Trip reports

St James's and the Serpentine 29th March 2017

St James's and the Serpentine 29th March 2017
Ruddy Shelduck - Alan Corner

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

St James's and the Serpentine 29th March 2017

The journey into London on the Greenline 758 bus took just an hour to Hyde Park Corner and we arrived to see the Household Cavalry in Constitution Hill on the way to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard. We watched with several thousand tourists the band of the Scots Guards march into the Palace to perform the ceremony.

We crossed the Mall from Green Park into St James's Park and were welcomed by 12 gorgeous red crested pochard near to the small island at the western end of the lake. A black swan with a white band around its red bill and an immaculate common pintail paddled a few feet away from us and a barnacle goose sat on a nest on the small island. Tufted duck, coot, mallard and greylag and canadian geese were noisily squabbling and several egyptian geese were next to the path. We walked anticlockwise on the Birdcage walk side of the lake and admired the hellibores, azaleas and camillias that were coming into flower. The park has a mix of well stocked shrubberies and natural grassy areas carpeted by daffodils, narcissi, cowslips and primrose and many feral pigeon.

Large numbers of tufted duck and coot were scattered over the lake and a little grebe whinnied near the small reed bed halfway along the path to Duck Island and repeatedly dived near the lakes edge. Two police horses, in a break from their duties, grazed on the grass, whilst noisy ring necked parakeets flew overhead. Egyptian geese were everywhere and two goslings foraged in front of their parents when suddenly a pair of malevolent ruddy shelduck attacked them until their parents successfully beat them off. Three pelicans shared the rocks next to Duck Island with a couple of lesser black back gulls. Herring and black headed gulls flew overhead.

Duck Island is the nature reserve for the St James's Park bird collection in which there have been pelicans since the 1660's. It is located on the east end of St James's Park.Originally built in 1665 on the site of a duck decoy, the island is both a sanctuary, a breeding ground for the collection of wildfowl and has a cottage for the bird keeper. It also houses the water treatment facilities and pumps for the lake and fountain.

Just past the access bridge to the cottage, a white headed duck slept halfway between the island and the gravel beach on which sat a female hooded merganser. Two great crested grebes fought violently nearby and In the reed bed at the end of the lake next to Horseguards Parade we saw wrens and moorhen. Here we stopped at one of the very attractive wooden cafes that are in the park to have our lunch and appreciated the overhead black radiant heaters. .
After lunch we continued past 4 red breasted geese, and a pair of Ross's goose grazed nearby. We enjoyed the sight of 2 more female hooded mergansers, another bar headed goose and a superb male goldeneye. We had seen 6 grey herons and several mute swans around the lake and then a very attractive male smew appeared at the waters edge.
We crossed the Mall , walked through Green Park and across the Hyde Park Corner traffic island in which is the impressive Wellington Arch and the innovative Australian War Memorial. Restorers were carefully repainting the town names of the fallen in the two world wars on the memorial prior to the waterfall being switched on during the summer.

In Hyde Park we entered the Rose Garden and chaffinch, long tailed, blue and great tits, were active as chiffchaff and robins sang from the silver birches. We climbed up to the Serpentine passing the two famous statues of Diana the Huntress and the Boy and Dolphin fountain and looked over the long stretch of water.

Several pairs of gadwall were among the many coots, tufted duck and mute swans and a pair of great crested grebe exchanged gifts of weeds before gracefully dancing in front of us. There were numerous Egyptian geese with their young , one had 5 goslings burrowing under their mothers's feathers to get out of the cold on the concrete path around the lake. Just before we reached the lido a pair of mandarin duck flew in and landed near the small reed bed .

We continued to the attractive Princess Diana Memorial fountain with its unique circular series of waterfalls. The design aims to reflect Diana's life, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom. The water is constantly being refreshed and is drawn from London's water table.

Just outside the memorial stands the magnificent statue of the Egyptian godess of nature Isis. Is this why there are so many egyptian geese in the area?

We crossed over the bridge before walking past the stables in the old Police House. A great spotted woodpecker drummed on some of the trees in its garden. A pair of carrion crows cuddled up to each other on the grass as we walked to Speakers Corner where we caught the bus ( it was only half full ) for the 1 1/2 hr trip back to Hemel.
All told we had seen over 48 different species and had a really lovely day out in London.

Jeanette Gosney, Alan Corner, Diane Wilson, Anthea Lovatt, Dave Jones, Michael Howard.
Alan Corner