Saturday 25 March 2023

Blackbird practising

A Blackbird sang quietly to himself as he preened beside the Long Water. They need to practise their wonderful song, which doesn't come to perfection till late spring.

There was another male Blackbird 50 yards down the path. Although Blackbirds are in steep decline in the park, at least at this time of year we get a rough idea of how many are left.

A Robin was also singing in the intervals of hunting bugs on the ground. Happily there is no shortage of these birds, which have adapted well to urban life.

The olive tree between the Lido swimming area and the restaurant is a favourite place for the local Robin to sing.

The constantly furious Wren beside the Long Water looked out from a gorse bush.

A male Chaffinch perched amid spring leaves in the Flower Walk.

A sunny spell brought out the Little Owl at the Round Pond.

The lighter coloured of the two Grey Wagtails was looking for insects on a moored pedalo.

The Grey Heron with the red bill was again occupying the nest at the west end of the island. But claiming territory is one thing, and actually nesting is another. We shall see, but maybe not for a while.

Another heron perched on the Cormorants' favourite branch overhead, heavily daubed with these messy birds' copious droppings.

The heron near the Italian Garden was fishing in the reed bed. The activity doesn't look like fishing, but small fish lurk in the little spaces of water between the reeds and can be hauled out by an observant bird.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes fished side by side at the boat hire platform.

A pair of Coots began to adjust their nest on the wire baskets under the bridge. Much of it is made out of live willow twigs coming up from the stack in the baskets, which is a fish hatchery. They will need more twigs to make the nest usable, but will soon find them.

The dominant pair of Mute Swans on the Long Water went through their daily routine of begging at the Vista before attacking their rivals on the lake. It's time they got down to some serious nesting. Swans on the Serpentine are already mating and looking for scarce nest sites, and this pair have a perfect site carefully made for them.

The Mandarin pair returned to the Serpentine, perhaps only to persecute the rival drake, who would be well advised to return to the Mandarins' home stretch on the Regent's Canal.

Tom was at Dagenham Chase, where he went to get a picture of a rare Alpine Swift first seen in the Lee Valley yesterday.


  1. I was hanging around the Round Pond waiting to see the Little owl. Just missed it! I cannot believe it! Thank you!

    1. The thing to do is to go away for an hour and come back. But with the weekend crowds the owl is easily scared back into the hole.

    2. Thank you!

  2. Wow, an Alpine Swift! Those birds are **huge**, for a swift! We have several living underneath the Roman bridge in Mérida. They are such a sight to see. They must be extremely rare in GB, I imagine. I wonder what it was doing all the way up there.
    How do those swans beg? I mean, what is their standard procedure? Do they approach their prospective victim, look them in the eye appealingly, and then look pretty and inoffensive? (as if!). Or do they barge on them and demand to be fed?
    I could be listening to Blackbirds singing till my dying hour.

    1. There has been a small invasion of Alpine Swifts reported across the British Isles. I dare say they will beat a hasty retreat on the cold northerlies expected later today. I got to see the Hampstead Heath one about 15 years ago, which kindly kept returning to the same aerial spot. Jim

    2. Those swans are content simply to come to the edge and stare at you. But there are some at the other end of the lake, by the Dell restaurant, that peck you and pull at your clothes and try to go through your bag and pockets. They know they are boss.

    3. It's possible that the Alpine Swift Tom saw at Dagenham Chase is a different one from the bird seen at Seventy Acres Lake yesterday, though the distance is only a few miles.

  3. Think the Alpine Swift and the Dag Chase bird were actually 2 different birds as the one at The Chase was being watched while a report just came in on the group chat that the one at Lee valley was just seen. Pretty cool! This is Malachi, Toms friend.

    1. Thanks. I wonder what freak of wind brought them over. It's certainly been no kind of weather for Swifts of any kind today, with a return of wintry weather. But the midges never actually disappear and you can see them in any month.

  4. Is this the reason behind song birds singing quietly and tuning their volume then Ralph? Purely practice at work?

  5. Replies
    1. Often, and certainly in the case of birds with a complex and varied song such as Blackbirds. Occasionally you hear them practising in late winter, long before they feel like singing properly.