Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Kestrel overload, and other hormonal birds, at Regents Park

I took myself off to Regents Park today, primarily to see the resident Kestrels. Don't get me wrong, I love my local Cranford Park Kestrels, but they're not that obliging when it comes to trying to photograph them. The Regent Park pair are much more used to people, and their nesting area is fenced off so they often perch very close as if knowing nobody will, or can, walk up to them and disturb them. More about them later.....
I've attached a link below to a map of Regents Park, so you can see where I was today. It's such a huge space and yet I only covered a tiny percentage of it.
Today I entered via Clarence Gate and went over Clarence Bridge.
There were plenty of raging hormones amongst the birds. The female Red-crested Pochard below, was surrounded by males. There are five in my photo, but at one stage she had eleven following her. I swear I've captured her smiling.......well wouldn't you be if you were a single woman with eleven potential suitors ?
Greylags were chasing off not only other Greylags but also Canada Geese too.
One of the Herons chose to nest quite low down. This willow nest is only just above head level, so is perfect for getting a photo of the juvenile with one of the parents.
Tufted Ducks were mating every where I looked.
Male Common Pochards were chasing away any rivals.
Great Crested Grebes had completed their nest and were sitting on eggs. The only way I could get a clear photo was by sitting on the floor, much to the amusement of some passerbys.
Coots were angrily defending territories.
The Common Pochard below kept swimming right up to me whenever I sat on the ground.
A tiny Wren was singing its heart out behind me.
And I got my first Small Tortoiseshell butterfly of the year.
One of the Egyptian Geese pair have had five goslings. I'm calling this one 'Daisy'
From there I made my way up to the Longbridge, where back on January 19th I was lucky enough to see a Tawny Owl roosting in the old tree on the right of the bridge. It wasn't there today though.
From there I walked around the part of the pond that has the captive ducks. There was a lot of activity in one of the old tree stumps. A Blue Tit, probably a male due to the brightness of his cap, was flying in one hole and reappearing seconds later out of another hole just below. I managed to grab some photos, and it looks either as if he's excavating or grabbing some tiny insects within the trunk.
He flew out........
He flew in.......
He flew out......
He flew in......
He flew out......
Anyway, you get the picture..........
So back to the Kestrels. If you take the pathway to the right of the Longbridge, you come across a copse on the left, that is part of the captive duck enclosure. There are two Kestrel boxes there, along with the regular Tit nest boxes. There is also another fenced off area with bramble bushes and a couple of bird feeders. The willows to the left of the Kestrel boxes is where I first saw the resident pair today. It's also where I met and got chatting to, the mysterious 'Birdman of Euston', a name that regularly pops up on the London Birders website (link to London Birders Wiki website). He's not mysterious at all, he's a really nice, genuine and helpful man, and it was a pleasure to chat to him today.
The Kestrels are behaving much the same way as my Cranford Park pair are. Any bird that flies across, especially Crows, gets swiftly chased off. At one point this morning the male Kestrel saw off a Herring Gull and Carrion Crow at the same time.
The willow tree seemed to be the favoured spot for perching, preening and mating.
After each mating (I witnessed nine copulatons today), the male would sit nearby usually with his back to the female, while the female preened. Well wouldn't you preen if you'd just had a pair of talons on your back ?
Some of the matings I could photograph, and some I couldn't due to the angle the birds were at or the overcast weather (as you can see from one of my photos below)
The male was much more active than the female. Several times he investigated both of the Kestrel nestboxes. And he seemed less wary of humans. I was able to get within ten feet of him at one point, and he really wasn't put out. As I previously said, the area around the boxes is fenced off, so I guess the Kestrels really do feel safe. It's as if they know that us human beans cannot get to too close.
So a thoroughly enjoyable few hours watching my favourite BOPs. I'll be popping back in a couple of months to see the juveniles.


  1. It was a pleasure meeting you today as well, Wendy. I'll post updates on the Wiki about the Kestrels' nesting milestones as and when. Thanks for your 'Grey Wagtail' card - hopefully it won't be the only one I see in Regent's Park this month!

  2. Great picture of the Coots. They are feisty little birds, and always make me smile when I think of a couple of situations in my youth.
    I used to go night fishing in my late teens with friends, when the fishing season started on June 16th. (It has been abolished on lakes now) The male Coots used to be quite territorial, and would fight at night to protect their patch.
    This brought about what the fishing fraternity used to call 'whirring noise syndrome' - You would be sat on your seat box half asleep at 3am in the morning and you would hear some squawking followed by a whirring noise growing louder. This was actually the wing beat of a low flying vanquished male Coot looking to get away from the fight coming directly towards you, but in pitch black and unable to see where he was going. One of my friends took a direct hit to his chest that knocked him off his seat from one of these frantic avians on the Little Britain Cutting in Cowley, causing a massive commotion and much laughter when those around us realised what had happened. The bird was stunned, but soon regained its senses and stomped off in to the undergrowth in a most indignant manner. Try going home to your better half in the morning after a night away and convincing her that the bruises on your chest were caused by a low flying Coot on a night fishing session :)