Thursday 2 February 2023

The Parade Ground and the Paperbush

A large flock of Starlings worked across the scrubby grass and bare earth of the Parade Ground. It's hard to see what they were finding, but often you see them pulling up wireworms, which are the small stick-like larvae of click beetles.

A Blackbird found a substantial earthworm.

The Redwings were in the trees when I was there, too distant for a good picture but this one is quite interesting, showing that there is more red on their wings than can be seen when they are on the ground.

There were also a few Pied Wagtails, which are permanent residents of this area when not driven off by funfairs and concerts.

The Paperbush in the Flower Walk is a popular spot with the small birds, which find its open structure a convenient place to perch. Today there were two Coal Tits ...

... three Blue Tits ...

... a crowd of Great Tits ...

... a male Chaffinch ...

... and his mate.

The Gadwalls had left the Italian Garden again, and Mallard drakes were rushing around from pool to pool chasing a couple of females. The Little Grebe took cover in the irises ...

... but when things calmed down it came out and started diving by itself.

There was still one Cormorant fishing under the Italian Garden, and it managed to catch a smallish fish.

Some unfamiliar green shoots were coming up in the southeast fountain pool. I didn't know what they were. PlantNet said it was Brooklime, Veronica beccabunga, but Conehead 54 tells me that it's the young shoots of Great Willowherb growing up from the base of a tall patch of the plant, which started growing in the fountain a couple of years ago, probably from seeds brought in on the feet of birds.

Ian Young photographed this Ross's Goose in St James's Park. Unlike the captive birds in the collection it can fly, and is probably the one we saw on the Serpentine a few days ago.

Wild birds often join their captive fellows, and at present there is a Shelduck in St James's along with the ones in the collection. The same thing happened in Regent's Park several years ago.

To follow the picture of White Storks at Alcalá de Henares, here is a picture sent by Tina Coulcher of them migrating through Banyuls, which is on the Mediterranean coast of France just north of the Spanish border.


  1. I think they will be still coming here. They pass to and from Africa either directly by the western route (strait of Gibraltar) or indirectly by the eastern route (the Bosphorus strait then south to Israel and Lebannon then Egypt or viceversa).
    I may have said this before, but the Paperbush in the Flower Walk is like the red carpet for small birds.

  2. Do they pinion all the birds in St James's , do you know? Apart from pigeons, the seemingly hundreds of Coots there, and the one Pelican.

    1. Only the poor waterfowl in the collection. It is a misery to see them and I go there as little as possible.

  3. I don't think that is Brooklime, Ralph. My first impression before I read the rest of the paragraph was that they looked like young shoots of Great Willowherb, so I smiled when I continued to read & you mentioned this plant being there. Pretty sure that's your ID!

    1. Thanks for the correction. The large upper part of the plant looks pretty dead, so I am guessing that it sprouts up from the bottom every year. It's been here for several years now but I had never looked at it closely.