The kingfisher has been seen daily since September. A second kingfisher has also been sighted on numerous occasions darting across the lake and perching on Duck Island’s overhanging vegetation. The abundant shoals of rudd in the lake bring them back each year, though we are yet to have a pair nesting here. Towards the end of the summer the rudd shoals spanned the width of the blue bridge across the lake. Herons and cormorants have been spotted regularly with these in their bills. An excellent observation by one of the regular photographers at St James’s was a shot of one of the pelicans with a large rudd in its pouch, moments before it was consumed.
The pelicans have been content for the last few weeks feeding on the natural fish stocks in the lake, though as the conditions become harsher and the water temperature drops the fish will become more elusive and consequently harder to catch. By early November the Pelicans will be returning regularly to the feeding area at their usual time. The plentiful fish stocks are likely a result of the extended summer that we have had this year.
The blanket weed on the lake in the midsummer provided harbour for an abundance of aquatic invertebrates. These invertebrates are a key food source for the fish in the lake and contribute to the breakdown of organic material such as submerged leaf litter.
Ducks and gulls
With Autumn well underway, already the number of gulls, tufted and mallard duck in the park have climbed. We have a large flock of Black Headed gulls that are still feeding on insects on the amenity grassland areas adjacent to the lake, as well as a substantial influx of large predatory gulls, namely lesser black backed and herring gulls. The insects that they are feeding on will become less available as the temperatures begin to drop.
One of the top bird sightings in the park over the previous weeks has been a juvenile Mediterranean gull which has been feeding on insects amongst the flocks of black headed gulls in the park. Mediterranean gulls have a heavier beak than black headed gulls and are scarce breeding birds in the British Isles, despite having large populations on the European continent. For this reason, they are an amber listed species.
The black swans have produced a brood of six signets in the last week and are displaying excellent parenting on the west end of the lake. This may prove a successful attempt for them as the autumn so far has been mild without heavy frosts, wind or rain.
The first water rail of the year was spotted at the west end of the lake amongst one of the large reed beds. Though not considered nationally scarce, they are highly cryptic birds that tend to avoid human detection. They are most certainly scarce in urban areas so to see them returning to St James’s Park in central London is astonishing. It is sightings such as these that highlight the importance of undisturbed wildlife habitats in urban areas. Providing undisturbed habitats is something that the Royal Parks has worked hard to achieve and there is still a good deal of room for improvement.