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.
I spent a delightful bit of time watching this very vocal wren balancing on the tops of bracken at Bushy Park last week. The best way to find a wren is to listen for them chatting a territorial call in scrub, grasses and bracken. Watch for movement of the leaves and stems that can indicate where the wren is. They’ll come to perch at one of the higher points of the scrub to chat and sing. Watching them bobbing about and singing is such fun! They’re so tiny but have big characters and an even bigger voice.
My favourite wildlife sighting from last week was this dear little owl (ickle wol) in Richmond Park last Thursday! This is the first time I’ve managed to see them in the wild since I was a kid. Thank you to various members of the Surrey Bird Club for posting about the general location near Pen Ponds. A blessed if brief sighting!
It was truly delightful watching this juvenile robin sunbathing, dust-bathing and preening last week at Polesden Lacey! I had a tough time choosing my favourite images from two wonderful days out with my best friend, Rachel and her boys Nate and Dan. We had quite an adventure at both Polesden and Wisley Gardens. Even managed to find the female grass snake that likes to sun itself near the rock gardens! Her eye is a blue-grey tone indicating that she is about to shed her skin.
The other treat waiting for us at Wisley was the little grebe pair on the Glasshouse Lake, who have finally nested and managed to hatch a couple of beautiful little humbug-striped chicks. This is the third year that I have seen little grebes nesting on the lake and they really are wonderful to watch. The parents carry the young chicks on their backs on the water, until they are old enough to start fending for themselves.
I really had such fun watching the busy whitethroat adults bringing in food to their young at Heather Farm last week! So much on the menu; moth, caterpillar, damselfly and this rather magnificent spider. Good thing there are lots of these arachnids around the grassland! A few of the whitethroat families seem to have fledged already but these parents were still busy feeding today, when I visited briefly for 30DaysWild. I will miss the fledging as we will be going to our beloved Kos in Greece this week! I probably won’t get a chance to blog, but I will be posting a few photos on my Twitter feed @MiradorDesign. So, I’m posting late at night, or early in the hours of Monday morning, to enter this one into the weekly challenges and give myself more packing time tomorrow! Hope you all have a great few first weeks of Summer and I will catch up when I return.
I managed to get a few images of this wonderful robin family in the Florence Nightingale Garden, at St Thomas’s Hospital. It was absolutely tipping it down with rain most of the time! Of course that brought up plenty of worms in the flower beds. The two juveniles that I saw were loudly calling for food under the roses! I have processed my main image as a birthday gift for my brother, Robin. He and my sister-in-law, Morwenna, are expecting their first little bundle of joy, a baby boy, in September! I am one very excited auntie already and so very happy for them 🙂
This one is a fair representation of my brother a child!!