Wednesday 15 November 2023

Scary eyes

The male Little Owl perched briefly on a branch next to the hole in the dead tree at the Round Pond before flying away. Although he is used to me photographing him he finds the small camera I use for video unsettling. It has a short lens hood that doesn't hide the big glittering lens, and I think he sees it as a giant eye staring at him. The big camera has a very deep lens hood that shades the lens.

A Green Woodpecker searched for insects in the grass on Buck Hill. Oddly, they are more approachable when they are on the ground than when they are safe up a tree. But you still have to take care not to stare at them. Their eye has a white iris, so the human eye with its white cornea looks to them like a giant version of their own.

Also on Buck Hill, another Blackbird that is probably a winter migrant.

A permanent resident, the dominant Robin in the Flower Walk, was fluffed up to the max as it was quite chilly out of direct sunshine.

Another Robin perched beside the stream in the Dell.

The Grey Wagtail was hunting on the bank below.

A sunny morning brought people on to the terrace of the Lido restaurant, and a Grey Heron arrived in the hope of getting scraps. But it isn't the young heron we generally see here. No doubt all the park herons know about this source of food.

The number of Common Gulls at the Round Pond is building up as they trickle in one by one. Sometimes in midwinter there are as many as 50.

Several of the gulls in this group circling in a thermal are Common, as you can see from the white 'window' in the black wingtip. Herring Gulls have a much smaller white patch.

A young Herring Gull on the Serpentine dredged up a bit of rotten wood to play with.

The pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull is quite vocal, and evidently his calls establish his dominance over the northeast corner of the lake.

The aggressive Mute Swans don't have to call to dominate the whole lake. The pair were preening at Peter Pan.

Ahmet Amerikali achieved a notable score of three pictures of Goldcrests today, at the leaf yard ...

... next to the bridge ...

... and near the Rose Garden ...

... plus two close-ups of Cormorants catching fish, one with a perch under the edge of the Italian Garden ...

... and another with a carp at the bridge. seen looking down from the parapet.

A Grey Squirrel climbed around in a yew tree near Peter Pan eating the fruit. You can see how it chews off the sweet red outside and discards the poisonous seed.


  1. I've noticed very often that birds, which are normally very skittish here, will hold on quite a bit longer if you are wearing sunglasses. I imagine the reason is that they can't see our irises and pupils.

    1. Yes, I think you're right. I approach the birds holding my camera -- the one with the long, well shielded lens -- in front of my face, or if that's impossible because of rough terrain, looking at them askance with my face turned away as far as possible.

  2. Delightful video of the Little Owl.

    Like the Common Gull profile. When I did my monthly Pen Ponds count last week counted just under 30 Common Gulls on the upper island, whereas there were none last month.

    Sadly Blackbirds have become scarcities around here. A bird I always used to see in my garden & down my road. Gone from here & the local park. I still see a small number at certain locations (2 in Osterley Park yesterday) & many of these are I suspect migrants.

    The BTO Garden Bird newsletter that was in my inbox last Sunday suggested many were seeing a reduction in visiting Blackbirds & was most noticeable in the south-east.

  3. I've mentioned this on the blog before, but in the 1960s Roy Sanderson did a one-month survey with a team of volunteers to count Blackbirds in Kensington Gardens. He found over 200 territories. In 2011 he repeated the survey. There were only 18. The decline seems to be continuing.

    1. Sad. Leaf blowers probably don't help & the trend for drier summers (though very wet July this year).are probably factors.

    2. I've been nagging the park management about blowing leaves out of the shrubberies for 20 years. They have now put up posters about how they are 'leaving the leaves' but it remains to be seen if they will. They are long on words and short on action.

  4. The Green Woodpecker is a beautiful specimen.

  5. On the subject of blackbirds, we had a total of 12 at St James Park this year (two pairs of adults and eight 'new arrivals'). We now seem to be down to one male and one female: can't quite believe that so many would desert an area where food is readily available, or that ten blackbirds were predated - very disappointed to lose so many of these wonderful birds :(

    1. Were the 'new arrivals' winter migrants arriving early in the year? If so, they'd have gone away in spring in the normal way. Another possibility is that they, and other birds, exhausted the supply of berries and went elsewhere to look for them.

  6. (ChatGPT, in David Attenborough's Voice)

    Today, in the enchanting realm of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, a tale of nature unfolded before our very eyes. As I observed from my discreet vantage point, a male Little Owl graced us with its presence, briefly alighting on a branch beside the hollow of a withered tree near the Round Pond. This curious fellow, accustomed to my camera's gaze, found himself somewhat disconcerted by the small video camera I employed. Its lens hood, though modest in size, failed to conceal the gleaming eye of the camera, leaving our owl friend somewhat uneasy.

    Not far away, on Buck Hill, a Green Woodpecker embarked on a quest for insects amidst the lush grass. Surprisingly, these woodpeckers tend to be more approachable when grounded, rather than when nestled safely in the heights of a tree. Yet, one must exercise caution not to fixate on them, for their unique vision perceives our human eye with its white cornea as a colossal version of their own.

    Amidst the tranquil beauty of Buck Hill, we encountered yet another visitor, a Blackbird likely on a winter migration journey. Inhabitants of these splendid gardens include the ever-dominant Robin of the Flower Walk, its feathery ensemble fluffed to its maximum extent to combat the slight chill outside the direct warmth of the sun.

    Nearby, perched by the gentle stream in the Dell, another Robin sought solace in the serene surroundings. Meanwhile, the diligent Grey Wagtail tirelessly scoured the bank below, tirelessly hunting for sustenance.

    As the morning sun bathed the terrace of the Lido restaurant in its golden glow, people gathered, and a hopeful Grey Heron descended, anticipating the possibility of receiving some leftover scraps. This particular heron appeared distinct from the youthful ones typically spotted in the park, suggesting that news of this generous food source had spread far and wide among the park's heron population.

    Observing the Round Pond, one could discern the increasing congregation of Common Gulls, each trickling in, building up their numbers. In the heart of winter, their ranks could swell to as many as fifty. Aerial acrobatics revealed their identity, with the white 'window' in their black wingtips distinguishing them from their Herring Gull counterparts, who sport a notably smaller white patch.

    By the tranquil Serpentine, a youthful Herring Gull engaged in play, utilizing a piece of decaying wood for entertainment. This pigeon-eating Lesser Black-Backed Gull, ever vocal, asserted its dominance over the northeast corner of the lake.

    In this grand aquatic theater, the majestic Mute Swans reigned supreme, their regal presence commanding respect across the entire expanse. Preening gracefully by the Peter Pan statue, they embodied the timeless elegance of these cherished waters.

    Amidst all these captivating sightings, Ahmet Amerikali, our intrepid observer, achieved the remarkable feat of capturing three splendid images of Goldcrests. These delicate creatures graced the leafy yard, the bridge's vicinity, and the serene Rose Garden. Additionally, Ahmet's lens immortalized two Cormorants in action, one clutching a perch near the Italian Garden's edge, and the other with a substantial carp beneath the bridge, as seen from the parapet above.

    Lastly, a Grey Squirrel frolicked amidst the yew trees near Peter Pan, savoring the succulent fruit that nature offered. A keen eye could observe the squirrel's careful ritual of nibbling away the sweet, red exterior while discarding the inedible seeds—a testament to the wisdom of the natural world that surrounds us in Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.

    1. Thank you. I didn't know ChatGPT could do rewrites in a given style. Impressive in a grisly way. I do try hard not to write like that.