Monday, 2 February 2015

Lost in London

No, not me. I knew where I was almost the whole time. The lost soul is a Scaup, which has been living on the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens for a few weeks now. Paul and I went to visit it yesterday, and to check out the general scene. It was very, very cold and grey - luckily I stayed in Teddington on Saturday night and now have my low light-friendly D700 back (well, that helped with the grey, not so much with the cold).

Here's a Teddington House Sparrow, photographed through Susan and Paula's kitchen window before I headed into central London.

Got to Ken Gardens at about 12.30am and met Paul at the Italian Gardens, from where we went to look at a big crowd of Shovelers which were milling around in the corner of Long Water - mostly drakes but a few ducks (probably 4:1 ratio). These two broke away from the herd.
There is an empty skip parked in the water on the western shore. This Moorhen seemed to like it. We had a few seconds of sunshine at this point.

We carried on to the main bird-feeding area, where several people (including this gentleman) were offering handouts to the tits and parakeets. We joined in for a while.

Blue Tits and Great Tits readily came down for seed but the Coal Tit was just too shy.

Of course Feral Pigeons and Grey Squirrels were in attendance too, the former trying to break into Paul's rucksack, the latter trying to convince us that it was the very soul of adorable innocence.

We headed for Round Pond, on the way meeting Ralph Hancock, diligent blogger of the birdlife here and supremely helpful chap. He pointed out the Tawny Owl tree for us, gave directions for a new Little Owl tree, confirmed that the Scaup was still present on the Round Pond, and persuaded a couple of Jays to come down for peanuts.

A Jay, coveting a peanut. Ralph said that at least some of the Jays here will feed from his hand but this one waited for a nut thrown on to the ground (and then swooped down and grabbed it too quickly for photos.

Some of the small flock of Starlings that mugged us for mealworms en route to Round Pond. The top is a first-winter, then an adult male - note blue bill-base, and adult female - note pink bill-base. How disappointing to see Starlings conforming to gender stereotypes. The female had a bad leg - she seemed to be coping OK but took the opportunity for a sit-down after her fill of mealworms.

The Scaup was dead centre of Round Pond but we waited and it did come closer. It is a first-winter drake, developing some grey adult-type plumage on its mantle but mostly looking rather brown and boring. I suppose it prefers Round Pond to Long Water/the Serpentine because it is, at heart, a seaduck (or if not then a reservoir duck), preferring less vegetated waters.

First-winter Black-headed Gull. Round Pond is good for eye-level portraits of close-range water birds if a) you don't mind lying on the ground and attracting funny looks from passers-by and b) you don't mind that almost all the water birds you see at close range will be Black-headed Gulls.
Almost all. There were also a few Greylags.

On the surrounding grassland were 30 or so Egyptian Geese, including this white-headed bird.

And with the Egyptians was this weirdo. A Maned Duck (aka Maned Goose, aka Australian Wood Duck). There is no collection of clipped exotic wildfowl in this park, so this must be a free-flyer, and Paul suspected it had wandered here from Regent's Park.

We then went to the new Little Owl tree but there was no sign of the owl/s, and we also checked the Tawny tree with similar lack of success. We were freezing by this point so went for a cup of tea at the Lido cafe, first stopping to look at the gang of gulls on the Serpentine, mostly Black-headed but some Commons and a couple of tough-looking adult Lesser Black-backs.

Post tea, it was getting close to 4.30pm and very gloomy, so I decided to put the camera away. However, a passing birder told us that the Tawny was now showing, so the camera came out again for a not-very-impressive record shot of the gorgeous owl.

This is the male of the pair. The female is down there in a hollow from the broken bit of trunk, presumably incubating a clutch of eggs. Hopefully there'll be 'branching' owlets out in a few weeks' time.

1 comment:

Bob Telford said...

Super read, interesting that there is so much going on there, especially with the Owls.