Wednesday 9 November 2022

A chaotic day

It's been a chaotic day.

Two Mute Swans at the Round Pond were in the early stages of bird flu and looking very sad and droopy.

But there is nowhere to take them. The Royal Parks policy is that birds with flu should not be touched and should be left to die, after which the corpses will be collected with hygienic precautions for the humans involved, and disposed of. It took them six days to remove the body of a teenage cygnet on the gravel strip, during which scavengers of all kinds were picking at it and spreading the infection. This attitude seems to be both inhumane and stupid, but there's nothing we can do in the face of officialdom.

Birds that are injured but otherwise healthy can be dealt with. Here Jon Ferguson of Wildlife Rescue takes a swan with a dog bite on the neck to the holding pen at Kensington Gardens where it will be properly treated -- by volunteers from Wildlife Rescue, of course, as the parks have no Wildlife Officer at the time when one is most needed. But obviously sick birds can't be mixed up with them.

The park management has refused to allow the sheds at the Ranger's Lodge, where there is plenty of space, to be used for caring for sick birds, although volunteers would be willing and able to look after them.

A sick Egyptian Goose had collapsed in the territory of another pair and was being savagely pecked.

We tried to drive the attacking pair off but they kept coming back. Luckily a swan came to our rescue by attacking the pair -- it was his territory too and he wouldn't allow them back. He left the sick Egyptian alone. I think it was dying, but at least it could die in peace.

Better news from the Italian Garden. The missing female swan has turned up after several days' absence, looking sleek and unruffled. Heaven knows where she's been, and you can't ask her.

She was with her mate in one of the fountain pools.

But there is still no sign of the dominant male from the Long Water. His mate was below the Italian Garden, the only swan on that part of the lake.

It looks as if the borehole at the Italian Garden, which has reliably supplied the water for the lake since the polluted Westbourne river was diverted in the 19th century, is giving trouble at last.

There are two other boreholes now, both near the Diana fountain.

Beside the dismal events it was a normal day. The Coal Tit in the Flower Walk was in a skittish mood and it took me some time to coax her down from a tree.

No shyness from the usual pair of Magpies that pursue me along the edge of the Long Water.

A Carrion Crow played with a fallen leaf.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker called from a tree near the Italian Garden.

A Starling chattered on an umbrella at the Lido restaurant.

Ahmet Amerikali got a picture of one of the Goldcrests in the Dell. There are at least two families, and this one was at the top near the waterfall.

He also got a good shot of a Grey Heron in flight.

One of the two youngest herons was in its usual place on the edge of the Serpentine opposite the island.

A young Herring Gull finished off one of the pigeon eater's victims, a gruesome scene in the beautiful evening light.

The sun was setting over the Round Pond as I came home.


  1. So the bird flu is not over yet. How sad it all is.
    Do you know if bird flu only affects swans geese and ducks or also for example moorhens and our friends in the flower walk?

    1. So far it is only affecting water birds, but that has included ducks, coots and even gulls. Just hoping it gets no wider. There are a few records of humans getting it, with a high mortality. This is a serious disease, not a political gambit like Covid.

  2. The policy of just leaving bird flu victims to just wait until they die seems crazy. Sorry to see the park's birds suffering like this. When I was doing my monthly wildfowl survey on the Pen Ponds in Richmond Park yesterday there was a Black-headed Gull corpse near the causeway, but possibly (hopefully!) nothing to do with bird flu? All the other birds looked healthy, though only one Mute Swan at present, but lots of other species.

    1. The park management's policy is, typically, to save themselvrs trouble in the short term and ignore the consequences.

  3. Pressure needs to be put on Royal Parks to act otherwise nothing will be done. You can help by emailing them
    or ringing them. You can also email local MP for Hyde Park Nickie Aiken. Thank you.

    1. Firing off an email tomorrow morning. This is outrageous and beyond the pall. I am so, so sorry - it must be dreadful to watch so many birds die helplessly.


  4. I know it's a dreadful disease but these creatures deserve to die in dignity and some may actually recover if they are able to rest somewhere away from infecting others.

    1. Just heard that a swan we picked up the day before yesterday is looking better.