Friday, 25 June 2010

Uptown birds

Today I had lunch with Simon in London. I got an early train to do a couple of hours' birding in the nearest park before we met. It was another warm and sunny one, though clouds gathered through the morning. Summer isn't that great for birding and, in the middle of the big smoke, you're never going to be falling over lots of interesting insects either. Nevertheless, there was more than enough to keep me and the 70-300mm lens amused.

To go with yesterday's close-up juvenile Grey Heron, here's an adult. It was sitting nonchalantly on a post in the shallows, ignoring the numerous camera-phones pointed in its direction.

I was admiring one of the fountains, and idly hoping some bird would swim under the falling water for a nice photo, though I didn't really believe any of them would be dumb enough to actually do it. This Coot proved me wrong, battling determinedly through the torrent with its stick.

One of the nice things about bird photography in a London park is how approachable everything is. I took lots of close-ups of things - Mute Swans' eyeballs, Coots' weird feet, and this Greylag delicately nibbling its toenails.

The loudest thing on the lake - a baby Great Crested Grebe. There were quite a lot of these, squealing loudly and persistently for parental attention. I even saw one hanging around an adult which had another, much smaller baby still on its back.

People who've read my stuff in Birdwatch may remember that I tend to use Egyptian Goose as an example of one of the, well, less attractive bird species found in the UK. However, the youngsters are bundles of cuteness, though I do think this little one looks like he's plotting something diabolical.

More cuteness. This Red-crested Pochard had only the one baby, a downy little doppleganger who stayed close by her side. London has lots of feral RCPs, the males with their bouffant ginger hairdos particularly enlivening the typical park lake fauna.

Want to experience extreme frustration? Try photographing a bunch of restless fledgling Goldcrests flitting about in a very shady tree. This pic's probably the best of a bad bunch, but what a little cutie. It was hard to tell how many of them there were - at least three I reckon, plus their knackered-looking (but still lively as anything) mum who I also photographed (badly).

Just before it was time to go, I bumped into this Wren, furiously alarm-calling through its mouthful of unidentifiably squashed insects. It stayed put for a couple of minutes, letting me approach quite closely and get a bushel of pics.

Insect-wise, there were quite a few Black-tailed Skimmers about, a solitary bright green hawker dragonfly which was probably a female Southern, and a few damsels. No butterflies, sadly.

I put the camera away on leaving the park but the birding wasn't quite over. As I had lunch with Simon outside a pub in a side street off Edgware Road, we were serenaded (if that's the right word for such an uninspired singer) by a Black Redstart. The little blighter was high on a rooftop so out of sight, but I was still delighted with a long-overdue encounter with my favourite species.

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