Wednesday 12 June 2024

Sparrows at Covent Garden

The London Bird Club Wiki reported House Sparrows nesting in Covent Garden, and I went to see them. There are perhaps half a dozen. The nests are in the building in Long Acre that has Boots on the ground floor, in ventilators set between the windows, and the best place to watch them is from the corner of Covent Garden Tube station. This may be the only completely independent colony of sparrows in central London, as the colonies at Regent's Park Zoo and the Churchill Gardens Estate in Pimlico are sustained by feeding.

At the Round Pond the Little Owl was keeping up his watch in the nest tree, fluffed up to keep warm on a cold grey day. He'd be much more comfortable inside, but he has a job to do.

A young Long-Tailed Tit stared down from a tree near the Italian Garden.

Ahmet Amerikali got a picture of a Reed Warbler in the reeds under the parapet.

A Carrion Crow perched on a swan-necked urn. You can see the join where the urn was mended when the garden was restored in 2011.

Most of the songbirds have gone quiet now, but a Blackcap was singing occasionally.

Three Greenfinches were calling to each other on the west side of the Long Water.

The Grey Wagtail was using a wire basket at the island as a hunting station. I didn't see the fledgling.

The young Grey Heron was still at the Triangle. It was struggling to rip the last shreds off the carcass of a Feral Pigeon, but its bill is really the wrong shape for this. The pigeon was apparently caught by one of Pigeon Eater's followers, since Pigeon Eater himself was hunting at the other end of the lake.

He had just dived on a pigeon which had struggled free, leaving him just a few feathers in his beak.

The Great Crested Grebe chick on the Long Water kept an eye on its father as he swam below, hoping to intercept him when he came up with a fish.

The Coot chicks in the Italian Garden have started wandering from pool to pool, and you can no longer tell which brood they belong to. Five stood on the kerb with a parent.

The killer Mute Swan's mate was on the gravel strip in the Long Water, preening with her six cygnets.

The Greylag goslings, now teenagers, were near the boathouses. They still have their Canada helper.

The four youngest Egyptian goslings huddled to keep warm.

Two Red-Crested Pochard drakes crossed the Serpentine. They are still in breeding plumage ...

... but the Gadwall drakes are going into eclipse. They are inconspicuous in their grey breeding plumage and don't really need to change it while moulting their wings, but it's what ducks do so they go along with it.

The wildflower patch in the Rose Garden, which had some unsuitable cultivated flowers in the spring, has now gone properly native with corncockles, cornflowers and oxeye daisies.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Appearing at the Serpentine Gallery

The male Little Owl at the Serpentine Gallery hadn't shown up for some time, and I was beginning to get worried about him. But today I heard the unmistakable call of a male owl, and after a good deal of dashing around under the nest tree managed to see him looking down from a high branch.

The owl at the Round Pond was fluffed up to the max in the chilly wind blasting over this exposed place.

A Jay appeared at the southwest corner of the bridge. Its Groucho Marx moustache gives it a louche look.

There used to be a Jay in the trees to the east of the Albert Memorial that came out as regular as clockwork to take peanuts from my hand. Several months ago it disappeared and I thought that was the end of it. But today what I think is the same Jay was back in the same place, and sure enough it flew down to snatch a peanut in flight.

A Carrion Crow on the lawn below neatly shelled a peanut I gave it.

A family group of Long-Tailed Tits was in the trees to the east of the Lido, a place where they are often seen.

There is a family of Wrens in the reeds by the Italian Garden. I photographed the adults two days ago, but Ahmet Amerikali was here today and got a fine picture of one of the young ones.

This Blackbird in the Dell seems to be a very dark female. When I first saw it I thought it was an immature male that hadn't yet developed its yellow bill and eye ring, but it's the wrong time of year for that as the chicks are still young and light coloured.

The young Grey Heron was at the Triangle again. Someone started feeding the geese and it trotted over to grab a share.

The geese feeding on the south side of the lake included the very pale Greylag, which is not completely white like a leucistic bird. The colour is known as 'isabel' or 'isabelline' after Queen Isabel I of Castile. In 1491 her husband King Ferdinand went away to besiege Granada, and she vowed that she wouldn't change her underclothes till he returned successfully. The siege took eight months, by which time her underclothes had seriously lost their pristine whiteness. The goose seems to be a genuinely wild Greylag, not a domestic one, since it's normal sized.

One of the Bar-Headed x Greylag hybrids from St James's Park has come to moult as usual, It's three quarters Bar-Headed and looks almost exactly like a pure bred one.

The two Canada families were together on the Long Water.

The biggest of the four assorted Egyptian goslings has grown into a handsome teenager.

The two Mandarin drakes in eclipse had found each other at the Vista.

One of the Coots with chicks under the parapet of the Italian Garden pulled up a beakful of algae.

A female Common Blue Damselfly appeared, oddly a long way from the nearest water, on a Jerusalem Sage leaf in the Rose Garden. It was also there yesterday but I couldn't get a picture. As usual with Damselflies females can have a range of colours, in this case a mustardy brown.

There is a saying 'Quivering like an aspen'. Well here is an aspen quivering in the wind. It's a kind of poplar, aptly called Populus tremula, with very thin leaf stems that allow the leaves to flutter in the slightest breeze.

A guerilla artist had planted a tiny rival art gallery next to the Serpentine Gallery. It has a collage called 'Memories' and what in a big gallery would be called an Installation of Found Objects. It was much more fun than anything that's been in the Serpentine Gallery for years.

Monday 10 June 2024

Mobbed by Great Tits

I was filming this young Great Tit in the Rose Garden eating a seed I had given it when three more, impatient to be fed, landed on the camera -- you can hear this at 8 seconds in -- on my left hand and on my head, and started shouting at me.

A Blue Tit in the corkscrew hazel in the Flower Walk was also staring expectantly.

Other customers here were a Jay in the shade of a tree ...

... and a young Robin.

The Robin at the top of the steps by the bridge is farther into getting its red breast.

The Chiffchaffs at the Henry Moore sculpture were calling to each other again. One pair nested in a bush here last year, but I haven't seen any young ones here this year.

It was a chilly day with wind and occasional showers, so it was a slight surprise to find the male Little Owl at the Round Pond out in the horse chestnut tree. He was fluffed up to keep warm.

The young Grey Heron was at the Triangle and clearly expected to be fed. I hope this means that other people are giving him a titbit from time to time -- and also that he doesn't get too trusting.

There was a lot of squawking at the island, which turned out to be the Grey Herons in the latest nest having a faceoff with a heron in the upper nest, one of the parents of the young heron in the previous picture.

One of them flew up to chase it off, and both the chicks appeared over the edge of the nest. They've grown quite a lot since last seen.

A Moorhen with a half-grown chick to protect chased away a Carrion Crow, looked to see if the people on the bench would feed it, and returned to the edge of the lake.

The male Egyptian Goose at the Henry Moore sculpture was alone again, so evidently his mate is nesting for the third time this year. Poor creature, she must be exhausted.

On the Serpentine, the four older goslings ...

... and the four younger ones were huddled up against the wind.

Cumulus clouds were echoed in the Mute Swan cruising around looking for another swan to bully.

A female Mallard preened on the edge. The beautiful markings of female ducks are taken for granted when the drakes are so much showier.

A pair of Gadwalls passed under the bridge -- one of the minority of ducks where the drakes are quite restrained.

Convolvulus flowers at the back of the Lido attracted Buff-Tailed Bumblebees.

Sunday 9 June 2024

Robins and Wrens

Adult and juvenile Robins flitted about in the Flower Walk. Young Robins are appearing everywhere, and it's been a very good year for them.

A family of Wrens whizzed around the reed bed under the edge of the Italian Garden ...

... perching in a swamp cypress ...

... and on the eroded stone crown above the relief of Prince Albert.

A Blue Tit fed a fledgling in a copper beech behind the Albert Memorial.

Another stared from the corkscrew hazel in the Flower Walk ...

... and a tiny Coal Tit achieved an even more imperious look.

The young Great Tits at the northwest corner of the bridge were making a huge racket.

The male Song Thrush was in the half-dead holly tree again. Since we have seen both of the pair here we know that this is the male, who is lighter in colour than his mate.

The male Little Owl at the Round Pond was in the top of the horse chestnut, taking no notice of events on the ground below.

Beside the Serpentine someone was feeding a Grey Heron with tangerine segments, which it caught neatly and seemed to like.

One of the parents of the youngest chicks took off from the island. I still haven't managed to see the chicks again but the other adult is guarding the nest so they seem to be all right.

Another was fishing under the marble fountain in the Italian Garden, with the female Mute Swan and six cygnets in the background.

They were eating algae, which must be a very nutritious food judging from the way they grow, but they also eat snails and small aquatic creatures for extra protein.

The odd couple of the Canada x Greylag Goose hybrid and the pure Canada were at the Lido. The hybrid looks very like the three hybrids I photographed yesterday, including the pink feet. These hybrids are very variable in head pattern and foot colour, but I don't think this one is a sibling of the other three as it's a permanent resident and they only come to moult.

Another Mandarin drake going into eclipse looked sadly tatty at the Triangle. This isn't the one I photographed at the Vista on the 4th, which had lost almost all its breeding plumage.

A pair of Great Crested Grebes preened together on the Serpentine.

A Seven-Spot Ladybird pupa clung to a Stachys leaf in the Rose Garden. (Thanks to Conehead 54 for the identification, and glad it's one of ours and not yet another Harlequin.)