Saturday, 7 May 2022

The Great Crested Grebes perform their dance

A Wren preened and sang on a branch in the Flower Walk.

There is at least one Coal Tit fledgling here. Neil took this pleasing picture of it being fed by its father. It looks considerably larger than its parent, but that must just be caused by the angle.

I think this is its mother. She is the one that will come to your hand.

A Blue Tit waited to be given a pine nut.

This Robin singing on a yew hedge is also nesting in the Flower Walk.

A pair of Magpies displayed in a treetop, with the female fluttering her wings like a young bird to encourage her mate to feed her.

A Peregrine circled over the Flower Walk. I thought it was too high to photograph but Neil persevered and got a respectable composite picture.

A Greenfinch sang its mild twittering song in a tree beside the Long Water. The much louder song at the beginning is from a Cetti's Warbler hidden in the brambles below.

The Grey Wagtail in the Dell was hunting midges on a rock at the foot of the main waterfall. It rocketed into the air to catch one.

A Grey Heron fishing on the dead willow near the Italian Garden looked down disapprovingly as a Cormorant dived in front of it, frightening away the fish it had been waiting patiently for.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes on the Serpentine performed their full courtship dance with bits of weed. Here is some of the long initial display, followed by the dance itself.

The single grebe chick on the Long Water had wandered away from its parents, and then realised it was getting hungry. It hurried back piping pathetically.

Eight of the original nine Coot chicks in the Italian Garden have survived so far. Their parents were feeding them in a patch of algae.

A Coot has built a nest in a crazy place on the boat platform, right under the eyes of the Herring Gulls that hang around there. A studded dog collar will not protect it.

A Moorhen wandered around the Mute Swan's nest beside the boathouse looking for insects. The swan left it in peace.

An Egyptian Goose at the Serpentine outflow kept a sleepy eye on her goslings as they basked in the mild sunshine.

The hole in the oak tree used by the Tawny Owl has had a family of squirrels in it for two days. I fear that the owl must have been driven off permanently. He will be very hard to find again now that the trees are in full leaf.

People sometimes tell me that they have seen a 'Red Squirrel' by the Henry Moore sculpture. In fact there are several Grey Squirrels here with ginger patches. This is not caused by Red Squirrel genes but by a failure of the black melanin pigment (eumelanin) in some of its fur, leaving only the ginger pigment (phaeomelanin). The same thing happens in people with red hair, though fortunately not usually in patches. Neil took this picture of the most ginger of them.


  1. That's almost salt-and-pepper squirrels!

    I never tire of watching Grebes dance. Everything they do is to add beauty to the world.

    Poor Coal Tit mother looks exhausted.

    Tinúviel (still can't log in, not even with chrome. Going to try tomorrow with yandex just to annoy blogger)

    1. That's the first really good video I've got of the grebe dance -- quite near, good lighting, no technical problems caused by haste or fumbling. So far on YouTube just 12 views and 2 likes. People just don't understand the special magic of grebes. Their loss.

      Baffled by the logging-in problem. It will be interesting to see what happens when you log into Gmail through the Yandex browser (which I have tried and was not impressed by).

    2. Very sorry to read that because it is one of your finest videos. The youtube algorithm is despicable.

      Good ol' Russian brute-force technology appears to have solved the logging in problem from my end. A bit baffling.

    3. Glad that Yandex has cut the Gordian knot. Using Chrome to log in brings you up against three kinds of badly written Google software, Chrome, Gmail and Blogger, and the accumulation of bugs can be fatal.

  2. I've been away for a week so just catching up with posts. That is a very reddish Grey Squirrel. In Greece we saw 2 Red Squirrels but they were blackish!

    Looking at the other posts I concur your blue was a female Holly Blue.

    1. Thanks. All those squirrels are reddest at the tail end, and some of them are normally coloured apart from having red tails. The many changes and malformations that turned wolves (or at any rate wild wolflike creature) into domestic dogs include patchy coat colouring, and these are all caused by a mutation that impairs early development of the embryo's neural crest. The malformations spread from head to tail, in the worst affected dog breeds producing shallow hip sockets so that hind legs get arthritis, and withered twisted tails. It looks as if a milder error of the same kind has affected these squirrels' neural crests, so that normal coat colour collapses part of the way along as the unborn animal develops.

  3. Brilliant footage of the grebes. That's fascinating about the squirrels - and the link with hip dysplasia in dogs, I've never heard that before. Still loving your blog!

    1. The desirable feature of delayed development of the neural crest in dogs is that it extends the period in which the puppy can be habituated to humans. It's more or less impossible to tame a wolf. But the mutation cauaes a trail of damage in all parts formed from the neural crest: short muzzzle, small brain, disturbed coat colour, all the way to hip and tail deformities.

    2. Wow! Would you be able to point me to a reference or two where I can read more about this?

    3. This is the classic work on the subject.

    4. Hmm, I didn't notice the hefty shipping charge on that 'affordable' copy. But I'm sure you can find one elsewhere.

    5. Hi Ralph, the "classic work" link doesn't seem to have come up in the post? Could you try again?

    6. Odd, the link works for me. It's Julian Huxley, The Courtship Habits of the Great Crested Grebe, 1968, and you'll have to search for a secondhand copy. Shouldn't be too hard to find. I'm deleting your second comment. You shouldn't put your email address on a blog, as it attracts spam and worse.