Tuesday 7 May 2024

The deadly hand of officialdom

The Canada Geese nesting on the raft in the Long Water have hatched their goslings. The Perspex sides of the raft, intended to shelter young terns (but no tern has ever nested on it) prevent the goslings from getting out, so every year when this happens they need to be rescued and put on the water. And this needs to be done on the same day, or the goslings will get dehydrated and probably die.

Until this year this was a very simple job. When you saw the goslings you went to the boat hire place, Bluebird Boats, and they sent a boat on to the Long Water. It meant getting the boat under the chains across the bridge, which involved a bit of hauling and shoving, but otherwise it was perfectly straightforward.

But now the park management have sent Bluebird packing and decided to run the boat hire themselves. And here the problems begin. Instead of a small firm whose employees know the lake well and care for the wildlife on it, now we have a rigid hierarchy incapable of action without authorisation from above.

So we called the Wildlife Officer, whose job it is to handle such things. He was busy in Regent's Park, but sent a text message authorising one of us, who works for Swan Rescue and is skilled in such recovery jobs, to go and get the goslings out.

So we went to the boat hire place and found the manager. He flatly refused to help us, saying that he couldn't take a boat on to the Long Water without authorisation from the chief park manager -- who can't be contacted by telephone and takes several days even to answer an email. He was unaware that there was a raft on the Long Water. He claimed that it was impossible to get a boat on to it, but this is routinely done with the small electric boat they have, which is low enough to slide under the chains. He said it was a matter of 'health and safety' -- as we looked out on the lake covered with people in boats who knew nothing about handling a boat at all. In fact he was about as intransigent as a petty official can be.

We spent hours trying to contact other people, without result. The goslings are still stuck on the raft. Will be be able to get anything done tomorrow morning? Will any of the goslings still be alive?

If ever it needed proving that the park is run by jobsworths without a spark of enterprise or compassion, here is proof.

To return to more cheerful matters, there is a new Egyptian Goose family on the Serpentine, on the part of the path which is behind barriers after the bridge was damaged. It's quite a safe place as there are no dogs, and the plants on the edge of the Triangle shrubbery provide food.

The Mallard family were also here. This is a view from the bridge.

And so was the Grey Wagtail, not seen for some time. It was carrying several larvae, so it has found a mate and they are nesting somewhere in the shrubbery.

The four Egyptian goslings were just along the shore, alone. This was because their parents had started one of their stupid quarrels with the pair with the new brood and had both flow off to fight. The goslings are still not large enough to avoid being snatched by gulls and crows.

The Coots nesting under a bush at Peter Pan brought their five chicks out on the waterfront.

The Coot nest on the post, which had been raided and was deserted, has now been reoccupied -- in Dr Johnson's words, 'the triumph of hope over experience'.

Coot chicks in the Italian Garden fountains chewed bark off a twig that has fallen into the water. I've seen geese eating bark, but never a Coot before.

The Great Crested Grebe chick could be glimpsed across the Vista. I still haven't seen more than one, but the fewer there are the more chance of survival at this thin time of year.

The female Mute Swan on the nest at the Serpentine outflow took a break from sitting on the eggs to stretch her legs and have a preen.

A Blue Tit in a red-leafed hazel bush in the Flower Walk raised its little crest in irritation because I was photographing it instead of feeding it immediately.

Last but by no means least, the female Little Owl at the Round Pond looked particularly beautiful in a horse chestnut tree.

It was a good day for butterflies in the Flower Walk. Here are a Holly Blue, not the first I've seen this year but the first I've got a picture of ...

... and a Speckled Wood, in the place where there are Speckled Woods every year. This was the first of the year for me.

There were also a Brimstone and a Small White, but they wouldn't stop to be photographed.

A Common Carder bee browsed on a pulmonaria flower.

This cumbersomely named Grass Long-Palp Crane Fly, Tipula vernalis, with striking green eyes, was near the Round Pond.


  1. Hi Ralph, sounds like A LOT of waffle from the park management, I suppose helpless birds don't really matter to them in comparison to making money !..disgraceful !..superb pics,as always.regards,Stephen.

  2. The sheer madness of this....Why do we need permission of 3 different people please? I can understand Nick Burnham who is the wildlife officer of course, he okayed it right away. Then the boat people said we also needed permission from Tom Jarvis which we did but Tom managed to come up with another name who runs KG and we couldn't get hold of him because it was already 5:30pm. Surely the third guy could have been notified later via a message as to why they had to access The Long Water. When I said the goslings may die the boat guy said it was survival of the fittest ....but they aren't being taken by a gull, they are trapped without any access to a stream of water to drink and hopefully mum won't leave them overnight and will try and wait for Nick - he really needs to do this first thing in the morning without any delay as it's an utter emergency.

    1. Tom Jarvis is the head honcho. What he says goes. He refused to say it. May asses dance on the graves of his ancestors. As for the man at the boat hire, tarring and feathering should be the first thing on a long agenda.

  3. Hi again Ralph, just out of interest I was walking in some thick woodland at a well known Cheshire landmark (Beeston castle).the other day.when my MERLIN app picked up a flammulated owl....I have REAL suspicion of this ID..they are a north American species.any thoughts ? Regards,Stephen..PS, It also picked up a long eared owl, which I DID see.......

    1. Merlin does make mistakes. I suggest going on to xeno-canto.org , listening to Flammulated Owl calls, and then comparing the calls of the common native British owls to see which sounds most like them.

  4. The modern state is a Leviathan with Down syndrome. There are no words in the tongues of men to say how angry I am. I hope their business goes down in flames.

    1. That's hard on Down's people, who are innocently good. Also hard on Leviathans really. The modern state is a creature of human evil or, if you prefer, diabolical evil.

    2. The depressing thing about this post is that it is not surprising. I think the modern is more stupid than evil - everything takes so long now. Look at how long it takes to build a new reservoir.

    3. Or to build anything from a shed to a nuclear reactor.

  5. Any update on the goslings? I'm a journalist and would be interested to talk to you more about this as it seems like a real problem and should be more widely known!

    1. Three goslings finally rescued this afternoon. Parents sensibly took them to the Serpentine side of the bridge to get away from the killer swan. Just writing today's post now.

    2. Let's hope Ralph, there is another bully swan by the Serpentine Bridge whose female isn't even nesting and he was chasing the pecking Canada goslings that only lasted a couple of days.

    3. Next to the main killer 4DTH the two worst bullies are 4FUK and 4FYG, the latter being the male of the pair that nest on the island.