Wednesday 1 November 2023

Chaffinch games

The female Chaffinch in the Flower Walk has learnt to copy her mate, who flies out to catch a thrown pine nut in midair. She's very good at it already.  They obviously enjoy this game and will keep it up as long as your patience holds out.

The dominant Robin didn't like her and her mate occupying his bush. He can chase out the tits, but Chaffinches are bigger than him, and if they want to stay they will.

The personality of the Robin beside the Henry Moore sculpture is quite different. It's very timid. I've tried coaxing it out to take a pine nut from the path, but it remains hesitant.

A Wren in the leaf yard hopped around ticking irritably at a Magpie.

The Jay by the Albert Memorial, which I haven't seen for a while because it was busy gathering acorns, was back in its usual place expecting a peanut.

The Little Owl at the Round Pond was on her usual branch, but soon after I took this picture it started raining quite hard and she would have had to return to the hole.

The female Peregrine on the Knightsbridge Barracks tower called to her mate. He was only a few yards away along the ledge, so I don't know why she felt the need to shout.

The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull's mate waited for him to finish feeding so she could have her share. It's hard to gauge a gull's mood when it's standing still, but I think her attitude is one of ostentatious weary patience: 'When you've finished, dear, do you think I could have my turn?'

A pleasing picture by Mark William of a young Grey Heron on the bridge in St James's Park. I'm not sure about the purple flower. PlantNet thinks it's Large Speedwell, but some kind of Larkspur or Delphinium seems more likely in a park.

A Cormorant at Peter Pan was trying to dry its wings in the light drizzle.

Two of the young Moorhens in the Italian Garden were eating the well-kept grass along the edge.

An adult in the Dell came down to drink from the stream.

One of the young Great Crested Grebes from the bridge returned to the nest where it first saw the light of day. Another was fishing farther up the Long Water.

Two pairs of Shovellers fed on the Long Water, each one stirring up edible creatures for the other to shovel up. A dozing Great Crested Grebe ignored them.

Four Gadwalls cruised in a line past the gravel strip.

A Tufted drake had a vigorous wash and flap.

The Pochards stay under this tree at the Vista whether it's raining or not.

A smallish bracket fungus was growing on a horse chestnut tree in the Dell shrubbery. Not having a clue what it was, I tried Google Lens which thought it might be an Oligoporus species.


  1. Nice Cormorant picture! It is nice to see the wintering ducks arriving in larger numbers. I do not see the Little Owl anymore but the Peregrines are always around.

    1. I've been seeing the Little Owl more often than the Peregrines. But it wasn't a good owl day, at least not in the rainy morning.

  2. How did she learn to copy her mate? Did she watch and then try? Did she dive immediately after him? Was she successful at the first trial, or was there a learning curve? So many questions!

    1. The pine nut has to be thrown carefully up so that it falls past and in front of the bird, so each throw is directed at an individual. She looked likely to try, so I threw one for her to see what would happen, and out she came. She only missed a few before she got the hang of it.

  3. The speed, accuracy and agility of coal tits still amazes me after all this time: they make catching a pine nut look so easy, too :)

    1. I haven't tried throwing pine nuts to Coal Tits, as the ones in Kensington Gardens now come to my hand without hesitation.

  4. That female peregrine isn't shouting - she's "chupping", which is a kind of call that peregrines use when they're communicating with each other (either between a mated pair or when an intruder is detected). If you watch them closely for long enough you may also see bowing and other interactions. It's all part of the process of re-establishing their pair bonds, which takes place at around this time of the year. A peregrine "shout" is the insistent, demanding food-call that juveniles beg for food with, and which the female sometimes uses to motivate the tiercel to go hunting - or the machine-gun like call she uses to express displeasure with crows and gulls.

    The most dramatic form of pair-bond renewal is display flying, when the pair circle around together in a kind of slow waltz, and if you're lucky, break into faster flying and acrobatics. The latter kind of display is as awe-inspiring to watch as anything in nature - and best of all, can be seen by many of us city-dwellers with a bit of patience and dedication.

    1. Thank you for the information. I've heard them doing this when one is perched and the other flying but in sight, but not between two a few yards apart on a ledge.

    2. So that's what 'chupping' is. I remember watching a documentary many years ago where a man was getting to know Mauritius kestrels. He called out 'chup chup chup' and both my brother and myself thought he had rocks in his head - ah well, he knew a bit more than we did, and he got one of those magnificent birds to land on his arm.