Monday 6 November 2023

Little Owl back in sight at the Serpentine Gallery

A Little Owl has reappeared at the Serpentine Gallery, where Belinda Davie spotted it and took this pleasing picture. I missed it because I had given up looking for the owls here after several weeks of drawing a blank. This is certainly a male owl, as you can tell from its slim build and big eyebrows, but is it the male of the pair that bred here or their offspring, who was beginning to look exactly like his father when last seen?

A chilly wind kept the female owl at the Round Pond in her hole.

A Grey Wagtail looked for insects at the edge of the Serpentine by the Lido restaurant. This is quite a young bird, still without an adult's dark bib. It's been seen several times around the lake.

On the restaurant terrace this Starling with one leg is a regular visitor. It has no difficulty scavenging, but it can't run around in the grass with the others so it's mostly dependent on human leavings.

A Feral Pigeon is usually seen lying on an arm of one of the benches in the Flower Walk. I suspect that it's also disabled, but didn't want to scare it away to check.

A pair of Jays are now regularly turning up to be fed near the Queen's Temple.

Ahmet Amerikali got a fine picture of a Goldcrest in the bushes near the Lido, not a place where I've seen or heard one myself but there must be a lot unnoticed in every shrubbery where there are evergreens.

A young Herring Gull was playing with a coffee cup, an interesting toy because it could be made to roll.

Another was eating a bit of apple, a popular treat for many kinds of birds. This is a third-year bird with just a trace of tweedy juvenile plumage remaining on its wings.

And this one has been occupying the landing stage at the Diana fountain for several days ...

... to the annoyance of the resident Black-Headed Gull, who was in the water looking disgruntled.

A Cormorant dozed on a post at Peter Pan.

Another picture by Ahmet: the female Great Crested Grebe from the bridge having a bit of flying practice.

One of their young ones was fishing at Peter Pan.

I think one other has survived the dangerous transition to independence, as I have seen a young grebe fishing on the Serpentine. We don't know what happened to the young from the nest farther up the Long Water, as the whole family left as soon as they could fly.

The Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid was hanging around with the Tufted Ducks on the Long Water. At the end of the video, a pure Pochard for comparison. The hybrid is darker with a two-tone body, and and has interesting  marmalade-coloured eyes.

A group of Shovellers spun as they scooped up small aquatic creatures with their enormous bills. These contain bristles which sieve solids out of the water in the same way as the filters of baleen whales.

A different air ambulance from the usual London two landed on Buck Hill.

It's an Agusta-Westland 169 belonging to the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Service, which has been operating since 2017. They are getting a second one, and also have an MD902 Explorer similar to the London ones. The AW169 has a high-set tail rotor and a large horizontal stabiliser to keep people away from it, essential when there are rescuers on the ground who could walk into a normal tail rotor and get shredded. The MD902 manages this more elegantly by not having a tail rotor at all, relying on an air blast circulating around a cylindrical tail to create sideways thrust with the mysterious Coanda effect.

After a sunny day there was a brief shower as I was coming home, producing a rainbow which did its best to make the Dana Centre in Queen's Gate look less hideous. Richard Henry Dana, who wrote Two Years Before the Mast in 1840, would have been appalled to find this great lump named after him.


  1. Lovely picture of the Goldcrest from Ahmed. I just noticed the one legged starling two weeks ago. The Little Owl is very exciting! I still haven't looked for the hybrid but it will happen soon!

    1. The owl at the Serpentine Gallery may be a one-off sighting, as they've been somewhere else since the young one grew up. I'm sure they didn't go far, but there are so many trees.

  2. Hello Ralph, any ideas HOW the poor starling ended up with only one leg?.a deformity at birth?.regards,Stephen....

    1. Broke, withered, eventually fell off. It happens. Lots of one-legged Black-Headed Gulls.

  3. It is indeed hideous. I wonder why architects have decided to uglify everything, by design.
    Would the young Grebe have accompanied its parents when they flew off?
    Not only does it roll: the coffee cup has the distinctive advantage of having traces of sugary coffee! Although I shudder to think of a caffeinated gull.

    1. That building is 50m from my front door and I see its ugly blank brick wall amid the graceful old Kensington Italianate houses every time I go out. I think money must have changed hands to get planning permisaion.