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  • Writer's pictureAllan Sander

A Walk in the Park

Updated: Dec 1, 2022

My favorite times of the year is the transitional period between the seasons. Here in the temperate regions of our planet, winter has relinquished its chilly embrace to the warmer weather of spring, igniting a profusion of growth and exploitation. It is early May in one of the most illustrious cities in the world - London, England. My layover allows this afternoon and all of the following morning to take a stroll through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

Off I go, entering the southwest corner gate off of Kensington High Street, take a quick right turn to reach a beautifully flowered thoroughfare. Within the shadows, a European robin (Erithacus rubecula) bestows my presence with a repertoire of warbling notes.

The ubiquitous doves, crows and magpies mingle with the local joggers, cyclists, and strollers - like myself. I hope to photograph some of the local avian migrants and maybe manage a lifer or two to boot! Meantime, the luminous feathers of a Eurasian Magpie (Pica pica) stop me in my tracks: blue azurite wing patch, white scapulars and breast with folded black wings, mantle and head streamline into a long iridescent green tail that melds seamlessly into purple then blue.

A Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) attempts to beg for handouts one last time before I reluctantly relinquish the tree-lined confines to take me further into the park.

Under rows of massive plane trees and a scattering of chestnut, lime and oaks, plump Common Wood Pigeons (Columba palumbus) forage through well manicured lawns. A shadow streaks before me, I gaze up into the sun to see the silhouette of a falcon, than two, and a third! I trace their trail over the canopy until one bird lands. I position myself to capture it through my lens and discover it is an Eurasian Hobby (Falco subbuteo) - a lifer! "Cool!"

Invasive (and noisy) Rose-ringed Parakeets (Psittacula krameri) have become somewhat of the local celebrities. Established in the 1970's from escaped/released birds, their bold colors and personalities have been embraced by the park's visitors.

I reach The Long Water, the eastern end of Kensington Gardens and at its opposite bank, the start of Hyde Park. Park patrons are tossing bread to the feathered masses of geese, ducks and swans. I am looking to capture images of the native avifauna, like a Tufted duck (Aythya fuligula)

and the omnipresent, yet regal Mute Swan (Cygnus olor).

Eurasian Coots (Fulica atra) constantly cruise the water's edge; always the aggressor, especially this time of year, with nesting territory to protect.

The typical gulls soaring overhead are Black-headed and the larger Lesser black-backed (Larus fuscus), one of which had just captured a crayfish.

I turn back to find the source of an unknown birdsong. I find it flitting about the treetops and realize it is another first - a Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita). As I leave, it continues repeating its name over and over, is rather sweet, actually.

A bird lands just ahead, it turns out to be a very cooperative Song thrush (Turdus philomelos)

Cutting across the Italian Gardens, I follow the path bordering the water. Just above, a Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) bursts into song.

Off in the field, among the brambles, a Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) calls me in.

I straggle along the many thickets and discover a Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) carrying food. I linger a bit until amid the tangle of thorns, I eventually find its elaborate penduline nest.

A cracking opportunity unfolds behind me when a robin alights atop a spike of yellow inflorescence glowing in the afternoon sun.

To loop back I cross over the W. Carriage Drive bridge and quickly zip through the underground tunnel. I heard a Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti) singing from the dense vegetation along the water's edge. Its song reminds me of one of our skulking warblers back in the states. I managed a good look between the twigs and weeds, but could not pull off a decent image. I hear another familiar song and sure enough, a pair of Eurasian Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla), male & female, crisscross the trail from overhead.

I pass the staging area where the parakeets, pigeons and squirrels await a handout - literally.

I find a dangling Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) as my last photo op. What a delightful day! I look forward to my next visit.

Location: Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens - London, England

Date: May of 2021

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