Monday 27 November 2023

Hoping for Waxwings soon

A nasty wet day. Sheltering from a heavy shower in the Queen's Temple, I zoomed in on a Carrion Crow poking around for worms in the wet grass.

A Magpie stood on an urn in the Italian Garden.

Surprisingly, the Little Owl at the Round Pond was at the front of the hole. She was beginning to get wet, so probably went back in soon.

A male Chaffinch perched on a tree in the Rose Garden shrubbery ...

... and one of the Robins was on a bush, singing occasionally.

The Pied Wagtail pair were on the Lido restaurant terrace again. No humans were present except me, so they had a clear ground to hunt in.

The male, on the edge, caught a small larva, not one of the straight white kind they're often seen with. A study of the places where they feed might yield an interesting variety of creatures.

Two pigeons of identical colour at the Triangle car park. Feral Pigeons do seem to prefer mates of their own colour, but these two may just be siblings.

The old Grey Heron was fishing under the waterspouts at the edge of the Italian Garden.

Another was on the boat hire platform waiting for a fish to emerge from the shadows. They can reach down to the water from here without losing their balance.

The Black-Headed Gull EZ73323 was on his usual sign, with the lights of the Winter Wasteland and a line of blue pedalos adding a bit of colour to the background.

This very dark Great Crested Grebe seems to have arrived on the Serpentine recently. Perhaps he left a smaller pond the night before last when there was a frost, as grebes dread being trapped in ice without a stretch of clear water for their long takeoff run. These dark birds seem to stay the same colour all year round. I think they may get darker with age but am not at all sure about that.

The Moorhen pair in the Dell poked about in the wet grass for any small creature they could dig out, and found the grass quite tasty too.

This is the pair at the Vista, who have been breeding here for several years.

The lawn by the Dell turns into a swamp when it rains, and carelessly driving a tractor over it leaves deep muddy ruts. Egyptian Geese, like many birds, seem to actually prefer drinking from muddy puddles rather than the fairly clean water in the lake. Maybe it's like tea to them, or maybe the borehole water in the lake tastes nasty -- I'm certainly not going to try it.

Another Mute Swan has been badly hit by the pink infection caused by people feeding them mouldy bread. This young female was at Fisherman's Keep. The previous pink swan, which was in a bad way with damaged feathers, has been taken to the Swan Sanctuary to recover, and it looks as if this one is going to need the same treatment.

Clearing dead plants from the Flower Walk has exposed this hole. It's too small for a fox. Can some rabbits have survived the foxes and outbreaks of myxomatosis?

Tom was at Costessey in Norfolk, where he got this excellent picture of a Waxwing eating rowan berries.

Waxwings are moving down from the north, and he reports that some have been seen in Hemel Hempstead. We might get them in London soon, but almost certainly not in the park, where there is a sad shortage of berry trees. I've only seen them once here, in the spring eating leaf buds on a poplar.


  1. Hi Ralph, what an interesting question regarding the possibility of the grebes getting darker with sad that people seem to think that feeding swans with mouldy bread is a good idea !!...would be lovely to see waxwings in the park, I wonder if anyone has spotted a hoopoe there? Regards,Stephen..

    1. Yes, they have, in 1967 and 1973. Thanks to Andrew Self's The Birds of London for that information. The column on the right of the web version of the blog has an all-time list of sightings since 1889.

    2. Hi again Ralph, I could only find a hardback edition (£50!).it does seem an awfully long time since the last sighting...(hoopoe) I have only seen one once (in cambs, near Peterborough)..and most likely will never see one again..regards,, having ALOT of fun with the Sony a230...

    3. Saw the list (177 species).WOW !!....Stephen

    4. 197! Hoping to make it 200 before I fall off the twig.

    5. I'm sure you will make it !!........regs,Stephen..

    6. Good luck trying to dissuade people, especially those from the "community" that frequents Hyde Park, from dumping, oh sorry - I mean feeding - mouldy bread to the birds.

  2. You do have to take your hat off to Carrion Crows! They are such opportunist creatures, with a cunning edge to them. Quite fascinating.

    I must say I have never heard of a Great Crested Grebe with an all year round plumage like that. Wonder if it does distinguish between ages and sex… or just in individuals. And if it does disappear with age, would it be anything to do with reproduction..

    That is quite a leap for a Grey Heron! Even though they can extend their necks to a lengthy range, that edge looks round about 2ft or more… it must also be shallow water.

  3. I wonder if darker colouring in Grebes is like skin or hair tone in humans. Even among caucasians, some are darker than others. It works with buzzards, whose plumage is bewilderingly varied.
    197! Woww! Wouldn't it be lovely if number 200 turned out to be a hoopoe?
    All I know about waxwings is that they sometimes get so drunk on fermented berries that they lay down to sleep it off!

    1. Yes, I'm sure there are colour variations among grebes that are nothing to do with age. But I was really thinking of a big male bird we knew as Supergrebe, years before the blog started, who was known to have lived to at least 10, and who regularly successfully brought up and fledged five chicks with his mate. He was dark and seemed to get darker every year, with no white at all on his face and a brownish front.