My fascination with the pelicans in St James’s Park continues! I managed a short visit on Friday afternoon after an appointment at Guy’s Hospital. It’s so therapeutic after you’ve just had to hear more bad news. I was expecting it really, no big shocks but disappointing all the same. So from having to keep my own mouth wide open for the dental conservative consultant, I went to see a much more impressive wide mouth!
The bare skin on the lower mandible of the pelican is known as the gular pouch. There are other birds with gular skin but the pelican has the largest. The lower mandible expands to open the pouch allowing it to scoop it’s prey from the water. As the mandible contracts, water is expelled from the bill and the bird can then tilt its head to let the fish slide down the gullet. The gular pouch actually has a larger capacity than the pelicans stomach! You may have heard the rhyme by Dixon Merritt: “Oh, what a wondrous bird is the pelican! His bill holds more than his belican. He can take in his beak enough food for a week. But I’m darned if I know how the helican.” In fact, any surplass food is actually stored in the oesophagus!
ShareMondays2019 – What’s The Difference Between A Weasel And A Stoat?
A weasel is weaselly recognised but a stoat is stoatally different! Boom Boom!
Sorry, but I couldn’t resist a bad Christmas cracker joke. This is the first WILD weasel I have ever managed to catch on camera! What a way to celebrate the festive season. I know it’s a weasel, not for the aforementioned reason, but because it’s REALLY small and the tail is only about 3cm long, with no black bushy tip! I only actually caught very brief glimpses of the tail as they’re also REALLY, REALLY fast. My photos with the full body and tail are unintentionally motion blurred!
Anyway, wishing everyone a fun and joyful festive season, whatever and however you might celebrate! Here are the festive feathered friends that I went to photograph, who actually alerted me to the presence of the Wisley Weasel. A redwing in a cherry tree and rockin’ robin!
I managed to get out of the house last Thursday to visit some of my favourite tree decorations, at RHS Wisley Gardens, fieldfares and redwings! These two birds are members of the Thrush family that fly south from Scandinavia, to overwinter in the UK and other parts of southern Europe. They won’t take long to strip the cherry trees bare of these sweet treats! It’s a spectacle I love seeing every year. They are so busy feeding that I can get just a little bit closer to them than in some other areas where they are gathered.
Another appointment in London led to another visit to St James’s Park last week. My lead image is a macro of one of the new pelicans. The three are just ten months old and have yet to develop their punk-like crests, but they have such beautiful shaping to the feathers on the back of their heads. They all still have some of their juvenile plumage on their wings, a brown colour, which easily distinguishes them from the three adults.
Of course the pelicans aren’t the only birds in the park! I had great fun watching juvenile coots munching on mushrooms around the edge of the lake. Anyone foraging for fungi in the Royal Parks should seek permission first! Not all fungi are suitable for human consumption, but many are an important source of food for hungry wildlife.
Lots of visitors to the park feed the birds and squirrels with peanuts. This is actually a great food for them at the moment as they contain plenty of calories to keep their energy reserves going in the colder weather. The parakeets love being fed! They’ll come and sit on your hand (head, arm or shoulder too!) to eat nuts or fruit. The smaller birds like the robins, tits and dunnocks will happily come to take bird seed from you too.
Despite all the wet weather we’ve had this month, some days are just golden! I visited St James’s Park in London last Wednesday and discovered that the flock of pelicans has doubled in size. There are now six of these magnificent birds living in the park. They were glorious to watch in the Autumn light with the rich colours of foliage on Duck Island behind them. It was lovely to see lots of people enjoying the space, feeding birds and squirrels, warming up in the cafe, having a family outing with the kids or just sitting under a tree, getting lost in a good book.
The sounds of nature draw me to the outdoors just as much as the sights! During the Autumn, one sound that absolutely captivates me is the red deer stags, booming out their challenges across the Royal Parks. This stag was at Bushy Park last Wednesday, just outside the Woodland Gardens. I had to answer his call and left the enclosed gardens to see him set against the golden afternoon light on the bracken. Just magnificent! It’s really important to keep a respectful distance from the deer during the rutting season and I would urge other park visitors NOT to approach, or try to feed, the deer at this time. Stand back and enjoy the show! This image was taken using the Fujinon 100-400mm with 1.4x teleconverter so that I could keep that distance.
I think this is my favourite image from last week! Firstly, it’s a butterfly, secondly it’s on a seed pod and last but not least, this was the moment the sun came out after a pretty wet and miserable day. I love this time of year, the sunlight has become golden again, the plants are all coming into their Autumn colours and structure. I’m really enjoying having a decent macro lens again, allowing me to get up really close to my favourite things. Have a great week everyone!