Monday, 19 September 2022

Little Owl still visible, and a look at Wrens

The young Little Owl was still to be seen on the dead tree by the Round Pond yesterday. Thanks to Richard Oxborough for this fine shot of it yawning.

A remarkable picture by David Element of a Little Egret catching a female Common Darter dragonfly.

He commented, 'The Egret watched as the dragonfly landed on a branch in front of it, and then approached her in the manner of a wildlife photographer. Slowly and steadily moving its neck, and then simply picking the insect off the branch. I watched the whole process, but I couldn't see where the Common Darter was perched in the previous photographs as she was obscured by vegetation. You will not be surprised to learn that there was only time to take one photograph before the dragonfly was swallowed! I have seen herons taking dragonflies on several occasions, including the Grey Heron that caught a patrolling Migrant Hawker (that I had been trying to photograph!) in the Italian Gardens. Anything that moves is fair game, however small.'

Some dragonflies hardly ever rest and it's almost impossible to get good pictures or video of them. I don't think I'll ever get a decent picture of a Brown Hawker. But Common Darters spend quite a lot of time perched, and in each of the three clips in this video they stayed still for at least half a minute. In the third the female mates with a bright red male.

Pied Wagtails hunt insects in their own way. Here is a pair on the grass beside the Serpentine and along the shore. They keep a distance from each other to avoid collisions when they suddenly dash after insects. But if you stand still, sometimes they will come close to you.

Julia was in the Flower Walk and got good pictures of a Blue Tit ...

...and a Magpie.

It's sad that the Moorhens in the Dell, which have successfully raised chicks in recent years, have lost theirs this year. Here they are beside the stream eating the leaves of what I think is Small-Flowered Cranesbill.

I'm inclined to blame the local Grey Heron.

On the Serpentine  other Moorhens have done quite well this year.

... and also on the Long Water. 

You never see the nest on the lakes, but suddenly chicks or teenagers appear as if from nowhere. The nest in the Dell was all too visible.

Another of David's excellent close-ups of a fox.

On sunny days you are likely to see foxes on the east bank of the Long Water. The adult here is sadly mangy but carrying on.

Today's bird is the Wren.

Their song, incredibly loud for such a tiny creature, is heard all round both lakes and in the Dell, where this one is.

They can easily make themselves heard over the noise of the waterfall.

You also hear them loudly scolding predators, in this case a Carrion Crow.

They are often seen in the reed beds.

Mostly they are very shy and flee the moment you raise a camera, but sometimes they just stare at you ...

... and occasionally there is a very bold one. This Wren in the Flower Walk would hop around your feet.

A Wren searches for insects in a flower bed in the Rose Garden.

This one has caught a moth.

Males have several mates, each in a separate nest. The nests are usually, and designedly, unfindable, but two years ago a Wren made a nest in the top of the cast iron column of a gas lamp post -- places where Blue Tits often nest but this is the only time I've seen a Wren there.

A pair mating beside the Long Water. Thanks to Tom for this picture.

You see them constantly carrying insects to their ravenous young, in this case a moth ...

... and here a mixed bag.

In this video a Wren carrying a lacewing to the nest zigzags and gives alarm calls to mislead predators about where the nest is.

When the fledglings emerge they don't yet have much of a tail ...

... but they grow fast. Here a young Wren preens in a tree.

This family is in the Rose Garden. You can see two fledglings and a parent. Sorry about the noise from the hand dryer in the adjacent public lavatory.

A Wren has a dust bath in the dry earth of a flower bed, one way of getting rid of parasites.

And this one at Rainham Marshes seems to be anting -- that is, sitting on an ants' nest and deliberately getting covered in ants so that the formic acid they secrete kills or drives away fleas and lice.


  1. That moth is almost bigger than the wren. It's amazing.
    Anting appears to be a cross-species habit. I wonder who picked it up first and how it got across other species.

    1. According to Wikipedia more than 200 species of bird practise anting, The article is properly vague about what it actually does. No one knows and there are only reasonable guesses.