregrine on the Royal Lancaster Hotel, but there was nothing there except some Carrion Crows soaring in the updraught caused by the tower.


But then a raptor went past, at a considerable distance. It wasn't a Peregrine, it was a Red Kite. Two Herring Gulls were harassing it.

The Little Owls on Buck Hill are getting harder to see as they work their way down into the leaves of the squirrel drey. If you want to see them it's probably best to come at dusk in the hope of finding one coming out on a branch to start hunting when the people are gone.

A Blackbird was eating fruit in one of the rowan trees ...

... when a Redwing landed inches away and pushed it out of the tree. I think this was an accident, as Redwings are smaller than Blackbirds and quite timid.

A minute later the Redwing was gone and the Blackbird returned to the same branch to carry on feeding.

A Robin sang in the Rose Garden. The Wasteland will be closing soon and they won't have to shout to make themselves heard.

A Carrion Crow bathed at the Vista.

The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull is losing the dark winter streaks on his head, which will soon be the pure white of his breeding plumage. This picture shows the distinctive dark spots on the iris of his eye.

Grey Herons on the island fondled each other mildly and picked twigs to add to the nest.

In the water below two pairs of Great Crested Grebes had a territorial dispute. They stuck to threatening manoeuvres and it didn't come to a fight.

The mild spell is coming to an end, but today it brought out a Buff-Tailed Bumblebee on a patch of mahonia in the Rose Garden. (Or at least I think it's a Buff-Tailed Bumblebee, but its stripes are very dark and reddish and the tip of its abdomen very white.)

Abigail even got a Honeybee on a hellebore in her Notting Hill garden.

Mark Williams filmed Great Tits and Blue Tits coming to his hand in St James's Park, near the shrubbery that conceals the leaf yard.

Tom was at Rainham Marshes, where he got a fine picture of a Great Egret flying ...

... and some visiting Barnacle Geese.

23 comments:

  1. I was in St James’s Park today and saw a few Jackdaws there. I’m not sure whether these are resident birds or whether they were on a day trip from Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens.
    There were also plenty of Pochards at St James’s.

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    1. I've never seen a Jackdaw there. Will ask Mark.

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    2. Am on the case, Ralph ;) to date,have not seen even one jackdaw at St Jims in 7 years, sadly - though no reason to think they are never there at all.

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    3. I was very surprised to see them. I saw pairs in 3 different places, all near the lake. Of course it’s possible that I saw the same pair three times! I can’t remember seeing jackdaws in the park previously

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    4. To reply to both of you, Jackdaws disappeared from Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park in 1968 when the elm trees they nested in were killed by the Elm Bark Beetle. A small population remained in Bayswater, where I sometimes saw them on chimneys.

      Five or six years ago they started to creep back into the northwest corner of Kensington Gardens, very shy and wary at first but becoming more relaxed and very gradually expanding their territory. It was another two years before they were seen in Hyde Park.

      Now I think they're slowly spreading southwest and reaching St James's Park. In a year or two I expect them to become common there.

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  2. I've never seen a Red Kite in London! I usually enjoy them just outside, in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire.
    Where is the leafyard in St James's?

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    1. The leaf yard in St James's Park is between the lake and Birdcage Walk, just east of the bridge. It's hidden by an earth bank all round it, covered with bushes. The bird feeding area is on the Birdcage Walk side of it.

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  3. Great observation, the Red Kite! I always say it is a sad thing that they are so timid, for a raptor. At least they are drop-dead gorgeous, though.

    The yellow iris of large gulls is quite scary- It makes them look more dinosaur-like.

    I read today that thousands of bees survived being buried by volcano ashes for 50 days in La Palma by feeding on the honey stored in their beehives:

    https://www.efe.com/efe/espana/gente/miles-de-abejas-sobreviven-50-dias-sepultadas-bajo-ceniza-al-borde-del-volcan/10007-4673442

    Hardy and resourceful creatures!

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    1. Clever bees. But will there be any flowers to keep them going when everything is buried under ash?

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    2. I think the authorities rescued them. I suppose they'll feed them honey or nectar till springtime.

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    3. Good. But it's really the humans who have come off worst from the eruption.

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  4. @Ulrike - red kites do regularly pass through London - my logs show at least eight days on which they were seen, mostly March-June but a couple in autumn. Anywhere with a good view of the sky (eg. the south bank of the Lido in Hyde Park) in peak soaring hours should give you a good chance.

    @Ralph - she's still on the hotel but may be prospecting around more - there are no suitable nest ledges on that building. Hopefully she finds the old nest box near Baker St as her territory (if the display flight seen a week ago was anything to go by) extends that way. The resident tiercel was paying close attention to her this afternoon - as well he should, as the other mated pairs are keeping very close to each other now.

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    1. I've seen the hotel Peregrine going behind the screen carrying a pigeon. There may be a suitable space inside.

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  5. Where I live in outer west London Red Kites are now an everyday occurrence & they are not timid-often coming very close-I've had birds just 3 or 4 metres flying over me. In about the last 3 years they have become the most commonly seen raptor here (had 5 species on New Year's Day with also Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine & Kestrel- all resident here with addition of Hobby from late spring). Always a joy to see-had 4 yesterday.

    Yes- a Buff-tailed Bee-almost all bumblebees this time of year with be this species.

    Of the 2 adult Lesser Black-backs I saw yesterday one very smart bird was in full breeding plumage while the other still had a strongly streaked head.

    Good to see the Barnacle Geese at Rainham-may try to get up there on Friday.

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  6. In Marlow the council put up signs warning people not to feed the kites.

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    1. Red Kites seem to have reached London down the M40, eating road kill. They are still only reaching the centre occasionally. But perhaps in time they will become as common as they were until they were wiped out in the 18th century. In Shakespeare's time they were the common London scavengers, as Carrion Crows are now.

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    2. Thanks for that. And a correction: the signs said 'Beware of Red Kites Stealing your Food'. (it was 2019 when I saw them)

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    3. Ulrike, I can confirm that the signs were still in place last autumn!

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    4. Thanks, will try and visit again soon!

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    5. That's funny, because that's the case here but with Black, not Red, Kites! Red Kites are innocent ingenues compared to them.

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