Walk Like An Egyptian

After visiting Cranford and Otmoor so far this year it was time for some urban birding at Kensington Gardens. The park attracts a wide range of birds and their constant close contact with people leaves them far less skittish than their suburban and rural cousins, offering the chance of some good photos.

I arrived just before 8am as dawn gloom was breaking. This set the tone for the day, the overcast conditions only relented when I was back home. All was not lost though, with the park largely deserted of joggers, dog walkers and tourists the wildlife was very much out and about. Sound came before sight with the aggressive honking of Egyptian Geese, screeching of Ring-necked Parakeets and the occasional laugh of Green Woodpeckers echoing among the trees. With the light still too gloomy for decent pictures of the occupants of the trees I made for The Long Water and immediately found this Cormorant calmly paddling close to the pathway.

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Twisting his head this way and that, we exchanged morning salutations and went about our business.

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I was scanning the middle of the Long Water for interesting gulls and ducks and it was only by chance that I looked down and saw a Great Crested Grebe stealthily sailing past. As soon as I raised my camera it was ducking down under the water and gone. My previous Great Crested Grebe photos have all been at a distance so I was most reluctant to let this opportunity get away too easily. It was just about possible to follow the trail of bubbles left by this reluctant subject and I was lucky enough to get a few shots off before it submerged again.

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With things a little brighter I scoured some of the greenery for feathered life. Is there a more obliging bird for bird pics than the Robin? I try to tell myself I have enough pictures of this very common bird then one comes right in front of you and says “what about me, what about me?” So here is the obligatory Robin photo for this entry.

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Also attracting attention but a little less obliging were the Song Thrush population. They could be heard in several spots, their triple-line songs piercing the honks, screeches and cackles of the other noise-merchants. Often located at the twiggy tops of trees they proved a challenge in getting a clear shot and were almost silhouette like in the dim light.

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If there was one species that dominated the park though it was the Egyptian Geese. They were the first bird I heard and saw and were a constant during my visit either visually or aurally. Their numbers certainly seem to have increased since my last visit half way through 2014 and reports that they are now considered a self-sustaining species in the UK were evident here.

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They also seemed to be pairing or paired up and establishing some territory although I have read today that they usually produce young in January.

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They could be found in pretty much every location in the park, the open grassy areas, in and out of The Long Water and The Round Pound and also perched atop some of the dead trees where they were honking out territorial ownership with some vigour.

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With both The Long Water, The Round Pond and of course The Serpentine all within the park, gulls are always in big numbers. Catching the lens in particular were the Black-headed gulls on The Long Water.

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On The Round Pond it was the Common Gulls who were most obliging.

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The damp gloom seemed to keep a lot of the smaller garden birds out of sight. Blue and Great Tits would flit in and out of view and the odd Wren could be seen busying itself among the leaf litter at the foot of the trees. The feeders were being dominated by the noisy and numerous Ring-necked Parakeets.

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I was pretty chuffed to be able to get some fairly clean views of this Jay though. A massively underrated Corvid with lovely plumage.

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Of course, no trip to Kensington Gardens is complete without a visit to the resident Tawny Owls. I missed him on my first pass of the tree but found him the second time around. Even at fairly close range he looked more like a stumpy branch at first glance. I was lucky enough to get one “eyes open” picture before the usual tight eyed resting state resumed.

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A typically gloomy and grey winters day but as you can see, there is no lack of wildlife living in the very centre of London. With an almost guaranteed Tawny Owl on every visit and a good range of duck, goose and garden birds, London’s parks are a green haven among the concrete and glass.

Please check our Flickr page for bigger and sharper images of today’s photos.

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