Saturday, 17 September 2022


The teenage Little Owl near the Round Pond that Neil photographed yesterday may have taken up residence in a hole in a rotten branch of a horse chestnut tree. Still unable to walk far yet, I haven't been able to go and check if it's often there.

Neil sent two pleasing shots of Robins that I didn't have room for in yesterday's feature. One perches on the Flower Walk railings against a floral background ...

... and another stands on a dead globe thistle.

One of the young Grey Herons has taken to standing constantly in the same place on the edge of the Serpentine opposite its nest on the island. I've seen it there several times, and here is a recent picture by Joan Chatterley.

When it isn't there it's usually prowling about on the wire baskets around the island. I wonder how it's getting on with learning to fish. If its parents haven't already stopped feeding it, they will soon.

Two lovely pictures from Virginia: a Cormorant at the island gilded by low evening sunlight ...

... and a Coot vaguely wondering why there's another Coot looking at it from underneath.

The autumn mushroom season is getting under way. Mario photographed a Giant Polypore, Meripilus giganteus, which is impressive but fairly common ...

and a Zoned Rosette, Podoscypha multizonata, which is quite rare, at the base of a beech near the Albert Memorial.

Today's featured bird is the Blackbird.

Once abundant in the park, they have become much rarer here in the past few decades. Surveys of their numbers in Kensington Gardens have shown a decline from over 200 pairs in the 1960s to 28 in 1994 and just 18 in 2011. The main reason for this is almost certainly using leaf blowers to remove dead leaves from the shrubberies, where they find insects and other invertebrates in the leaf litter. I have been nagging the park management about this for years to little effect.

A female Blackbird at the Dell rummages in fallen leaves.

It would be a terrible shame if we could no longer hear their beautiful song. Here is a Blackbird singing in spring in the Flower Walk.

They enjoy rain, singing all the louder. Rain brings up worms in the lawns and flower beds.

A female Blackbird in the Flower Walk listens to her mate as he sings a few yards away.

Like most songbirds, they sing most at dawn and dusk. But in the city street lights keep them awake at night, and you can hear them singing at any time. This video was shot a good hour before dawn in my street. The local Blackbird sings in the rain and is answered by the one in the garden square at the end of the street.

Snow doesn't deter them, as there is always a larva to be found by turning leaves.

They bathe enthusiastically in the pool in the Dell ...

... and the fountain in the Rose Garden ...

... or just in a puddle.

Sunbathing helps to bring parasites to the surface of their feathers where they can be shaken off or eaten.

A good preen finishes the job.

Blackbirds are omnivorous, eating fruit when they can get it. This one is on a rowan tree on Buck Hill ...

... and a blackberry patch near Peter Pan.

A young Blackbird eats a windfall plum beside the Long Water ...

... and another discovers that people will give it raisins, which they recognise as delicious the first time the encounter them. It think it's the fruity smell that encourages them.

Blackbirds make their nests well hidden in the leaves, and I've never been able to get a sight of an active nest. They only become visible in winter when the leaves fall, and by then they have long since been abandoned. But you do see them gathering nesting material ...

... and later collecting insects ...

... and worms for the nestlings.

Sometimes you see them picking up several worms with improbable speed. They're not actually catching them: they have already pulled up several, and are hopping around collecting them before the worms can dig themselves in again. This method saves having to make a trip to the nest every time he finds a worm -- and it's safer to make as few trips as possible to avoid predators working out where the nest is.

But they can find and pull up two worms inside a minute.

A Blackbird protests furiously at a Magpie which has got too close to its nest beside the Long Water.

The fledglings are speckled brown and bronze, and have that gormless look typical of young birds.

They follow their parents around begging to be fed.

Blackbirds often have white patches in their plumage. This is a white-faced female who was a friend for several years and used to come racing out of the shrubbery for raisins.

The white can be far more extensive, as seen in this picture by Heng Ng of an almost completely leucistic bird in Colchester. Very occasionally they are completely white.

This is my very realistic life-size crochet Blackbird called Melas. Standing on the back of a bench in the Flower Walk he attracted loud protests from a real Blackbird.


  1. Excellent crochet work. I would be taken in, too. To me, the world wouldn't be the same without Blackbird song; especially magic at night. Nice photo of the reflective Coot.

    1. I feel rather unhappy about Blackbirds singing in the dead of night. It's beautiful, but it means that the poor things are being kept awake. Robins also suffer from streetlight insomnia.

  2. Glad to see your local Blackbird continues to thrive. Ours is fallen silent, but seeing as it continues to dig around dry leaves under our window, we are looking forward to being kept awake at night by its calls next spring.

    Melas is looking exceedingly fine. I am reminded of the anecdote about Myron's bronze heifer, which calves and bulls took for a real cow.

    Aristotle would have a fit if he saw that leucistic blackbird.


    1. Our local Blackbird must be getting quite old now. He's been singing in the street for eight years, and his song has reached a peak of perfection. The overgrown garden where he used to live has now been tidied up, but luckily a tree-crazed and very rich woman opposite me in the street has decided to turn her house into a sort of vertical forest and he has taken up residence there.

      I can imagine Myron's heifer with gilded horns and inlaid eyes. I think even the gaudy Greeks left bronze statues in their natural colour, though they would have scrubbed off any green patina.

      What fun it would have been to put an Australian Black Swan in Juvenal's garden.