Monday 31 October 2022

All that glitters really is gold

Both Little Owls were out. The young one at the Round Pond was looking larger than usual, as he was fluffed up against the slightly chilly breeze.

I managed not to disturb the one at the Speke obelisk. There is a clear limit to how close you can go before he rushes into his hole. It's about 40 yards.

A Starling at the Dell restaurant perched in the hawthorn tree waiting to pounce on a table.

Another at the Lido restaurant had got a bit of bread and flew up to the roof to eat it.

Neil wondered whether Carrion Crows would like dog biscuits. The crows had a hard time pecking them to bits, and ate them with a bad grace as they are used to more luxurious offerings.

A Herring Gull on the Serpentine dived and picked up a stone encrusted with algae, which it pecked briefly and then discarded. They often do this. I'm not sure of the attraction of these things, but perhaps the gull was hoping there would be a snail or other edible creature on the stone.

One of the young Grey Herons played with a stick at the edge of the island.

The boat hire has shut down for the winter and the platform is already colonised by Cormorants.

Two good pictures by Ahmet Amerikali, both taken at the east end of the Serpentine where there are plenty of perch. A Cormorant caught one ...

... and so did a Great Crested Grebe.

The Shoveller drakes have finally made it into full breeding plumage. They are much slower to do this than Mallards or Mandarins, but quicker than Tufted drakes which still don't have completely white sides.

Joan Chatterley photographed a group of Mandarins in Battersea Park. I think we have a few residents on the Long Water, but they spend a lot of time in the bushes and are only seen occasionally.

She also sent a fine picture of a Red Squirrel at Brownsea Island, one of the few places in southern Britain that has not been invaded by Greys.

There were a few more bees in the Rose Garden, all Buff-Tailed Bumblebees. Some browsed on the arbutus flowers ...

... and others on the lavender patch. This one is carrying several mites. Mostly these don't harm the bee and are simply hitching a ride to a hive where they will feed on wax. But there is also the deadly Varroa mite, which sucks out the fat from Honeybees and carries several viruses, and destroys whole colonies of bees.

The railings at the Albert Memorial are being repainted and gilded. It's a long job because they are using real gold leaf, and a lot of it. This has to be done inside a little tent to stop the leaves from blowing away before they have been firmly stuck down. The yellow paint in the foreground is the sticky base layer for the leaf.

Here is a finished section, looking absolutely magnificent.

Sunday 30 October 2022

A proper autumn day

It was considerably colder today with rain in the morning, in fact a proper English autumn day. A Jackdaw posed proudly in the bright colours of an American oak.

The Chaffinch in the Flower Walk was having a hard time getting fed. He will only take food on the ground, but the ground was covered with pigeons and squirrels. Eventually I got a pine nut to him.

This seems to be a new Coal Tit here, still shy and not wanting to come to your hand. We'll probably gain its confidence.

A few Long-Tailed Tits paused in a dead tree beside the Long Water.

A pair of Feral Pigeons stood together on a post at Peter Pan.

A Grey Wagtail hunted at the Lido restaurant, screened from the diners by a line of planters.

A Starling on the terrace was a bit hesitant about a pot of mayonnaise, which they usually go for with great enthusiasm. It was ousted for a moment by a Feral Pigeon but came back.

The weather cleared up a bit in the afternoon and the Little Owl at the Speke obelisk came out of his hole.

The female Peregrine was on the tower.

Seventeen Cormorants at the island, out of a total of at least 50 on both lakes.

A Cormorant on the Long Water caught a large perch and was having slight difficulty swallowing it.

The other Cormorants piled on and tried to grab the fish.

Five newly arrived Great Crested Grebes stayed in a group on the Serpentine. The ones at far left and right are young, still with traces of juvenile stripes.

I think that some of the grebes we see are just passing through, as the number on the lake is not high, perhaps six or eight in all.

The male Mute Swan from the Italian Garden was down on the dominant swans' nesting island again, looking resentfully at a Cormorant which dared to share his space.

Egyptian Geese on the Henry Moore sculpture had to tolerate a crowd of pigeons.

A pair of Mallards rested under the sweetgum tree at the Diana landing stage.

I saw only one bee in the Rose Garden, a Common Carder.

Saturday 29 October 2022

Mistaken identity

A Cetti's Warbler was calling in the scrub to the east of the Lido swimming area. I got one hasty photograph of what I thought was it, but on closer inspection it turned out to be a female Blackcap, one of a few pairs that stay in the park all year round. Nevertheless, it was an unmistakable Cetti that I heard calling, probably the one that has been heard several times on the island.

The Coal Tit in the Flower Walk waited patiently while I photographed her before giving her the customary pine nut.

Two good pictures of Blackbirds from Mark Williams, a probable migrant in a pyracantha bush ...

... and a male singing loudly on Hampstead Heath, evidently a resident bird coaxed into song by the warm spell.

The Little Owl near the Speke obelisk was being awkward again, lurking behind a branch and then going into his hole when I moved to try to get a better angle ...

... but the young one at the Round Pond was as calm as ever, in spite of the many human visitors near his tree.

The Magpie pair beside the Long Water posed against an autumnal background.

A Jackdaw looking for insects beside the Serpentine looked annoyed when a pair of Egyptian Geese came ashore beside it.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes were fishing at the bridge until a Cormorant barged in and drove them away.

The pair of Mute Swans in the Italian Garden washed and preened under a fountain.

The male has been immortalised in a painting, sitting in his favourite spot. The four Cormorants in front of him seem a bit too many for the confined spaces of the pools, but this may be a bit of artistic licence.

Among the busy Shovellers on the Long Water two females rested side by side. It must be a relief to rest that heavy bill on your back.

Surprisingly, a late Brimstone butterfly appeared and landed on a bramble. They are usually the first butterflies we see in spring. Evidently they have more than one generation in a year.

A Buff-Tailed Bumblebee in the Rose Garden made a thorough job of feeding on a lavender flower. It spent at least five minutes going over all the florets.

A patch of salvia in the Dell attracted a few late Honeybees.

Friday 28 October 2022

Doves of war

A very brief clip of two Stock Doves fighting in a tree. The idea of 'doves of peace' is in illusion. All of them fight like fury.

The tatty Blue Tit in the Flower Walk struck a dramatic attitude on the railings. I think she is growing a few more feathers, but she will never be a neat shiny bird ...

... unlike the smart little female Coal Tit waiting in the holly bush ...

... or the Robin in the corkscrew hazel ...

... or a neat Pied Wagtail on the edge of the Round Pond.

A Carrion Crow found a leathery scrap of stale Arab flatbread ...

... and dunked it in the lake to make it just about edible.

A Jackdaw in a lime tree by the Dell waited for a peanut to be produced.

A good picture by Ahmet Amerikali of a Jay in flight.

The Little Owl near the Speke obelisk was in his home tree, though in an awkward place for a picture. He was in a nervous mood again and soon rushed into his hole. I wish I could photograph him without upsetting him.

A Cormorant went over the wire basket at the bridge, which is a fish hatchery, looking for any fish incautious enough to emerge. It couldn't dive here because there is not much depth above the basket.

A Great Crested Grebe on the Serpentine made an elegant backlit silhouette.

Another near the island preened, and shrugged in that peculiar grebe gesture to settle its feathers.

A Shoveller drake on the Long Water paused for a moment and looked up, raising his enormous bill from the water.

Mallards have a favourite resting place on a branch of the collapsed willow near the bridge.

The wildflower patch in the Rose Garden has almost completely died down, but there are still a few cornflowers.